Expedia has pledged to no longer sell tickets to attractions like SeaWorld with its holiday packages.
Going forward, the travel company will only offer tickets to accredited seaside sanctuaries that do not offer interactions or performances.
Despite the intense backlash after the Netflix documentary Blackfish—which exposed SeaWorld for exploiting orcas for financial gain, putting its animals and workers at huge risk—the U.S. marine park chain and others like it still offer cetacean experiences for visitors. These include shows and hands-on encounters.
While marine parks often market these experiences as educational from an animal behavior and sustainability perspective, animal welfare groups maintain that they are nothing more than cruel entertainment.
The impact of cetacean captivity
Captivity is detrimental to marine animals. An orca, for example, would swim up to 40 miles in the wild, but at SeaWorld, they are effectively living in a bathtub. And research has shown that dolphins in captivity are often stressed, which can lead to stomach ulcers, appetite loss, and an increased chance of disease.
Claims that capturing and breeding cetaceans is beneficial for conservation are also untrue, says a report by the Humane Society of the United States.
The animal welfare organization states that most animals bred in marine parks are not at risk in the wild. Bottlenose dolphins, for example, are a major attraction for SeaWorld, but are not classified as threatened or endangered, which means they do not require breeding support from humans.
Capturing marine animals from the ocean may have a detrimental impact on the environment they leave behind, the report adds. It notes that there has been little research conducted by marine parks to figure out the impact of taking a dolphin from its pod, for example.
More travel companies are turning their backs on the industry. In 2019, Virgin Holidays cut ties with SeaWorld and attractions like it. Instead, the travel giant pledged to support true conservation efforts and sanctuaries.
Expedia has stated it will give providers on its site 30 days to comply with the new animal welfare guidelines, or they will face removal.
Charlotte writes about sustainable beauty, food, travel, and culture. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and a postgraduate certificate in cultural heritage.