Animal activists score major win over Sea World
TRAVEL giant TripAdvisor has bowed to the demands of animal activists and banned the sale of tickets to theme parks housing marine mammals in a bitter blow for Sea World on the Gold Coast.
The marine park has for decades rescued stricken whales, turtles and dolphins and donated millions of dollars to animal research, but has come under increasing fire from militant activists - a development tourism leaders blasted as "disappointing".
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has long waged war against speciesism, "a human-supremacist view that fosters violence towards other animals", was involved in the consultation process with TripAdvisor, one of the world's biggest online travel platforms.
PETA yesterday heralded TripAdvisor's decision to "officially reject tourism to marine mammal prisons like Sea World" after the travel giant announced it would no longer sell tickets on its website for marine parks housing captive dolphins or whales.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said he was disappointed by the decision.
"Sea World prides itself on best-practice and it is at the cutting edge of animal welfare," he said. "Protesters definitely have their place, but it is up to TripAdvisor to tailor a measured response."
Overseas, opposition has been growing against the practice of US-based Sea World parks keeping orcas performing in captivity.
However, while the Gold Coast's park does not keep whales and has no commercial links to the US parks, Sea World is also in TripAdvisor's firing line, with the company to finalise its policy by the end of the year. A TripAdvisor spokesman said there would possibly be exceptions to the rule, but it is understood Sea World would not qualify.
The Sunshine Coast's SEA LIFE aquarium would not be affected as it does not keep cetaceans - the species of marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises.
Sea World has faced the wrath of protesters before, but the park is well regarded for its record on conservation and its role in rescuing stricken marine wildlife.
In the past five years, it has rescued more than 600 marine animals, with a rescue team on call 24 hours a day.
TripAdvisor is one of the world's most influential travel websites, used by millions of tourists to plan and book everything from hotels to restaurant tables. In a statement released yesterday, TripAdvisor said it would no longer sell tickets to, or generate revenue from, "any attraction that continues to contribute to the captivity of future generations of cetaceans".
"Any commercial facility that either breeds or imports cetaceans will be banned from sale on TripAdvisor and Viator (a TripAdvisor subsidiary)," the statement said.
TripAdvisor said the decision was made after "an extensive consultation process" with marine biologists, zoologists and conservationists.
However, Sea World challenged the travel company to research the evidence that supports zoos and aquariums.
"Sea World is proud of our global leadership in animal rescue, education, research and conservation and our world-class facilities," a spokesman said.
He said that their marine exhibits, presentations and animal adventure programs were education and conservation-based, and encouraged extensions of the animals' natural behaviours. "Sea World encourages any travel agency considering its position to research the science and conservation-based evidence."
PETA celebrated the decision, which follows similar moves by British Airways, Virgin Holidays and United Airlines to cease promotion of performances involving captive whales and dolphins.