Original post here on Cetacean News Network As previously reported on Cetacean News Network, United Airlines had stopped short of an anti-captivity policy by still providing live transport services for dolphins and whales. I confirmed this through private emails with cargo management that started weeks ago.
However, as of October 6, 2014, following weeks of a global campaign against them prompted by petitions, United Airlines Cargo has stopped providing live transport services of dolphins and whales to any of their locations. After weeks of my own "covert" work under the guise of being customer, I received this email from United Cargo today:
How did this happen?
David Kirby, author of Death At Seaworld, wrote a compelling article last year about live transfers, and after contacting United for a comment he writes in his article;
"United and Northwest did not return my calls." Co-founders of Voices For The Sea, Faye Bauer and Lindsey Graves know that that's like. United media relations didn't return their correspondence either. They were inspired by a WDC report about live transfers and decided to make it their first mission. Operation Dolphin-Safe Airlines was created to stop 8 transport companies from continuing to service the captivity industry.
Besides petitions to ULS Cargo, Korean Air, DHL, Fedex, Asiana Airlines, Nankai Express, United was on the Top 3 of their target list.
After Voices For The Sea reached out to United, who refused to comment on their current live transport business or confirm being dolphin-safe at the time so Bauer started a petition to create awareness for United to take a stand for (or against) their role in the captivity trade. So far 5125 signed (and tweeted) in agreement.
The petition was shared by many Facebook groups, followed by numerous and spontaneous personal tweet storms.
But then PETA took United off the hook prematurely by claiming in an article on Seaworld Of Hurt that United has stopped their relationship with Seaworld. Actually, United had merely stopped featuring Seaworld vacations on their front page but they were still lingering in the background with vacation packages on the United site.
United has since removed all Seaworld Vacations from their site, but not ALL Seaworld ties have been confirmed to be cut yet.
However, United wasn't off the hook about live transfers, and that's what started my involvement in this situation. Faye Bauer had introduced me to the issue of United's inhumane business policy through her petition.
I noticed the PETA article was making its way through the rumor mill, well-meaning people were applauding United...so I decided to investigate on my own.
Going beyond Seaworld connections, what if I reached out to United pretending to be a marine park "contract" with a couple of live dolphins to transport? After working "under an assumed identity" for weeks, I wrote this to expose their current policy and give the United petition more attention. By then, concerned groups had already pitched in and shared within their circles, and the fire spread through social media:
Then The Dodo picked up the story a few days later and so the fire kept spreading even faster...
I still continued the "covert op", answering email threads with key United Cargo managers about my bogus shipment. At no time during these weeks did they refuse to service this cargo shipment of dolphins. In fact it was full-steam ahead with only a matter of paperwork to be completed. They all knew they were transporting two Atlantic bottle nose dolphins.
Until today that is...
My article that exposed this quiet and lucrative practice of United's live transfers coupled with the popular petition that Voices From the Sea group had started against United Airlines, along with Kirby's article in The Dodo, combined with tweets directed to United, mixed in with the incredible support of many groups, as well as my personal poking and prodding for weeks has caused United to make the following statement:
"As of October 6, 2014 United does not accept dolphins or whales to or from any location. United will not be able to transport these dolphins at this time. " - United Cargo It was a perfect storm.
One down, 7 to go...
After I broke the news to Voice For The Sea, who's goal is "to help end cetacean exploitation and hunts worldwide by uniting cross-culturally for change", Graves was ecstatic, saying;
"United Airlines decision to stop live cetacean transportation is breaking the link to marine park captivity. We look forward to flying United Airlines as they are now a dolphin safe airline option. Thank you to all the groups who shared our petition, you all are the reason United listened." Bauer was very grateful to those that helped, stating;
"We are thrilled to hear that United Airlines has updated their policy to stop transporting Cetaceans. The process is not only a direct link to the drive hunts, but is proven to be very stressful on the animals. We hope the other airlines follow suit, making it more and more difficult for the industry to transport these marine mammals. We would like to thank everyone involved in this project and all the individuals and groups for signing and sharing the petition! We would also like to thank you, Maral for breaking this story originally and including our petition in your article which drove up the petition numbers significantly." Please let United know how happy you are they are now a dolphin-safe airlines. As important as this call-to-action was, it's as important to thank those brave enough to take a stand against the greedy industry of live transports.
And although United has not come out and said so, you will not find any vacation deals for Seaworld anymore on United's vacation site.
In the end, like all great things, it took a village.
Elizabeth Batt reached out to United Media and finally got a quote about their live transfer policy:
"United Cargo does not accept or transport dolphins or whales to or from any location, for any reason. Dolphins and whales transported to, from or between sanctuaries, aquariums, marine parks and zoos are included in the complete ban on transport of these animals." But when Batt asked when the ban went into effect, she was told;
"I do not know specifics, but to my understanding we have not been transporting these animals for quite some time." For quite some time? They might have wanted to advise their cargo management about this policy which was not addressed in at least the last two years or even in the last month when there was a storm directed at their social media accounts.
In 2012, ProWal did an in-depth investigation into United Airlines among 60 other carriers who still transported cetaceans. "
61 airlines or air cargo companies already transport dolphins or at least were not unwilling - United Airlines was among them according to ProWal.
Either someone is sleeping at the wheel or they are backpedaling but in either case this is great news for the anti-captivity movement.
More updates to come including the email screen shots of the my bogus transfer of dolphins using United Cargo...stay tuned.
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