Is Merlin’s “re-branding” of cruel whale aquarium a cynical attempt to quash ongoing criticism?

Is Merlin’s “re-branding” of cruel whale aquarium a cynical attempt to quash ongoing criticism?

In a move which has been branded “astoundingly cynical” by campaigners, Merlin Entertainments/ SEA LIFE appear to have taken action to quash criticism over its continued exploitation of Beluga whales in circus-style shows in its Shanghai centre… by rebranding the offending aquarium. Despite making repeated and highly-publicised claims that SEA LIFE is opposed to cetacean captivity, the company was exposed by Freedom for Animals in recent weeks for its active exploitation of Beluga whales in shows three times a day in its Shanghai Centre. That is, until Merlin took the decision to simply drop the SEA LIFE branding from the centre in the last few days.

Last week, the Chang Feng centre was featured on the Merlin website under its “SEA LIFE” brand but, in the last few days, Merlin has removed the aquarium from the SEA LIFE location list and it is now featured as a stand-alone attraction, tucked away at the bottom of the list of all of the company’s other sites. It is suspected that the Merlin is attempting to make good on its repeated and very public statements that “SEA LIFE believes it is wrong to keep whales and dolphins in captivity” which, while the Chang Feng SEA LIFE centre continues to promote its whale shows, can be shown to be categorically false. However, simply dropping the SEA LIFE branding and continuing with the circus shows “will do the company no favours in the eyes of the public”, said a Freedom for Animals spokesperson.

SEA LIFE chang feng

Now you see it…Last week, Chang Feng was a proud part of the SEA LIFE brand…

Chang feng dropped copy

Now you don’t! This week, the aquarium with the daily whale circus is notably absent.

Freedom for Animals Director, Liz Tyson, said:

“It is an astoundingly cynical move on the part of Merlin, who do not seem to realise that our concern is not about which brand the company’s animal exploitation is formally associated with, but that the exploitation is happening at all.

“By deliberately dropping the offending aquarium from the “SEA LIFE” brand simply demonstrates that, despite refusing to engage with us on this issue, the company is concerned about the impact of this campaign. It also makes claims that the company have been “transparent” about their cruel use of the whales seem even more disingenuous. We must keep up the pressure to see an end to the whale shows in the Shanghai SEA LIFE centre, regardless of what Merlin “brand” the centre belongs to”.

Incidentally, and despite Merlin having been made aware, the weblink from the newly re-branded Chang Feng centre still links to an aquarium which is not owned by Merlin and does not hold captive cetaceans. This, said Freedom for Animals, further misleads the public.

The petition to call on Merlin/SEA LIFE to do the right thing and bring an immediate end to the whale shows, then invest in the safe retirement of the animals is currently just under 200 signatures short of 5,000. Ms Tyson called upon those concerned about Merlin’s treatment of the animals under its care to sign and share the initiative as widely as possible.

Freedom for Animals have been in meetings in the last few days with other like-minded organisations who have pledged their support for the SEA LIES campaign. More information on these new developments will be shared with supporters soon.


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