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.

Comments

With respect I will continue to boycott all Virgin products and services until Mr. Branson breaks all relationships with SEAWORLD and others like them.

Couldn't agree more. I will do the same.

Ditto! Frankly, I think his response was simply greenwash. It has no meaning. If captive facilities "promise" what he asks they will just continue inbreeding whales and dolphins to produce their own create-at-no-cost slaves to continue making them money. What he proposes doesn't do much for the cetaceans.

Until Virgin stop all sea mammals being exploited for human pleasure I will be boycotting all VIRGIN associated companys.

Could not agree with your comments more, unless Virgin make a big stand on this they have lost my custom..come on Richard show us its not all about the money as your losing customers which will cost you more in the long run

I believed you to be a decent human being Richard. Now prove it and stop enabling this cruelty. Failure to do so just continues to demonstrate that you actually do put the almighty dollar above compassion and respect.

Agree...

He needs to walk his talk...

I am boycotting all Virgin products and services until Mr. Branson breaks all relationships with Seaworld and others like them.

Simply not enough!!!

I am very dissappointed in Virgin/RB and will be deferring all future dealings with Virgin products

Here Here, Johann!!!!!!!

No more Virgin for me thanks and his PR hype blog post does not have me fooled. Trying to appease a group of advocates by not putting more significant pressure on abusers and exploiters is not winning my $$$ any time soon!

Not convinced at all. Cop out Mr Branson!!

I agree Ruth because I dont see him state that there will.be no more promoting of Seaworld just that he is allegedly against taking these lovely animals from the sea, well"big deal", he needs to go a lot further and stop making money from this vile "entertainment".

No more Virgin for my family. Branson's PR comment has not fooled us! Please break ALL relationship with ALL SeaWorld parks!

Disappointed in the response received and will not use any Virgin products in future!

I will cancel all standing orders with Virgin, pledge never to use any product ever again, until Richard Branson does what he knows he must, to have the kind of support he enjoys from people who care.
You need to shape up Richard Branson, we have supported you for obvious reasons for years. Give us your support now, the support you wanted and got from us. Please be a real reformer, not just on the side-lines. We need your support!

i am joining the virgin boycott too

Sir Richard,
You can do better than that. That is a really lame response.

I'm glad that he is making some effort but it does not go far enough, He should stop all holidays to destinations where captive animals are involved.

Sir Richard Branson, it is a very good thing that you have taken notice of this issue, but your statement: "Since – I believe – that animals bred in captivity cannot safely be released" is a very worrying one, as you are high profile, people listen to you, and some people may actually believe that to be the case when as already stated by the WDC amongst other experts, dolphins and whales can, and have, been successfully released into the wild. I realise that you intend to personally visit marine parks where cetaceans are held and examine this issue, and that is a very positive move, for a person as high profile as you are to do, but with regards to your engagement process
and "discussion on the following points"

1."The role of captive cetaceans for education and raising awareness" My answer is: We no longer need to keep cetaceans in captivity for education or raising awareness. Forgive me, but that statement makes no sense; I have loved dolphins and whales since I was a child, long before I actually saw a dolphin or an orca in captivity. And when I finally did go to a dolphinarium, all it did was make me cry, because even as a child, (or perhaps because I was a child!) I realised that these animals did not belong in a confined pool, they belong where they were born - in the wild, in the ocean. And as marine mammal experts have stated time and again, there is nothing that can be gained educationally from keeping these animals in captivity. They do not behave as they would do in the wild anyway, so what we see is a false representation of these animals - a captive representation. The same goes for 'raising awareness' no adult or child needs to see a dolphin or a whale in captivity in order to be aware of these incredible animals. We know how wonderful these animals are, and how much they need our protection. This is 2014. The love for cetaceans is widespread - that is why I'm sitting here, writing this to you.

"The issue of training captive cetaceans for entertainment" As above, but I'd like to add that the training of captive cetaceans for entertainment is just adding insult to injury as far as the cetaceans are concerned.

"The welfare of captive cetaceans, including the space given to them" No 'space given to them' in captivity will ever be enough, nor will it ever provide them with what they need and what they crave - the oceans.

"The breeding of cetaceans in captivity" I worked at The Zoological Society Of London in the 1990s. During my time there, I was responsible for compiling the inventories between zoos in the UK. My work involved logging which animals had been born, and which had died. When it came to the dolphinariums, I was shocked and outraged, and I saw first hand the photographs of the dolphin calves who had been born and were so deformed, they did not survive. I also read the reports written by staff at the Dolphinariums.
Seaworld claim to breed animals successfully, but as we already know, the survival rates of these animals are not exactly a success, and that's understating it hugely. And as already addressed by WDC, "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" If they could get around the laws, Seaworld wouldn't think twice about taking more cetaceans from the wild.

"The reintroduction of captive cetaceans into the wild" As I've said, this can and must be done. This is the very least these animals deserve. For the cetaceans who were captured, their lives have already been ruined. Surely the decent thing to do would be to let them live out whatever lives they have left in freedom? As for the captive born animals, if they are not released, they will not survive for anything like as long as they would in the wild.

I believe you're a good man, and I hope that you will listen closely and act upon the guidance from WDC, and other expert conservation groups who truly know what is best for these animals - freedom.

I think, like many others, that you need to go further and stop holidays to destinations where captive animals are involved. Perhaps a contribution to the cost of eventually releasing these captive animals would help and let's be honest would be good PR

That is a GREAT suggestion...Mr. Branson would be well served by contributing to the release of these captives (some as long as 43 years - Lolita). I hope Mr. Branson is listening, and will actually act appropriately...because he should be putting all those packages in abeyance until they agree to releasing AND to stop capturing!!

Rather than boycotting Virgin, why don't you guys write up comments on Sir Richard's blog about captivity issues? The guy seems to have the heart in the right place so if we all show him the brute facts about life in captivity maybe he can be swayed to go further? Bare in mind, he is a business man and as such his main interest is profit and growth, ethics unfortunately often fall under the table for these type of people. Be respectful and tell him what you know and we'll see what that changes. That's at least what I'm going to do if I have a bit of time.

Mr Branson is all noise he should do a lot more than talk doing is more effective so I too will boycott all Virgin products!!!!!!

Definitely the usual PR guff. No more Virgin products for me. Boycott on.

I'll boycott Virgin...please stop support shameful captivity...

Sir Richard Branson, it is a very good thing that you have taken notice of this issue, but your statement: "Since – I believe – that animals bred in captivity cannot safely be released" is a very worrying one, as you are high profile, people listen to you, and some people may actually believe that to be the case when as already stated by the WDC amongst other experts, dolphins and whales can, and have, been successfully released into the wild. I realise that you intend to personally visit marine parks where cetaceans are held and examine this issue, and that is a very positive move, for a person as high profile as you are to do, but with regards to your engagement process
and "discussion on the following points"

"The role of captive cetaceans for education and raising awareness" My answer is: We no longer need to keep cetaceans in captivity for education or raising awareness. Forgive me, but that statement makes no sense; I have loved dolphins and whales since I was a child, long before I actually saw a dolphin or an orca in captivity. And when I finally did go to a dolphinarium, all it did was make me cry, because even as a child, (or perhaps because I was a child!) I realised that these animals did not belong in a confined pool, they belong where they were born - in the wild, in the ocean. And as marine mammal experts have stated time and again, there is nothing that can be gained educationally from keeping these animals in captivity. They do not behave as they would do in the wild anyway, so what we see is a false representation of these animals - a captive representation. The same goes for 'raising awareness' no adult or child needs to see a dolphin or a whale in captivity in order to be aware of these incredible animals. We know how wonderful these animals are, and how much they need our protection. This is 2014. The love for cetaceans is widespread - that is why I'm sitting here, writing this to you.

"The issue of training captive cetaceans for entertainment" As above, but I'd like to add that the training of captive cetaceans for entertainment is just adding insult to injury as far as the cetaceans are concerned.

"The welfare of captive cetaceans, including the space given to them" No 'space given to them' in captivity will ever be enough, nor will it ever provide them with what they need and what they crave - the oceans.

"The breeding of cetaceans in captivity" I worked at The Zoological Society Of London in the 1990s. During my time there, I was responsible for compiling the inventories between zoos in the UK. My work involved logging which animals had been born, and which had died. When it came to the dolphinariums, I was shocked and outraged, and I saw first hand the photographs of the dolphin calves who had been born and were so deformed, they did not survive. I also read the reports written by staff at the Dolphinariums.
Seaworld claim to breed animals successfully, but as we already know, the survival rates of these animals are not exactly a success, and that's understating it hugely. And as already addressed by WDC, "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" If they could get around the laws, Seaworld wouldn't think twice about taking more cetaceans from the wild.

"The reintroduction of captive cetaceans into the wild" As I've said, this can and must be done. This is the very least these animals deserve. For the cetaceans who were captured, their lives have already been ruined. Surely the decent thing to do would be to let them live out whatever lives they have left in freedom? As for the captive born animals, if they are not released, they will not survive for anything like as long as they would in the wild.

I believe you're a good man, and I hope that you will listen closely and act upon the guidance from WDC, and other expert conservation groups who truly know what is best for these animals - freedom.

I cannot grasp the logic behind boycotting the only airline who has done ANYTHING to raise awareness and not promote places like SeaWorld. Why would you choose to alienate the people trying to come over to your side? Of course it's not perfect and everything you dreamed of yet but keep working with people who will listen and hopefully, one day, there will be no more of these beautiful animals in captivity. You do more damage to your own cause by being so cynical and adversarial. It alienates people who could potentially become allies.

I agree. He is making an effort, a step in the right direction. Please contiue to educate him a polite way. I always beleive you will get more flies with honey.

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