TripAdvisor will no longer sell tickets to attractions that breed, import or capture whales, dolphins, porpoises and other cetaceans for public display, the company announced on Wednesday.
The move will ban sales to attractions and events at parks and aquariums worldwide, including SeaWorld, which has locations in Florida, Texas and California, Loro Parque in Spain and the Georgia Aquarium.
The policy is the latest addition to TripAdvisor’s 2016 animal welfare policy, which ended sales of tickets to experiences where travelers have physical contact with captive wild animals, such as elephant riding and tiger petting.
The policy, which includes the TripAdvisor subsidiary, Viator, comes a year after the company banned sales of tickets to performances and shows considered demeaning to animals, and it comes as concerns increase over animal tourism and animal welfare.
“Whales and dolphins do not thrive in limited captive environments, and we hope to see a future where they live as they should — free and in the wild,” said Dermot Halpin, TripAdvisor’s president for experiences and rentals. “We believe the current generation of whales and dolphins in captivity should be the last, and we look forward to seeing this position adopted more widely throughout the travel industry.”
The new rules focus on future generations of marine mammals because releasing those already in captivity would further endanger them, the company said. The new policy also focuses on improving the lives of the animals already in captivity. In order to be eligible for ticket sales on the platform, attractions must have a permanent seaside living environment.
The company will also continue to sell tickets for commercial and nonprofit organizations that are developing alternate seaside sanctuaries for cetaceans in captivity, and have made a public commitment to rehouse them these environments. That could mean bays or coves that are close environments where cetaceans are found naturally.
Animal conservation and protection groups lauded the move as a step in the right direction.
“This sends a clear message to other travel companies that we must end this cruel industry once and for all,” said Nick Stewart, global head of wildlife and dolphins for World Animal Protection, an activist group. “Together we can ensure this is the last generation of dolphins held captive for entertainment.“
In an email, SeaWorld’s chief zoological officer, Chris Dold, said he was “disappointed” with TripAdvisor’s policy. SeaWorld has long faced criticism of its marine-mammal shows, and faced heavy condemnation after the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” a documentary about its treatment of orcas.
“We are disappointed by TripAdvisor’s new position that ignores the educational value and conservation mission of professionally accredited zoos and aquariums,” he said. “SeaWorld maintains the highest standards of care for all animals, including cetaceans. And regardless of TripAdvisor’s position, SeaWorld will continue to advance education and animal conservation efforts.”
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By Tariro Mzezewa