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To many, Sir Richard Branson, English business tycoon and founder of Virgin Group, is known as an animal lover. Branson has urged Chinese consumers to stop eating shark fin soup, and when the Taiji dolphin drive hunts were occurring earlier this year, Branson took to his blog to voice his outrage, calling on Japan to “stop the dolphin slaughter before it’s too late.”
However, despite his proclamation that dolphins and whales are “two of the most beautiful species in the ocean,” his company is actively involved in selling trips to SeaWorld who is now well-known to mask the truth about its treatment of performing orcas, especially in the case of Tilikum, the largest wild-caught orca still in captivity.
Upon learning of Virgin Holidays trips to SeaWorld, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) sprang into action with a catchy video and petition campaign urging Branson to “stop supporting whale cruelty.”
Not long after this campaign was launched, Branson responded with a statement on his blog:
I believe no dolphins or whales should EVER again be killed by humans, or TAKEN from the ocean for marine theme parks. However, as far as I know, animals that have been bred in captivity cannot safely be released. So if the ones who are currently in captivity have to be kept there it is critically important that they are treated properly and given the necessary environment to thrive. As long as this criteria is met I believe access to these magnificent creatures in the proper humane conditions – alongside ocean research and exploration – can help to educate our children and improve our understanding.
While this is certainly a step in the right direction and an overall positive statement, Branson still seems to be missing the overall point: that captivity is no place for any animal — captive-bred or not — especially when there are far more humane alternatives than marine parks available, such as open sea pen sanctuaries.
As WDC says, “Keeping whales in tanks is NOT conservation. It’s NOT education. It IS cruel.”
Stand in support of orcas and tell Richard Branson and Virgin Holidays to place animal protection over profits by signing the petition below:
Image source: Milan Boers / Flickr
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