For a few hours on June 27th the field under the Atomium in Brussels will be the scene of an impressive protest. Five different animal rights groups will work together that day, to express their displeasure through visual figures like the word FREEDOM and a huge dolphin. Their message will be addressed to the governments of EU Member States that still allow exploitation of dolphinariums.
The European legislation prohibits the commercial use of marine mammals, but makes an exception for scientific or educational purposes. However, campaigners believe that the trapping and conditioning of dolphins affects their behaviour and suppresses their natural instincts, so that they can not contribute to educational purposes anymore. In the wild these animals roam hundreds of kilometres every day and live and hunt in complex close social and family relationships. They are taken away from their natural environment, ripped apart from their family and placed in chlorinated concrete tanks. The hunting instinct is reduced to begging for a dead fish thrown to them after they perform senseless tricks.
In a dolphinarium, the animals are not able to use their echolocation. This unique orientation and hunting system consists of emitting sonar, allowing them to determine the location, distance, shape and density of prey and objects. In a concrete tank their sonar is bounced against the walls like an echo that reverberates in their heads. This leads to serious confusion of the sensory apparatus. Therefore, several dolphinariums use antidepressants to keep the dolphins quiet and active for shows. The protesters believe that it is not possible to study the natural behaviour of dolphins in aquariums, since that behaviour is destroyed.
Europe also requires that the enclosures in zoos are as close as possible to the natural environment of the captive animal. However, recent scientific research has shown that it is impossible to mimic a living environment of the ocean. Nothing can beat the wind, waves, algae and live fish found in the ocean. Nothing can mimic the immense space, movement and pressure of the ocean depths.
Nothing can replace the Dolphins natural instinct to hunt as a team and the distance all marine mammals travel whilst migrating. The infrastructure of the Bruges Boudewijnpark (where four of the seven dolphins were born in the ocean) is totally inadequate to meet the needs of the animals. Their situation is even worse than those in neighbouring countries. Since the pool is indoors, the Dolphins never see daylight and they never breathe fresh air. This lack of essential necessary care is reflected in poor health and laborious reproduction. Since 2003, only one pregnancy has been successfully completed in the Boudewijnpark, and Origi a baby born in 2014 died after only a week. Origi is the 22nd dolphin that has died in Boudewijnpark.
10 European Member States (Austria, Cyprus, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Poland and Luxembourg) have already banned dolphinariums. These states find that keeping marine mammals in captivity is no longer ethical in this century.
The protest in Brussels was organised for the first time two years ago by Yvon Godefroid of Dauphins Libres and Annelies Mullens, a doctor in the endocrine medicine, assisted by La Dolphin Connection France. In 2014 both Yvon & Annelies were assisted by the animal rights organization BiteBack and La Dolphin Connection, 400 participants from nine different European countries joined them.
This year, with the cooperation of Bite Back, Sea Shepherd Belgium, Blue Shark Conservation, the Dutch Dolphin Motion and animal lover actor Pol Goossen they have the ambition for an even larger number. The initiators of the action welcome anyone with a heart for animals on Saturday, June 27th at 14:00 in the area under the Atomium in Brussels.
For more information about cetaceans in captivity:
A Fall From Freedom trailer:
A Fall From Freedom film (with French subtitles): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7kQYj2MgAY
Contacts Dutch press:
Bite Back Limburg
0474 / 52.73.61 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Media Responsible Sea Shepherd Belgium / Founder Blue Shark Conservation
0473 / 39.51.30 – email@example.com
Contacts French press:
0473 28 22 98 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dauphins Libres is fighting for an end to dolphinaria in Belgium and all over the world since 1995.
In 1988 Dauphins Libres organised the first demo for the closure of the dolphinarium in Antwerp (Zoo). The organisation investigated the living circumstances of the dolphins in the dolphinarium and published how many dolphins died there. In 1999 the dolphinarium was closed thanks to the efforts of Dauphins Libres and Ric O’Barry.
Dauphins Libres inquires also the living conditions of the dolphins in Boudewijn Seapark, Marineland, Parc Astérix and Planète Sauvage. Dauphins Libres publishes a succesfull website and is member of the French association « La Dolphin Connection”.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an independent organization with the aim of protecting the world’s oceans and marine life. Oceans are being emptied of fish species and these species are threatened with extinction. There are international treaties and agreements to protect nature and the oceans but the plunder continues unabated because no agency monitors compliance with the laws and treaties. Sea Shepherd carries out direct action to enforce the existing regulations.
Bite Back provides information to businesses and consumers and asks them to consume animal friendly products. In addition, they actively promote veganism, animal-free products, animal friendly clothing and entertainment where animals are not being exploited. Because animals have a value, irrespective of their possible usefulness to man.
Blue Shark Conservation is a Belgian unincorporated association dedicated to the protection of the oceans and its inhabitants, through the initiation of specific targeted projects. Depending on its mission Blue Shark often works with national and international non-profit organizations and NGOs, providing agencies with support services during their campaigns, for a sustainable use of marine ecosystem services. In addition, Blue Shark also provides information through publishing articles, giving lectures on the overfishing of sharks and donating photographic material about the underwater world.
Dolphin Motion actively works against the exploitation of cetaceans and was the coordinator of the actions and lawsuits around the struggle for Morgan the orca.
Text : Katrien Vandevelde. Media Responsible Sea Shepherd Belgium/Founder Blue Shark Conservation