Virgin Holidays will no longer offer packages to SeaWorld after concerns about animal welfare

Trips to SeaWorld will no longer be offered by Virgin Holidays after the company axed the packages over concerns about the attraction’s treatment of animals.

Sir Richard Branson’s firm revealed that it has decided to stop sales and promotion of captive cetacean (whale and dolphin) attractions.

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This means that trips to SeaWorld and Discovery Cove will no longer be offered. Virgin said that it would instead be looking to offer holidaymakers "more natural, at-distance encounters with these animals".

Branson further explained that the company would be seeking to encourage customers to see these animals in the wild, and would be supporting the development of sanctuaries for animals currently in captivity.

No holidays to places with captive animals

The move comes after research showed that 92 per cent of UK holidaymakers would prefer to see animals in their natural habitat.

In 2014, Virgin pledged not to take customers to attractions that took animals from the wild, and in 2017 the company made moves to offer alternatives to viewing animals in captivity, The Mirror reports.

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That included ruling out partnerships with any new attractions featuring captive whales and dolphins for entertainment purposes, creating coastal sanctuaries for whales and dolphins and promoting responsible wild whale and dolphin watching experiences.

Other efforts include partnering with the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) to promote its Guidelines for Responsible Whale and Dolphin Watching. The company has also committed to have all its tour operators certified against WCA standards by the end of 2021.

SeaWorld has been under fire for a number of years for its keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity. It was the focus of acclaimed documentary Blackfish, which looked into the story of an Orca that was kept at one of the resorts in Florida.

A spokespoerson for SeaWorld said: "It is disappointing to see Virgin Holidays succumb to pressure from animal activists who mislead and manipulate marine mammal science to advance their agendas.

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"Virgin’s own corporate mission is having a measurable purpose that positively impacts communities and the environment. SeaWorld is the epitome of that mission. With more than 35,000 animal rescues and decades of meaningful scientific contributions, we are proud to be a recognized global leader in marine mammal science, education and, in particular, providing preeminent care to all of our marine mammals."

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