France just became the next country to ban captive breeding of dolphins and whales, following a "more radical" approach to ending captivity of these animals.
Joining the ranks of countries that are banning captive dolphin and killer whale breeding is France, who, thanks to progressive Environment Minister Segolene Royal, just passed legislation in favor of the marine mammals that are a part of the nation’s parks that use the animals for entertainment. The legislation also bans the keeping of all whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity, except for orcas and bottlenose dolphins already held. As if this weren’t enough, the new law also prohibits direct contact between the wild animals and the public, including feeding and petting.
Environment Minister Royal had initially passed legislation regarding these items last Wednesday, which included “tight controls on the reproduction of dolphins,” but decided to ban all captive breeding of the large marine mammals after reports of dolphins and whales being drugged in parks emerged. She signed a revision of the law on Saturday after choosing a “more radical” approach, according to her ministry, in an effort to end the captivity of these animals all together.
“In plain terms, this means the end of breeding, exchange, and import programmes,” five conservation groups including One Voice and Sea Shepherd said in a joint statement. “Without possible replenishment, this quite simply means the scheduled end of marine circuses on our territory.”
This move is being hailed as a “historic French advance” by animal rights groups and campaigners that have been working to end what they refer to as “marine circuses.” Though many are happy with the outcome of this new law, not all will benefit from it and are largely displeased because of what it means for their parks.
John Kershaw, Head of the Marineland Antibes dolphin show park in southern France, told the Var-Matin newspaper that this law was a “bombshell” for his park and others like it. He said that they received no warning regarding the ministry’s intent to pass this legislation and that the parks will now be scrambling to make adjustments by the time the deadlines roll around.
Marineland Antibes has been a controversial park because of their practices for years now, the latest of which resulted in the death of orcas, sea lions, sharks, and turtles and tons of other animals after a storm hit the park and entrenched many tanks in mud. The storm left the park without electricity, which is needed to pump clean water into the tanks, and activists said that the park didn’t work swiftly enough to fix the damage before all of the animals died. The park has also been accused of mistreating their animals countless times, including the alleged abuse of the “world’s most famous walrus” and a lawsuit that was brought forth by former animal trainers who claimed that they witnessed the effects captivity has on the orcas.
Marine parks now have six months to end their breeding programs and activities that involve direct contact with visitors and animals, as well as three years to expand the size of their tanks to better accommodate the animals.
“We all must remain vigilant and ensure the conditions of the decree are appropriately implemented,” Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, told The Dodo, “but it is yet another sign of the positive change in society’s perceptions of these species in captivity!”