The scientific evidence is clear - captivity is a dark place for whales and dolphins. They are too intelligent, too socially complex, too mobile and too big to ever thrive in confinement. A captive orca would need to swim 1,400 laps of their tank every day to equal the distance they could travel in the wild. Which is why, like us, millions of your customers across the UK believe that keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is outdated and cruel.
In fact, a OnePoll survey in 2021 found that 62% of the UK public think that keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is unacceptable. Booking.com, British Airways, Expedia, Thomas Cook, TripAdvisor and Virgin Holidays have all listened to their current and future customers and moved their business model away from generating profits through the suffering of these magnificent creatures.
We know that we can’t simply shut down the captivity industry, as many of the whales and dolphins held in these facilities wouldn’t survive if they were released into the wild, and there is insufficient sanctuary space to hold all these individuals. So, we urgently need the travel industry to come together to ensure a dignified, safe and healthy future for the 3,600+ intelligent, sentient whales and dolphins currently held in these facilities around the world.
As TUI examines its position with regard to captive whales and dolphins, we urge you to take this opportunity to move in a more progressive direction by adopting a policy of only working with facilities that commit to Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s ethical captivity phase-out model:
- No performances or visitor interactions (as these are exploitative, stressful and unnatural)
- No breeding (this forces a new generation of whales and dolphins into a life of unnecessary captivity, when the focus needs to be on supporting those currently held)
- No wild captures (these are cruel and rip socially complex creatures from their families and natural environment)
- No trade between establishments (this is highly stressful for the individuals and can result in the whale or dolphin being held at even worse facilities)
- Enhanced welfare conditions (no tank can ever fulfil their complex needs, but we must make sure that those whales and dolphins who have to remain in captivity, because they cannot return to the wild or find a home in an ocean sanctuary, have the best standard of life that they can, given their situation.)
WDC would also welcome the chance to explore with you how TUI can play a key role in supporting the establishment of new sanctuaries to offer a more natural ocean environment for captive whales and dolphins who cannot be returned to the wild, and a stepping stone on the road to release for those who can. We have a successful track record in this area, having worked with Merlin Entertainments and the SEA LIFE Trust to establish the world’s first open water whale sanctuary.
It is beyond doubt that whales and dolphins are intelligent, conscious, self-aware, emotional, social, far-travelling beings whose wild lives should take them on journeys across the whole ocean – encountering other species, their families and friends, meeting their own needs and supporting the ocean eco-systems that help sustain life on Earth.
Captivity robs them of what it truly means to be a whale or a dolphin.
Being kept in a small, confined space with individuals they may not choose to associate with, and cannot get away from, has a serious impact on their mental wellbeing. Like us, they suffer when their movement is restricted and their choice about how to spend their days is removed.
We urge you to position TUI as a mental health champion and become the world leader that it should be on whale and dolphin issues - listening to your customers – past, present and future - and pioneering a kinder, more sustainable model for the tourism industry to follow.
If you would like to explore how an ethical phase out of whale and dolphin captivity could be implemented and the opportunities it could provide for your business (as well as finding out more about the science behind our proposals), we’d be delighted to talk and support you on your ethical phase-out journey.
Get in touch with [email protected] at Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
WDC campaigns and policy manager
WDC head of partnerships
And the undersigned …