'Free Willy' Bill Makes It Illegal To Have Whales In Captivity

July 10th, 2019

Animal rights activists in Canada are celebrating a huge win this month after a bill to put an end to keeping dolphins and whales in captivity was recently passed just a couple of weeks ago.

The bill, formally known as Bill S-203, was first introduced to Canadian legislation four years ago in 2015. Referred to as the “Ending Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act”, the legislation aims to make it totally illegal to hold whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity for breeding or entertainment purposes, and was voted in by the House of Commons on Monday, June 10th.

The win for the new progressive animal rights legislation was a historic one, without question.

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PxHere Source: PxHere

Once put into effect, the new legislation will put a ban on both the importation and exportation of porpoises, dolphins, and whales of any kind. In addition, the ban will also include captive breeding programs and keeping the animals either as pets or as forced entertainment such as in some ocean-themed parks and aquariums.

If you’re wondering just how serious this new bill will be, you should know that, at least for Canadians, it could be life-changing.

For anyone who willingly breaks the new law, they will be slammed with up to $150,000 in fines, USD.

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Where Traveler Source: Where Traveler

According to an article released earlier this month by CNN, the recently passed legislation is informally known by Canada’s countrymen as the “Free Willy” Bill.

The bill has been so endearingly named in reference to the 1993 Warner Bros. classic movie by the same name, which depicts a beautiful relationship unfolding between an angry teenage boy and a captive orca. In an act of defiance towards the sea-theme park that was keeping “Willy” captive, the boy frees the whale and helps him jump the rock barrier to get back home to the ocean.

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Although it will be illegal to keep whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity after the new law has taken effect, it doesn’t mean that there will no longer be any left in captivity in Canada.

CNN notes that, as one would expect, the new legislation comes with a few exceptions. Namely, sea creatures of this kind can still be kept from the wild if they are going through rehabilitation, are rescued from a life-endangering situation, are in need of human aid and intervention, or if they are licensed for scientific research.

In addition, any of these animals that existed in captivity prior to the new bill are considered as being “grandfathered” in.

This means that captors do not have to relinquish them or set them free, allowing theme parks the means to stay open while they retool their businesses to accommodate the new ban with one important stipulation; no breeding!

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Various Canada-based animal rights advocacy groups were overjoyed at the long-overdue passage of the new legislation and gave an outpouring of praise on social media to the House of Commons for the wise use of their voting power.

Canada’s Green Party took to Twitter to celebrate with a statement:

“These intelligent, social mammals will now get to live where they belong — in the ocean.”

The Green Party wasn’t the only organization that had something to say about the passing of Bill S-203. The country’s collective of SPCA’s and humane societies under the organization Humane Canada also chimed in on Twitter to celebrate the good news:

“Nothing fantastic ever happens in a hurry. But today we celebrate that we have ended the captivity and breeding of whales and dolphins. This is news to splash a fin at”

What Canada has done with the passage of this bill is quite progressive when compared to how the United States has handled the thousands of letters from concerned citizens demanding a similar ban to be put in place, particularly regarding SeaWorld.

With the release of the eye-opening documentary, Blackfish, in 2013, viewers got a close look at the inhumane lifestyle mapped out for whales and dolphins in captivity. The film resulted in thousands of people concluding that Tilikum, one captive whale, was involved in the deaths of three people due to the mental effect his environment had on him.

Living conditions such as cramped cages, forced proximity to different whales, and the harsh demands of performance training all influence these majestic animals’ behavior.

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Flickr/tiffany terry Source: Flickr/tiffany terry

Only after experiencing the backlash of exposure from the film did SeaWorld begin to yield.

In 2016, three years after the documentary premiered, the park announced the termination of its captive breeding program, promising that the only Orcas to come into their care from now on will strictly be rescues that cannot survive on their own in the open ocean. To date, the world-renowned sea park only has 20 Orcas total remaining in all of their parks.

While ocean-themed parks in the United States, like SeaWorld, have recently begun to decommission certain entertainment acts involving whales such as kissing, posing, and dancing, Canada has pushed the bar that much higher by moving to ban keeping the sea animals in captivity altogether.

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Source: WKBW TV | Buffalo, NY