Germany’s largest tourism operator, Touristik Union International (TUI) has boycotted all tour packages to marine parks and aquariums, where dolphins and orcas are held captive for the purpose of entertainment. This is a major breakthrough on behalf of cetaceans, as significant financial damage will be done to facilities that import them for entertainment and profit.
After meeting with representatives from the German-based Whale and Dolphin Protection Forum (WDSF), TUI made the decision to no longer offer trips to dolphin and orca shows, finding them cruel and inhumane. In an interview with the Geman newspaper Die Zeit, TUI spokesperson, Mario Kopers said that “[e]ven if the conditions for the animals were not bad everywhere, he said it would cost so much money to check all the facilities around the world, that the firm would rather pull such trips from its selection.” The decision was also made “against the backdrop of the dolphin drive hunts in Taiji,” said Jürgen Ortmüiller, CEO of WDSF.
The Taiji dolphin hunt, in Japan, takes place every year from September to April. Entire extended family units – known as pods – are driven into a cove, where trainers from around the world wade in, take hold of certain dolphins, then measure and test them to determine if they are acceptable specimens for their captive entertainment venues. These pods consist of elders, reproducing age adults, pregnant females, adolescents, and babies. Once their favourites are chosen, the mammals are separated from the other dolphins and placed in holding cages, after which the remaining dolphins are slaughtered for commercial purposes, explains Cove Guardians, of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
For the captive cetaceans, life is beyond horrible. These mammals are very social creatures, with strong family bonds. Baby calves are taken away from their mothers at a young age, and will never share the freedom of the open seas with their families again. They are held captive in small aquariums where they are starved, and often isolated as punishment if they do not perform unnatural stunts to please their audience.
Last month 250 dolphins were herded in a Japanese bay for its annual slaughter and capture. More than 50 were caught – including an albino baby worth millions – and will be sold to dolohinariums. “Trained dolphins can be sold for up to $150,000, while the meat from a slaughtered one is only worth around $600,” reported the newspaper, Die Zeit.
Ortmüiller, praised the policy change by TUI, saying that it is a “great success for animal welfare.” It may help to bring captivity shows to an end, as the firm is one of the world’s largest travel operators. “The decision of the tour operator is also a big blow to the dolphinarium industry around the world,” added Ortmüiller. TUI’s loss of revenue by not offering these trips is worth every dime, as it will significantly reduce the revenue stream of the facilities, and discourage them from purchasing more animals from the dolphin and orca international trade market.
“There is a direct link between the captive dolphin shows and the bloody waters of the Cove in Taiji. Supporting a live dolphin show or participating in a confined swim-with-dolphin program anywhere in the world is the same as slicing open a dolphin in Taiji,” says Sea Shepherd.
Currently there are 99 facilities in 19 different countries that import cetaceans from Taiji, and exploit them for entertainment purposes. Everyone can help to stop the slaughter, and importation of these magnificent and social creatures by not attending the venues that exploit these mammals, and by writing letters and petitions opposing this barbaric practice to embassies and governments.
Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society