11 March 2014
The world’s leading dolphin experts highlight plight of animals held in European dolphinaria and expose the reality of captive exploitation in ‘water circuses’.
This week, whale and dolphin experts from across the world attending a number of high profile EU-oriented public events in the European Parliament premises (both Strasbourg and Brussels), will call upon European citizens, Euro-Parliamentarians and Member States’ Governments to end captive dolphin shows and interactive sessions which, they assert, exploit the animals and compromise their welfare. The events are promoted by a few cross-party Members of the European Parliament.
A total of 15 Member States currently have 34 captive dolphin facilities (dolphinaria) displaying a reported 307 small whales, dolphins and porpoises. All these dolphinaria are commercially driven and present their dolphins in circus-style shows. In 20 of the facilities, interactive sessions are offered at additional cost, which include swim-with sessions and the use of dolphins as props for souvenir photographs.
Daniel Turner, captivity spokesperson for the Born Free Foundation and the Dolphinaria-Free Europe initiative, explains, “In our view, the scientific evidence is conclusive. The keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity where they are trained to perform unnatural behaviours, not only distorts the natural attributes of these highly intelligent, social animals, but is also known to compromise the animal’s physical and mental health.” Turner continued, “The Born Free Foundation decision to host leading experts this week in Strasbourg, and next week in Brussels, will provide an influential platform to where profound concerns and compelling evidence can be placed before EU Institutions, in the hope that our vision of a Dolphinaria-Free Europe can become a reality.”
Keith Taylor MEP agreed, “I support calls for an end to the keeping of captive whales and dolphins for commercial purposes and commend the efforts of the Born Free Foundation in bringing together different stakeholders to discuss how to achieve a Dolphinaria-Free Europe. I look forward to taking part in these important discussions.”
Kriton Arsenis' MEP also lent his support, "Though humans have always had a special connection with cetaceans, their protection has not been a policy priority within Europe for a considerable period of time. What is happening is quite brutal. There has been growing awareness regarding the special nature of cetaceans amongst governments, scientists and the public, it is thus particularly sad that despite all this knowledge on cetaceans dolphinaria still exist. Urgent action is necessary and I am calling for the immediate implementation of the zoo directive and also a phasing out of dolphinaria in Europe."
In the EU, 33 of the 34 facilities are regulated by national zoo laws in the State where they are located and by EC Directive 1999/22, relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos (also known and The Zoos Directive), requiring dolphinaria to make demonstrable commitments to species conservation, public education and higher standards of animal welfare. A recent report entitled, Dolphinaria – A review of the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity in the European Union and EC Directive 1999/22, relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos, (WDC, 2011) highlighted the fact that 15 (out of 27 States that kept captive dolphins at the time of publication) contravened the terms of EU Zoos Directive and largely failed to meet their legal obligations under national law.
“Dolphins and other cetaceans are very intelligent animals; many live in social groups that are bounded by specific culture and language; in the wild they can travel for more than 100 km per day whereas in captivity, dolphinaria and aquariums, they are usually segregated in confined water jails and exploited commercially by billion Euro entertainment industries. The keeping of these animals in captivity should end and the animals released, when possible, or allowed to spend the rest of their life in semi natural retirement facilities”, says Gaia Angelini, LAV Campaigner.
Following the successful European tour of Blackfish last year, the Born Free Foundation is keen to build upon the growing public and media interest in these issues and has organised a series of events over the next two weeks which will focus on the plight of captive cetaceans and, specifically, engage with various stakeholders in pursuit of a Dolphinaria-Free Europe.
These events will take place in three cities – Strasbourg, Brighton and Brussels – and involve notable experts in whale and dolphin biology and conservation. These include Dr Ingrid Visser, who has been researching wild orca for more than 20 years; Dr Naomi Rose, expert in cetacean live capture, trade, and captivity; Natalie Barefoot, environmental attorney; Dr Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Co-chair, IUCN Joint SSC/WCPA Task Force on Marine Mammal Protected Areas and Deputy Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission - Cetacean Specialist Group; and former dolphin trainers, Sam Berg and Albert López.
Thanks go to the Animal Welfare Institute, OceanCare, SOSDolphins, LAV and the Born Free Foundation for making their attendance possible.
The events schedule is as follows:
Wednesday 12th March
Thursday 13th March
Friday 14th and 15th March
Tuesday and Wednesday 18th and 19th March
Wednesday 19th March