Commentary

Historical victory in France against marine mammal captivity

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

United in our fight against cetaceans captivity, Sea Shepherd France and other French groups (Code Animal, La Dolphin Connection, One Voice, Réseau Cétacés) have welcomed the passage on Saturday May 6th of a law banning the reproduction and importation of orcas and other dolphins in France.

Commentary by Sea Shepherd France President Lamya Essemlali

This announcement came as a huge victory after we had actively fought against the first version of the law that was defended by other anti-captivity groups and by the industry of captivity itself. A first version that to our opinion would have installed captivity in France for several more decades. Indeed, the first version of the law proposed by the Minister of Ecology was a trick of the industry of captivity which, in exchange for accepting few adaptations (larger pools, zones of shadow, no night shows, the end of the use of chlorine…) was legitimating the very issue of having cetaceans contained in concrete pools for human amusement. The four law firms consulted by Sea Shepherd France on the issue were unanimous on the question: if the law had passed as such, it would have taken decades before we could have achieved the banning dolphinariums once and for all.

To oppose it, Sea Shepherd France and the groups that were sharing our no compromise line launched a call to our support base through our website, social media and e-newsletters, asking our followers to expressly vote NO to the public consultation launched by the Minister of Environment last February.

The message was a bit confusing as other anti-captivity groups were calling their followers to vote for the first version of the law but luckily enough of our voices prevailed and over 16,000 comments were posted on the Minister’s page of which over 95% registered against the passage of the law as such, calling for a complete ban on captivity instead.

Following such an enormous public mobilization, the minister first announced she would postpone the law and would call the NGOs again to try work in a more ambitious text.

But surprisingly and without informing anyone, on Saturday, the day before the French election of the new president, the Minister of Ecology Segolene Royal passed the law that we were demanding, a law that is truly putting an end to captivity in France. A law that makes no compromise, a requiem for dolphinariums. France has finally turned its back to this shameful heritage from the past. Marineland of Antibes in France is the largest dolphinarum in Europe. When Marineland falls the others will follow and Europe will be free of these jails for dolphins.

If the dolphinariums were happy with the first law, they are furious with the one we managed to obtain and they have already stated that they are considering attacking it in Court. If they do so, we’ll be there to defend it.

Pamela Anderson inside the Tilikum tank, a small room in a truck full of mirrors that reproduce what a dolphin feels like in captivity.

The days of captivity are numbered in France and it's greatly thanks to our support base. They massively said NO to a law that would have insidiously added an other obstacle to the freeing the dolphins in France.

What was achieved is a giant step forward for cetacean rights and freedom.

Over 30 cetaceans remain captive in France, including four orcas. Some of them are very young and the battle now will be to work on releasing them from their concrete cells.

There is now hope whereas their predecessors were given only one door for release – death.

We need rehabilitation sea-pens bays where they can enjoy their true nature, and possibly one day, a return to the wild ocean. We owe them that.

Header photo: Paul Watson and Pamela Anderson protesting marine mammal captivity with Sea Shepherd France at the Cannes Film Festival, May 2016.

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