Canada just handed Shamoo his freedom card. The aptly titled Ending of Whales and Dolphins Captivity Acts were passed by the country’s Parliament on June 10, ending legal confinement of marine mammals for entertainment purposes. According to a report from CBC, sea mammals will no longer be bred in or held in captivity for any entertainment purpose. Supporters of the bill immediately took to social media with the hashtags #freewilly and #EmptyTheTanks.
Animal rights activists, who have for years cited animal cruelty concerns regarding sea mammal captivity, cheered the bills’ passage. Activists have claimed that whales and dolphins suffer from psychological and physical trauma in captivity, bringing forth statistics on high infant mortality and isolation to back their cause. The new law directly addresses many of their concerns — also newly forbidden are the importing or exporting of sea mammals, captive breeding, live captures, and possession of reproductive matter.
“This is a watershed moment for whales and dolphins, and powerful recognition that our country no longer accepts imprisoning smart, sensitive animals in tiny tanks for entertainment,” Camille Labchuk, executive director of advocacy group Animal Justice, told CTV News.
The measure will most directly impact the Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland near Niagara Falls, which the report states currently holds over 60 marine mammals in captivity, including five dolphins, 55 beluga whales, and one orca whale. Marineland’s animals are grandfathered in, according to the new bills, and the park defended its practices in a statement issued on Monday. “Marineland Canada continues to be a facility where children can learn about and be inspired by cetaceans without invading their natural habitats or disturbing cetacean populations that live in the ocean. We’re proud of our work, and our contribution to research, education, and conservation.” The Vancouver Aquarium had acquiesced to public outcry in early 2018, saying it would no longer keep dolphins or whales in captivity.