As we grow to learn more about the natural world around us, humans must engage in the uncomfortable process of soul searching. Unfortunately, the history of humans and animals has long been one of cruel exploitation, environmental damage, and general indifference.
In light of this greater context, we are beginning to change the way we look at the animal world. One issue that has become more pressing over time is the treatment of dolphins and other marine life for entertainment at water parks across the world.
Audiences have long delighted at the visual spectacle of dolphins, killer whales, and more, during water shows and at parks like SeaWorld. However, a growing backlash has pointed out the exploitative and abusive practices in the industry. Documentaries such as Blackfish and the work of activist groups has shown that, far from being the chipper companions that they’ve been sold as, dolphins and other cetaceans are highly intelligent and empathetic creatures with a desire for freedom, independence, and a life free from “abuse-ment.”
The #EmptyTheTanks movement, which describes itself as being “focused on ending dolphin & whale captivity, while also promoting the health of our oceans,” has come one step closer to realizing their goals, with the support of New South Wales Minister Matt Kean. Kean’s amendment to the 1999 Biodiversity Conservation Act widens the law’s focus to not just wild animals, but those in captivity as well. The law now reads:
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“A person must not, in relation to an animal of the order Cetacea – (a) import the animal into New South Wales, or (b) cause or permit the animal under the control of the person to breed.” Cetaceans, a category that includes several different kinds of whales, narwhals, and dolphins, are considered especially intelligent and are frequently objects of captivity and abuse in the service of “dolphinariums” and other businesses.
Kean’s amendment also strengthens protections for scientific research of cetaceans. With New South Wales embracing the amendment, Queensland remains the last Australian state to permit the breeding and importation of dolphins for entertainment. Activists have turned their attention there in hopes of continuing their momentum.
Emma Hurst, MP for the Animal Justice Party in NSW, celebrated in a post on Facebook, exclaiming, “WE DID IT! 😁 No more dolphins will be born into an industry with backyard pools, or be forced to do circus-style tricks. With these regulations introduced by Minister Matt Kean MP, the abuse of dolphins in so-called entertainment is coming to an end in NSW.”
She continued her post, explaining how views have shifted over time: “The writing is on the wall – these animals were not born to perform. They do not exist for our entertainment. They deserve a life worth living, and NSW has recognised this with these new regulations.”
This change in opinion isn’t just reflected in politics — dolphinariums and other marine amusement parks have struggled in recent years with a drop in visitors as well. Public perception has shifted to be more empathetic towards not just cetaceans but a wide variety of animals. Thanks to the work of animal rights activists, this isn’t an issue that can be swept under the rug anymore. Check out Empty The Tanks at their official site to learn more and get involved in their important work!
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