Victory! Ontario Bans Orca Captivity

In a major victory for animals, this week lawmakers in Ontario passed landmark legislation that bans keeping orcas in captivity and will bring improvements to living conditions for other captive marine mammals.

Under the new law, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the acquisition and breeding of orcas is banned effective immediately, leaving violators facing potential fines of up to $60,000 and the possibility of two years in prison.

It also makes Ontario – which has more zoos and aquariums than any other province – the first province in Canada to set specific standards of care for marine mammals.

While the specific details of the new standards of care for marine mammals are still being worked out, they are expected to improve a number of aspects from sizes of enclosures and social groupings to updating regulations on how animals are handled and displayed. Additionally, the new law will require setting up independent Animal Welfare Committees at every facility. It will also require a marine mammal veterinarian be present to ensure proper care and oversight.

“Our government is committed to making sure marine mammals, and all animals in Ontario, are protected and receive the best possible treatment and care. Prohibiting the acquisition and breeding of orcas as we move forward on enhancing our standards of care to be among the best in the world is something Ontarians expect and these animals deserve. These amendments build on our government’s ongoing efforts to have the strongest animal protection laws in Canada,” said Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Unfortunately, it also comes with the failure to do anything about Kiska, Canada’s only captive orca who was taken from the wild in the 1970s and is now being kept alone at Marineland in Niagara Falls.

The new law won’t bring her justice, but it will at least ensure that no others of her kind suffer a similar fate and animal advocates hope this move is the beginning of the end of keeping orcas in captivity around the world.

At a recent Tedx Talk “Let’s Throw Shamu a Retirement Party!” Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientists with the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), calls for phasing out exhibits and retiring orcas to sea pens. She also urges consumers to consider the price being paid by these intelligent beings when people choose to visit marine parks that hold them captive.

Rose explains some of the many things we’ve learned about the complex family structures and social ties in orca communities, along with some of the disturbing things that happen to them — which range from incest to aggression towards each other and us – when we deny them their needs and destroy their families.

According to AWI, there are currently 56 orcas being kept in captivity around the world and while we can’t give them back what we’ve taken, we can at least work for a future where we respect and protect their place in the wild and ensure no more suffer the fate of their captive counterparts.

“We all have family,” says Rose. “How can it be morally right for us to do to others, even when those others aren’t human, something we would consider devastating if it happened to us? That comparison isn’t anthropomorphism. It’s empathy.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock

340 comments

Veronica B.
Veronica Babout a year ago

Great news!!!

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Julia Cabrera-Woscek

it is so fake to think that these creatures would live in a tank all their lives. What a mentality.

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Jennifer Grant
Jennifer Alvarez1 years ago

Thank you for sharing this fantastic news.

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Jennifer Grant
Jennifer Alvarez1 years ago

Thank your for sharing this fantastic news.

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Claudine Martin

so proud!!!

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Sen Heijkamp
Sayenne H1 years ago

Good news, thankss

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 1 years ago

Success! :)

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Loesje vB
Loesje Najoan1 years ago

Good news! Thank you for sharing.

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