- Animal rights activists invested in travel company Thomas Cook in a protest against its stance on SeaWorld.
- PETA bought around £1.20 of stock to gain access to Thomas Cook’s AGM in London and lobby executives and shareholders.
- Campaigners object to the company selling tickets to SeaWorld, which they think is cruel and inhumane in its treatment of killer whales.
- Thomas Cook told Business Insider that animal welfare is a priority.
Animal rights group PETA has purchased stock in travel company Thomas Cook to gain entry to its AGM and lobby executives in person to stop selling tickets to SeaWorld.
PETA has long been protesting against the Florida marine park for its treatment of whales, which it says is cruel and inhumane. It also targets businesses that deal with SeaWorld, like Thomas Cook, which offers tours to the park.
The group told Business Insider that it has bought a single share in the company, valued at around £1.20 ($US1.66), because it grants it entry to the annual general meeting, being held in London this Thursday.
Yvonne Taylor, a PETA campaigner, told Business Insider that she and a colleague plan to use this right to go inside the AGM in east London and ask executives directly to end ticket sales to SeaWorld, and to lobby shareholders.
Meanwhile, protesters outside are going to distribute leaflets, and pose for photos. Activists will hold gravestones and roses to mourn 41 orcas the group says died at a young age during their time in captivity at SeaWorld.
PETA is known for its eye-catching and disruptive protests, but Taylor said its actions at the AGM would have a respectful tone and will be made in a genuine spirit of engagement.
She said their lobbying has had some effect already, claiming credit for a decision by Thomas Cook over the weekend to remove references to SeaWorld from its online marketing.
However, it still offers tickets, a practice PETA wants to stop. In a statement to Business Insider, Thomas Cook said it was “puzzled” that it had been targeted despite taking some steps to improve its animal welfare standards.
A PETA spokeswoman told Business Insider: “At SeaWorld orcas are confined to tiny concrete tanks, where they’re deprived of any physical or psychological stimulation.
“These highly intelligent animals – who live in large, complex social groups and swim up to 140 miles a day in the wild – are forced to spend their days swimming in endless circles and gnawing on the bars of their tanks in frustration.”
PETA considers this an example of animal cruelty, and has called SeaWorld an “abusement park.”
In a statement to Business Insider, Thomas Cook did not directly address its relationship with SeaWorld, but defended its commitment to animal welfare. It said:
“As the first tour operator to enforce an animal welfare policy by removing animal excursions that don’t meet the standards we require from sale, Thomas Cook welcomes discussion on this important topic.
“We have been encouraged by the support we’ve received from groups like World Cetecean Alliance, however we’re puzzled by PETA’s approach.
“This appears to criticise us specifically because we’ve taken an industry-leading position. We are committed to continue to work with the industry to raise standards of animal welfare around the world.”
Three killer whales died while living at SeaWorld’s California franchises in 2017.
The theme park has since phased out its emphasis on the animals, announcing in 2015 that it would stop using them in shows at some locations and in 2016 that it would no longer breed them.
The decision doesn’t appear to be a result of animal rights protest, though. Earlier this month, the SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby slammed “small-minded arguments from activists that really don’t know what they’re talking about.”