Three days ago (June 11 2019), Canada passed a bill that bans the captivity and breeding of dolphins, whales and porpoises. Animal Rights Activists hailed the move as a positive step and a historic win.
The legislation (dubbed as the Free Willy Bill, after the 1993 movie) makes it illegal for anyone to own, control, or have custody of a cetacean. Moreover, it also illegalises the breeding or impregnation of a whale or dolphin for any purpose whatsoever. Similarly, it also places a ban on importing and exporting of the animals.
Under the bill, every person who commits the offence is punishable by a fine of 200,000 Canadian Dollars.
There are two exceptions to it. The marine animals already in captivity can remain so, but they cannot breed. It also applies to animals that require rehabilitation or are for scientific purposes.
A historic win
Animal Rights Activists have been arguing for the cause for a long time.
The 2013 documentary titled “Blackfish” brought it into the public’s eye. It addresses the issue of the psychological trauma that these animals go through in captivity through the story of Tilikum, a captive killer whale which attacked and killed several people while performing.
The documentary gained traction with the public and got more than 60 million views. Following which, the issue became political, as people started demanding action from the government’s side.
In 2015, Senator Wilfred Moore introduced the Free Willy legislation. In his speech, he stated that it is a moral obligation to phase out captivity.
Finally, after almost four years of struggle, the Senate passed the legislation by a majority vote.
It has come as official recognition by the government that the captivity and breeding of animals, does amount to cruelty.
In an official statement, the Executive Director of Humane Society International, Rebecca Aldworth said, ” The passage of Bill S-203 is a watershed moment in the protection of marine animals and a victory for all Canadians. Whales and dolphins don’t belong in tanks, and the inherent suffering these highly social and intelligent animals endure in intensive confinement can no longer be tolerated. We congratulate the sponsors of this bill and the Canadian government for showing strong leadership in responding to the public will and sound science on this critical issue.”