Merlin withdraws invitation to meet, whale exploitation continues

Merlin withdraws invitation to meet, whale exploitation continues

Following Merlin’s shocking statement that the company saw “no merit” in discussing concerns raised over its continued exploitation of whales in the Shanghai SEA LIFE centre, the company has now withdrawn an invitation extended to Freedom for Animals just days before the launch of the SEA LIES campaign to meet in person, saying it also sees “no merit” in discussing the serious issues raised face-to-face.

Upon receipt of Merlin’s initial letter to Freedom for Animals, stating that the company was “disappointed” by the SEA LIES campaign, Freedom for Animals published an open letter to the global entertainment giant on behalf of the thousands of people that had signed a petition calling for an end to the whale cruelty. In the letter, as well as highlighting a number of ongoing concerns and questions, Freedom for Animals’ Director reiterated her desire to meet with Merlin/SEA LIFE to better understand their position and discuss concerns openly. This follows a formal invitation from Merlin in the days before the launch of the SEA LIES campaign, where a senior member of staff told Freedom for Animals’ Director:

If you would like to meet up so that I can tell you a bit more about the [SEA LIFE] Trust and our objectives then please do let me know”

The staff member was told that Freedom for Animals would be delighted to meet with her in order to properly discuss the issues raised during our investigation. Late last week and a further email was received which formally retracted the offer to meet and the open letter was met with a two line response from another senior member of staff, who failed to answer any of the questions posed.

This abject failure to respond to concerns clearly contradicts the company’s repeated insistence that it has “been transparent on all the topics raised”. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Whilst Merlin/SEA LIFE have now chosen to shut down all communication, JunJun the beluga whale and her two companions continue to be exploited three times in the Shanghai SEA LIFE centre in front of thousands of screaming people.

Since the campaign launched just over three weeks ago, JunJun and her friends have been forced to perform in 72 circus shows to as many as 144,000 jeering spectators. What this means for Merlin in monetary terms is not insignificant – it amounts to a potential generated income of between £1.2 – £1.7 million pounds from the shows since the campaign launch*.

Said Liz Tyson, Freedom for Animals Director:

“That the senior management of Merlin and SEA LIFE see “no merit” in giving up just an hour of their time to discuss the very serious concerns raised by over 4,000 people is extremely saddening. It points clearly to a serious lack of accountability within a company that believes its actions are beyond reproach. On the one hand, SEA LIFE continues to promote itself as a leader in marine conservation in order to pull paying visitors through the doors of its attractions, whilst on the other the company fails to answer the simplest questions about the wild-caught animals being cruelly exploited by it on a daily basis”.

Ms Tyson said that public pressure was the only way in which the company might see the error of its ways.

She added:

“We won’t be silenced on this issue and we know that our supporters will stand by us. Petition signatures are increasing by the hour and we are on track to reach 5,000 names in the coming week. We are less than a month into this campaign and we intend to keep up the pressure until the whale shows are stopped for good and the whales taken to safety”.

Ms Tyson appealed for supporters to sign and share the petition widely.


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Photo of captive beluga whale: By Carquinyol from Badalona, Catalunya (València – Beluga de l’Oceanogràfic) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

*Calculation based on lowest – highest entrance prices for the Shanghai SEA LIFE centre and the “Beluga Whale Theatre” being filled to capacity for each performance.


  • Trackback from Evidence of SEA LIFE's whale hypocrisy - Freedom for Animals

    […] 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 […]

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