The tourism giant will no longer sell holiday packages to animal parks that keep killer whales, including Seaworld, Florida and Loro Parque, Tenerife.
In a blog post announcing the move, Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser said more than 90% of the company’s customers had said animal welfare concerns were very important to them.
“From next summer, we will no longer sell any animal attractions that keep orcas in captivity.
“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.
— 🌎Animal Watch🌍 (@Animal_Watch) July 29, 2018
Thomas Cook distances itself from Seaworld
“We have also taken feedback from our customers…and when so many of our customers are so clear in their view, I could not allow our business to ignore them,” Fankhauser wrote.
A public backlash against tourist attractions keeping killer whales (or orcas) in captivity has been building since the release of 2013 documentary Blackfish. That film had argued that the captive whales had become unnaturally aggressive to both their keepers and each other. The park has faced a massive decline in revenue in recent years.
Thomas Cook will no longer offer its customers tickets to any attraction across the globe which keeps killer whales in captivity, including SeaWorld in Florida. Why are animals still being used for humans' entertainment? #DarrenOnLBC pic.twitter.com/5FAsitTr4E
— LBC (@LBC) July 30, 2018
Earlier this year, Thomas Cook had moved towards this policy by threatening to end the sale of Seaworld tickets online if animal welfare did not improve at the park.
The company had previously sold some 10,000 day trips to Seaworld each year.
Thomas Cook has also been auditing the animal welfare practices of some 46 animal parks and said that many of the parks had improved their treatment of animals during the survey.
Blackfish, the death of Kasatka, and concern over animal welfare at Seaworld and other tourist parks
One of the killer whales living at the park, Kasatka, was put down amid public outcry in 2017.
John Hargrove, who had previously been a trainer for the whale, told The Mail on Sunday: “What continues to go on in parks like Seaworld is an abomination. They claim captive orcas help educate people, and for years I bought into it. But Kasatka lived in misery, in barbaric and horrific conditions, and died in agony.”
British travel firm Thomas Cook will stop selling trips to animal parks that keep captive killer whales, including SeaWorld https://t.co/FslSgLjC1j
— AFP news agency (@AFP) July 29, 2018
“By the end she had lesions on her face, like an AIDS patient,” Hargrove said.
“I have to speak out because if it stops just one person paying to go to a park where orcas are tortured to perform circus tricks, then Kasatka’s death won’t have been in vain.”
Live orca shows were phased out by Seaworld last year and the park rebranded as an orca educational experience.
Seaworld has already ended its controversial breeding program for killer whales in response to criticism.
The Mirror Travel Editor Nigel Thompson hailed the move to ditch the two theme parks as “bold and brave” and said rival travel agencies were likely to follow suit.