It’s all about the pledge!

WDC welcomed the invitation to participate in Virgin’s recent meeting held in Miami, Florida on June 3-4 of last week, the purpose of which was to provide high quality stakeholder input to a landmark debate on the issue of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. Pro and anti-captivity representatives were present. Virgin’s destinations supply chains (e.g., ‘swim with dolphin’ programs and aquaria) were represented, as well as experts from welfare and conservation organizations actively engaged in the issue of captivity.

Beluga whaleIn late February, WDC launched its campaign asking tour operators (including Virgin Holidays) not to sell trips to places like SeaWorld. A few days later, Sir Richard Branson made a simple announcement that Virgin Holidays will not partner with any organization that does not pledge to never again take whales and dolphins from the sea. Shortly after that, Virgin announced that it was to begin an engagement process (starting with the meeting in Miami) to gather a broad spectrum of information and opinion regarding the debate on captive whales and dolphins and the role of tourism in the global protection of these magnificent, intelligent and socially complex creatures. 

This process is a positive move towards WDC’s aim of eventually ending tourism that supports the confinement and cruel trade in whales and dolphins. Fundamental to real, incremental and positive change towards a brighter future for whales and dolphins in captivity is Sir Richard’s pledge. Although the pledge seems fairly straightforward and simple, it is anything but. The difficult part is defining what exactly this pledge means, and how it should be implemented. This is where the hard work began, and continues, in our dialogue with Virgin Holidays.

Explicitly stated as part of this pledge is Sir Richard’s belief that no dolphins or whales should ever again be killed by humans, or taken from the ocean for marine theme parks. On its own, the pledge could be applied to all of the pressing issues confronting whales and dolphins in the wild, and the threats posed to their health and welfare. However, as the pledge’s focus is on captivity and the role of tourism in influencing the global protection of the oceans, we hope that we can make clear for Virgin the critical connections between tourism and the international capture and trade in dolphins for marine parks, and the demand created by all captive facilities - whether supplied by whales and dolphins bred in captivity or those taken from the wild.

This engagement process is historic. It is the first time that whale and dolphin welfare experts, the tourism industry and the aquarium industry, including SeaWorld, have literally come to the same table to discuss these important issues. We may not all agree, but it is a place to start in finding some common ground towards real, progressive change for whales and dolphins in the wild and in captivity. Change can take many forms, and we are committed to this process of addressing captivity, step by step. It is going to be a long process – incremental steps will be required, but we are in it for the long term and proud to be involved from the start. I am confident that we can all do better for whales and dolphins in captivity, not least with the leadership of Richard Branson and the Virgin brand.


As you say thus is a great step forward, BUT it does nothing to tackle the plight of those already captive and used for breeding more whales into Captivity and their confined conditions!

The breeding has got to be part of it. It needs to be stopped.

This is great news. Dialogue is the way you point 'shouting from the sidelines.'
Hopefully this is just the beginning. It's about education and as people become more aware then maybe then they'll vote with their feet and not visit these places.

Because of Tilikum change has begun.

Well done! I totally agree. It’s better to dialogue than to diametrically oppose cause that tends to cause a reaction of entrenchment in the position by the ‘attacked’ party.

Yes, in any dispute, diplomacy is always the best option if available.

I am utterly thrilled that this meeting has finally took place. It literally brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat when I found out that this was happening as I have been supporting the freedom of marine mammals from SeaWorld for decades and the most frustrating thing was that SeaWorld just ignored the people calling for change. I think that, like a military campaign, it may take many small battles to eventually win this war but we shall if we can just keep up the pressure. Thanks WDCS for being a rally point for these amazing creatures and all the work you do for them!

This is great news, and I look forward to any updates going forward. If everyone stopped visiting these parks, they would have no choice but to cease trading animals for profit xxx Its simple, supply and demand.

I agree.People have the power of collective selective consumerism[buying alternatives]or boycotting.These are huge powers that ordinary people can excercise together.If you think how critical marketing and advertising is to maintain market share for these companies/corporations,and the colossal amounts of money they spend on marketing and advertising,the power of collective consumer action can be clearly appreciated by consumer and business alike.The internet and social media increase the effect of concerted consumer action exponentially.

I hope that this will alter the future for animals that are currently free, but also set in motion a process to rehabilitate captive whales and dolphins that will eventually lead to their release from cruel confinements.

I think that Richard Branson has demonstrated why he is so successful, and should be thoroughly congratulated for his swift, humane, pro-active and fruitful response to this challenge!

This is exactly why I support WDC and gladly give you my monthly donation, because you get real world results, in a pragmatic, informed and engaged way. Well done team!

Because of Tilikum change has begun

thanks Richard branson for engaging in dialogue on this matter of concern to many people.

This is wonderful, heartening news for all of us who have been campaigning. Well done WDC you have really made a difference.

Exploiting wild creatures for profit and entertainment,should be regarded as unacceptable,keep up the good work.

Is Virgin The only airline involved in Sea World holidays? If there are other players involved pressure must be brought to bear on them too. Hats off to Richard Branson and long may his prosperity continue.

There are a number of airlines and travel companies engaged with promoting SeaWorld and that's why WDC and others have approached many of them. Virgin was seen to be an influential stakeholder that could make an initial difference and who we estimated may have been willing to take a different perspective on the issue, rather than just seeking the profit motive. We shall continue to advocate change to the other companies involved in supporting SeaWorld, and with yours and others help, we may see a real change in the coming months and years.

This is great news but I fail to see how a business will accede to closing down an intrinsic part of its operations. It's not going to happen! The only way for progress is financial pressure brought about by educated customers deciding not to be a part of captive animal cruelty. The only way forward is continued and widespread education.
Animal Welfare Org

I would agree that education should continue, but would also say that influencing stakeholders like the travel trade will, and is, bringing change. Whatever happens, these institutions will not just close overnight, but these steps, within a clear vision articulated by WDC and others to seek an end to the cetacean captive display industry, will get us there. We need to continue to press our case, and companies like Virgin will adapt their business model to meet the changing 'consumer' and public pressure to see change happen.

Thank you so much for all your effort, you've really helped. We are heading in the right direction
but as you say: captivity must stop.

I commend all who participated in the event with an open heart. I believe change has truly begun, and in the future, we will no longer keep these animals captive. Ideally, we will also respect and protect their ocean habitat.

well done wdc it's great news l've been a member for 18 years. we have to save all endageded animals.

Thanks Charmaine, we can only do this kind of thing because of people like you and the support you provide. 

I dream of a day when there will no more abuse and murder of dolphins and Whales. Dolphins must be in their own environment and not to be bred in captivity this is exploiting endangered mammals and sheer torture. These mammals feel pain and are highly intelligent. Their babies are taken from their murdered mother and abused to act like performing clowns.

I agree with wendy west. Leave whales and dolphins in their natural home and stop killing them.