Richard Branson’s statement on Virgin trips to captive whale and dolphin shows - WDC responds

WDC notes with some anticipation a prompt statement of response by Sir Richard Branson to our campaign calling on him to stop Virgin's promotion of facilities holding captive whales and dolphins. We have been asking Virgin about this issue for some time with no reply. Public pressure resulting from our campaign launch has now brought about a response.

As we noted yesterday, one of the facilities promoted by Virgin Holidays, SeaWorld, holds orcas and other whales and dolphins captured in the wild and has recently been part of the permit application by the Georgia Aquarium to import wild-caught belugas from Russia (a permit denied by the US government, but now being appealed). It would therefore be a very positive step in the right direction for SeaWorld and others to pledge not to take in wild-captured whales and dolphins. 

We interpret Sir Richard Branson’s statement as opposition to SeaWorld's support for the proposed beluga import by Georgia Aquarium, and we would welcome confirmation from him that he agrees.

However, whale and dolphin captivity presents significant health and welfare problems for both wild-caught and captive born individuals and we would like to see these issues addressed more comprehensively by Virgin Holidays.

Captive born whales and dolphins also suffer greatly in captivity and any ABTA affiliated tour operator, including Virgin Holidays, who adheres to ABTA guidance on captive dolphin facilities should no longer be promoting them.


Robin, Christine,

we have tried engaging with Virgin in the past to no effect. We have written again recently and received no response. This campaign is not directed at just Virgin, but all travel companies, but Virgin has made a real focus of their relationship with SeaWorld. Yes, we welcome his first step in moving from what is a personal view to making it a corporate policy that facilities should not take from the wild, but what does that mean? SeaWorld has been named by the US Government as supporting the Georgia Aquarium's attempt to import live caught belugas from Russia to the USA. Does Sir Richard's call include this potential import and so will it  help stop these live captures in the Russian Federation? Will SeaWorld accept his position? So far they have not indicated that they will. 

Engaging Sir Richard has brought this issue to a head. Its a shame that Virgin did not wish to respond to our letters and outreach before, but it seems that they will respond to such a public challenge. Its not how we normally work, but in this case it seems to have been necessary. His words mean something, but his commercial power is what is really enough to create real change for whales and dolphins that are held in captivity.

WDC has worked behind the scenes for over twenty years, resarching, lobbying and providing evidence to try and persuade people that whale and dolphin captivity is not only not good for the whales and dolphins already in captivity, but also is not good for wild populations. We just felt that Virgin and others could no longer ignore the facts.


It is wonderful to use all the channels available and to increase the loudness of the message so it gets thru. Well done for doing this last bit that has, initially, raised this to RB 's attention. HE is clearly listening now. further education and clear response ( with specific actions needed now ) so appreciate that you are doing this and how you are doing it,.

Agreed. Don't understand why this man needs to be attacked. Give him 6 months and see what the outcome is.


Its because Virgin would not respond to normal approaches that we have done this. We are pleased with the statement and the fact that there is to be a review, but Virgin helped craft the existing ABTA guidelines and should at least be fulfilling those. We would also note that SeaWorld so far, has not, to the best of our knolwedge, responded to Sir Richard's demand that they committ to no live captures, so we need to keep some pressure on. We are now seeking to help ensure that the review has all the relavant facts and look forward to its conclusion.

I always had a big respect for Mr. Branson and thought he was a fighter for animal rights. What a disappointment !

I was in rock music when Richard started his company, working form a public phone box. I admired him tremendously, but i think his reply is a copout .I think hes hoping that everyone will believe he is going to pull the plug and that nothing more will happen if he stays quiet.

What a pity Beardie's too busy to watch "Blackfish" on any of his own carp TV channels.

Keeping cetaceans imprisoned for the mindless gratification of bored tourists - whether or not the poor creatures were born into enforced captivity - is clearly wrong.

Another moral compass lost in the Bermuda triangle!

I bet Sir Rich Brandsome is lapping up all the attention. Boycott Virgin will Sir Rich Brandeverything floats of in his hot air balloon and promises never to come back. Down with Narcissistic Plutocrats!

... woops typo: 'till Sir Can't-stop-Branding floats off ..'

Total Virgin boycott for me, shame on you Richard Branson,I used to have respect for you. Next time a Virgin mailshot comes through my post I am going to return it to sender with a huge message scrawled across about RB supporting the Seaworldofcruelty racket - if everyone does this....maybe, just maybe...

An organization that wants to do the right thing should be condemning captive breeding programs and advocating that working animals either be rehabilitated for release or retired to sea pens. A statement about being against facilities that participate in wild-captures is simply not enough to allow you to join the ranks of those who truly care about cetaceans. Richard Branson, you have the opportunity to be a leader or you can be the same as so many others who think a “greenwash” is sufficient to protect your corporate image.

Does anyone know where I can get some Killer Whale filets? I have a dinner party this Saturday

Our concerns is the number of dolphins that are killed on a yearly basis. That these dolphins which take (12 months gestation) will become extinct. The loss of their numbers will affect the ecological environment of OUR OCEANS. Is someone keeping track of their numbers? It has been recorded over and over again how dolphins (bottlenose) especially, have been instrumental in saving human lives. We have been studying dolphins for many years, they have found them to be very intelligent, have communication skills, and their brain is larger than ours. They stay together with their families (pods), they are loyal and steadfast to their families, especially their babies.

People will pay for boats/ships to take them out to see dolphins, whales in their natural habitat. Many companies around the world, especially in hawaii, they are making a good living out of scuba diving dolphin encounters etc.

I think in the past paying dollars to be up and close to these mammals in captivity seemed harmless. We know now there is a big trade ($$$$$) in capturing dolphins and killer whales, especially dolphins in taiji. The dolphins that are not taken into captivity are slaughtered. They are not killed in a humane way. Metal rods are placed in the blow holes which severes their spines, this is done amongst the dolphins that are going into captivity. They are traumatized, butchered and dragged away still alive. Their meat which is sometimes disguised as whale meat (unsafe for human consumption because of high counts of mercury) is sold to unsuspecting japanese) and some is ground up to make fertilizer. How sad that we would grind up dolphins to use as fertilizer.

We would appreciate it if you would read our concerns. Look into your wife/children/grand children's eyes, their precious lives. Hopefully, these beautiful creatures will not fade away into extinction for our future generations and the health of OUR OCEANS.

Seaworld will lie about taking animals from the wild, by claiming that whales and dolphins hauled out of the sea by a third party, held in a sea pen or aquarium for a few months/years and then purchased by them are not officially wild caught as its not them doing the catching. Sometimes they'll even dress these purchases up as 'rescues'. Fact is they need wild caught animals to diversify the genetic make up of the breeding pool - think Marius the giraffe with cetaceans. I used to work in this industry and know the level of deception that goes on and misinformation dressed up as fact. If Branson visits Seaworld he must visit with an independent expert otherwise he'll be bombarded with Seaworld lies, like anyone else who asks questions.

Last few weeks,like millions around the globe,I've been watching the dolphin drive hunt in Taiji. I'm terribly disappointed to see how marine parks and travel agencies keep indifferent to the continuous dolphin massacre and still encourage this horrific practice by including dolphin shows in their entertainment programmes. If international experts state that captive cetaceans develop severe physical and psychological/ behavioral disorders, as result of the stress and isolation they are submitted to; we must start rethinking our entertainment choices. Marine parks with captive cetaceans are no longer attractive places where people can go and spend nice time with their children. Why don't you encourage new co-tourism projects and programmes that protect dolphins and other cetaceans and ensure successful new and original campaigns for Virgin Holidays. You can help raising awareness of the importance of cetaceans conservation and promote alternative touristic activities instead of justifying the current practices or turning a blind eye to the tragedy. Cetaceans are highly intelligent creatures with amazing and powerful social bonds . They are not yours or ours they are a living heritage belonging to humanity .

Not Convinced Richard and I am now looking at other Broadband suppliers...

Agree. Copout.....just whitewashing over a controversial issue. Come on Sir Richard, you can do much better because this isn't good enough.

Many others have said it more eloquently than I can but there are no words to describe how I despise the captivity of any animal that should is confined and used as entertainment and financial gain. How anyone can profess to enjoy watching a wild animal forced to perform is beyond my comprehension. Richard Branson should as a reasonably intelligent person admit that this is a barbaric practice.

Any institution that keep keeps animals in captivity is never doing it for conservation. The true intention is always about pimping another specie selling 'cute' for money and at the expense of the animals welfare and quality of life. No animal should be jailed for a crime never committed. If the animals are too 'damaged' to be released, the better way is to help create sanctuaries for them. These creatures do not need to perform to hanker to the greed of man and his false institutions. Pimping another specie for 'entertainment' in zoos, aquariums, circuses etc is a heinous crime down to the bone of human depravity, indecency and greed. It is time to get rid of the PR boys and girls. Words mean little without real, affirmative action by you. Ball in your court, Sir. @maughams

Kenneth, I think there are some notable exceptions. Gerald Durrell, for instance, only had conservation in mind in setting up the Jersey Wildlife Park and I do believe that there are other examples. Some animals have been bred in captivity with the sole purpose of conserving the species and hopefully returning them to the wild. It is totally wrong to make cetaceans or lions to perform for us, but many people who consider themselves animal lovers have entertained themselves training dogs and horses, so it's not as cut & dried as you might imagine.

Its not about permits and laws is it, its about morals and compassion.

I will boycot all Virgin products. Was just about to book Virgin flight but will travel on other airline now. Sad, but necessary :(( Come on Richard, have you watched Blackfish !!

Yes, it's a pretty lame response, but rather than just boycotting his products - which won't actually inform him why you aren't his customer - I agree with some others that this tiny step in the right direction should be used to build upon, and that he should be publicly lobbied until he has come down off the fence. Especially where he is glossing quickly over "animals bred in captivity" - as if this is inevitable or even desirable.

Please stop any relationship with captivity facilities....captivity is DEATH. I'll keep boycotting all Virgin's productus till you broke this shameful liason.

Everyday people who are not millionaires or celebrities are speaking out from their hearts because they (we) don't have power to do more than speak or write, whereas the likes of Mr. Sir Richard Branson can do SO MUCH to further the noble human endeavour of changing social conscience of our attitudes towards these intelligent, social non-human persons, the cetaceans.


To me, from everything I have heard, Dolphins are intelligent creatures and so are their species. Even those born in capativity after everything I have read could survive in the world. I do believe it would take work on our part, a lot of it, to make sure they could survive, to find a pod for them to join. I won't believe it can't be done. Nothing is impossible if you're prepared to do it.
I just wanted to correct you on what I know is to be true. I do want to take a moment to say thankyou. You're a good bloke.

Please boycott completly ! What Sea world and other marine parks in inhumane... I live in orlando and the owner of Seaworlds popl is bigger than the tanks these besutiful creatures are kept in ... My heart breaks :(

WE all have a moral obligation to respect all marine life!!!!

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated... I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.
- Mahatma Gandhi

I've recently come back from a holiday in Tenerife, where Los parque was pushed down our throats. My children would have loved it but I'm so lucky I have them on side. The cruelty overcame the desire to see such marvelous creatures. I intended to write to you to ask why you didn't hit the tourist companies and now don't have to as you have. My kids ended up seeing both whales and dolphins on a boat trip and were made up. And I am made up that you are going to sort out the tourists. I don't believe in god as the world is too awful but bless you. Xxxx

Have always flown with Virgin . . . . .But not anymore!