What would whales want? Consider animal welfare when it comes to captivity

Re:  Letter to the editor Aug. 5; “Protesters are hard to fathom.”

All animals deserve respect whether domestic or wild. Recently, we have been witness to two different examples of animal welfare brought into public focus – the horrible abuse suffered by dairy cows on a Chilliwack farm and the debate over the Vancouver Aquarium’s plans to expand its captive beluga program.

No caring person would condone malicious abuse such as was exposed on the farm, however, it is obvious by the broad spectrum of opinions expressed regarding the expansion of the whale program at the aquarium that we are much less sure whether captivity itself represents abuse.

I’ve lived my whole life in the Lower Mainland and visited the aquarium many times as a child and as a parent. Although I understand the great interest we have in viewing these huge sea creatures up close, I’ve come to the conclusion from listening to the debate that our reasons are selfish.

Comments I’ve heard repeatedly are: We need to be able to see the whales up close in order to appreciate them; my kids had a sleepover with the whales and they loved it; the aquarium is one of our most successful tourist attractions; we need the whale exhibit because it’s educational; and even, I want to be able to take out-of-town guests there so that they can see these whales.

None of these reasons can justify a life of captivity for a huge animal that has evolved to live in the ocean, free and wild, not confined to a cement tank, no matter how large humans can build it.

While I am very much in favour of supporting the Vancouver Aquarium as a rescue, rehabilitation and conservation facility, I do not believe that the continued breeding and trading between aquariums of these animals, as is the reality, should be condoned.

Let’s put ourselves in the whales’ position and then consider that if we really care about these animals, it is them we should be defending and not the aquarium or our personal desires.


Jacqueline Hohmann, Surrey

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