Merlin hopes to make “detailed announcement” soon on whale shows

A senior staff member at Merlin Entertainments, the UK company responsible for the daily exploitation of three beluga whales in circus-style shows in its Shanghai centre, has stated that the company is close to making an announcement about the future of the whales. A Freedom for Animals spokesperson said that an announcement to clarify the company’s position would be welcome, but that only an immediate end to the whale shows and a clear and deliverable retirement plan would halt the ongoing campaign.

cropped beluga screen

Whale shows “educational” says Merlin

When concerns were raised with staff members at an Australian SEA LIFE centre about the whale shows that the company promotes in its Shanghai centre, despite claiming to be opposed to cetacean captivity, the queries were passed back to the UK team for response. A reply was received in the last few days but, once again, Merlin has failed to address any of the concerns or provide clear answers as to the plans for the whales. However, for the first time since the start of the SEA LIES campaign, Merlin has now publicly stated that: “we hope to be in a position very shortly to make a detailed announcement” in respect of the whale’s future.

Said Freedom for Animals Director, Liz Tyson:

“When the campaign was first launched, we heard rumours that Merlin was close to making an announcement but, so far, there has been no attempt by the company to publicly address the concerns raised by thousands of people about their treatment of the animals under their care. We certainly welcome the news that we may find out what the company has in store for the whales soon. Of course, anything less than an immediate end to the degrading shows and a very clear and deliverable plan to permanently retire the animals will be unacceptable. While the shows continue, the campaign continues”.

Confusingly, the statement also appears to blame the company’s vets for the ongoing shows; making the claim that veterinary advice suggested it was necessary to “retain just enough of [the whales’] established routine to ensure their short-term health and well-being was not unduly compromised”. This advice was apparently interpreted by the company to mean that ending the performances would, in fact, have a negative impact on the animals’ welfare.

Said Ms Tyson:

“We are very interested in the implication that the shows continue on the recommendation of the company’s vets. Of course, due to the impoverished environment that the whales are kept in, it is unarguable that they would require some kind of enrichment and activity to keep their minds and bodies active. However, to make the leap that performing to 6,000 screaming people accompanied by blaring music is somehow good for the whales’ welfare is ridiculous”.

Finally, the company stated that the show “provided educational and conservation-themed narrative”, suggesting that the performances had some wider benefit to the audience. Given that the footage recorded at the centre in both March and June of this year showed whales “singing”, “dancing” to pop music, spitting water at trainers, playing “fetch” and “playing dead”, amongst other things, the claim that audiences were educated in any meaningful way by these shows was, said Freedom for Animals, “laughable”.

Ms Tyson added:

“It is perhaps telling that the arguments coming from Merlin about the use of whales mirror those that we hear from the circus industry in its attempts to justify the continued use of wild animals in the ring. It is perhaps ironic that, in the UK, Merlin operates Blackpool Tower Circus, which claims to pride itself on the fact that it operates an all-human show”.


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