This video of a captive beluga whale at Mystic Aquarium has been making the rounds on the internet. You’ve probably noticed that most sites have been framing this video in the context of an adorable friendly whale “smiling” at a waving visitor — but sadly, the truth ain’t so cute. Unless this whale has just been told that he’s going to be set free, he has very few reasons to smile.
Beluga whales are social creatures who live in pods that average the size of 10 whales. These animals spend their lives in the wild swimming for miles together, hunting, and socializing. Not only are these beautiful creatures self-aware, but they have also shown the ability to mimic human vocalizations, and scientists have even documented belugas attempting to interact with people.
Why, then, is it still acceptable to capture and isolate them from their pods and keep them in tanks that are a fraction of the size of the ocean, just so that we can look at them?
As if forcing highly intelligent, sentient beings to perform for our personal entertainment isn’t bad enough, captive cetaceans have been known to exhibit abnormal repetitive behaviors that echo the behaviors of mentally distressed prisoners. The negative impacts of captivity on marine animals have been well documented, leaving very little excuse for why we continue to hold them prisoners.
We’re pretty sure that the whale in the video would much prefer to live in the ocean with all of his friends, rather than spending his day in a tank with humans waving at him and calling it cute. It’s time to empty the tanks. You can help by boycotting all marine parks, sharing the facts about cetaceans in captivity, and encouraging others to boycott as well.