Canadian Senate Votes To Ban Keeping Whales, Dolphins In Captivity
Debate has been raging for years about the welfare of whales and dolphins in captivity. Some argue that keeping these animals captive is akin to imprisonment, resulting in shorter lifespans. Others believe that there is little to no evidence that keeping them in captivity is detrimental at all.
Canada's Senate, after 3 years of discussion and debate, has voted in favor of S-203, a bill that would outlaw keeping cetaceans in captivity. Keeping and breeding the animals would be a criminal offense resulting in up to $200,000 in fines.
The Vancouver Aquarium has argued against S-203, saying that keeping the cetaceans in captivity has an educational value and defending their treatment of them animals. Due to public pressure, the aquarium has removed dolphins and whales from public view, calling protests over their capitivity a "distraction."
Marineland in Ontario, however, has argued more strongly against S-203. John Holler, the owner of Marineland, testified before he passed away over the summer against the bill.
"Bill S-203 was not supported by the relevant ministries or the credible scientific community," Holler said in a written statement. "Sadly, it impairs legitimate scientific and research programs and is explicitly targeted to close Marineland."
"The bill and the debate around it (have) been highly emotional, lacking in fact-based or science-based analysis and mired in unnecessary conflict incited by radical animal rights groups from the United States."
Manitoba Sentor Don Plett, a conservative, echoed Holler's arguments as the Senate voted to advance S-203. Plett argued that the animals are well cared for and happy.
"I asked the sponsor of this bill, Sen. Moore, and other members of the fisheries committee whether any of them had ever made a trip to Marineland to inspect this 'horrendous' facility that everybody is talking about; to inspect this 'small little bathtub' that these whales are swimming around in," he said.
"I have been there. I have been to the Vancouver Aquarium. I see the joy on these cetaceans faces - on the belugas' faces - when they come out and get food."
Senator Mary Jane McCallum, another Senator from Manitoba, did not share Plett's beliefs that the animals were being kept in good conditions. She cited images submitted to the Senate committee.
"An adult female beluga whale lying motionless below the body of her dead baby calf; an orca lying motionless on her side, floating towards the top of the tank, heavily sedated from an accidental overdose of Valium; a sharp, rust-coloured, steel-edged grate covered in blood, the result of carelessly transporting a beluga whale between tanks," she said.
"Finally, an indoor tank lacking both natural light and quality air ventilation, and now a sickly green colour caused by a breakdown in the disinfection unit. These disturbing visuals I have painted for you are actual photographs submitted to the standing Senate committee on fisheries and oceans by a former marine mammal trainer."
In addition to S-203, the Senate passed S-238, which bans the import and export of shark fins.