In late December, Friends of Animals launched a tourist boycott of Alaska after that state decided to begin aerial killing of a small number of wolves. According to an Associated Press report, however, so far the boycott hasn’t had much of an effect on tourism or Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski’s commitment to the wolf hunting program.
The aerial hunt, which ended April 30, was intended to kill about 180 wolves in areas where they were perceived as killing too many moose. As of April 26, only 140 wolves had actually been killed. According to the Associated Press, there are anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska.
What effect the boycott has had depends on who is doing the talking. The Alaska Travel Industry Association told the Associated Press that while it has received about 100 calls and 200 e-mails from people saying they will not visit Alaska due to the boycott, it’s difficult to know how many of those people actually cancelled reservations.
The AP interviewed representatives at two businesses — a lodge and a small eco-tour company — who say that they have not noticed any change in reservations.
On the other hand, the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, which represents 275 smaller businesses, told the AP that the boycott could effect its members and responds to inquires with a letter reading that it,
. . . share[s] your concern for the wolves. . . . Unfortunately, our state leaders have ignored our wishes and gone ahead with their personal agenda.
As an example, the general manager of small travel company Alaska Discovery tells the AP that its reservations are the worst in its 33 years. So the boycott may end up largely hurting businesses which oppose the wolf hunting policy in the first place while doing little to actually change the policy. Still, another small travel company tells the AP that it’s business is up 20 percent from last year.
Indeed, Priscilla Feral seems to acknowledge that the boycott is unlikely to sway Murkowski, telling the Associated Press that the group may have to continue the protests and boycott through the end of Murkowski’s term of office,
I just find the current regime is really destructive beyond what anybody remembers in prior administrations. All of this, more than shaming Alaska, shames the country as a whole and that is why we aren’t going to go away.
Which means they could be doing their howl-ins for quite a while, since Murkowski’s term runs through the end of November 2006, assuming he isn’t re-elected.
Assuming the boycott has only minimal effect, the obvious question is why, considering how successful Friends of Animals’ 1993 boycott was. Obviously personalities are part of the reason, with Murkowski apparently willing to ignore any boycott whereas then Gov. Wally Hickel quickly caved into Feral’s demands. The other reason, I suspect, is the intervening 11 years of actions by animal rights activists — let’s call it the PETA factor.
In 1993, the animal rights movement was still relatively new and novel. Today, thanks to groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the movement is old hat and it’s objections to just about any animal-related activity much more widely known. I suspect that a large segment of people who in 1993 might have heard about the Alaska boycott and been sympathetic are today saying to themselves, “Oh, there go those animal rights activists again.”
PETA and other groups seem to operate on the principle that any publicity is good publicity, which might be true when promoting a movie or CD, but is not true when trying to bring about radical social changes.
Animal rights boycott of Alaska not working. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, April 26, 2004.