The travel company Expedia has stopped selling tickets to facilities that feature performances or interactions with dolphins and whales.
The company announced the change on social media, saying: “We recently adjusted our animal welfare policy. As a result, attractions and activities that involve performances by or interactions with dolphins and other cetaceans will no longer be available on our sites.”
The company added on its website that, “Seaside sanctuaries that provide captive animals with a permanent seaside living environment are allowed if they are accredited and do not feature interactions or performances.”1
The policy change means that Expedia will stop selling tickets to SeaWorld and to any “swim with dolphin” encounters, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).2
PETA says the group has had meetings with and pressured Expedia for five years to change the policy. The animal rights group argues that in swimming encounters, the animals are confined to small tanks or lagoons where they have to swim in circles. Some have had health problems because of the stress of captivity.3
The Humane Society of the United States points out that when animals are captured from the wild, not only are those individuals stressed, but it’s unknown what impact their removal could have on the pod left behind.4
A few years after the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” aired, showing cruel treatment of the orcas at SeaWorld, public criticism of the park spread.
A few years later, SeaWorld ended its killer whale breeding program and phased out signature orca performance shows, and replaced them with more educational programs.
According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, at least 43 orcas have died at SeaWorld.5
The policy change should go into effect in early 2022, according to a report in The Guardian. “Any time we update our animal welfare policies, we give our providers 30 days to comply with the updated policy or face removal from the site,” Expedia said online.1
The company’s policy also does not allow activities with intentional physical contact with wild and exotic animals, including elephants, big cats, bears, reptiles, and primates. It doesn’t sell tickets to exotic pet cafes, restaurants, and traveling zoos that have exotic animals on display.1
The recent change follows similar moves by TripAdvisor in 2019 that it would not sell tickets to most activities where tourists come into physical contact with wild animals or where whales and dolphins are made to perform. There are exceptions to the policy that include touch pool experiences for educational purposes and facilities where all captive cetaceans have a permanent seaside living environment.6
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) issued a statement in response to the announcement. It included:7
“They misguidedly seem to believe their action will stop people from visiting animal attractions. All the evidence says otherwise. Expedia’s decision won’t stop animal lovers from purchasing experiences involving animal interactions. It will just give consumers less information on which to make responsible choices.”
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.