Dear Friends of Wildlife
First, the good news. Richard Branson and Virgin will no longer do business with captive marine facilities that “…take receipt of cetecea including whales and dolphins that were taken from the wild after 14th February 2014”. Good. This is, without doubt, a positive step.
Here’s the not so good news.
Despite spending two days with senior representatives from Virgin in Miami, the Company has not taken the bold, courageous and necessary step of actively ending its association with the exploitation of whales and dolphins in captivity.
Despite the best efforts of representatives from Born Free, the World Cetacean Alliance, the Animal Welfare Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the Orca Research Trust, we were unable to persuade Virgin to fully recognise the welfare crisis that captive cetacea, particularly orca, endure in marine aquariums.
What will be the result of Virgin’s statement today?
It will, for sure, get people talking. But will it cause the captive marine display industry to change its business model; to commit itself to the conservation of wild and free-living dolphins and whales; to end its captive-breeding programmes (aimed at perpetuating the keeping of these animals in captivity, not for release to the wild)……? I doubt it.
I recognise that Virgin and Richard Branson himself are associated in the public mind with leadership. Whether it is space travel, being an Ocean Elder, or transforming working practices (Sir Richard announced only a few days ago that his Head Office staff could take as much as holiday as they wished), Virgin positions itself as a thought-leader in the entrepreneurial business world.
The pledge announced today is a indeed small step forward for Virgin but it not the giant leap for dolphin-kind that I had hoped for.
Nevertheless, the door is always open, the opportunity is still there and, together with colleagues from the animal protection movement, I am ready, anytime, anywhere, to meet, to talk, and to take this to the next level.
Freedom is not a dream.