A new phenomenon is taking place where companies and corporations are promoting themselves as leaders in their industry when it comes to protecting wildlife. One such company is Virgin Holidays, who has announced that it will no longer “deal with any organization that does not pledge that they will never again take cetaceans from the sea.”
Founder of Virgin, Sir Richard Branson, claims that “Virgin Holidays has played a leading role on the issue of animal welfare in the travel industry for many years.” He says that he has “always had a deep respect and love for the ocean and been interested in the conservation of the species within it.”
Branson has started an “engagement process,” whereby, he will consult with members from the scientific community, commercial partners, and other travel companies. The objective of this engagement process will be to discuss, “[t]he role of captive cetaceans for education and raising awareness. The issue of training captive cetaceans for entertainment. The welfare of captive cetaceans, including the space given to them. The breeding of cetaceans in captivity, and the reintroduction of captive cetaceans into the wild.” All this sounds very admirable, and makes Virgin Tours appear to have a sincere concern for the well-being of cetacean creatures.
Branson says that he is “saddened by the destruction caused by human beings, for example the capture and killing of dolphins in Taiji’s cove. Like many people, I’ve been deeply touched by films such as The Cove, Sharkwater and more recently Blackfish. These films have opened our eyes to a range of issues and have ignited a very healthy debate. We’ve been listening and want to make sure we continue to listen to ensure we do what is right for these majestic creatures.”
Ironically, although Branson claims that he is concerned for the well-being of cetaceans creatures, and has been enlightened by these films, he has a whole website promoting a “SeaWorld Parks Collection,” of holiday tours organized by his company, Virgin Holidays.
Branson contradicts himself when he says that dolphins and whales should never “again be killed by humans, or taken from the ocean for marine theme parks.” He then goes on to say that “animals that have been bred in captivity cannot safely be released. So if the ones who are currently in captivity have to be kept there it is critically important that they are treated properly and given the necessary environment to thrive. As long as this criteria is met I believe access to these magnificent creatures in the proper humane conditions – alongside ocean research and exploration – can help to educate our children and improve our understanding.”
On the one hand Branson is claiming that he is against animals held captive in marine parks, and on the other hand, he’s saying that seeing them there is educational for children. As part his “engagement process,” Branson says that he is personally going to visit some of these facilities around the world. It will be interesting to learn, after he has gone on his excursion, whether he becomes enlightened enough to realize that places like SeaWorld should be closed down, or whether he will be offering a additional tour package to another marine park.
While charlatans that promote their business as being animal-friendly, or concerned about their well-being run amok, it may be wise for people who choose to make ethical choices to do their research before they decide where they want to spend their hard-earned money.