ANIMAL rights activists protested outside a travel company branch in a bid to stop its support for SeaWorld.

The protest was held in front of Thomas Cook, in Worcester High Street, on Tuesday, October 10.

The demonstration was part of a wider national campaign against the company for selling tickets to SeaWorld, which has been accused of abusing animals.

But Thomas Cook argued that it audits its animal excursions and SeaWorld said it has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

Protest organiser Pauline Burgess said: “The Thomas Cook Group continues to sell tickets to SeaWorld, despite being fully aware of the company's cruel treatment of animals for profit.

“At SeaWorld the orcas live in cramped, concrete tanks and are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them.

“With no physical, mental, or emotional stimulation, these animals spend their days swimming in endless circles.

“At least 40 orcas and dozens of dolphins have died at SeaWorld parks from various causes, including severe trauma, intestinal gangrene, chronic cardiovascular failure and pneumonia."

Ms Burgess added that members of the public were sympathetic to the protest and many signed postcards in support of their cause.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said the company was the first organisation to stop selling excursions due to auditing against animal welfare standards.

The spokesman added: "We are widely recognised as one of the most progressive businesses on animal welfare in our industry.

"So it’s surprising that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have chosen to target us in this way.

"By the end of 2017, around two-thirds of the animal-related excursions we offer to our customers will have been audited. We expect to complete all audits by the end of 2018.

"We are taking our policy to raise animal welfare standards very seriously so that our customers can be confident in all of the trips that they take when on holiday with us.”

The spokesman also said that they removed 16 of 25 attractions that did not meet their welfare standards last year.

The company has also warned 12 attractions that they will be dropped if they do not improve their welfare arrangements.

A SeaWorld spokesman said: "SeaWorld is one of the world’s leading zoological facilities which has been caring for marine mammals for more than five decades.

"Animal welfare standards at SeaWorld are amongst the highest in the world.

"Our parks are accredited by several of the world’s foremost zoological bodies.

"The role of accredited zoos and aquariums is more important now than ever before.

"SeaWorld parks and other leading accredited facilities are working to protect species for generations to come."

The spokesman added that the company is regulated by US law.