On March 25, a small group of activists staged a rare protest inside the Vancouver Aquarium.
During one of the facility’s dolphin shows, members of a group called the Vancouver Animal Defense League (VADL ) stood in different positions amidst a crowd gathered around the “Wild Coast” exhibit and held up signs bearing anti-captivity slogans.
“Dolphins are dying to entertain you”, read one.
“Captivity is cruel,” stated another.
“Kidnapped, not rescued,” read a third.
The demonstration occurred in silence for several minutes while the dolphin show continued. Vancouver Aquarium security guards eventually showed up and calmly escorted the activists away.
A statement published on the VADL website encourages a boycott of the aquarium and encourages people to write to the Vancouver park board in support of a cetacean-free aquarium.
“People are starting to understand that facilities like Seaworld, Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium exploit cetaceans for entertainment because it is extremely profitable, not because it's humane or beneficial to the animals in any way,” the website reads. “What kind of wildlife rescue facility or scientific research facility forces the animals to perform tricks for their daily meals?”
In past interviews, Vancouver Aquarium president and CEO John Nightingale has defended the practice of keeping marine mammals in captivity, arguing that it does good by encouraging interest in nature and conservation efforts.
“We know, from 57 years’ experience, and from in a lot of other ways as well – academic studies and what not – that seeing living animals is a spark, for many people,” he said. “It’s the beginning of awareness, interest, and curiosity, that is part of our mission. The goal is then that people become more interested…and they become more involved in what’s going on in nature and, in particular, the wet part of nature that we’re interested in.”
On February 12, the Georgia Straight published an in-depth article about the Vancouver Aquarium, marine mammal captivity, and the aquarium’s plans to increase the number of whales and dolphins that it keeps in its tanks in Stanley Park. That story noted that the Vancouver Aquarium is one of the last facilities in Canada that continues to have large marine mammals on display.
In a follow-up story, Nightingale refused to confirm to the Straight whether or not the Vancouver Aquarium is moving ahead with additional whale and dolphin exhibits, despite the fact that more than $100 million has been budgeted for its expansion project and construction is ongoing.