But for many conservationists, including the group that met with Branson and Virgin to discuss the issue earlier this year, the announcement has fallen short of their expectations. A coalition of organizations including the Animal Welfare Institute, the Born Free Foundation, Orca Research Trust, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the World Cetacean Alliance just released a statement.
They argue that the pledge allows marine parks to accept animals captured from the wild on a date earlier than February 2014, and that it makes no mention of ending captive breeding programs. They also note that several other companies, including Southwest Airlines, have recently cut ties with marine parks like SeaWorld over backlash.
The statement reads:
Although the pledge is a step in the right direction, we expected more from the Virgin stakeholder process, and we are calling on Virgin to return to the table to discuss key future actions including a commitment to (1) work with suppliers to end shows and captive breeding programs within a specified timeframe, (2) prohibit breeding or display as part of rescue or rehabilitation programs, and (3) help develop sanctuaries or other alternative display environments that ultimately improve the quality of life for captives that may never be returned to the wild. To truly inhibit the capture of wild cetaceans for dolphinariums, it is also imperative that Virgin refuse to do business with any facility that continues to acquire dolphins or whales from the wild or any facility that trades with companies that acquire whales or dolphins from the wild. These additional steps would move us closer to the complete cessation of the devastating capture, trade, and confinement of whales and dolphins for commercial purposes, and refocus efforts toward addressing the myriad challenging conservation issues facing whales and dolphins in the wild.