TripAdvisor and their subsidiaries have just announced that they are ending commercial relationships with facilities that breed or import captive whales, porpoises, and dolphins.
More specifically, the travel platform says that they will no longer sell tickets to, or generate revenue from, any attraction that continues to contribute to the captivity of future generations of cetaceans.
As a result, any commercial facility that either breeds or imports cetaceans for public display will be banned from sale on TripAdvisor and Viator. Products currently on sale and found to breach the new rules will be removed over the course of the next few months, with the policy in full force by the end of 2019. The new policy will not apply to seaside sanctuaries that provide care to cetaceans already in captivity.
The policy aims to drive captivity industry towards seaside sanctuaries as an alternative environment for current generation of captive whales and dolphins.
The decision follows an extensive consultation process with a range of experts, including marine biologists, zoologists and conservationists, and considered the scientific evidence and arguments presented from all sides. It also continues TripAdvisor’s commitment to improving the welfare of animals globally, particularly animals in tourism, since they passed their animal welfare policy in 2016.
“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,” commented Dermot Halpin, President, TripAdvisor 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.”
Conservation groups and animal welfare experts welcomed the move as an important step forward.
“TripAdvisor is on the right side of history,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute. “Whales and dolphins cannot thrive in captivity and enlightened tourists no longer tolerate exploiting these intelligent and socially complex marine predators for human entertainment.”
That being said, TripAdvisor’s policy extension also takes into account that while it is possible to prevent future generations of cetaceans from a life of captivity, the situation is different for those already in captivity. For most of the current population of cetaceans, release into the wild is not a realistic option. Therefore, the policy includes several stipulations aimed at protecting the needs, safety and health of cetaceans currently in captivity, too.
“Our aim is not only to prevent future generations of whales and dolphins from being raised in captivity, but also to encourage the industry to move towards alternative models, like seaside sanctuaries, that will better provide for the needs of the current captive population,” added Dermot Halpin, President of TripAdvisor Experiences and Rentals. “Seaside sanctuaries have enormous potential, but they need more backing from the tourism industry. 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.”
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