Animals

Photo Credit: Dean Sewell / World Animal Protection

The Canadian government has set a precedent for protecting cetaceans with a recent bill enforcing animal welfare in the entertainment industry. It reflects the growing concern over animal cruelty and reducing environmental impact as a measure of good business. Hopefully the new law will serve as a paragon for other industries who currently eschew the virtues of investing in preservation for the future.

Ben Pearson is Senior Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection Australia, we asked him to examine the implications of Canada’s legal precendent to protect animal welfare in the entertainment industry, and the value of embracing these laws in other countries.

What Canada’s bill to protect cetaceans means for animal welfare legislation?

If you grew up in Australia, chances are that you’ve been to Sea World on the Gold Coast. And if you’ve been to Sea World, chances are that you’ve seen the dolphin show. For many families, watching a dolphin show has been part of the magic of school holidays. 

But there’s nothing magic about the cruelty to dolphins and other marine animals that happens at Sea World in the name of entertainment.

Sea World is a relic of history. It opened its doors in 1971 in an Australia very different from today. Colour TV, credit cards and McDonalds were yet to be introduced, smoking was commonplace and car seatbelts weren’t yet mandatory.

In the intervening years a lot has changed, including community attitudes to animal welfare.

Canada recently introduced groundbreaking new laws to ban the trade, breeding and display of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) for entertainment. The passing of Bill S-203 will amend the Criminal Code, with fines up to $200,000 for breaking the law. This is a significant move, reflecting the immense suffering whales, dolphins and porpoises experience when kept in captivity for entertainment. 

It is also a huge win for animal lovers, who have been campaigning for the legislation for years. Jurisdictions around the world are responding to the science by passing laws to ban or significantly restrict the captive display of marine mammals including Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, UK, and now Canada.

However, Bill S-203 does make an exception for animals currently captive and those needing care or rehabilitation. This is just one example of the complexity surrounding animal welfare legislation. For instance, there are no national laws on animal welfare in Australia – the states and territories are responsible for the legislation in their own jurisdiction. This means there’s no uniformity and some states are behind others. 

The Canadian government acknowledged that a shift in public perception about animal captivity played a factor in the new law. This change in attitudes has come from an increased scientific understanding of marine mammals, helping to educate the public about the issues surrounding keeping them in captivity. 

World Animal Protection’s recent report, Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity, jointly published with the Animal Welfare Institute, delved into the scientific and ethical arguments for banning marine mammal captivity. These kinds of studies have led to the acceptability of keeping animals in captivity for entertainment to decline. 

Back in 1986, Former NSW Premier Bob Carr introduced the Marine Mammals Protection Bill to protect marine mammals, while he was the environment and planning minister. Earlier this year, over 30 years after the legislation passed, the last captive dolphin venue in NSW, the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park in Coffs Harbour, announced it will end its dolphin breeding program.

This leaves Sea World on the Gold Coast as the only venue in Australia that still breeds dolphins in captivity. There are currently 30+ dolphins at Sea World, most of which were born and bred there. This is out of step with community attitudes, and global trends away from keeping dolphin’s captive for entertainment. 

The end of captive dolphin breeding in NSW shows that change is possible and signals a shift in public perception in Australia. The introduction of nationwide laws in Canada is evidence that the voices of the people are being heard by governments. Globally, we have seen a greater awareness of animal welfare issues, but we need to keep speaking out to create lasting change. 

World Animal Protection is now calling on the Queensland Government to ban breeding at Sea World and begin work on a sea sanctuary for the dolphins who cannot be released into the wild. We’re asking the public to act now by signing the petition on our website

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Great Bear Rainforest is a Spirit Bear Entertainment film presented by Seaspan and directed by Ian McAllister (PacificWild.org), produced by Jeff Turner and executive produced by Kyle Washington and Byron Horner. Distributed by MacGillivray Freeman Films.

A Magical Environment. Unchanged for 10,000 years…

Journey to a land of grizzlies, coastal wolves, sea otters and the all-white spirit bear — the rarest bear on earth — in the film Great Bear RainforestHidden from the outside world, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the wildest places left on earth. Found on Canada’s remote Pacific coast, it is the last intact temperate rainforest in the world—a place protected by the region’s indigenous people for millennia. Now, for the first time ever, experience this magical world in IMAX and giant screen theatres, and discover the land of the spirit bear.

What is a Spirit Bear?

The spirit bear is a subspecies of the North American black bear that has white fur due to a rare genetic trait. Spirit bears are only found in the Great Bear Rainforest. No one knows exactly how many spirit bears there are, but estimates range from 50 to 100. They truly are the rarest bears on earth!

Guardians of the Forest

Since the last Ice Age, First Nations people have lived among the bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. Their living history is inseparably connected to the vibrancy of the rainforest, which they have protected for thousands of years. Today, indigenous youth are coming together and taking responsibility for this place they call home. Learn more about their work in Great Bear Rainforest.

For Educators

Invite your students to have a learning experience they won’t forget! Book a field trip to see Great Bear Rainforest and become immersed in the biology, geography, environmental sciences and other key school curriculum. Download the Educator Guide for hands-on activities aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core ELA and Social Studies. Schedule your field trip now by contacting your local IMAX theatre for information about special group programs.

Filming in the Rainforest

Filming in the remote Great Bear Rainforest presented a unique set of challenges for filmmakers Ian McAllister and Jeff Turner. Over the three years it took to make this film, the crew faced everything from extreme weather, unpredictable wildlife, and the daily rigors of being in a rugged environment far removed from modern conveniences. But this also pushed the filmmakers into fresh creative territory where every shot was carefully planned out and new filmmaking techniques were deployed. Learn more in this interview with director Ian McAllister, who has worked and lived in the rainforest for 30 years. Read the Interview with Ian.

Learn more

To learn more about the Great Bear Rainforest and how you can help protect the spirit bears and their ancient forest home, visit PacificWild.org.  Each of us can make a difference in helping preserve this unique environment, one of the last truly wild places on earth.

In this video you can hear from Fellows with the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) first-hand on what conservation photography means to them and why they devote their lives to this effort. They explain the behind-the-scenes work that goes into capturing compelling images.

iLCP supports visual storytellers in a shared mission of furthering environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography and filmmaking.

iLCP is best known for its Conservation Photography Expeditions that connect local, national or international organizations, our Conservation Partners, with one or more of their Fellows. The objective of these intensive documentary efforts is to produce a body of images that fully captures the threats and opportunities faced by communities whose physical environments, fauna, flora, and/or cultural traditions are in peril from human activity. With their deep and varied skill sets in all areas of science and years of experience working in the field, iLCP Fellow Photographers do far more than simply take pretty pictures. Rather, they capture visual narratives that give compelling evidence of the need to protect these special places. Through their extensive network of media, conservation, and policy contacts, iLCP help amplify our Partners’ existing advocacy campaigns to bring about positive conservation outcomes.

Learn more about iLCP @ conservationphotographers.org

Tribute to Big Cat Hero: Alan Rabinowitz

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Global Tiger Day: Every Tiger Counts

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Why are Panthera paying such close attention to 197F, the sole wild tiger in a massive wildlife sanctuary in Southeast Asia? Because the science shows that all the elements needed for a tiger recovery in that part of the region are there: plenty of space, prey, and protection. 197F is the key to unlocking that […]

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