One year on from the launch of the SEA LIES campaign we felt it was about time CAPS and our concerned supporters had some answers from Merlin Entertainments about the three beluga whales they hold captive in their centre in Shanghai. Following the incredible actions of our supporters over the Easter weekend who took to the streets and online to speak out for the whales, CAPS sent a letter to Merlin CEO, Nick Varney. The letter outlined a series of questions regarding the future for the belugas, demanding answers from the huge company. CAPS then sent a follow up email to the letter and within two days, Merlin responded by releasing a statement via its partner Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).
Some of the questions posed by CAPS have been answered, frustratingly others have been completely ignored. Click on the image to read the full letter we sent.
Our prime question to Merlin was ‘why can the performances not be stopped immediately?’ This most important question has not been answered and sadly the shows look set to continue.
Instead of talk of cancelling the shows once and for all, in the statement Merlin outlined how they are developing a new regime for the belugas, part of which are “natural behaviour and enrichment programmes which [will help] improve their health and fitness”. This is something similar to which we have heard from Merlin many times since we exposed the shows in 2014. Time and again they state they have adapted the shows to only reflect their ‘natural behaviour’, something that we have pointed out is impossible when the tricks include pushing a grown man out of the water on their faces and being made to jump out of the water for food.
So if they are now changing the shows again, are Merlin admitting in the past they have been inappropriate?
We are intrigued to know what this ‘regime’ they speak of will involve. According to Merlin it will ‘form the basis of educational messaging about the whales to visitors to Shanghai.’ If performing in shows is the case, anyone with any compassion will accept that being forced to perform tricks to the paying public does not serve any educational value.
Whilst these animals remain captive we accept that they will require enrichment to keep them stimulated in their barren tanks. However this could be done away from the screaming public until the day comes for them to be released. There is not one genuine reason to continue the shows, unless you are Merlin and are putting profits before animal welfare.
It is not only CAPS and our supporters who wish the shows to cease, even WDC who partner with Merlin told their supporters that they want the shows to end, way back in July 2014. It seems Merlin has chosen to ignore even the charity they choose to partner with and have carried on with the exploitation of the three whales: Jun Jun, Little White and Little Grey. We can only assume that this is because Merlin wish to continue to profit from the shows which are attended by thousands of people.
In an attempt to show that they are considering the whales’ welfare, Merlin continue to reiterate their intended plan to build a sanctuary to retire them to. Merlin and WDC have repeatedly stated that finding a suitable site for this has been problematic. They claim that although the original home of the whales, Russia, was an option at one stage that this has proved to be too difficult and they are now searching for another cold water site. We appreciate that these projects take time, however, 7 months ago an update from WDC stated exactly the same thing.
Merlin have told us that they have a team working on the relocation of the belugas. If this really is the case, shouldn’t they have made some progress in 7 months that they can tell us about?
Time and money are two restrictions repeatedly put forward as obstacles to building their long promised whale sanctuary. We are astonished to hear that money is an issue when this company brought in over £1billion in 2014 and more recently started building a new Legoland attraction in Dubai. What we would all like to know is, how much actual time and resources are Merlin putting into this crucial task?
To add further concern, the timing of the release of the belugas has not been addressed. They have continued with their vague answering, ‘A project like this involves many variables and has never been attempted on this scale before. Therefore, no exact timeline can be provided.” JunJun the whale has been at the centre for over 10 years now. How much longer can she wait?
Unfortunately Merlin’s statement confirms our belief: there has been no progress made for the whales and they are still determined to keep forcing them to perform for the paying public. We are pleased to see that Merlin are responding to concerns after such a long time but now they need to show their commitment to the welfare of the belugas and end the shows!
Contact Merlin and tell them it isn’t good enough! Demand they stop the shows now!
Email Merlin CEO Nick Varney: firstname.lastname@example.org