Thomas Cook To End SeaWorld Excursions After Customer Concern
British tour operator Thomas Cook is to remove all excursions to Florida's SeaWorld after more than 90 per cent of its customers voiced their concern over animal welfare.
The move follows a decision in April 2017 to blacklist 16 operators after an audit found that they failed to meet international standards for the treatment of captive animals. The audit covered a range of activities, from dolphinariums to elephant rides. Since then, a total of 49 operators have been investigated, out of which 29 have been removed from Thomas Cook's holiday brochures.
Marine parks that display captive orcas have been targeted, with a second operation, Loro Parque in Tenerife, also being axed by Thomas Cook.
According to a blog post on the Thomas Cook website, the decision was 'not taken' lightly and Thomas Cook is keen to point out that both the operators passed the audit successfully and had also improved welfare standards during the last 18 months.
'We have actively engaged with a range of animal welfare specialists in the last 18 months, and taken account of the scientific evidence they have provided,' said Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser. 'We have also taken feedback from our customers, more than 90 per cent of whom told us that it was important that their holiday company takes animal welfare seriously. That has led us to the decision we have taken today.'
SeaWorld came under a great deal of criticism in the wake of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, centred around the fate of Tilikum, a captive male orca who made headlines after the death of three of SeaWorld's trainers. Although SeaWorld described the documentary as 'misleading' and 'manipulative', the plight of the orcas kept in captivity was plain to see, and SeaWorld suffered a dramatic loss of business as a result.
At lease 48 orcas died prematurely at the three parks that SeaWorld maintains, according to the WDC.