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Virgin Holidays has announced it will no longer sell tickets or packages to SeaWorld.
The move, by Sir. Richard Branson‘s travel firm, is part of a decision to stop sales and promotion of captive whale and dolphin attractions. It will also stop selling tickets to Discovery Cove.
The decision follows research by the company, in which 92 percent of UK holidaymakers said they would prefer to see animals in their natural habitat. Virgin Holidays joins Thomas Cook, which announced last year that it would be dropping trips to facilities keeping killer whales captive.
According to Joe Thompson, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, the brand wants to offer ‘more natural, at-distance encounters with these animals’.
He added the company wants to ‘focus our efforts on encouraging customers to see these creatures in the wild’ as well as ‘supporting the development of sanctuaries for whales and dolphins currently in captivity’.
Documentary ‘Blackfish’ painted a disturbing picture of whale captivity at SeaWorld
A spokesperson for SeaWorld branded the move ‘disappointing’, saying that Virgin had succumbed to pressure from animal activists who ‘mislead and manipulate marine mammal science to advance their agendas’.
“Virgin’s own corporate mission is having a measurable purpose that positively impacts communities and the environment. SeaWorld is the epitome of that mission,” they added.
“With more than 35,000 animal rescues and decades of meaningful scientific contributions, we are proud to be a recognized global leader in marine mammal science, education and, in particular, providing preeminent care to all of our marine mammals.
“With rising threats to our oceans and their inhabitants, supporting independently accredited zoological facilities is more important than ever. No company does more to protect marine mammals and advance cetacean research, rescue and conservation than SeaWorld.”
Many welcomed the move, with PETA Director, Elisa Allen, saying to Plant Based News: “Hats off to Virgin Holidays, which has made a big splash by scrapping all tours that go anywhere near captive whales and dolphins. It’s left TUI, which lines its pockets with the profits from partnerships with marine abusement parks, in the dust.
“In these parks, orcas – who belong in the ocean, where they swim up to 140 miles a day – are forced to spend their entire lives in cramped tanks, swimming in their own waste, deeply distressed, and robbed of a real life.
“Dolphins are forced to perform painful circus-style tricks for food until they die in captivity, far short of their natural life expectancy. No travel provider should profit from promoting these watery prisons, and PETA urges TUI – which is still giving a financial lifeline to SeaWorld’s parks, the world’s most notorious marine parks – to take note.”