Last week we released a letter signed by 23 respected scientists which laid out very clearly why whales and dolphins (known together as cetaceans) are not suited to captivity and why accreditation doesn’t work when it comes to dolphin entertainment venues
A venue that offers swimming with captive dolphins or whale and dolphin shows will never be an ethical choice, no matter what accreditation it has, or scheme it is a member of
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is recognition, usually from a third-party, that an organisation or product meets certain guidelines, usually allowing it to use a logo or a label to give it the stamp of approval.
Accreditation or a recognisable label can help us feel better about our choices – it gives us the security that somebody else has done the ‘ethical checklist’ on our behalf and we can enjoy that choice guilt-free. This doesn’t just apply to holiday attractions – we are all familiar with labels on tea, fruit, clothes – even chocolate. They can provide a quick short-cut in the brain that tells us that something is an ‘ethical choice.’
Equally, travel companies and tourists may see accreditations awarded to wildlife entertainment venues or a logo showing that a venue is part of a membership organisation and think that makes them an ethical choice.
In fact, you may remember in response to our campaign asking Expedia Group to stop selling and promoting dolphin venues, Expedia Group agreed to look at their offers but maintained that they would keep selling tickets to venues associated with WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and AMMPA (Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums).
Dolphins in entertainment at Zoomarine, Portugal. Credit Line: World Animal Protection
Behind the label
Sadly it’s not as easy as that, you still need to look at exactly what that accreditation means – and importantly what it doesn’t mean.
Let’s take WAZA – they have a Code of Ethics that states that a member facility should ‘not demean or trivialise the animal in any way’. Yet our recent report, in collaboration with Change For Animals Foundation, found numerous WAZA member facilities violating these standards.
In fact, of the accredited or member facilities promoted by Expedia that offer dolphin shows, 87% allow the dolphins to be ridden by trainers.
WAZA have stated that it has no power to enforce or demand standards of zoos belonging to its member associations. This is fine if people know and understand that. But when tour operators use a venue’s membership as though it is an accreditation and justify including a venue in their offers because it is a WAZA member, then it is misleading. If tour operators believe membership is akin to accreditation, and reassure tourists using a membership model as their ethical measure, then we begin to see a greenwashing effect, even if it is unintended. This means a false impression is given that a venue (or product) meets certain ethical or environmental criteria.
AMMPA have an accreditation program that involves a two-day inspection but the standards are internally set by the industry rather than by independent experts.
The average dolphin tank is 200,000 times smaller than its home range
In the wild cetaceans can reach speeds as high as 50km an hour and dive from 500–1000m deep
Dolphins are highly intelligent and have complex social behaviours
A dolphin will never be able to express its full range of natural behaviours in captivity
Captive whales and dolphins can be seen behaving stereotypically; circling or showing repetitive behaviours or laying inert near the surface of a tank for extended periods of time
Many species of whale and dolphin face shortened lives in captivity and suffer from numerous stress-related infections, broken teeth, aggression from tank mates, ulcers, and other ailments
The sad truth is that fundamentally whales and dolphins will never thrive in captivity and therefore there is no accreditation that can provide us with that assurance.
A venue that offers swimming with captive dolphins or whale and dolphin shows will never be an ethical choice, no matter what accreditation it has, or scheme it is a member of.
Dolphins and whales are just some of the wild animals suffering in the wildlife entertainment and tourism industry. This industry helps fuel the multi-billion-dollar global trade in wildlife, where horrific conditions cause unimaginable suffering for animals.
Captured from the wild or intensively bred in captivity, the conditions in which wild animals are kept within the wildlife trade can cause immense suffering and stress.
The growth of global tourism and the demand for 'once in a lifetime' holiday experiences has driven the trade of hundreds of thousands of wild animals to be used for entertainment. As individual tourists we can stop fuelling the demand for cruel wildlife venues - and together we can take action to demand a global ban on the wild animal trade, forever.
The UK government has an opportunity and a responsibility to lead the world in bringing an end to the global trade in wildlife.
Please sign our petition below and join us in calling on the government to use the upcoming G20 meeting of world leaders to secure a global wildlife trade ban and end the import and export of wild animals and wild animal products into the UK.