SeaWorld has criticised Virgin Holidays for its decision to stop selling tickets to its California and Florida attractions.
The American company said it was disappointed to see Virgin “succumb to pressure from animal activists” whom it claimed “mislead and manipulate marine mammal science to advance their agendas”.
“No company does more to protect marine mammals and advance cetacean research, rescue and conservation,” SeaWorld said.
Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson wrote on Tuesday that his holiday firm “will end the sales and promotion of tourism attractions that involve captive cetaceans, such as whales and dolphins”.
“Ultimately, Virgin Holidays plans to offer customers a world class, wild whale and dolphin tour portfolio meeting the highest ethical standards for the animals while creating a richer animal encounter experience for customers,” Sir Richard wrote in a blog.
The decision affects SeaWorld’s resorts in San Diego and Orlando, as well as attractions at the Atlantis brand resorts in the Caribbean and Dubai.
SeaWorld said: “Virgin’s own corporate mission is having a measurable purpose that positively impacts communities and the environment. SeaWorld is the epitome of that mission.
“With more than 35,000 animal rescues and decades of meaningful scientific contributions, we are proud to be a recognised global leader in marine mammal science, education and, in particular, providing preeminent care to all of our marine mammals.
“With rising threats to our oceans and their inhabitants, supporting independently accredited zoological facilities is more important than ever. No company does more to protect marine mammals and advance cetacean research, rescue and conservation than SeaWorld.”
SeaWorld announced in 2016 that it would end its controversial breeding programme for killer whales, known as orcas.
At the time, it said the decision came as “a growing number of people don’t think orcas belong in human care”.