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Major travel company stops animal attraction tours

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STA Travel reconsiders tours to SeaWorld and elephant rides

STA Travel says it is stopping tours that include animal attractions, including SeaWorld and elephant rides.

The company specialises in arranging tours and expeditions for 2.5 million students and young people worldwide a year. It revealed in a statement that it is reviewing all its provision involving contact with animals to ensure that they meet the ethical standards demanded by customers.

STA said that some of its customers had begun questioning its current offers and said it had turned to the animal rights charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for advice.

“There is no doubt about the profound suffering that orcas and other dolphins endure in captivity, and with all the exciting activities available to travellers today, companies still profiting from the captivity of sentient beings have their days numbered,” said Mimi Bekhechi, PETA’s campaign’s associate director in the UK.

Elephant rides and tiger temples have been removed from its tours and SeaWorld is under review, although the company says it will continue to sell the Orlando and San Diego-based marine attractions in the meantime. SeaWorld called STA’s decision “disappointing”.

The charity may now try to persuade other big holiday companies, especially family-oriented ones, to turn away from what it says are unethical animal attractions. It believes STA’s move is setting an example for the global travel industry and may result in an overall shift towards more responsible tourism.

The Born Free Foundation estimates that as many as 2,000 dolphins, 52 orcas and 37 porpoises are in captivity globally. These include marine attractions in the US, Mexico and Caribbean that attract significant numbers of European holidaymakers.

Other countries have laws prohibiting dolphins in captivity or animals doing tricks, as do the US states of South Carolina, Hawaii and New York.

The issue arose again last year when a documentary about the orca Tilikum, which killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, was released. “Blackfish” claims that a lifetime in captivity has made the mammal psychotic and makes wider claims about the mental health of orcas owned by SeaWorld both in the US and Loro Parque in Tenerife.

TTG Digital

[pictured: Trainer “surfing” on top of a killer whale, SeaWorld Orlando]

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