Kitchener-Waterloo·Audio

Ban on whales and dolphins shortsighted, University of Guelph prof says

A University of Guelph expert in animal welfare and wildlife conservation says the Canadian Senate's decision to ban keeping marine mammals in captivity was shortsighted.

Laura Graham says captive animals are critical to conservation efforts in the wild

University of Guelph professor Laura Graham says captive marine mammals are critical to the conservation of their wild counterparts. (CP PHOTO/Scott Dunlop) (Scott Dunlop/Canadian Press)

A University of Guelph expert in animal welfare and wildlife conservation says the Canadian Senate's decision to ban keeping marine mammals in captivity was shortsighted.

If it became law, Bill S-203 would prohibit keeping, selling or breeding whales, dolphins and porpoises through amendments to the Criminal Code.

Animal rights activists have called the decision a victory for marine mammals, including former Marineland employee Philip Demers. 

"It's a big deal, even if only symbolic," he told CBC News. "The industry's interests weren't able to stop this bill and the spirit of the bill has lived."

But the bill faced sharp opposition while it was being debated, and now that it has passed, it still has its critics. 

University of Guelph professor Laura Graham has made a career of researching the management of animal welfare, both in captivity and in the wild. 

In an interview on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition, she told host Craig Norris and community co-host George Fletcher that captive populations of animals have been critical to the conservation of their wild counterparts.

University of Guelph professor and animal welfare expert Laura Graham told host Craig Norris and community co-host George Fletcher that captive populations of marine mammals have been critical to the conservation of their wild counterparts. 3:54

Graham said the Senate's review of aquarium conditions was a lost opportunity, saying it would have been more valuable if they had recommended better regulations, rather than banning captivity altogether.