Ocean animals like whales and dolphins have long been used in live shows as entertainment, making popular businesses and tourist attractions out of aquatic parks like Sea World.
But the ethics of keeping these animals in captivity and having them perform shows has become a subject of controversy. There have been plenty of reported deaths linked to these shows, inspiring activists to push for widespread policy changes.
And of course the best way to get a company’s attention is to hit them where it hurts: the wallet. For instance, Virgin Holidays announced in July that it would no longer do business with companies that kept cetaceans in captivity.
Now, another company is taking a stand: TripAdvisor, the popular site that features user reviews of hotels and attractions, will no longer be selling tickets from businesses that breed or import captive cetaceans.
In an October 2nd press release, TripAdvisor said that the new policy would be enacted over the next few months. These companies will still be on the site—users can still get info and review them, for instance—but the site will not sell tickets or profit from them in any way.
The change in policy followed a long period of consultation from marine biologists, zoologists and conservationists, and the company found the evidence was undeniable.
“The extensive evidence presented to us by the experts was compelling. 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,” Dermot Halpin, President of TripAdvisor Experiences and Rentals, said in the statement.
“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 hope is that the move will send a message to companies, discouraging them from breeding cetaceans in captivity.
“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, Dolphins, World Animal Protection. “Together we can ensure this is the last generation of dolphins held captive for entertainment.”
But TripAdvisor is also hoping to draw attention to a different kind of business: animal sanctuaries that care for creatures that are already in captivity. These groups are not affected by the policy change, and TripAdvisor hopes that by drawing people away from the animal breeding companies, they will encourage tourism to the struggling sanctuaries instead.
“Seaside sanctuaries have enormous potential, but they need more backing from the tourism industry,” Halpin said. “As long as facilities with captive whales and dolphins continue to profit from keeping these animals in smaller, cheaper and less natural living environments, then they don’t have enough incentive to adopt serious change.”
“We hope our announcement today can help turn the tide.”
This is a big win for sea creatures and the people fighting for their ethical treatment, and hopefully will inspire more companies to follow suit.
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