Just as if it looked like the controversial theme park operator SeaWorld might be out of the oven, Thomas Cook turned the heat up again.
The UK tour operator must stop selling tickets to marine parks that keep killer whales, or orcas, in captivity, citing animal welfare concerns and the views of 90% of its customers.
There are European parks that keep killer whales (which Thomas Cook will also stop dealing with), but SeaWorld is the big gun in the market.
The company has suffered a backlash since the release of ‘Blackfish’, a chilling 2013 documentary film directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite that focused on the life of captive whales, and specifically Tilikum, a SeaWolrd Killer Whale linked to a number of deaths, who died last year.
It launched a fierce retaliation in its wake, posting a long list of reviews and inflating its “SeaWorld Cares” website.
However, that didn’t stop stocks from plummeting, along with visitor numbers and income, ushering in a period of financial uncertainty that has spread to the boardroom.
The company has yet to announce a full-time replacement for CEO Joel Manby, who left in February after being initially recruited to stabilize the situation.
Then the results for the first quarter of this year came in and, quite out of the blue of the ocean, things started to improve.
Traditionally a slow quarter, with a number of its parks not even open, revenues were nonetheless a little better than Wall Street predicted, and visitor numbers were on the rise.
The actions duly jumped out as one of the inmates linked to the SeaWorld pool, which critics want to see placed in a marine enclosure so that they can live the rest of their lives in an environment larger than the facilities described as equivalent. to a bathtub for animals that can travel as much as 100 kilometers in a day in nature.
With stock up more than 50% year-on-year, the next update scheduled for Monday August 1 was billed as some kind of acid test that could show if the first part of the year was a false dawn. or was the harbinger. better times.
A UK travel agency’s decision to walk away, citing the stick that company critics used to beat it, will have no impact on those numbers, nor will it kill a company that has faced much worse, including a vocal celebrity boycott that saw several high profile recording artists cancel shows in its parks.
But it still had to feel like a bad bite to those who hoped the worst was over.
In fact, the problem will continue to haunt SeaWorld and its bosses until they change their approach.
Even though the breeding of captive killer whales ceased a few years ago, they still seem attached to the idea of keeping the animals in tanks and aggressively advocating the practice. Thomas Cook’s welcome gesture is a reminder of how dated it is, if they could see it.