SeaWorld has been a target of animal rights activists for many years, and in recent times public opinion has dramatically turned on the company.
Information about the suffering of captive whales and dolphins has become more well-known thanks to social media and documentaries such as Black Fish.
The tide turned on Seaworld so much that many major travel agents have stopped selling tickets to SeaWorld, including TripAdvisor, Virgin and British Airways.
But SeaWorld is by no means the only company profiting from the whales and dolphins they keep in captivity.
Disney World has dolphins in its The Seas pavilion at Epcot. For $199 its website offers a ‘fascinating and intimate 3-hour dolphin encounter limited to a group of no more than 8 Guests per day’.
But Disney has so far been immune to any travel companies cutting ties with the entertainment giant.
All three of TripAdvisor, Virgin and British Airways benefitted from positive headlines when they cut ties with SeaWorld, but they all still sell tickets to Disney World – so it’s hard not to view their policies as hypocritical.
The lack of consistency seems even more strange considering the reasons given by travel agents when explaining the decision to cut ties with SeaWorld.
TripAdvisor said it plans to focus on promoting more natural wildlife encounters, and CEO Stephen Kaufer said a new policy aimed to improve the company’s animal rights standards.
“At the same time, we want to celebrate those destinations and attractions that are leaders in caring for animals and those in the tourism industry who help further the cause of animal welfare, conservation and the preservation of endangered species,” he said.
It’s a similar story at British Airways. Managing director Claire Bentley said in a statement: “Our customers tell us they have concerns about wild animals being kept in captivity, and increasingly see animal performances in particular as outdated.”
And when Virgin followed suit, Richard Brandson said the company was looking to “drive positive change in the tourism industry” and describes the move as “the most significant milestone yet”.
And while this is an undoubted milestone, surely even more significant would be to demand better from one of the world’s best-known brands in Disney.
Whales and dolphins kept in captivity often suffer immensely. According to PETA, at SeaWorld, orcas live in ‘cramped, concrete tanks and are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them. With no physical, mental, or emotional stimulation, they spend their days swimming in endless circles’.
Former trainers have also claimed the orcas were drugged and starved, while many have died prematurely at the park.
Thanks to the tireless work of animal rights activists, Black Fish and celebrities such as Harry Styles, potential customers and business partners reconsidered SeaWorld’s legitimacy.
But TripAdvisor explicitly said it wouldn’t be selling tickets to any attractions that ‘contribute to the captivity’ of marine animals – which Disney World unquestionably does.
When Questioned by Orlando Rising, TripAdvisor spokesperson Molly Burke said Disney would not be removed from the site just yet.
“We’ll spend the next couple of months assessing our inventory, understanding who may fit the exceptions, and determining what needs to be removed,” she said, explaining that the company “will be assessing the impact on Disney World before the policy comes into full force at the end of this year”.
British Airways’ policy also states it will not promote businesses where captive animals are central to the attraction, but the company has explained that it doesn’t consider Disney’s dolphin offer to be ‘central’ enough to justify cutting ties.
Virgin also still sells tickets to Disney World despite a commitment not to promote companies which profit from showcasing captive marine animals, and the company has not commented on the discrepancy.
While changing opinions over SeaWorld are a major victory for animals, Disney is clearly a different kettle of fish.
Companies wanting to make a meaningful statement about their commitment to animal rights must demand better from all businesses, no matter the financial impact.
Disney has such a prominent part in our lives – particularly for children – and to force the company to abandon dolphin captivity would make waves around the world.
What do you think of Disney’s dolphin offer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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