Virgin Holidays Axes SeaWorld’s Captive Whale and Dolphin Tours

Virgin Holidays Axes SeaWorld's Captive Whale and Dolphin Tours

Virgin Holidays will no longer sell tickets to parks featuring captive dolphins and whales, including SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and similar attractions.

The move will see to more than 20,000 tickets to marine parks being removed from sale, Virgin Holidays told the Telegraph. Over the past year, the company has cut ties with 19 attractions featuring captive dolphins and whales. The five remaining parks included SeaWorld San Diego and Orlando, Discovery Cove in Orlando, Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas, and Atlantis The Palm in Dubai, all of which will be removed this week.

Joe Thompson, managing director for Virgin Holidays, said they believe it’s the best decision for consumers. Research conducted by the firm revealed that 92 percent of British tourists would prefer to see animals in the wild. “We believe it is the right thing to do,” Thompson said.

Are Marine Parks Ethical?

Virgin Holidays Axes SeaWorld's Captive Whale and Dolphin Tours
The 2013 documentary “Blackfish” exposed SeaWorld’s cruelty | image/Wikimedia Commons

A SeaWorld spokesperson responded to the decision, stating that Virgin Holidays is succumbing to being manipulated by animal rights agendas. They added that SeaWorld is dedicated to protecting marine animals. However, the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” revealed the dark side of the park.

Orcas are intelligent, social animals that can travel up to 140 miles per day. Marine parks like SeaWorld hold them captive in small tanks. This takes a toll on an orca’s mental health. SeaWorld orcas are known to chew on concrete from stress and anxiety — often damaging their teeth — or get into fights with other whales they don’t get along with, but are forced to live with in tight quarters. The average lifespan for orcas is 30 to 40, but the average age of death for SeaWorld orcas is 14 years old, according to international animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

PETA Campaigns Advisor Mimi Bekhechi said in a statement, “Hats off to Virgin Holidays, which has made a big splash by scrapping all tours that go anywhere near captive whales and dolphins. In these parks, dolphins – who belong in the ocean, where they swim up to 100 kilometres a day – are forced to perform unnatural circus-style tricks for food until they die in captivity, often far short of their natural life expectancy.”

Bekhechi added, “No travel provider should profit from promoting these watery prisons, and PETA urges all travel companies still giving financial lifelines to marine parks – to take note.”

Cutting Ties With Cruelty

Virgin Holidays will instead refocus its efforts on promoting attractions featuring wild animals as well as its conservation efforts. Last year, founder Richard Branson announced that the company invested $300,000 toward a captive dolphin sanctuary in Baltimore.

Branson said that the sanctuary would “hopefully set a wonderful example for both marine entertainment and tourism operators who have faced increasing pressure over the welfare of whales and dolphins, collectively known as cetaceans.”

Virgin Holidays isn’t the first travel giant to cut ties with SeaWorld. Thomas Cook, Britain’s largest tour operator, stopped selling tickets to marine attractions like SeaWorld and Loro Park in April 2018.