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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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Technology has accelerated the pace of online innovation changing how we communicate and engage audiences. This was keenly expressed in the topics explored at Cannes Lions last month, with AI and neuroscience highlighted as strategies for the future of creative communications. From behaviour-driven marketing to interactive media—the emphasis is on integrating algorythms and encouraging corporate and community sectors to adopt interactive technologies that speak to our digital culture.

Visual media is still a powerful language for generating impact and emotive engagement―but what we want to see, and how we use it, is changing. In this series of conversations, BEJournal looks at creative communications in the age of AI. Our first interview is with Dr Rebecca Swift, Director of Creative Planning for Getty Images. Her conversation with Inga Yandell explores imagery and its influence on culture, creating visually relevant narratives, and the responsibility of media to represent diversity, equality, and authenticity.

Dr Rebecca Swift, Direct of Creative Planning for Getty Images at Cannes Festival 2019. © Anthony Jones / Getty Images
CANNES, FRANCE – JUNE 20: A general view of the Time to Step Up: Smashing Beauty Stereotypes Talk at the Palais des Festivals on June 20, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Antony Jones/Getty Images)

How is Getty Images engaging new generations through creative collaborations and innovative storytelling models?

The Gen Z audience has a greater desire for transparency in imagery. As ‘digital natives’, this demographic has grown up with the internet and as a result are much savvier to marketing than previous generations. Getty Images recognises and understands this generation’s desire for authenticity, and is a passionate champion for the realistic representation of all through imagery and is proud to be leading the visual industry in the creation and promotion of powerful, relevant imagery which celebrates diversity and authenticity in every area of life.

All the projects we are working on internally are tackling different aspects of the same need for realistic representation. An example of this would be the decision we made as a company in October of 2017 to stop accepting creative images depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner — this was a first in the industry. Since then we are putting our energy into who is both in front of and behind the camera- whether that is someone who is a professional creator or someone who hasn’t had their break in the industry yet.

Image Credit: Natalie McComas / #ShowUs Getty Images
Image Credit: Natalie McComas / #ShowUs Getty Images

What percentage of imagery reflects gender equality?

As today’s creative industries are constantly changing and evolving, we aren’t able to put an exact percentage on gender equality in imagery. We are seeing more women as business leaders in advertising imagery, we are seeing more men as caregivers but it is not yet mainstream and when you analyse it across ethnicity, lifestyle, age etc, more work is needed.

What I can say for certain is that there is more imagery of women than men BUT because the commercial industry has been dominated by men, a very narrow definition of women dominates. As we have delved deeper into gender representation as a company, we have found that rather than percentages, it is the less quantifiable — the depiction of gender — that needs more attention. Both men and women are stereotyped and this is what needs to be adjusted.

How can we elevate the presence and impact of women in visual culture?

In this digital age, imagery as a communication tool is more important than ever before. The more we can get images of diverse women in the media landscape, the more quickly these concepts become normalized. And it’s not just about who is in front of the camera — the power of the female gaze behind the camera is just as vital to positive change. While we’re seeing changes in the way women are visually represented in popular culture, the closer we get to gender equality behind the lens, the more real these representations will become.

Image Credit: Natalie McComas / #ShowUs Getty Images
Image Credit: Natalie McComas / #ShowUs Getty Images

Where are you witnessing this shift and awareness?

In 2012 we began noticing the beginnings of what turned out to be a sea change in the ways women and girls were being talked about and portrayed in media. We noticed this trend was reflected in our own image sales. Our top selling image of a woman in 2007 showed a woman who looked like a perfect model, naked, covered only by a sheet, and lying in bed without very much to do. Five years later, our top selling image of a woman looked completely different. She was much more relatable, she was on a train looking out of the window at the horizon, going on a journey. And, most significantly, she was wearing clothes!

Finance brands for example have been very careful to bring diversity into their imagery in their ATL communication but when you start to analyse the more prevalent digital communications across all sectors, it starts to look less impressive.

Why is this representation vital to responsible branding?

We believe that anyone who has a role in creating, distributing and selecting imagery at any level and in any industry has the ability — and responsibility — to better represent the diverse audiences they are speaking to. At a time when imagery is the most widely spoken global language in broadcasting and branding, it has never been more important to produce and promote a visual language that is progressive and inclusive and to support diverse voices in doing so.

Image Credit: Natalie McComas / #ShowUs Getty Images
Image Credit: Natalie McComas / #ShowUs Getty Images

What is the value of showcasing women creatives in shaping the future of storytelling?

As much as we all like to think we are open-minded and objective, we are affected by unconscious biases that stem from our experiences. There are certain nuances and visual cues that some people are blind to if they haven’t experienced it themselves. Female creatives are needed in order to accurately portray the female experience — ultimately raising the standard of storytelling in visual culture at large.

Follow #BEJournal and @EarthEndeavours for more conversations from this series. And #ShowUs to learn more about Getty Images inclusive campaign for authentic and relevant media.

Our world is made up of more water than land, much of which is yet to be explored and its secrets revealed. At its depths lie a sense of beauty and calm witnessed by few. This rich stillness is found beyond human reach, and artfully distilled in the images of award-winning underwater photographer, Christian Vizl in his new book, Silent Kingdom: A World Beneath the Waves (Earth Aware Editions, 2019, $50.00).

Photographer Christian Vizl explores a world beneath the waves in Silent Kingdom.

The photos are purposefuly devoid of color, remnicient of a Japanese ink painting, reflecting dappled light and dulcet tones. Seen in black-and-white, water imparts a story, and its magic is captivating.

Through a range of undersea scenes and moods—from the ferocity of sharks to the playful dance of dolphins—Vizl turns aquatic creatures and marine seascapes into visions of sublime grace and beauty suspended in time and space. With each turn of the page, venture deeper into the one realm in which humans do not reign and discover an unforgettable world that few have ever seen.

Christian’s minimalist style evokes a deep reverence for nature. © Christian Vizil

Though the ocean covers over 70 percent of planet Earth, over 80 percent of that vast underwater wilderness remains unexplored. As the impact of human activity reaches these once-untouched regions, it is more important than ever to acknowledge both the preciousness of our seas and the necessity of protecting one of Earth’s last truly wild frontiers. Silent Kingdom is an ode to the beauty of the ocean and the magnificent creatures that inhabit it as well as a call to action to preserve our planet’s fragile underwater world.


Christian Vizl was born in Mexico City and has been a photographer for three decades. He has won dozens of professional photography awards, including Wildlife Photographer of the Year and International Photographer of the Year, and his images have been published in numerous publications, including National Geographic and Ocean Geographic.

Dr. Sylvia A. Earle is president and chairman of Mission Blue. She has been called “Her Deepness” by the New Yorker and the New York Times, named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress, and chosen as Time magazine’s first “hero for the planet.” She is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer.

Earth Aware Editions is committed to broadening awareness and understanding the unique challenges of our time through powerful and provocative publications. From climate change and conservation to the accelerating loss of diversity in our planet’s species and cultures, the continued erosion of our biosphere and ethnosphere cannot be ignored.

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