The assumption that beluga whales are happy and healthy in captivity is not supported by facts. This is comparable to saying that Nelson Mandela survived 27 years in prison and became the leader of his country, so one can assume his South African jail must have been a healthy environment. (http://www.orcanetwork.org/nathist/releasability/survival.html)
Right Honorable Mr. Stephen Harper and Associates:
I was surprised to read that you are funding the Vancouver Aquarium Restructuring Plan and am asking you to reconsider your illogical offer of $25 million in government financial aid to be spent on "behind the scenes" equipment like new mechanical water treatment systems, emergency power backup and energy efficient heating. In your address you stated that several improvements will be visible to the public, including a new entrance and a bigger pool for dolphins and beluga whales.
Help me understand Prime Minister Harper, just last month Green Party Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon brought forward a motion to the Vancouver park board and suggested a plebiscite on the matter of keeping cetaceans such as whales and dolphins in captivity. The referendum would ask its community if it is in favor of phasing out cetacean exhibits and prohibiting future confinement of marine mammals on land leased by the Vancouver park board. The commissioner recommended that the vote take place during the 2011 civic election. Although the Vancouver park board voted against MacKinnon's plebiscite proposal, the recent death of the aquarium's one-year old beluga named Nala, aroused the question about the intellect and ethics behind keeping captive dolphins and whales for public display and corporate gain.
I request that as an alternative to investing in the restructuring of an industry that supports animal cruelty, captivity and slavery, provide the funds for a reintegration plan that will put the cetaceans residing at Vancouver Aquarium back into the ocean, their home. Captivity is a death sentence for belugas and dolphins, Mr. Harper. Over 4000 marine mammals have died in captivity in the last three decades. People rationalize that marine parks provide education for our children and conservation for animals but there is no data that this is factual. Marine parks have shown no more concern in conserving animals' natural habitats than they have in educating spectators. If truth be told, studying animals in captivity is far from how they act in their natural habitat. Pacing, self-mutilation, rocking back and forth, repetitive regurgitation and re-eating of food, bar-biting, strange maternal conduct and aggression are known (but not natural) behaviors seen as a result of confinement. In reality, the theme park industry has aggressively lobbied to keep orcas and dolphins outside the authority of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in order to continue with future captures. In fact, marine parks fervently oppose any form of release efforts.
The capture of mammals is a violent process. Pods of orcas and dolphins are chased using explosives, harpoons, planes, and boats until they collapse from exhaustion. Once fatigued, pods are surrounded with nets. Then, capture teams seek out the attractive ones; they are removed never to see the ocean or their families again. Like people, orcas and dolphins are extremely family oriented. To lose a member of their family can cause such stress and depression, that some members commit suicide. Many die from shock or trauma. Forcing orcas, whales and dolphins to live out the remainder of their days in a tank is like raising a child, deaf and blind in a closet, allowing them out for an hour per day to perform for human amusement.
Even the Canadian Council on Animal Care opposes captivity of cetaceans because their needs cannot be suitably met in an aquarium and yet Mr. Harper you offer the Vancouver Aquarium 25 million dollars during a time where environmental issues such as this are at the forefront of most political round table discussions. Luckily for marine mammals, increased public awareness about animal captivity and cruelty is making people uncomfortable at theme parks. Citizens are speaking up and saying we want dolphins and whales where they belong, in the ocean. In the wild orcas stay with their families (pods) for their whole lives but life spans in captivity are gravely reduced. Orcas travel an average of 75-100 miles per day and eat 100-300 pounds of food daily. In captivity, no tank can compare to the ocean. Mammals must depend entirely on their owners for food. Cetaceans develop psychoses in captivity, commit suicide from frustration and lack of stimuli, attack and kill their trainers and viewers.
I respectfully urge you to please reconsider your financial backing of captivity and cruelty. Reintegrate the mammals of Vancouver Aquarium back into the ocean. Included is a plan that is presently in place for Lolita, the orca in captivity in Florida, it is an extensive draft proposal that shows that reintegration of ocean mammals from captivity is a viable option.
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