In May 2017, we were delighted by the decree voted by both ministries of Environment and Agriculture to improve the captivity conditions of cetaceans and forbid the reproduction of orcas and dolphins in France. This latter would cause the disappearance of delphiniums on French territory.
A decree cancelled for a procedural defect
The French delphiniums went to the French Council of State to invalidate this decision.
This January 29th, the French Council of State just cancelled the decree considered as “in an irregular procedure”. Indeed, the bill as adopted on May 3rd, 2017 is not the one that was consulted with the National Council for nature protection, the Higher Council for Prevention of Technological Risks as well as the public. This version was modified at the last minute by Minister Segolene Royal without any new consult.
The first version stipulated only the interdiction of orcas’ reproduction and controls of dolphins’ reproductions while the bill as adopted on May 3rd included also dolphins in the reproduction prohibition. Which leads to the total disappearance of delphiniums in a long-term perspective.
Therefore, the State Council considers that:
Considering the importance and extend of the modifications to the project submitted to the public eyes, it judges that the modifications to the decree misrepresent the project submitted to the public eye.
A new consultation is now required. The State Council concludes that the decree was adopted with a procedural irregularity and cancels it in consequences.
Why keep fighting for the closing of delphiniums?
France currently has 4 delphiniums (Marine Land in Antibes, Parc Astérix, Planète sauvage and Moorea in French Polynesia) with around thirty cetaceans (orcas and dolphins). These animals are exposed to the public in shows, photoshoots, delphinotherapy or swimming sessions under the pretext of raising awareness and conservation.
Captures are synonyms of massacres
This industry is responsible for the death of hundreds of cetaceans in Japan every year. In fact, the reproduction of captive cetaceans is difficult and cannot fulfill the global delphiniums request. That’s why most captive cetaceans still come from wild capture.
The documentary The Cove directed by Richard O’Barry in 2010 reveals the hidden face of the delphinium industry by unveiling the existence of this massacre. According to the cetabase, between 2000 and 2013 17,686 cetaceans were killed and 1,406 captured for delphiniums in Taiji. Since September 2017, 355 cetaceans were killed and 64 captured. The season is not over yet and usually continues until March.
See our article: Japan Dolphin Day: Slaughter of Japanese Dolphins
Orcas come from roping hunting in Russian seas or Icelandic waters.
Captivity and exploitation
Dolphin and orca are migratory species that can travel tens of kilometers per day and dive hundreds of meters deep. No pool will ever be able to imitate the depth and pressure of oceans.
It is impossible to reproduce the social structure such as they are in their wild state: they live in tribes organized in families; each one has its own dialect and culture. Familial relationships and friendship are very developed by these mammals. In captivity, animals are arbitrarily grouped which causes stress and violent behaviors between them and sometimes against trainers especially for orcas.
The documentary Blackfish directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite in 2013 retraces the story of orca Tilikum and the disastrous consequences of captivity on the animal. Tilikum is responsible for the death of three persons including its trainer.
Concrete or glass walls, chlorine saturated waters and antibiotics or the show routine, none of them were satisfying to the physiologic or social needs of cetaceans.
The captivity has had negative consequences on their health: ulcers, pulmonary infections, sunburns, encephalitis, and so on.
The study called The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity directed in 2009 by the Humane Society of the United States and the World Society for the Protection of Animals shows that there are many more deaths in captivity than in the wilderness.
Intelligent and sensitive animals
And yet, the intelligence and sensitivity of cetaceans do not need to be demonstrated. Some researchers consider them as being the more intelligent mammals after Humans.
In the 1970s, the researcher Lou Hermann proved that dolphins were capable to understand two artificial languages while the cognitive psychology specialist Diana Reiss proved that bigger dolphins were able to recognize themselves in a mirror and use it to observe and inspect their bodies.
Dolphins have self-awareness but are also conscious of others. This skill is only known from humans and great apes for the moment.
The zoologist Lori Marino witness of this experience conducted researches and concluded that dolphins have a more complex neocortex meaning they would have very developed cognitive skills and especially the one of self-awareness, problem resolution, personality and emotions.
Since then, Lori Marino is fighting to close delphiniums et to stop the researches led on captive dolphins and encourages the study of wild cetaceans. The observation on cetaceans in their natural environment can prove once again their intelligence. They can teach their hunting techniques to their descendant but also to cooperate and establish elaborated strategies to block schools of fish. They are very resourceful. Dolphins in Australia use sponges to protect their muzzle when they look for food in the marine soil.
Finally, dolphins have a sophisticated language. Researches from Vladimir Markov on wild dolphins captured for experiments have shown that their language has syntactic structures close to our language. They have some sort of alphabet composed of 51 pulsed sounds and 9 whistles similarly to our consonants and vowels. He concludes that
« Such a complex level seems to be unique and dolphins’ communication system seems to have no equivalent in any other existing animal species”
Studies showing the intelligence of dolphins and cetaceans in general are quite numerous. The website Free Dolphin (Dauphins libres) has complete documentation full of details and accuracy especially on dolphins language here and their intelligence here.
Petition: NO to the decree cancellation forbidding dolphins reproduction in captivity!
In response to the cancellation of the decree, the French association C’est assez and One Voice each published a petition to not give up on this project and establish with the new minister of Ecology Nicolas Hulot, a new decree compliant and with the same actions.
Several countries in the world have already forbidden the captivity of cetaceans and/or their exhibition in delphiniums: Cyprus, Costa Rica, Chile, Croatia, India, Slovenia and Hungary. Others have never had any or not anymore: UK, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic. We hope that France will soon join this list so much so that minister Nicolas Hulot has declared on April 20th, 2017 on Twitter that “Our civilization should not tolerate dolphins’ captivity. It is time to end it with delphiniums”.
To participate in the petitions, click here.