TripAdvisor will no longer sell tickets to attractions that breed captive dolphins, whales

TripAdvisor announced Tuesday that it will no longer sell tickets or generate revenue from attractions that breed or import whales, dolphins and porpoises for public display.

The tourism company says that over the next few months, attractions found to be in violation of the rule will be removed from the site and that it expects the policy to take full effect by year’s end. 

The company says it consulted marine biologists, zoologists and conservationists before making its decision.

“The extensive evidence presented to us by the experts was compelling,” said Dermot Halpin, the president of TripAdvisor Experiences and Rentals in a press release. “Whales and dolphins do not thrive in limited captive environments, and we hope to see a future where they live as they should – free and in the wild. We believe the current generation of whales and dolphins in captivity should be the last, and we look forward to seeing this position adopted more widely throughout the travel industry.”

The new ban is an extension of TripAdvisor’s 2016 animal welfare policy, which banned the sale of tickets to events where visitors are allowed physical contact with captive wild animals (such as elephant rides) or performances considered demeaning to the animals (in which they are drugged or forcibly trained to perform tricks or other unnatural behaviors for public display). 

Animal sanctuaries will be exempt

Halpin noted that sanctuaries that provide a “permanent seaside living environment” for rescued captive animals are exempt from the new policy on whales, dolphins and porpoises. 

In order to qualify for the exemption, sanctuaries must provide a natural body of coastal water such as a bay or cove that is close to the animals’ natural environment, as well as supervision by qualified veterinary personnel. They may not breed or train their animals to perform in any kind of public show, nor can they allow physical interactions between audience members and the animals.

“Seaside sanctuaries have enormous potential, but they need more backing from the tourism industry,” he said. “As long as facilities with captive whales and dolphins continue to profit from keeping these animals in smaller, cheaper and less natural living environments, then they don’t have enough incentive to adopt serious change. We hope our announcement today can help turn the tide.”

Also exempt:

  • Facilities accredited by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums that have made a public commitment to ending the practices of capturing, breeding or importation of captive cetaceans for public display
  • Commercial and nonprofit facilities that have publicly committed to developing sanctuary environments for their captive animals and rehoming their animals

PETA, conservationists applaud TripAdvisor’s move

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals praised the new policy.

“TripAdvisor is rightly rejecting animal-exploiting operations, and PETA is calling on tourists and all other travel companies to do the same,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement to USA TODAY.

In a statement included in TripAdvisor’s press release, Nick Stewart, the global head of campaigns at World Animal Protection, said the new policy “sends a clear message to other travel companies that we must end this cruel industry once and for all. Together we can ensure this is the last generation of dolphins held captive for entertainment.”

Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, concurred, adding, “TripAdvisor is on the right side of history.”

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