British travel company Thomas Cook has announced it will stop selling tickets to animal parks where killer whales are kept in captivity.
As a result, the holiday giant will no longer offer trips to SeaWorld in Florida and Loro Parque in Tenerife from next summer, despite huge visitor numbers.
The bold move came after both venues were slammed by animal welfare campaigners and a host of celebrities.
“This was not a decision we took lightly,” chief executive Peter Fankhauser said as he announced the new policy.
“We have actively engaged with a range of animal welfare specialists in the last 18 months, and taken account of the scientific evidence they have provided.
“We have also taken feedback from our customers, more than 90% of whom told us that it was important that their holiday company takes animal welfare seriously.
“And when so many of our customers are so clear in their view, I could not allow our business to ignore them,” Mr Fankhauser said.
“I am clear about the kind of business that we want to be. That’s why we introduced our animal welfare policy 18 months ago, and that’s why we’ve taken this decision today.”
Although SeaWorld no longer breed killer whales, it intends to keep the ones it already has. Visitor numbers fell following the 2013 Netflix documentary Blackfish about a performing killer whale called Tilikum, which criticised the keeping of orcas for entertainment.
Mr Fankhauser said: “We will work with both [theme parks] over the next 12 months to prepare for our exit…. We will also continue to work ourselves to identify more sustainable alternatives.”
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