Two dolphins can be seen swimming in the wild

British children say no to dolphin shows


New research from World Animal Protection says kids say no to dolphin shows in the same week that the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill sails through its committee stage.

We often hear from well-meaning parents that they take their children to dolphin attractions to create memories, sadly unaware of the extreme suffering for the animals involved. So we decided to go to the source and ask kids what they think.

Kids can see captive dolphin entertainment is cruel – why can’t we?

An overwhelming majority (86%) of British children (aged 8-16 ) surveyed would prefer to see dolphins in their natural habitat in the sea rather than a captive venue. In stark contrast to 50% of parents surveyed* who said they went to dolphin attractions because their children would enjoy it.

Just 13% of children did not think that dolphin attractions were cruel*, suggesting captive dolphin entertainment has become an outdated option for a fun family activity.

When asked what was cruel about them 65% of kids said dolphins belong in the sea and 49% said the tanks look too small. When asked what they thought was good about dolphin attractions just 27% said they thought the dolphins enjoy it and under a third (32%) think they are educational – a common justification used by the captive industry.

Comments from children when describing their concerns about dolphin shows include:

  • ‘Dolphins are too smart to be in cages and have to do silly things’
  • ‘It is cruel, where is the family?’ ‘They might want to explore’
  • ‘They should be with their friends’
  • ‘They might force them to do tricks’
  • ‘Should be in the sea’
  • ‘It's sad to see them suffer’

Just 34% of adults class dolphin attractions as acceptable and 62% are aware* of the negative impacts caused to dolphins held at these attractions. Sixty three percent would have liked to have more knowledge* about the impact of them before attending and over half (56%) would have changed their mind about going if they had more knowledge about them before they went*. Over a third (37%) feel embarrassed* to tell others they have visited one in the past and 34% have removed photos of these attractions from social media accounts*.

A visitor can be seen swimming with a captive dolphin for entertainment

Support for the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill

This week (September 5th 2023) the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill sailed through committee stage in the House of Lords. The Bill aims to prohibit the domestic sale and advertising of low welfare animal activities abroad. It is hoped that captive dolphin venues will be included on the list of prohibited activities.

Lord Black of Brentwood, taking the Bill through the House of Lords said “Dolphins used for entertainment endure miserable lives and their suffering must stop. These highly intelligent creatures can be deprived of food to train them, and they are kept in confined, featureless tanks that are 200,000 times smaller than their natural home range. A five-minute holiday thrill swimming with dolphins or watching a show condemns them to a lifetime of suffering. This polling shows that young people do not support animal exploitation. We must listen to them and stop travel companies profiting from their suffering. The government must ban the domestic sales and advertisement of dolphin entertainment abroad.”

Over half (55%) of adults surveyed said they would support a ban* on the UK sale and promotion of dolphin attractions abroad. Sixty percent believe travel companies should be held accountable* for the impact that wild animal attractions that they promote and sell have on the well-being of the animals. A further 60% believe the travel industry should take a stand against promoting captive dolphin shows* and over half (57%) are more likely to support a travel company that actively promotes animal friendly attractions*.

A captive dolphin is swimming past a window in its enclosure

The issues for captive dolphins

Dolphins are highly intelligent, sociable animals that suffer mentally and physically every day in captivity. Confined to tiny, barren tanks where they can only swim a few meters in any direction. These tanks are around 200k times smaller than their home range in the wild. They are often exposed to infection, harsh chemicals and regularly drugged to cope with captivity. The anxiety and stress can cause them to self-mutilate and to become aggressive.

Katheryn Wise, World Animal Protection, Wildlife Campaign Manager said, “We hear time and again that parents take their children to dolphin attractions to create memories, but as younger generations become increasingly aware of the cruelty associated with captive wildlife attractions these are more likely to become regrets. Children know inherently what is fair and unfair and it seems that they instinctively know that keeping an intelligent, wild animal in a tiny pool is unfair. It is up to us as a society to nurture this instinct and foster respect and compassion for wildlife rather than exploit it.

“The tide is turning, many travel providers are choosing to cut ties with captive dolphin attractions but unlike major brands such as and Expedia, TUI Group is still profiting from dolphin exploitation – by selling tickets to cruel dolphin shows at around 25 entertainment venues across the globe.  World Animal Protection is calling on TUI Group and other remaining travel companies including GetYourGuide and Jet2Holidays to end the sale of these cruel attractions.”

The research was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of World Animal Protection using a nationally representative sample of 1522 children aged 8-16 and 2000 adults.

World Animal Protection is actively campaigning against TUI Group and other travel companies continuing to profit from cruel captive dolphin venues, having already collected 100,000 petition signatures.

Sign the petition to make a difference >>

* Combining answer options ‘Strongly agree’ and ‘Somewhat agree’
Image credits: Hero image: Raggy Charters

World Animal Protection is calling on TUI Group and other remaining travel companies including GetYourGuide and Jet2Holidays to end the sale of these cruel attractions.