There aren’t too many people who dislike sea mammals, especially dolphins and whales. That’s why it’s an unimaginable idea that people keep the animals in captivity, making money off of their performances at zoos. That’s why in recent years, animal activists have protested against the captivity of these sea mammals. In July 2019, Canada passed a “Free Willy” Bill, in which the country will fight to protect the endangered sea animals before it’s too late.
Kept In Captivity
Since the 1960s, whales and dolphins have been the most popular sea mammals to keep in captivity. In zoos, the animals are forced to perform in front of live audiences, all for the purpose to make money. The most famous of these attractions, SeaWorld, has featured killer whales and dolphins in its three parks in the United States and one park in Dubai, India, since its opening in 1964.
In 2013, a famous documentary, Blackfish, exposed the dark history behind SeaWorld. Since its opening, the water theme park has taken 166 orca [killer] whales from the wild and placed them into captivity. At least 49 of those whales have died while living in the “underwater prison” at SeaWorld. The documentary revealed dolphins and whales are trained with food to learn their tricks, but unfortunately, this strenuous training often includes food deprivation. The animals are also trained to present and raise their tails for long periods of time, ultimately leading to regular blood draws. Obviously, this isn’t a natural behavior.
In addition, the animals are forced to stay in captivity, which limits their swimming abilities. In the wild, dolphins and whales can swim up to a hundred miles every day. However, in their confined spaces, the animals can only swim in an area equivalent to a large bathtub. Can you imagine living in a bathtub your entire life? If it would be difficult for you, it would be even more hazardous for a large animal that is supposed to swim freely in the open sea.
SeaWorld began to notice the danger of keeping their animals in captivity. Since 2013, four humans [three trainers and one civilian] have been killed by orca whales, three of the incidents with the park’s most famous orca, Tilikum. SeaWorld ordered trainers never to enter the pool water with the whales. However, animal activists began protesting, saying the whales and dolphins shouldn’t even be in captivity in the first place.
Animal activists began protesting SeaWorld after Blackfish was released. Organizations, including PETA, began campaigning and encouraging others to boycott SeaWorld at all costs. After several years, progress has slowly been made, particularly from Canada’s House of Commons. The governing body passed a Bill, nicknamed “Free Willy,” that will put a complete ban on holding any dolphins and whales in captivity.
The “Free Willy” Bill, formally known as Bill S-203 [Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act], bans keeping sea mammals in captivity, but it also prevents anyone from illegally breeding these endangered animals. If anyone is caught in the crime, they could face a fine up to $150,000. Is keeping an animal in captivity really worth paying the consequences?
Doing What’s Right
When it was announced Canadian Parliament had signed the “Free Willy” Bill, news spread on Twitter. Many users were pleased government officials were finally making a positive change in animal activism. One Twitter user (@wanderlustt13) said, “I’m so proud to be Canadian.” She’s clearly proud of her native country of protecting whales and dolphins, who should never be in captivity.
Another user (@TryVeg) commented, “Thank you, Canada, for this historic advancement for whales and dolphins!” This is accurate; the Bill is a historic advancement for animal and wildlife conservation. For the first time, sea mammals will be protected in a way never made possible.
Executive Director of the Humane Society International/Canada Rebecca Aldworth stated, “The passage of Bill S-203 is a watershed moment in the protection of marine animals and a victory for all Canadians.” Most people agree whales and dolphins don’t belong in aquarium tanks. Instead, they belong in the wild where they can swim as far as they want. Let’s bring them home.
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