Yesterday, it was United Airlines. Today, after backlash, another major airline is standing up for the rights of whales and dolphins: Virgin America.
Virgin America, a U.S. airline created by Sir Richard Branson, dropped the marine park company from its Elevate rewards program, a campaign that lets customers earn travel points when they visit attractions. A spokesperson for the company told Bloomberg News that SeaWorld will no longer be listed as an Elevate attraction.
SeaWorld’s stock took a major hit in response to the news, falling 2.3 percent to $17.92 — its lowest closing price since the company went public in April 2013.
In August, the company’s stock fell by nearly a third after it admitted that the documentary “Blackfish” had in fact hurt park attendance.
Branson has been at the center of a media storm surrounding the issue of cetaceans in captivity at marine parks and aquaria. In June, he called together a meeting of marine parks representatives, scientists and conservationists to discuss the issue of cetaceans in tourism.
Many animal welfare advocates were disappointed this month, when the details of the meeting were revealed. Branson and his company, Virgin, had created a pledge for marine parks and aquaria to sign vowing that they would no longer capture whales and dolphins from the wild. But many criticized Virgin for refusing to cut ties with marine parks, arguing that there were “significant loopholes” in the pledge.
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