Published on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Virgin accused of succumbing to animal activists after dropping Seaworld


Virgin Holidays has been accused of succumbing to pressure from animal activists after it announced it was ending its long-term relationships with dolphin and whale attractions, including SeaWorld and Florida's Discovery Cove.

The operator said it had decided to stop selling all captive cetacean entertainment attractions and experiences.

Managing director Joe Thompson said the operator wanted to focus on offering holidaymakers 'more natural, at-distance encounters with these animals'.

"This decision follows steps that Virgin Holidays embarked upon in 2014, when we announced the Virgin Pledge to only work with facilities that committed to not taking animals from the wild, and our updated position in 2017, when we announced a number of new steps to evolve the customer offering towards more natural encounters with these captivating animals," he said.

"Following further developments, we have now decided the time is right to discontinue offering attractions featuring close encounters with captive whales and dolphins. We will instead focus our efforts on encouraging customers to see these creatures in the wild. We will also continue our efforts to support the development of sanctuaries for whales and dolphins currently in captivity.


"The decision to stop the sale and promotion of captive whale and dolphin attractions is something Virgin Holidays strongly believes in, and we know UK consumers feel the same. In our recent survey, 92% of UK holidaymakers said they prefer to see animals in their natural habitat.


"We want to actively support this direction by encouraging more responsible wild watching, which puts animal welfare at the heart of things, meaning our customers get to experience these amazing animals with peace of mind and future generations can enjoy these wonderful experiences too."


Virgin said it would stop selling tickets to SeaWorld in Orlando and San Diego, Discovery Bay in Orlando, and two Atlantis resorts in Dubai and the Bahamas by July 31, at the latest, but all existing bookings will be honoured.


Seaworld hit back at the tour operator and claimed the theme park was 'the epitome' of Virgin's mission to have a positive impact on the environment.

A spokesperson for the theme park said: "It is disappointing to see Virgin Holidays succumb 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. 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."


However, Dylan Walker, CEO of World Cetacean Alliance, said: "History will show that this was absolutely the right decision by Virgin Holidays. Whales and dolphins are complex and intelligent animals whose needs can only be met in the wild.

"To understand them involves seeing them in their ocean home, which is why we are extremely pleased that Virgin Holidays is committed to investing and supporting responsible wild whale and dolphin excursions moving forward.

"We know that Virgin Holidays' decision has been preceded by years of work and consultation and the company has shown tremendous leadership, involving key stakeholders in an extensive consultation process, and have analysed the latest scientific evidence."

Dr Jan-Schmidt Burbach, global wildlife advisor at World Animal Protection added: "We are genuinely thrilled that Virgin Holidays is ending the sale and promotion of all captive whale and dolphin attractions and we hope that this very clear message will signal a shift in the holiday industry, in regards to working with captive animal entertainment facilities.

"We know that the majority of people who engage in animal activities when they're on holiday, do so because they love wild animals, unaware of the suffering that goes on behind the scenes. This is why it's encouraging to see Virgin Holidays look to strengthen and support its wild whale and dolphin excursions, which puts the needs of the animals first, as well as investing in solutions for captive cetaceans, such as coastal sanctuaries.

"We sincerely hope that Virgin Holidays' announcement will continue to encourage the tourism industry to take notice and review current practices to deliver positive change that will benefit not only our wild animals, but also our future generations and how we encounter these majestic creatures. We look forward to working with Virgin Holidays in the future as it continues to develop its responsible wildlife initiatives."


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  • Way to ignore reality

    "These horrible places," Louise Richardson? You've been to them, have you? Been backstage and seen for yourself? Formed a logical opinion from first-hand experience and insight? Judging by your ill-informed, populist opinion, you have not. We have. It's our job. And attempting to shut SeaWorld down (which doesn't take animals from the wild, by the way; hasn't done for decades) will only cause a huge amount of direct animal suffering. And who's going to do all the hundreds of animal rescues that SeaWorld currently carries out around the world? Are you? Of course not. So try to judge ALL sides before you make these judgments.

    By Simon Veness, Saturday, July 20, 2019

  • Seaworld

    Has anyone ever watched the dolphins in their huge pools when they are not on show ? They play and do all sorts of tricks amongst themselves - an unhappy animal would not do that. These dolphins are so well looked after And if there is a problem in the Pacific Ocean off Queensland it is always Seaworld who are first there to the rescue. Years ago when it was possible for the circus to have animals, the circus would be in the park alongside our office and you had to see the relationship between the animals and their owners to appreciate the love. All of the animals were always so well looked after and it was wonderful to see 10 or more dogs sat in a semi circle around their owner as he sat at the desk making a travel booking in our office. The horses always ran to their owner for a pat everytime the owner appeared and then there were the elephants - these incidentally were born into the circus and were so loving and loved. So please do not think that all animals in venues such as Seaworld are not treated well. They are treated very well ... and as a reply here said - what next banning zoos ????

    By Ken COULTER, Friday, July 19, 2019

  • Seaworld Stance

    Seaworld - Virgin didn't 'succumb' - they listened to a reasoned set of facts and came to the right decision.

    By Louisa Richardson, Friday, July 19, 2019

  • Well done Virgin

    Well done Virgin - absolutely the right thing to do - although a rather too long in coming. These intelligent, sociable animals were not put on this Earth for human entertainment. It is thoroughly despicable and disrespectful to use them in this way. Much cruelty is involved in taking and training new cetaceans from the wild to supply these horrible places.

    By Louisa Richardson, Friday, July 19, 2019

  • Dumb Move

    Way to listen to just one side of the story, Virgin. Do we now ban all zoos and zoological institutes and other animal facilities that do vital animal research? And what happens to all those captive animals at SeaWorld when people stop going there and they can no longer be fed, or cared for properly? And what about the thousands of animal rescues SeaWorld does every year? Who's going to do them instead? Certainly not the 'World Cetacean Alliance,' or any of their ilk. Pressure bodies like them never think of the consequences of their action, but companies like Virgin should. Dumb, dumb move.

    By Simon Veness, Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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