France has just made a fantastic breakthrough in the matter of animal rights – the country has banned the breeding of dolphins and orcas in captivity. The ban also includes measures that prohibit keeping whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity, with the exception of orcas and bottlenose dolphins that are already in that situation. Direct contact between animals and the public, including swimming with dolphins has also been banned, and the pools that house animals currently in captivity are going to be significantly larger. The pools have to be expanded within three years, while with some of the other rules, French establishments have to comply within six months.

A version of the legislation was initially signed by the Environment Minister Segolene Royal on May 3, 2017, but it was later tightened to further the effect of a complete ban on breeding of captive whales. According to BBC, the rules were made more strict after it was discovered “some animals were drugged” in aquariums.

Animal rights campaigners called the new legislation a “historic French advance” and hope that it will eventually put an end to all “entertainment” founded on the suffering and unease of marine animals.

Living in captivity and being forced to perform shows for the public has been proven to take a terrible toll on the physical and psychological health of marine mammals. When confined in a space that severely lacks stimulation, dolphins and orcas grow frustrated and become aggressive – something that never happens in their natural habitat. The only documented instances of orcas attacking humans have happened in captivity. Additionally, dolphins often start to display zoochotic behaviors similar to symptoms of prison neurosis when left in a tank that prohibits them from exercising their intellect and social skills. Extremely stressed animals are known to engage in acts of self-mutilation, like throwing themselves against the walls of their tanks. Those and other symptoms even lead to feeding captive marine animals pharmaceuticals – SeaWorld has admitted to medicating their orcas with psychoactive drugs similar to valium.

In the light of these facts, the new law in France is a fantastic development for marine animals! We hope that other countries will follow the example of this great victory and help us move away from an era where these highly complex animals are used for paltry entertainment. As France has shown, the time to #EmptyTheTanks is now.

Image source: Anna Langova/publicdomainpictures