Protesters in Brussels call for nationwide ban on marine parks

Protesters in Brussels call for nationwide ban on marine parks
Belgium's only Dolphinarium is in Bruges. Credit: Boudewijn Seapark

The dolphinarium marine park in Bruges has come under fire for keeping marine mammals in captivity; animal rights protestors took to Brussels to campaign against animal cruelty in Dolphinaria as part of an international protest.

The Brussels-Capital Region was the first to put a ban on dolphinaria in April, meaning that dolphins, orcas, sea lions and walruses may no longer be kept in the region.

Brussels Minister of Animal Welfare Bernard Clerfayt (who proposed the ban) explained that  “We need to rethink our relationship with the animals. Do we really enjoy seeing them jump into the water for some fish? Do we want to pass on this image of animals as slaves to our children?”

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The company that runs the dolphinarium had no plans to build a park in Brussels, meaning that the decision is a symbolic measure that Clerfayt’s cabinet hopes Flanders and Wallonia will follow. The cabinet compared keeping cetaceans and marine predators to imprisoning an innocent person.

Protest

Unsatisfied with the ban, 25 activists from the animal rights organisation Bite Back took part in the international ‘Empty The Tanks’ campaign in Brussels on Saturday.

The group set up an information stand outside Brussels Central Station and organised live action painting, Bruzz reported. The protestors are against keeping marine mammals in captivity, and Bite Back is asking for a full ban on dolphinaria in Belgium.

Bite Back is an international organisation, and activists in 30 countries protested together against the industry of catching, buying and selling marine animals. This year marked the tenth edition of Empty The Tanks.

Belgium’s only dolphinarium

Belgium only has one dolphinarium left, where eight dolphins are located: Boudewijn Seapark in Bruges.

Bite Back explains why they opted to campaign in Brussels this time: “We have brought Empty The Tanks several times to Bruges, the city of Belgium’s last dolphinarium. But in 2022, the time was right to change tack: animal welfare policy is set in Brussels, not in Bruges.

The Flemish Minister of Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts, has promised a phase-out policy, but no concrete date has been announced. While the rights of marine mammals are heavily defended, it does not seem that zoos will be banned anytime soon in Brussels.

“For other animal species, such as birds and amphibians, we are working on extensive and strict measures about the number of animals and the conditions in which they should live,” said Clerfayt’s spokeswoman.


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