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Council of State cancels dolphin & orca breeding ban

Just months after pledging to bring an end to the captive breeding of orca and dolphins, the French Council of State has backtracked on its decision.

Marineland in Antibes is the only marine park in France to keep orca, of which it currently has four. The country’s leading marine park and the Côte d’Azur’s biggest tourism attraction, Marineland, has welcomed the news – calling it a ‘positive’ motion – while animal rights group PETA has slammed the move, saying it will ‘prolong the suffering’ and ‘forced insemination’ of the cetaceans.

In a statement released on Monday 29th January, the managing director of Marineland in Antibes, Pascal Picot, said, “This is great news for our animals and zoos in France. It is important that significant changes to the regulations that apply to the animals we host are based on scientific facts and are adopted in accordance with legal requirements.”

The marine park was among other sites in France that criticised the adoption of the ‘Royal’ decree bought about by Ségolène Royal before she left her post at the Ministry of Ecology in May 2017. The initial decree pertained to the ‘close control of dolphin reproduction’ according to the ‘configuration and size of their [tanks or] basins’. The wording was changed at a late stage to prohibit the ‘reproduction of orcas and dolphins currently in captivity’.

According to the Council of State, the changes in the decree did not comply with ‘procedural requirements and limitations provided for by the law’.

In the Marineland statement, Picot is quoted as saying, “The cancellation of the breeding ban is positive for the health and welfare of dolphins, and for the conservation of species.”

The statement continues: “Marineland, as an approved zoological park responsible for the welfare and conservation of animals, is continually striving to improve the conditions of accommodation and care, not only for dolphins and killer whales, but also for all the animals for which it is responsible. Marineland is delighted with the opportunity that arises, thanks to the decision of the State Council, to continue its fundamental mission through the care of animals, information, awareness of the general public, as well as scientific research and the conservation of species… Marineland welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with the government and other experts to examine how the 1981 Order [the previous regulation of cetaceans in captivity] could be updated for the benefit of animals, their welfare and their conservation, on the basis of objective facts and professional best practices.”

France’s PETA branch has responded to the news by saying, “Breeding in captivity involves the forced insemination of females… Their young are, in turn, exhibited in tiny concrete ponds. The life expectancy of these animals is greatly reduced in captivity, and they frequently die from infections and diseases caused by their unnatural and stressful living conditions.” It also called on the government to reintroduce the breeding ban correctly and legally.

Speaking in particular of Marineland, the animal rights group, which has received support in the region from actress and activist Pamela Anderson, said, “Eight orca have already died in Marineland, all of them prematurely. Instead of trying to bring in new prisoners, Marineland should give a decent end of life to those who are already alive, transferring them or transforming the park into a coastal sanctuary to finally give them a semblance of natural life.”

According to the Marineland 2018 report, none of the dolphin calves born at the park are the issue of artificial insemination. The site attracts more than 1,000,000 visitors a year and is the only marine park in France to house orca (currently four).