Evidence of SEA LIFE’s Beluga whale hypocrisy

Evidence of SEA LIFE’s Beluga whale hypocrisy

In October 2012 SEA LIFE aquariums went up against a consortium of US aquariums including one of its largest competitors, SeaWorld, in a very public battle. The point of contention: the consortium’s proposed import of wild beluga whales from Russia for a life of exploitation by the businesses in question.

Merlin letter

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Merlin/SEA LIFE was vocal in its opposition to the move, making a number of bold statements which endeared them to respected conservation organisations and animal welfare campaigners alike.

In a strongly-worded statement, a spokesperson confirmed that Merlin/SEA LIFE had acquired parks which previously housed captive cetaceans but that…

“Rather than further exploit these animals for profit, we are urgently progressing plans to create a natural sanctuary where these and hopefully others from other public attractions around the world, can be re-homed, retired and if feasible, rehabilitated”.

The company went on to lambast the plans, saying that:

“Unless they are injured or ailing rescued animals requiring full time care, [keeping cetaceans in captivity] is just plain wrong…and we would be failing in our responsibility as the world’s largest aquarium operator were we not to say so publicly, for the long-term credibility of our industry as well as the more immediate benefit of the unfortunate beluga whales currently awaiting their fate in a cramped holding pen in Russia”.

At the time that the SEA LIFE PR team was publicising this supposed stand against its US-based business rivals,  Merlin was taking control of the Chang Feng Ocean World Aquarium, in Shanghai, which has now been included in the SEA LIFE brand. The centre promotes daily circus-style shows during which beluga whales and sea lions are forced to perform tricks in front of screaming crowds.

Despite claims that any cetaceans housed in businesses purchased by Merlin would not be “further exploited for profit”, almost two years on and the three beluga whales at the Shanghai SEA LIFE centre continue to be used in shows. Merlin claim to have made improvements to the whales’ living conditions but refuse to provide any information on what this entails. The company also claims that the shows, in which the whales “dance” with trainers, have trainers stand on their faces as they push the grown men through the water and “sing” in time with music, are “educational” and only ask the animals to fulfil their “natural behaviours”.

In recent days, Merlin/SEA LIFE have formally retracted an offer to meet with representatives from Freedom for Animals and campaign partners concerned about the ongoing whale exploitation, amongst other aspects of the company’s operation.

If you agree that the whale shows must stop, please ensure that you add your name to the SEA LIES petition calling for an immediate end to the shows and the safe retirement of the whales.


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