Poll: More Canadians support ban on keeping whales, dolphins in captivity

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A new poll from the Angus Reid Institute finds that Canadians are more than twice as likely to support a ban on keeping whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) in captivity than to be in favour of the practice.

There are only two facilities in Canada that house cetaceans — Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario and the Vancouver Aquarium.

In B.C., 40 per cent say keeping cetaceans in captivity should be banned and 35 per cent say it should be allowed.

The Vancouver Aquarium announced in January that it would end its captive cetacean program and focus on its Ocean Wise research program instead. The aquarium currently houses one Pacific white-sided dolphin.

In Ontario, 54 per cent are in favour of a ban on keeping cetaceans in captivity compared to 15 per cent that believe it should be allowed. Marineland houses over 50 cetaceans but has faced criticism from former staff in the past regarding their treatment.

The facility faced 11 animal cruelty charges by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 2016 related to treatment of its land animals but the Crown dropped the charges in 2017, citing no reasonable chance of conviction.

Those that had visited an aquarium in the past six months were more likely to say that cetaceans should be allowed to remain in captivity compared to residents that had visited an aquarium more than five years ago.

The poll also found that over half of Canadians say support for keeping animals in captivity depends on the type of species, the animal’s intelligence level and whether or not they are endangered. That’s compared to 17 per cent that believe captivity is always wrong and 22 per cent that agree captivity is always acceptable if the animal isn’t being harmed.

The Angus Reid Institute says almost all of the poll respondents appreciated the role facilities play in rehabilitation and wildlife conservation.

Over half disagree that they can learn the same things from TV that they could experience at a zoo.

A bill introduced in 2015 that would criminalize keeping cetaceans in captivity in Canada is before the Senate. Bill S-203 includes a grandfather clause for animals already in captivity and allows for research and rescuing animals in distress.

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Melissa is a reporter at Vancouver Is Awesome and has worked primarily in radio and online media. She grew up in Ontario, went to school in Halifax and worked in Northern B.C. before moving to Vancouver. If you've got a story to share email: melissa@vancouverisawesome.com