Virgin Holidays and Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, held a stakeholder meeting this week in Miami to discuss the complexities of captive cetaceans in tourism. Cetaceans are marine mammals known as whales, dolphins and porpoises.
The purpose of the meeting was to gain an understanding of the role captive cetaceans play in education, raising awareness, and entertainment, their welfare and breeding, and their reintroduction into the wild or sanctuaries.
All present stakeholders agreed on two guiding principles:
1. The preservation and protection of the oceans and cetaceans in wild eco-systems is paramount.
2. Virgin has an opportunity to be a responsible leader in the tourism industry and to use its unique position and brand as a force for good.
The group concluded that Virgin, in keeping with the brand and Sir Richard Branson’s personal values, seeks to:
- “Continue to work to define the terms, and determine the practical operational principles, of the Pledge as outlined by Sir Richard Branson in February 2014.
- Commit to supporting the campaign for the eradication of cetacean drive hunts.
- Explore the evolution of existing business models for cetaceans in tourism, as well as potential alternatives, with the end goal of making education the primary focus of every visitor experience.
- Study how Virgin Holidays and other Virgin group companies can leverage the continuum of contact with its customers to promote Virgin’s overall message in relation to the preservation of the oceans.”
It seems as though Virgin means well, but at the end of the day, captive cetaceans used for educational purposes are still just that – captive. We should be teaching children to respect animals in their natural habitats.
In February, Branson wrote on his blog, “I’ve instructed Virgin Holidays not to deal with any organization that do not pledge that they will never again take cetaceans from the sea. We hope other holiday companies will follow suit.”
Yet, Virgin Holidays still offers SeaWorld ticket packages on its website. Time will tell if Virgin’s actions speak louder than their words.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock