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Why TUI Must Drop The Dolphins

For decades TUI has been profiting from dolphin captures and the horrors that take place inside marine parks and dolphinariums like SeaWorld. Despite global campaigns against the captive dolphin industry, TUI has received very little criticism or exposure for the important role they play in helping this industry thrive.

The animals in the parks are absolutely inundated with tourists daily, whilst they are maintained hungry in order that they carry out around 300 interactions daily. These interactions are highly invasive and completely unnatural, the animals must do things such as pull the tourists along on their dorsal fins or pectoral fins or push the tourists out of the water with their faces. Our investigations have led us to document lesions and soft skin tissue wounds on the dolphins due to being touched and handled continuously. We have also documented dolphins trapped in confined spaces with each other even to the extent that 2 dolphins have been killed in fights in the last year alone. This horrific abuse of dolphins has been developing in the Caribbean, Spain, and countries such as Mexico for decades. It’s no coincidence that marine parks are located in the tourist hot-spots that TUI promotes. For decades TUI have been driving ticket sales to dolphinariums and profiting from the commission. Take Spain for example, where Tui sells to a staggering number of dolphinariums. All these dolphinariums are located in areas popular with German and UK tourists; Tui’s website is awash with adverts promoting dolphin and whale shows. It is without a doubt that Tui is one of the biggest promoters of the Spanish marine park industry in the world.

TUI, is registered in Germany and is the biggest travel agency operating in the UK and one of the biggest in the world. In 2018 TUI reported a recorded turnover of €18.5bn and an operating result of €1.177bn. They not only have travel agencies, hotels and 6 airlines, but they also own a fleet of cruise liners. Tui is operating in 180 different regions and has an annual turnover of 27 million customers all of whom they will offer dolphin-shows to at some point. China has opened a new resort to international tourism. Located in this area is a huge marine park confining whales, Taiji captured dolphins and over 86,000 other marine animals, it completely fails European animal welfare standards, yet guess what? Tui is promoting it.

In the Caribbean Islands, there are over 16 dolphinariums. TUI operate a set of cruise ships many of which tour the Caribbean. All the dolphinarium parks in the Caribbean are still buying captured dolphins from Cuba. It is estimated that each time a cruise ship docks in a port with a dolphinarium, the dolphinarium gains around 500 customers who will swim with dolphins, manatees and sea-lions.

In many cases, the marine parks TUI promotes are dependent on the customers that TUI and other travel agents provide. In poor countries such as Cuba local people are not able to afford the 100 dollar tickets to swim with dolphins. Many of these marine parks depend on foreign tourists bringing euros, dollars and pounds and it is TUI which is providing these relatively affluent customers. It is TUI which is providing these customers. Without the support of TUI and other tour giants many of these parks would go bust overnight. The tour operators are a vital part of ensuring the dolphinarium industry thrives and TUI is the biggest of them all. We call on TUI to lead the way and introduce an ethical policy and completely #DropTheDolphins. For decades dolphinariums have opened and closed yet TUI has never stopped selling tickets.

From the start of your holiday with TUI in the branch or later on at the hotel with your TUI rep, TUI is on-hand to sell you tickets to swim-with-the-dolphins. Swimming with dolphins is being branded as one of the top ten things to do whilst on holiday.

To this date, TUI has absolutely no serious policy regarding marine captivity. Whilst Thomas Cook was receiving vast amounts of criticism for selling tickets to swim with dolphins or watch dolphin shows, TUI has been sitting back and turning a blind eye to the horrors our campaign has been flagging up. We don’t doubt for one minute that TUI is not aware of our campaign or all the other excellent global campaigns running to expose marine animal suffering. In the three years that we have been exposing Thomas Cook, Virgin has stopped selling tickets to dolphinariums completely. On top of this, Airbnb and have announced they will also drop dolphinarium contracts.

TUI signs up to the same set of substandard voluntary guidelines Thomas Cook signed up to, the ABTA guidelines. Tour companies are hiding behind these substandard guidelines in a weak attempt to try to pretend that they are considering animal welfare. Whenever a tour company is approached by a journalist or animal advocate they use the minimum standards as an excuse to try to justify their role in the dolphinarium industry. Unfortunately, most journalists don’t take the time to actually read the minimal standards, if they did they would appreciate that the standards are deliberately vague and open to interpretation, this means each dolphinarium is able to fit the standards to suit their own needs instead of the needs of the animals. For example, in relation to tank sizes, the guidelines say the tanks should be “as large as possible”. On top of this ABTA is using “industry language”, language which has been deliberately created in order to sugarcoat and mask the grim reality of what marine animals are going through inside dolphinariums. In 2019 Dolphin Freedom acquired a list of words that Dolphin Discovery prohibits their staff to use. For example, instead of saying captivity, they must say habitat. Instead of saying bite each other they must say play/interact with each other. TUI is a customer of Dolphin Discovery. The language used throughout the ABTA guidelines is consistent with the list of words Dolphin Discovery demands their staff adopt. For the industry to forbid certain words clearly demonstrates that they don’t want customers to acknowledge negative associations attached to these words in spite of the fact that these words are actually accurate and impartial. This further demonstrates that the guidelines are clearly written to favour the needs of the industry and not the needs of animals. Unfortunately, this set of welfare standards which are endorsed by the Born Free Foundation are desperately failing marine animals.

While the world has been condemning the captures in Taiji, the ticket sales aspect of this industry has been largely overlooked. In fact, TUI has even been working as a corporate partner with the Born Free Foundation for many years. TUI and its former subsidiary group Thomson, have been raising millions of pounds in donations to give to the animal welfare charity the Born Free Foundation. In 2007 alone, TUI donated over 2 million pounds to Born Free. This was one year after WWF released a peer-reviewed report on the horrors of the captivity industry in Mexico an industry TUI was helping to build.

The Born Free Foundation is a charity which is supposed to try to help wildlife, they have an active campaign running against marine captivity. Dolphin Freedom believes it is a clear conflict of interest for a charity to be receiving donations from a corporation that is part of an industry that they are supposed to be stopping. One of the methods TUI used to gather donations for Born Free was by passing a collection envelope around in their aeroplanes.

Many of those flights would be flying to destinations such as Spain and Mexico where many of those same customers would then go on to swim with dolphins or watch them in a show. We are not sure when and if the Born Free Foundation stopped receiving donations from TUI, but this alliance between animal welfare charity and a huge vendor of dolphinarium tickets demonstrates how little criticism TUI has received over the years for its involvement in marine animal captivity.

TUI is a tour giant with blood all over its hands. It not only promotes marine animals captured in Russia, Japan, and Cuba. It also promotes dolphinariums which are carrying out intensive breeding programs of bottlenose dolphins where calves are being taken from their mothers at young ages and put to work in other concrete tanks, carrying out demeaning and abusive tricks and dying prematurely, all in the pursuit of money. We firmly believe in 2020 that it is time for travel agents to stop getting rich off the backs of enslaved and exploited wildlife.

Help us expose TUI At the end of 2019 Dolphin Freedom released a petition calling on TUI to #DropTheDolphins. The petition is being well received by the public and has even been picked up by mainstream media outlets already. Sign the petition:

We have written to TUI and submitted various letters to them, yet TUI has not responded to one letter.

Send an email: Friedrich Joussen, CEO of TUI GROUP Andrew Flintham, Managing Director of TUI UK & Ireland

In light of TUI’s silence we are now carrying out bi monthly protests outside TUI stores and offices across not only the UK but internationally as well. This weekend starting on the 17th January will be our second weekend of action against TUI and activists will take to the streets not only in the UK but also in Mexico.

Join us for our 3rd international Weekend of Action against TUI 13th-15th March where we hope to see protests in even more countries and locations including France and Spain.

Organise your own TUI event Let us know where and when you will be having the protest and we will add it to the list and send you a link to download black and white or colour flyers, and signs to hold up and distribute during your protest.

And finally never ever book a ticket to see a captive dolphin despite what companies like TUI may tell you.


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