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SEAWORLD: Animal welfare campaigns

25/06/2014 by Alan Cole in the UK

Public pressure gathering momentum against SeaWorld and others using captive marine animals for entertainment?

Animal welfare charity backed pressure building, against the use of captive dolphins and whales as attractions?

Whale watching
Whale in flight. Photo: IFAW.

Many countries have banned the use of dolphins and whales in marine parks and shows and in the UK, for instance, a proposed ban on wild animals in circuses also has enormous public support...

A recent UK survey has shown public support for dolphin and killer whale marine park shows is almost zilch...

86 per cent of the 2,050 people surveyed in a poll carried out on behalf of travel company, responsibletravel.com, and wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation said they would not want to visit a marine park to see whales and dolphins as part of an overseas holiday...

A recent US poll commissioned by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) charity and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) showed a rise in American public support against Orcas in captivity...

A number of petitions also continue to gather momentum, on the grounds that it is cruel to keep large creatures used to the freedom of the oceans in confined spaces, and use them for tricks and entertainment...

One online petition in California alone, asking for a ban on Orcas in captivity for use as entertainment, has reached over a million signatures...

Is the weight of public opinion gathering behind animal welfare campaigns opposed to the use of keeping large marine animals as captives?

Success in this direction was celebrated this month when a major tour operator backed campaigners' calls...

News that STA Travel are to stop sending tourists to animal attractions that are considered unethical is a “significant step forward” for animals and the tourism industry, says wildlife charity Care for the Wild.

The tourism giant, which sends 2.5 million travellers on trips each year, announced that they will no longer be selling tickets for SeaWorld resorts in the USA, or other tourist destinations frowned upon by animal welfare advocates...

Care for the Wild runs the RIGHT-tourism.org website promoting animal-friendly tourist activities...

CEO Philip Mansbridge says: “It’s what we needed to see from a big player in the tourism business, but it was never going to be easy for a large company to say ‘no’ to big money-makers like SeaWorld. It’s taken courage on their behalf to do this, and we congratulate them.

“This move by STA sends out a strong message that animals don’t exist for our entertainment. It follows ABTA’s excellent animal welfare guidelines which were produced last year, which aim to get the travel industry to think harder about where they send their customers... and Richard Branson consulting on dolphinariums, so it feels like there’s a real sea-change going on...

“Customers are becoming more aware of what responsible tourism means when it comes to animals, and tour operators are starting to listen...”

Whilst a number of attractions around the world that are presented as tourism opportunities alarm animal welfare campaigners, SeaWorld continues to receive a lot of attention from campaigners...

An online petition has also been aimed at British Airways to stop selling trips to SeaWorld, and that has now attracted over 100,000 signatures...

Protests and petitions organised by environmental groups and campaigners continue to regularly target SeaWorld parks, campaigning against their captive use of whales and dolphins...

Campaigners believe the complex intelligence of dolphins and whales and their free existence in infinite ocean ranges makes it cruel to keep them in captivity for display or entertainment...

In its defence, SeaWorld that comprises a number of marine attractions across the USA says it backs wildlife conservation via the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, and believes it promotes conservation in the wild via its educational impact...

However, public polls and the growth of campaigns suggest there is a decreasing appetite for such captive shows due to the welfare needs of the animals...

In terms of SeaWorld in particular, and dolphin shows generally, Philip Mansbridge says:

“Dolphins, and Orcas (killer whales) should have the freedom of the ocean – in the wild they can swim hundreds of miles in a day. If you contrast this to the amount of space they have in captivity – often no bigger than a swimming pool – then there is clearly a huge discrepancy which in no way represents their natural environment or allows them to express natural behaviour.

“Many dolphinariums, often the newer ones, also use dolphins which have been captured from the wild, perhaps in dolphin drives such as the one at Taiji in Japan, where hundreds are captured and killed. The brutality involved in these drives make their capture even more traumatic. We’re learning more about how social dolphins are, living in complex social and family structures, so again, taking young dolphins away from these groups is going to have a big negative effect.

“As far as SeaWorld goes, they no longer take dolphins from the wild, although they have done in the past. However, their success means that other dolphinariums around the world will need to acquire wild-caught dolphins if they are going to compete.

“The recent film Blackfish which showed how captivity has potentially caused an Orca to kill a trainer is an example of how the animals can be affected.

“But even dolphins bred within a dolphinarium will be animals that need open water – again, the contrast between their natural habitat and the habitat into which they are born is massive.”

As well as the physical restrictions on such animals movement and interaction the use of animals for entertainment is also being questioned heavily now, suggests Mr Mansfield.

Various studies show how a cultural shift in awareness of the ethical issues of making animals perform for entertainment and profit, is at the heart of animal campaigners protests...

“In addition to all the above issues, dolphins and Orcas are made to perform tricks, many of which will not relate to their natural behaviour.... says Care’s CEO.

“The way animals are trained to perform tricks is also under scrutiny. Circus animals, for example, have been seen to be brutalised in order to force them to behave in a certain way. Elephants used for tourist trekking in many countries are physically abused to force them to comply with their handlers.

“The training of dolphins may not be as brutal but if methods such as denying food are used, then the animals will be suffering...

“Aspects of dolphin shows such as ‘beaching’, in which they come completely out of the water, or ‘fin pulls’ where they pull humans along by their dorsal fins are now identified as being potentially harmful. Other aspects of shows however, such as balancing balls on their noses, are also being questioned.

"Do we actually have the right to demand animals to do this for the sake of our entertainment?”

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Written and edited in London and Geneva All Xperedon news articles are original and are written by the Xperedon news team. The team is headed in the UK by Alan Cole, an experienced award-winning journalist and copywriter. Alan has previously worked in-house for UK publishers, Pearson Media (Financial Times) and Northcliffe Newspapers, among others, and is an accredited member of the National Union of Journalists, UK.

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