Canada Seeks Total Ban on Cetacean Ownership and Captivity

June 11, 2015 Laura Bridgeman

A Senate bill in Canada was introduced that seeks to put a total ban on cetacean ownership and captivity, essentially putting cetaceans beyond use for human profit or benefit.

The progressive bill, introduced by Senator Wilfred Moore, seeks amendments within existing law in Canada in a bid to phase out and eventual total ban on cetacean ownership and captivity for good.

Most notable are the amendments to the Criminal Code, which seeks to make cetacean ownership, controlling, moving and breeding a cetacean a punishable offence, with such activities carrying potential prison and financial ramifications.

“We applaud Senator Moore for initiating this bill, as it reflects the growing public understanding that intelligent cetaceans have the right to exist freely in their natural habitat and to not be used for profit or any human benefit,” says Laura Bridgeman, Director of Sonar, a new cetacean rights organization that was one of the advisors on the bill.

While this is good news for currently wild cetaceans, the potential total ban includes a clause that absolves people who currently profit from cetacean ownership of any legal wrongdoing. Places like Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium would be able to keep their charges (which include one orca, several belugas and other dolphins), but not breed them or acquire new individuals ever again.

The bill represents an important step along humanity’s evolving understanding that these being should be completely beyond use of human beings, which no animal currently is. “In a way, this bill is an implicit acknowledgement that cetaceans are nonhuman persons: that they have dignity, not a price, just like we humans do,” says Bridgeman.

In 2013, India made the decision to ban cetacean captivity from within its borders and declared that cetaceans should be considered nonhuman persons. Earlier this month, Ontario banned orca captivity. The conditions could be ripe for Canada to take a major pro-cetacean, anti-captivity stance.