I had the honour to represent WDC at the demonstration against the captivity of whales and dolphins in Brussels on June 28, organized by Yvon Godefroid from Belgium, Annelies Mullens and Hester Bartels from the Netherlands and La Dolphin Connection from France. People from all over the world came to support the call for a dolphinarium-free Europe and ultimately a dolphinarium-free world! I met and talked to people from Switzerland, Greece, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France and even Japan, the USA and South Africa. About 300 people gathered on Place Horta outside the Brusselsmain train station Brussels-Midi. We were joined by Ric O’Barry who came all the way from the United States. At 4pm, Annelies, Ric and Yvon went into the Ministry of Public Health to talk to Mr. Van Tilburgh, who is the responsible person for animal welfare in Belgiumand a member of the European Commission Expert Group “Animal welfare education”. Expert groups are set up by the European Commission to help it with the preparation of legislative proposals, policy initiatives, and delegated acts, and also to help it with the implementation of existing EU legislation, programmes and policies. The meeting lasted nearly one hour.
One focus of the conversation with Mr. Van Tilburgh was the current situation at Belgium’s dolphinarium “Boudewijn Seapark” inBruges. The park currently operates without a licence (it expired beginning of June 2013) and there are reports of residents around the park complaining about the noise caused by the Sunday shows. One can only imagine how such loud noise might have an impact on the dolphins’ welfare! This particular dolphinarium has also been subject to research from WDC, the Born Free Foundation and ENDCAP for their joint report “Dolphinaria – a review of the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity in the European Union and EC Directive 1999/22, relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos” which was published in 2011 and which reported a number of stress-related types of behaviour, witnessed by dolphin expert Toni Frohoff.
Meanwhile on Place Victor Horta, locals, visitors to Brussels, business people and who ever else came by couldn’t resist to have a look what the crowd with the live-sized inflatable dolphins (they travelled to Brussels from the German WDC office), a bunch of smaller dolphins, signs, banners, megaphones and flags from countries from all over the world were doing and calling for. Flyers, brochures and stickers were distributed and after every conversation the hope grew that we stopped many people from buying a ticket to places that keep whales and dolphins in captivity. The hope grew that we made a step forward towards ending whale and dolphin captivity.