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Orca Lulu's body contained PCB levels 100x above the safe limit. Image: SMASS

Toxic tides, troubled whales: the toll of chemical pollution

In last week's blog, we examined the challenges whales and dolphins face as they travel...
Group of orcas at surface

Breaking barriers for whales and dolphins at the Convention of Migratory Species

Many species of whales, dolphins and porpoises undertake long journeys, encountering human-made obstacles along the...
Tokyo

WDC in Japan – Part 1: Finding allies in Tokyo

At the end of May, I embarked on an incredible journey to Japan on behalf...
Amazon river dolphins leaping

The state of river dolphin conservation

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we partner with conservationists and communities fighting to save river...
Researchers in Southeast Alaska studying whale poo

We’re funding crucial research on whale poo to combat the climate crisis

The ocean is one of the lungs of our planet, and whales help it to...
Narwhal surfacing

The unicorns of the sea must be protected – CITES

The narwhal, is under threat. Often referred to as the unicorns of the sea, narwhals,...
Sperm whales

We’re pushing governments for action for our climate heroes – whales

The climate crisis is the greatest threat to all life on Earth. But there is...
Dolphins captured for captivity in Taiji. Image: Hans Peter Roth

Loved and killed – whales and dolphins in Japan

Protests and criticism from outside Japan in response to the slaughter of whales and dolphins...
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Port River dolphins

New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales hunted every year

When you hear the words ‘dolphin hunts’ it’s likely that you think of Japan or...

Minke whale hunts stop in Iceland

Iceland’s commercial hunt of minke whales has ended for this year. The common minke whale is the...

Icelandic whalers breach international law and kill iconic, protected whale by mistake

Icelandic whalers out hunting fin whales for the first time in three years appear to...

Pregnant whales once again a target for Japanese whalers

Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during the 2017/18 austral summer have revealed that...

Doubts remain after Icelandic Marine Institute claims slaughtered whale was a hybrid not a blue

Experts remain sceptical of initial test results issued by the Icelandic Marine Institute, which indicate...

Japan set to resume commercial whaling

Reports from Japan suggest that the government they will formally propose plans to resume commercial...

End the whale hunts! Icelandic fin whaler isolated as public mood shifts

Here’s a sight I hoped never again to witness. A boat being scrubbed and repainted...

Australian Government to block Japanese whaling proposal

Japanese Government officials have reportedly confirmed that they will propose the resumption of commercial whaling...

Did Icelandic whalers really kill a blue whale?

*Warning - this blog contains an image that you may find upsetting* They say a...

Norway's whaling season begins

April 1st saw the start of the whaling season in Norway. Despite a widely-accepted international moratorium...

SOS alert for whales off Norway!

I have to admit to bitter disappointment when I arrived in Tromsø, northern Norway, a...

Icelandic fin whale hunting to resume

Iceland’s only fin whaling company, Hvalur hf,  announced today that it will resume fin whaling...

How Thomas Cook and WDC are striving for a better future for captive whales and dolphins

WDC is working closely with Thomas Cook, one of the UK’s biggest holiday companies, to help them to make informed decisions when it comes to whales and dolphins in tourism. They have begun a process of auditing every whale and dolphin and animal attraction on their books – no small task. They have already dropped 29 facilities because they fail to meet minimum welfare standards. You may have read news reports about their recent audit of SeaWorld – they have given the captivity giant three months to improve or face being dropped.

At WDC we believe it’s important to work with the travel industry to help them with this process – not against them – and so we have been talking a lot with David Ville, Thomas Cook’s group sustainability manager.

In this guest blog, David reflects on how whales and dolphins have become a big part of his working life.

The views and opinions expressed by our guest bloggers are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of WDC.

I didn’t begin my role at Thomas Cook three years ago with the expectation that the welfare of animals in attractions would become such a central focus for me and the business.  Frankly, animal welfare was not a topic that I considered high priority when I joined given the broad array of sustainability challenges for a large tourism business, and was certainly not a personal passion of my own.

What became clear quickly was that the welfare of animals in tourism attractions was one of the highest priorities for our customers. For a business that puts the ’Customer at our Heart’, we needed to address what was a growing concern for our customers.

While the travel industry had worked collaboratively with industry partners and specialists for many years, including working on the establishment of the ABTA (the UK’s largest travel association) Global Guidance for Animals in Tourism, by 2015 there was not enough progress in creating change for animals.

In late 2015, I and my colleagues in the sustainability team led the business to embark on a small pilot programme, becoming the first large tourism business to directly audit attractions against industry minimum standards. When this pilot programme of around 25 audits of attractions was completed, many of which were whale and dolphin facilities, we were surprised by the results.

We found shortcomings against the minimum requirements set out in ABTA Global Guidance for Animals in Tourism in this pilot programme, something that was an unexpected shock not only to us, but to the rest of the industry too.

These results lead us to take action and to drive change in our supply chain. While we do not have direct control of the attractions we sell to our customers, we do have the power to remove them from sale if they fail to meet the standards we require.

This is why we have adopted what I consider to be one of the strongest animal welfare policies in the tourism industry. Through implementing a programme of independent external audits against the ABTA industry standards for all our suppliers and demanding 100% compliance against this standard, I believe we are really driving positive change for animals. We have now audited 46 attractions, removing 29 of them from sale as they failed to meet the standard we require.

We are determined to review all of the attractions we offer to our customers around the world, from the smallest, to the very largest and to do so consistently and fairly.

I know that for many people, animals in captivity of any form is unacceptable. However, it is a sad truth that many captive animals cannot be safely returned to the wild. It is for this reason that I completely support the work of WDC in developing viable alternatives to traditional captive whale and dolphin attractions, through developing coastal sanctuaries for former captive individuals.

Tourism has a big role to play in raising standards for whales and dolphins during the transition to ending the practice of capturing them for entertainment and I believe Thomas Cook is, alongside others, at the forefront of this effort.