Ban Keeping Whales and Dolphins in Captivity

Elizabeth May and Senator Wilfrid Moore

Keeping whales and dolphins confined in swimming pools is unjustifiably cruel, and obviously so. That is why we support phasing out the practice with a federal ban on captive breeding, imports, exports, and live captures of whales and dolphins in Canada.

Whales and dolphins are highly intelligent, emotional and social mammals that range over vast distances in the oceans. Keeping them in captivity requires holding them in conditions that are socially isolating, stressful, and physically restrictive. It is time to put the cruel practice behind us.

Currently, there are approximately 50 captive whales and dolphins – mostly belugas – held at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario and the Vancouver Aquarium. Both facilities have captive breeding programs.

Bill S-230, the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, will phase out the captivity of whales and dolphins. Legally, it will do so by amending Canada’s animal cruelty laws to specifically prohibit the practice. However, the bill allows for the rescue and rehabilitation of injured individuals, which can be used in scientific research if they cannot be returned to the wild. The bill also allows owners of currently captive whales and dolphins to retain those individuals, though not to breed them.

It is revealing that Marineland’s response was to make the attack personal and falsely malign the motives of parliamentarians. Marineland’s response to this bill is an effort to manipulate Ontarians who are increasingly turning to more sustainable and accessible forms of tourism. It is unfortunate that they would seek to divide the Canadian public in a transparent attempt to protect their own corporate viability, which is based on the use of whales, dolphins and belugas for entertainment.

Should Marineland have productive suggestions that are supported by sound scientific evidence to amend the bill, they are welcome to present their evidence at a Parliamentary Committee.

The Vancouver Aquarium has referred to the value of its rescue, rehabilitation, and research programs. We agree that those programs are defensible. That is why S-230 will not affect those activities.

However, it will end the Vancouver Aquarium’s captive breeding program, which Dr. Jane Goodall has rightly condemned as serving no scientific purpose.
The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act has diverse support. The bill has received the endorsements of Phil Demers, formerly the Head Trainer at Marineland; Dr. Marc Bekoff of the Jane Goodall Institute; Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the Director of the CNN-distributed documentary Blackfish; the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies; the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; three ex-SeaWorld trainers; and Zoocheck Canada.

We support different political parties, but we both want to do the right thing on this issue – and we are asking for your support. If you agree, please contact MPs, Senators, candidates, and political parties asking for their commitment to support this proposal. Together, we can make a difference.