Alliance Urges British Airways To Reconsider Misguided and Harmful Policy Opposing Zoos and Aquariums

AMMPA issued the following statement in response to British Airways Holidays’ decision to no longer offer tickets to destinations that feature animals.

Alliance Urges British Airways To Reconsider Misguided and Harmful Policy Opposing Zoos and Aquariums and To Base Future Policy on Peer-Reviewed Science and Recognized Animal Welfare Principles and Practices

Grappling with an array of problems, including its massive IT systems failure causing hundreds of flight cancellations, a recent data breach of its customers’ personal credit card information, a pilot strike, a smoke-filled cabin emergency landing, and increasing consumer complaints, it is astonishing to learn that British Airways (BA) has apparently decided it is more important to announce to the world that it opposes zoos and aquariums, than to resolve its own pressing problems. In a stunningly misguided and harmful decision, the airline now states in the “corporate responsibility” section of its website that its travel agency arm British Airways Holidays, which has no animal welfare knowledge or expertise, will no longer sell tickets to any destinations with animals as a central feature, regardless of the high animal welfare standards, expert zoological accreditations, scientific research, public education, or conservation work of those zoological institutions. The new policy was made in conjunction with the airline’s partnership with an extremist animal rights group known for its opposition to zoos and aquariums.

“We are stunned and extremely disappointed to see British Airways take a stand opposing the critical work of zoos and aquariums throughout the world at a time when the scientific research and conservation work of these institutions is needed more than ever to save threatened, endangered and suffering animals in the wild,” said Alliance President and CEO Kathleen Dezio. “More than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums each year, learning about and making connections with animals and leaving inspired to help conserve them in the wild. By disparaging and trying to impede the work of the world’s leading zoological institutions, this policy will harm not help the world’s wild populations. We urge British Airways to reconsider this harmful policy and to base any future revised policy on peer-reviewed scientific literature and recognized animal welfare principles and practices.”

Contrary to allegations by animal rights groups that pressure travel companies to stop selling tickets to animal destinations, including marine parks, zoos and aquariums with marine mammals, 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.

The new British Airways policy also states the company’s opposition to all animal interactive experiences and shows, including “swim-with” programs with marine mammals. However, accredited “swim with” programs throughout the world have an exemplary safety track record for both animals and guests. These popular interactive, educational programs facilitate powerful and inspiring connections with animals by giving participants the opportunity to experience the animals in an up-close and personal way.

The BA policy is simply not based on reality. In fact, the U.S. government agency that regulates interactive programs with marine mammals recently publicly commented on the safety record of the programs. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which inspects the facilities, wrote in a public rulemaking in 2016 that, “We note that interactive programs have been operating for over 20 years without any indications of health problems or incidents of aggression in marine mammals, as evidenced by medical records maintained by licensed facilities and observations by experienced APHIS inspectors.” (Footnotes 2 and 24 Fed. Reg. 5629 Feb. 3, 2016).

The Alliance is the preeminent trade association and accrediting body for zoos, aquariums, and marine parks throughout the world that exhibit marine mammals. Its mission is to support the highest standards of care for marine mammals and to contribute to their conservation in the wild through public education, scientific research, and the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured animals in the wild. Its accredited institutions in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean collectively possess the largest body of marine mammal experience and expertise in the world.

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