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11 November 2021

Earlier this week, Expedia Group made modifications to its Animal Welfare Policy that include no longer selling experiences that include interactions, demonstrations, or presentations with cetaceans.

This change comes following correspondence and input from IMATA and other professional organizations.

In response to these changes, IMATA offers the following:

International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA) members are the global experts in the care and training of marine animals. Our membership of over 1,300 professional caregivers is dedicated to the welfare of animals world-wide. Individual members of IMATA are employed by conservation programs, zoos, aquariums, and marine parks located throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Asia, and Europe. 

In changing their Animal Welfare Policy, Expedia has yielded to pressure from animal activist groups – despite this pressure being based on deceitful arguments that are not science-based. Additionally, Expedia’s changes allowed for no distinction between accredited and non-accredited facilities despite the rigorous accreditation processes utilized by organizations such as IMATA, the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and American Humane.

Accredited facilities must demonstrate during on-site inspections that they meet strict, comprehensive standards in multiple areas, including animal husbandry, animal training, interactive programs, propagation, quarantine, water and environmental quality, education, enclosure requirements, and scientific research and conservation, among others. These standards are meant to guide the optimization of animal health and welfare, environmental conditions, education, and the scientific impact of the program.

Expedia missed an opportunity to accept science rather than the accusations made by the animal activist groups urging travel companies to stop selling experiences at zoos and aquariums. Science shows that cetaceans in the care of IMATA members thrive and live as long as or, in many cases, much longer than their counterparts in the wild. IMATA members provide high quality, nutritious food, preventative veterinary care supervised by licensed professionals, and exercise in ways that are mentally and physically beneficial. The animal training techniques employed by our members is based on the foundation of positive reinforcement, which is mentally stimulating and enables the animals to participate in their own health care.

Each year more than 40 million people visit accredited zoos, aquariums, and marine parks throughout the world. The public's experience during these visits fosters emotional and personal connections that promote conservation of marine environments and respect for marine species. Recent studies suggest that much of what the general public knows about science is learned outside schools through visits to zoos, museums, websites, and magazine articles. By eliminating the option for customers to purchase these animal encounters, Expedia has blocked opportunities for the public to engage with animals and accredited and responsible institutions. That said, IMATA trusts that the public will continue to seek out ethical opportunities to experience animals up-close.

IMATA members will continue to provide these encounters that leave guests inspired, caring about the animals, and wanting to conserve them in the wild. The welfare of animals is the number one priority of IMATA. Our members are true animal welfare experts, conservationists, and caregivers - and have dedicated their lives to providing the finest habitats to animals for education, rescue, and science.