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"Virgin Holidays has decided to stop selling and promoting captive cetacean (whale and dolphin) experiences, as we look to focus on offering customers more natural, at-distance encounters with these animals," explained Joe Thompson, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays. "This decision means that we will be ending our long-term partnerships with the likes of SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and other similar facilities."
Virgin Holidays announced the 'Virgin Pledge on Sea Mammals' back in 2014, which stated it would only work with facilities that committed to not taking animals from the wild. The company took the pledge a step further in 2017 by formulating five concrete steps in Virgin Holidays' journey to change the ways tourists interact with whales and dolphins, looking at ways to offer customers alternative encounters with animals in a natural environment.
The company's boycott of attractions featuring captive whales is its latest move to strengthen its commitment to fighting animal cruelty.
The move comes after research from the brand showed that 92 per cent of UK holidaymakers said they would rather see animals in their natural habitat, with Joe adding: "We want to actively support this direction by encouraging more responsible wild watching, which puts animal welfare at the heart of things, meaning our customers get to experience these amazing animals with peace of mind and future generations can enjoy these wonderful experiences too."
Not one to rest on its laurels, Branson and co. have put their money where their mouths are, so far investing $100,000 (£80,500) to support the National Aquarium's pioneering project in Baltimore USA to relocate their captive dolphins to a bigger, more natural coastal sanctuary that is set to open in 2021.
"History will show that this was absolutely the right decision by Virgin Holidays," said Dylan Walker, CEO of World Cetacean Alliance. "Whales and dolphins are complex and intelligent animals whose needs can only be met in the wild.
"To understand them involves seeing them in their ocean home, which is why we are extremely pleased that Virgin Holidays is committed to investing and supporting responsible wild whale and dolphin excursions moving forward."
"We sincerely hope that Virgin Holidays' announcement will continue to encourage the tourism industry to take notice and review current practices to deliver positive change that will benefit not only our wild animals, but also our future generations and how we encounter these majestic creatures," added Dr Jan-Schmidt Burbach, Global Wildlife Advisor at World Animal Protection.
He added: "We look forward to working with Virgin Holidays in the future as it continues to develop its responsible wildlife initiatives."
This move comes a year after Thomas Cook announced it would stop selling trips to different attractions due to issues regarding animal welfare, with the plan to be put into action before the end of this month. Any existing sales however will still be honoured.
Bravo, Sir Rich!
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