Peter Hamilton: To vote or not to vote on dolphins in captivity should not be the question
By Peter Hamilton
Following the death of a beluga at the Vancouver Aquarium, park board commissioners will once again debate if voters will finally be allowed to stop the inhumane cetacean imprisonment. An aquarium captivity plebiscite in 2011 shouldn’t be questioned! It should be a right in order to protect animals and voters.
All elected Vision Vancouver and COPE politicians must now support Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon’s proposal to begin a process to phase out the imprisonment of dolphins. They must not be intimidated by the Vancouver Aquarium.
Lifeforce fought hard to have the Stanley Park Zoo expansion issue put to a vote during two civic elections in 1990 and 1993. Twice the people said “No zoo in Stanley Park!” and the NPA finally stopped trying to railroad it through. There is no difference between the pacing polar bears and the dolphins swimming around and around and around. The Vancouver Aquarium’s dolphin prisons and zoo shows must be stopped.
There is no educational or scientific justification for keeping dolphins in confinement. It is life and death in a toilet bowl for captive dolphins. They are deprived of their psychological and behavioral needs. They swim in tiny pools polluted with their excrement. They are deprived of freedoms that are only provided for in their ocean homes. It is tantamount to a person spending their life in a bathroom.
Most of the belugas were captured in the wild. The Pacific white-sided dolphins were deemed to be unfit for release by Japanese aquariums yet are physically able to perform all the stressful, difficult tricks. There are dolphins surviving in the wild with far greater injuries.
The Vancouver Aquarium is not a leader in conservation. They do what is profitable. They have been part of the problems not the solutions. They bragged about having the first captive orca who didn’t die when harpooned to be used as a model for a sculpture. Their insensitivity, in fact, resulted in the decimation of local populations now designated as endangered species.
They also want more dolphin deals from a country that notoriously opposes international whaling bans. Japan’s “drive fisheries” to kill dolphins for food and aquariums were exposed in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. The Vancouver Aquarium continues to send dolphins to U.S. SeaWorlds that exploit orcas and others for entertainment. They have already sent wild-caught male and female belugas while they are presently waiting for a permit to send their last male beluga.
The seal pup rehabilitation can be done without dolphin captivity. Other international well-respected wildlife rehabilitation centres have done so for decades.
All the slick “conservation” advertising fails to reveal that the Vancouver Aquarium has only joined other long-standing programs, such as beach cleanups and eating sustainable fish, while turning the Lumberman’s Arch picnic grounds into a office trailer park and garbage dump for the proposed expansion, and while serving up abused farm animals that contribute to global warming in their cafe and at parties.
So it is wake-up time for some of the public and politicians who need to be reminded of the cruelty and public opposition to exploitation for so-called entertainment. There have been at least 36 deaths of dolphins as a result of this business. The public said “No Stanley Park Zoo!” and it was closed. The rodeos and exotic animal circus acts in Vancouver were also stopped.
Existing captives who were captured from the wild will probably not be returned to their ocean homes. Sadly, they and those born in captivity will die prematurely. But at least that will end the Vancouver Aquarium’s legacy of violations against nature.
A plebiscite is the peoples’ right. Captures are perpetuated by the aquarium slave trade, which is dependent on wild captures. Ending dolphin captivity should also include stopping the $120-million expansion of whale pools, with more dolphins and zoo exhibits, that failed to be completed for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The politicians must finally allow the democratic right of voters to say “No more dolphins!”
Peter Hamilton is the founding director of Lifeforce.