Last week, the Canadian parliament passed Bill S-203 that ends the captivity of whales and dolphins. The bill passed unopposed with the support of Liberal and NDP MPs this Tuesday. For nearly four years, the Conservatives tried inexplicably tried to stop this bill but to no avail.
This is indeed a victory for animal rights groups in the country as the captivity of whales and dolphins is cruel and inhumane. Further inspection of the bill, however, reveals that this isn't all sunshine and rainbows for already captive animals.
Bill S-203 effectively prohibits any future captivity and import/export of cetaceans in Canada.
The key word here is future because animals that are currently in places like Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium are not protected under this bill and will remain in captivity.
TL;DR Bill S-203, which bans the captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada is a landmark victory for animal rights activists but isn't so good for animals that are already in captivity. Whales and dolphins that are already in captivity will still be forced to perform in cramped aquariums despite this bill. Therefore, this bill is bull!
The new law is rather straightforward as it clearly bans any cetacean captivity across the board. It also includes heavy fines for institutions who violate animal rights laws. For example, a national park can be fined up to $200,000 for committing animal cruelty.
Sounds good, right? Of course, this is great news for the future because it proves that public aquariums are a dying industry - it's an industry that intrinsically promotes animal cruelty and finally, after years of effort, people are finally waking up to that fact.
Where this gets messy is the fact that this bill has a grandfather clause for animals that are currently in captivity. This means that Marineland, the only aquarium in Canada that has whales and orcas in concrete aquariums, will be allowed to keep their stock of wildlife. They currently have 61 cetaceans in captivity including 55 beluga whales, five dolphins, and one orca.
Marineland has obviously been an opponent of this bill, claiming that a bill such as this would imperil conservation efforts and destroy seasonal employment.
Critics have clapped back at Marineland to say that the aquarium can sustain their business for another 30 years with its current stock of wildlife, according to the CBC.
Still, Marineland's lawyers say that the bill is unconstitutional and problems might be presented when an animal gives birth in captivity.
It's to be expected that aquariums would have a problem with this new law as they profit off animal captivity. This is why this bill is so bogus - because even though future animals are banned, aquariums can still keep their currently imprisoned, highly intelligent creatures... with no repercussions.
People hope that this bill will eventually allow for these animals to be retired to a nature reserve but let's be real - places like Marineland will fight tooth and nail to keep their businesses profitable. Bills like this are a good first step but more should've been done.
Bill S-203 will go into law this year after being unanimously passed this past Tuesday. Regardless of how messed up the details of the bill are, it's great that Canada is making strides in animal conservation efforts.
To read this bill in its entirety, click here.