Flemish government takes action for captive dolphins

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Positive news from the Campaigns Working Group concerning dolphin welfare in Flanders, Belgium.


This past month, Boudewijn Seapark, Belgium’s only facility holding captive dolphins, were advertising a Valentine’s Day promotion where members of the public could touch and have photos taken with some of their dolphins – an ideal romantic gift for a loved one? However due to outraged responses from the general public, the promotion was quickly removed from social media.

Mathijs Goderis, a council member of the City of Bruges where the dolphinarium is located, was made aware of the promotion by a member of the public. He was shocked saying it is “pure commercialism and a disregard for animal welfare”. The Flemish Minister for Animal Welfare, Ben Weyts also condemned the Valentines’ Day promotion.  

Both Mr Goderis and Minister Weyts, recognised the negative impacts such activities can have on the animals. In 2017 Minister Weyts had already stated that “he is not a fan of dolphins and orcas being kept in captivity and having to perform circus tricks”.  Shortly after the offending promotion, Minister Weyts announced proposed changes in Flemish law concerning captive animals in zoological facilities, that will no longer allow the public to touch captive animals.

The WCA Campaigns Working Group has sent letters to both Mr Goderis and Minister Weyts, in which we commend them each for their positive actions. Additionally, we have offered the WCA’s assistance and expertise in any future action they may take concerning the animals in Boudewijn Seapark.

Mr Goderis in turn advised the WCA that he has filed a resolution at the national congress of his party, the Social Democratic Party SP.a, to work on a phasing-out scenario for the dolphins. Mr Goderis explained that the resolution was accepted and included in the election programme. If they become a part of the next government, this can hopefully be entered into legislation.

Additionally the Wallonian Government, the French speaking region of Belgium, initiated a new code of animal welfare (The Walloon Code of Animal Welfare) which will recognise the legal status of an animal as a sensitive being, endowed with needs, interests and dignity. This change is significant as it includes prohibiting keeping cetaceans in captivity and will prevent the establishment of any future marine parks in Wallonia.

The WCA encourages progressive action that recognises public attitude change concerning the captivity of sentient animals for human entertainment. We applaud citizens and governments everywhere that drive positive change for cetaceans.

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