Accredited Zoos & Aquariums Set Standards for Animal Care - Thomas Cook Ignores Reality With Latest Decision

Over the past 50 years, SeaWorld has welcomed hundreds of millions of people into our parks, many from the UK, to celebrate the ocean and its magnificent inhabitants, to ride exciting rollercoasters and to participate in incredible events. Because of these visits, we’ve been able to help rescue over 31,000 animals in need, and support conservation initiatives worldwide, including vital efforts for wild killer whales.

Yesterday, Thomas Cook announced a decision to stop selling tickets to SeaWorld by summer 2019 – but their basis for doing so was not based on science, fact or reality. Thomas Cook claims that 90 percent of their customers are concerned about animal welfare. We applaud those concerns and join them in their desire to ensure all animals at zoological facilities are cared for. However, Thomas Cook fails to show any correlation between those concerns and the welfare of the animals at our parks.

In fact, their announcement came on the heels of SeaWorld receiving a 100% passing score, based on the strict minimum standards required by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) Global Welfare Guidance for Animals In Tourism. This threshold affirms that all animals at our parks are well cared for. Additionally, these findings are consistent with SeaWorld’s certifications and accreditations by leading global animal welfare organizations, including American Humane, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, among others.  We are proud of the care we provide our animals and welcome the public to come see for themselves the incredible work our team does every day with the animals in our care and those needing our help in the wild.

This decision also runs counter to the public’s desire to see and experience animals up close.  Recent UK-based research by YouGov shows that 82 percent of parents with children 18 and under believe there is an educational value in visiting zoos, aquariums, safari parks and marine parks, and 74 percent believe they play an important role in conservation.  Like us, the public cares deeply about animal welfare– and many learn about those important thresholds when they come to venues like SeaWorld.

Our animal care specialists treat our animals like an extension of our family – from daily check-ins, understanding their behaviors and health needs and studying how they engage with other animals in their habitats.  Thomas Cook’s decision was driven by the vocal minority of anti-zoo activists, who seek to extinguish educational and research opportunities from the public to learn and be inspired.  We will continue to advocate for what we believe in and push forward with the help of our visitors and fans to continue to do important conservation, research and education work.

We are pleased there are many options for consumers, especially in the UK, to plan, come and experience our parks first hand and we want to thank them for their ongoing support. They know their visits help support SeaWorld’s mission to protect and preserve animal populations, both those in our care and in the wild, and get world-class experiences in our theme park, inclusive of rides, events, food, and, of course, our animals.

Annual research by YouGov, in partnership with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (18+).
2018 - Total sample size was 2,008 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th – 17th May 2018.

Read what others are saying about Thomas Cook's Decision:

World Association of Zoos and Aquariums 
Association of Zoos and Aquariums 
Loro Parque

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Doug Cress, CEO of World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) believes SeaWorld contributes significantly to global conservation and is dedicated to high levels of welfare for animals in their care.  WAZA has committed its members to promoting high levels of animal welfare and issues such as marine litter, sustainable development and the elimination of single-use plastic, and SeaWorld remains a pivotal player in all those efforts. The education programmes at SeaWorld and the potential to change behaviour on key issues that instill compassion for animals and protect the oceans, reefs and sea life are what make them such a unique institution. They are extremely important in efforts to protect our natural heritage.

Dan Ashe, President and CEO of Association of Zoos and Aquariums
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ accreditation standards are regarded as the ‘gold standard’ for modern zoological facilities worldwide. Our standards are publicly available and are continuously improving to reflect new science in animal care and welfare. SeaWorld Orlando is a responsible member and leader within our community that has consistently achieved accreditation for the last 35 years. Not only do the dedicated professionals at SeaWorld provide their animals with exceptional care, but they also provide significant support for the rescue of injured marine mammals and sea turtles. Guests to SeaWorld Orlando can be assured that their visit is educational, family-friendly, and supports SeaWorld’s efforts to help save animals from extinction.

Kathleen Dezio, Executive Director, Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums
SeaWorld meets or exceeds the highest animal care standards in the world and provides significant contributions to education, conservation, rescue and research of killer whales and other marine mammals in the wild and in their care. The conservation of animals is what inspires the professionals at these outstanding organizations to dedicate their lives to providing the best care of marine mammals both in professional care and in the wild. It’s this dedication along with the opportunity to learn more about and come face-to-face with marine mammals that draws millions of visitors to these parks. And, science shows that marine mammals in accredited facilities thrive and live as long as or, in many cases, much longer than their counterparts in the wild.  They receive high quality, nutritious food, regular and preventative veterinary care by licensed professionals, and exercise and play in ways that are mentally and physically beneficial.

Jack Hanna, Host, Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild
I have worked with SeaWorld throughout much of my career.  I can tell you firsthand that the animals in their parks receive world-class care, are healthy and thriving.  I personally know many members of their zoological team.  These professionals care profoundly about their animals and are committed to protecting and preserving species. I can’t understand why any organization would want to limit access to these beautiful animals.

Science and research studies are conducted in zoological facilities - studies that simply could not take place in the wild. SeaWorld and zoos and aquariums are the only places young people can easily see and learn about animals, and these places are inspiring the next generation of conservationists, marine biologists, scientists and animal enthusiasts.

Every aquarium and zoo I work with believes its mission includes raising awareness about the challenges faced by animals around the world. We know animals have the power to touch our hearts, and when this happens it opens the door to education that can inspire people to participate in protecting animals and conserving their habitats. I am glad that SeaWorld continues to pursue this mission of sharing these incredible animals with us and protecting marine animals today and into the future.