Holiday giant Thomas Cook is to axe all trips to theme parks where killer whales are kept captive – including top attractions SeaWorld and Loro Parque.

Britain’s biggest tour operator made the decision following customer ­feedback and animal welfare evidence.

SeaWorld in Florida and Loro Parque in Tenerife attract huge numbers of UK tourists.

Thomas Cook sells over 10,000 day trips a year to SeaWorld and has sold 40,000 tickets to Loro Parque this year.

However, both venues have been slammed by animal welfare ­campaigners and a host of celebrities.

Thomas Cook will stop offering tickets to either park or including them in its holidays from next summer.

Thomas Cook chief Peter Fankhauser said: “We have engaged with a range of animal welfare specialists and taken account of the scientific evidence they have provided.

“We have also taken feedback from our customers, more than 90 per cent of whom said it was important their holiday company takes animal welfare seriously. That led us to the decision.”

The milestone move is likely to pile pressure on rivals to follow suit.

Thomas Cook launched a review of 100 animal attractions last year.

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SeaWorld failed initial checks and there were issues raised with Loro Parque.

Both made improvements accepted by Thomas Cook – until its latest ban on all orca attractions.

At SeaWorld, which has been condemned by Hollywood actor Matt Damon and One Direction’s Harry Styles, the killer whales pirouette to music and “beach” themselves.

Loro Parque has been hailed best zoo in Europe, but its use of orcas has also been widely criticised.

A bold and brave move by Nigel Thompson, Travel Editor

Bold and brave from Thomas Cook, the SeaWorld move was expected – but ditching Loro Parque is a surprise. I’d now expect other major UK travel businesses to follow this lead on the Florida attraction for starters.

SeaWorld has ended its orca breeding programme – a welcome decision.

And its programme of rescuing injured, sick and orphaned sea creatures is commendable.

But I think the British public’s appetite for watching performing marine mammals has waned. It’s a throwback to a less enlightened time.

You can still buy your own tickets to SeaWorld or Loro Parque.

And I think if you go for SeaWorld’s rollercoasters or Loro Parque’s parrots, that’s fine.

Just don’t go to the killer whale shows. Empty seats in the arena will get the message across.

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