issue 155

Boycott news from Ethical Consumer magazine, Issue 155 July/August2015.



Boycott Merlin – support the Sea Lies campaign



Amazon boycott updates 

We’re winning – but it’s not time to end the Amazon boycott just yet


Amazon’s green credentials questioned again


Amazon's CEO, the 10th richest man in world





Boycott Merlin – support the Sea Lies campaign

Maddy Taylor, Campaigns Officer at the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, on the relaunch of the Merlin boycott.

In 2013, Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) employed an undercover investigator to visit Sea Life aquariums to update our investigation into UK aquaria. We focused on Sea Life aquariums, owned by Merlin Entertainment, due to the fact that they dominate the market in the UK. The results of the investigation shocked even myself and my colleagues and the false claims that were uncovered prompted us to name the campaign ‘Sea Lies’.

The most surprising discovery of our investigation was Sea Life’s ‘Secret Cetacean Circus’. Merlin state in their UK centres and online: “Sea Life believes it is wrong to keep whales and dolphins in captivity. No matter how spacious, no captive facility can ever provide such far-ranging, highly social and highly intelligent animals with the stimulation they need for a good quality of life.”


Beluga whales performing at the Shanghai Sea Life aquarium

Beluga whales performing at the Shanghai Sea Life aquarium.

Despite this bold statement, owners Merlin purchased businesses with performing cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Three beluga whales continue to perform in daily shows at an aquarium in Shanghai operating under the Sea Life brand.


No show sanctuary

Merlin have recently promised that their ultimate goal is to build a “purpose built coastal sanctuary” for the whales. Over a year ago when the Sea Lies campaign was launched, with a focus on the release of the whales, Merlin told the press they would release a statement soon about the future of the whales. This never happened. Meanwhile, they still rake in the profits of the performing belugas.

Merlin reported revenue of over £1 billion in 2014. Despite this, when questioned specifically on its monetary contribution to conservation efforts, a senior manager from Sea Life was only able to offer concrete evidence of £250,000 donated to a turtle sanctuary in Greece. This amounts to just 0.02% of Merlin’s total revenue being traceable directly to in situ conservation. The vast majority of species held by Sea Life centres belong to species either not threatened in the wild, or species that have not been assessed for conservation purposes. Just 2.5% of exhibits house species which are classed as endangered.


Transported from the wild

Our investigation also uncovered that animals are still taken from the wild and often transported thousands of miles to stock Sea Life’s tanks, and ensure they have the most exciting creatures to draw in visitors. CAPS has now been told by a former employee that Sea Life receives weekly deliveries of fish from delicate wild habitats including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The commercial trade in wildlife is often dressed up by the company as rescue. For example in March 2013 a nine-foot Japanese spider crab was, according to Sea Life, “rescued from being on Japanese dinner plates”. In fact, Sea Life had purchased the animal from a fisherman.

A similar situation occurred when 20 turtles were reportedly “rescued” from a turtle farm in the Cayman Islands. At the time that the proposal to acquire the turtles was made, it was met with opposition by leading conservation organisations who maintained that the move would contravene rules on the trade in endangered species. It appears that despite this strong opposition, Sea Life went ahead and imported the 20 turtles from the Cayman Islands farm with permission from UK authorities.

The CAPS investigator found evidence of stress-related disease, high mortality and repetitive behaviours indicative of an inability to cope with captive situations in the centres visited. This confirmed that the findings from our original 2004 study still stand ten years on.

Our investigator noted abnormal behaviour such as ‘pacing’ and surface breaking behaviour in various sites but was often dismissed by staff when questioned. Some large fish were housed in cylindrical tanks which were barely longer than their own body length. Other large fish that are naturally social and construct nests in the wild were housed alone in barren tanks not much larger than their own body length. These are just a few of the welfare issues observed.

Brands to boycott

For these reasons we are asking consumers to boycott the Merlin Entertainment brands. These include: Sea Life centres; Alton Towers; LEGOLAND; Warwick Castle; The London Eye and other
big wheels in various cities around the UK; Chessington World of Adventures; Madame Tussauds; Thorpe Park; The Dungeons; Blackpool Tower; Heide Park Resort, Germany; Gardaland Resort, Italy; and Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Hamilton Island, Falls Creek, Treetop Adventures and Hotham Alpine Resort in Australia.

Please support the campaign and get involved. Sign the petition and help us stop Sea Life forcing whales to perform and instead move them to a sanctuary. Go to

Merlin Entertainments can be contacted direct at:






Amazon Boycott Updates



We’re winning – but it’s not time to end the Amazon boycott just yet

At the end of May, Amazon surprised everyone by claiming that it had started to book retail sales through its UK branch, ending the practice which saw them route sales through a Luxembourg subsidiary.

This is a huge breakthrough in the fight for tax justice and a huge u-turn for a company that said just a year ago that it would be impossible to route sales to UK customers through a British company paying tax to HMRC.

The Guardian has explained that this is in part due to George Osborne’s Diverted Profits Tax which came into force in April. But Ethical Consumer boycott supporters and thousands of other campaigners in the wider tax justice movement, have all contributed to piling the pressure onto Amazon and the UK government.

It has also been reported that Amazon will be doing the same throughout the EU: “As of 1 May, Amazon EU Sarl is recording retail sales made to customers through these branches in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy... Previously, these retail sales were recorded in Luxembourg.”

In more good news the EU has said that it will continue its investigation into Luxembourg’s tax treatment of Amazon despite the changes. The Commission launched an investigation last October into alleged state aid Luxembourg was granting to Amazon by offering a low corporate tax rate on European profits.

“The Commission’s state aid investigation is ongoing and will continue. We are examining the concerns that the tax ruling granted by Luxembourg to Amazon is providing the company with selective advantages,” the Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso told Reuters.

The boycott continues

We are urging people to continue with the Amazon boycott for the time being because Amazon’s announcement, on its own, is no guarantee that the company will play fairly with the tax authorities. It is not currently obliged to publish income and expenditure for this UK subsidiary, so there is likely to be no way for the public to scrutinise whether profits occurring here look genuine.

It could, for example, use transfer pricing or intellectual property arrangements to reduce UK profits to zero if it wanted. We call on Amazon to undertake to publish full country-bycountry financial reporting (to standards recommended by the OECD) in order for the general public to regain trust that its financial arrangements are not structured to continue avoiding paying its fair share of tax. This will be the point for the boycott to be called off. It is fair to say that this is a battle well won, but the war is far from over.



Amazon’s green credentials questioned again

In May Greenpeace released its latest version of ‘Clicking Clean’, their guide to building a greener internet. One of their key findings was that Amazon’s 100% renewable energy goal “lacks basic transparency and does not yet appear to be guiding Amazon’s investment decisions towards renewable energy.”

In 2014 Amazon adopted a long-term commitment to 100% renewable energy and has started to follow this up with its first direct purchase of renewable energy in Indiana in January 2015. It now also has an interim target to be at least 40% renewablypowered by 2016.



In Greenpeace’s score card rating the company scores an F for transparency as it continues to refuse to provide any information on the energy consumption or greenhouse gas footprint of its data centres and other infrastructure.

Several Amazon Web Services customers have reported that they have recently been provided energy with footprint data for their use of AWS; the data has been provided under nondisclosure agreements so the information can’t be made public.

AWS has recently stated that it is currently 25% renewably powered, but with no additional detail provided Greenpeace say there is no way to verify this. You can find the full report here.




Amazon's CEO, the 10th richest man in world

Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is now worth $40 billion, according to Bloomberg News. Bloomberg reported that Bezos’ “fortune jumped $4.9 billion to $40 billion, making him the world’s 10th-richest
Bezos’ increase in net worth came after Amazon reported earnings in May showing that sales had jumped 15% yearon-year.


Amazon's CEO