When travel companies have decided not to sell tickets to attractions that feature captive dolphins, the focus is often on how those policies will affect SeaWorld.
Disney World has dolphins, too, housed in The Seas pavilion at Epcot — yet those same travel company policies don’t seem to apply to the Mouse.
Several travel companies have unveiled animal welfare policies in recent years that resulted in them severing ties with SeaWorld, the most recent being TripAdvisor. The website said in October it would halt ticket sales to attractions that “contribute to the captivity”of marine mammals.
“As long as facilities with captive whales and dolphins continue to profit from keeping these animals in smaller, cheaper and less natural living environments, then they don’t have enough incentive to adopt serious change,” TripAdvisor’s president of experiences and rentals, Dermot Halpin, said at the time.
TripAdvisor confirmed to Orlando Rising, however, that this policy would not be applied to Disney — for now.
“We’ll spend the next couple of months assessing our inventory, understanding who may fit the exceptions, and determining what needs to be removed,” TripAdvisor spokesperson Molly Burke said, later adding that the company “will be assessing the impact on Disney World before the policy comes into full force at the end of this year.”
British Airways has taken a similar approach. The airline announced an even stricter animal welfare policy in August, saying it would no longer promote attractions “where captive wild animals are central to the attraction.”
Despite this policy reaching beyond the use of captive marine mammals, British Airways still sells packages to Disney World. The airline told Orlando Rising that a key caveat in their policy — that the animals be “central to the attraction” — is the difference in why it still sells tickets to Disney World and not to SeaWorld.
“British Airways Holidays will continue to offer combined tickets which include admission to all of Disney’s theme parks,” spokesperson Chip Garner said. “Although we are aware that animals are present at Animal Kingdom and Epcot, we don’t feel this is central to the core Disney customer proposition and overall experience.”
Garner added that British Airways Holidays customers are informed that Disney World parks include captive animals when purchasing ticket packages.
Virgin Holidays did not respond to a request for comment on this story. The company still sells packages to Walt Disney World, though it announced in July that it would no longer sell tickets to attractions that showcase captive whales and dolphins.
With the “Blackfish” documentary and the negative attention it attracted to SeaWorld, the park has been a common target for animal rights activists. Disney has attracted their ire in the past, but on a much smaller scale, such as when a small crowd protested the opening of Animal Kingdom in 1998. Before the park opened, deaths of a dozen animals drew an investigation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which cleared Disney of any wrongdoing.
But those groups are aware that Disney has dolphins on property.
Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, said in the case of TripAdvisor, the company does not promote tickets to tours at Epcot that involve the dolphins at The Seas, like the Dolphins in Depth experience. She also said Disney’s exhibit houses three male dolphins, so it doesn’t include a breeding program, and the animals aren’t a part of a SeaWorld-like performance.
“It is of course my opinion that Disney should simply close this exhibit or commit to closing it as and when these three dolphins eventually die,” Rose told Orlando Rising. “Epcot could even build its own seaside sanctuary or work with an existing seaside sanctuary project, such as the National Aquarium’s, so its dolphins could eventually retire to a more natural enclosure. I’m sure TripAdvisor wishes the same, per its policy.”
Disney did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
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