In 2013 Village Roadshow, the parent company of Sea World, struck a deal to manage a marine park in China called Hainan Ocean Paradise.
Australia for Dolphins’ CEO Sarah Lucas spoke with Sea World Australia’s marine sciences director Trevor Long, who confirmed he “couldn’t rule out” wild-caught dolphins and even beluga whales being confined and displayed at the park.
This sets a worrying precedent. It may be illegal to capture dolphins from the wild in Australia, but animal cruelty is simply wrong – no matter where in the world it takes place.
Since the release of Blackfish in 2013, SeaWorld U.S. has experienced an 84% drop in profits. This bad PR has undoubtedly affected Sea World Australia as well. Instead of addressing the animal welfare issues that generated the negative publicity in the first place, Sea World Australia is simply attempting to take its business model overseas, where it will attract less scrutiny. And it’s exporting animal cruelty right along with it.
While demand for marine parks may be declining in Australia and the U.S., captive animals are an ever-increasing attraction in China. Chinese marine parks fall through legislative oversight as they are not considered ‘zoos’, and regulation is left to the Ministry of Agriculture. This is an enormous obstacle for local animal welfare groups, with more than 25 new marine parks established since 2000. This surge in popularity has made China a dominant importer of beluga whales from Russia, and of dolphins captured in the horrific annual dolphin hunts in Taiji.
The violent dolphin and whale hunting ‘industry’ only exists because of demand, and Sea World, along with Village Roadshow, is set to increase that demand – unless we can convince them to change their mind.
The new marine park on Hainan Island, which Sea World will be managing, is expected to open in 2016. Help make sure it isn’t stocked with dolphins and whales torn out of the wild – email Village Roadshow at i[email protected], and ask them not to invest in animal cruelty.
The fact that these organisations are even considering participating in such an unethical deal suggests below the shiny surface of spin, Sea World is not really committed to animal welfare at all.