Marineland whistleblower hopes ban on whales in captivity sparks global movement
The man who blew the whistle on alleged animal abuses at Marineland hopes the federal government’s new legislation aimed at banning whales in captivity is a “precedent-setting” move that spreads globally.
On Monday, the federal government passed a bill which would phase out the practice of housing cetaceans -- such as whales, dolphins and porpoises -- at aquariums and theme parks, although those currently living in a facility will be allowed to stay. The bill now only needs royal assent to become law.
Philip Demers, a former senior trainer at Marineland who blew the whistle on the theme park in 2012, called the bill a “big victory.”
“This is a long time coming and I’m very much enjoying it,” he told CTV News Channel. “The holding of whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity is inherently abusive.”
Demers, who is currently involved in a legal battle with Marineland, said he hopes Canada’s law sparks movement on the issue in other nations.
“I think the world is watching,” he said. “I think the world is celebrating and I think this is precedent-setting and I think -- in terms of the best interests of the animals -- the future is very bright.”
Currently, there are just two facilities in Canada with cetaceans in captivity. The Vancouver Aquarium has a single dolphin left after the city announced in 2017 it would no longer house whales there.
Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont., on the other hand, recently told the Canadian government it currently has 50 belugas at its facility and several are pregnant. There are plans for seven of the belugas to be sent to aquariums in Spain and the United States, however.
Demers said he voiced his concerns with how the cetaceans were being housed at Marineland years ago and when his complaints were ignored, he quit.
“It didn’t take very long before I was deemed a problem employee because of the fact that I was taking the position that the animals needed more,” he said. “Marineland was not only reluctant in addressing much of the issues, they were defiant.”
Marineland was not charged with any offence stemming from Demers’ and several other former employees’ accusations in 2012, but the Ontario SPCA did issue several orders.
In a statement to The Canadian Press, Marineland said it will comply with the bill and added employees treat the animals well.
"Marineland Canada continues to be a facility where children can learn about and be inspired by cetaceans without invading their natural habitats or disturbing cetacean populations that live in the ocean," it said Monday. "We're proud of our work, and our contribution to research, education, and conservation."
With files from The Canadian Press