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Animal welfare groups renew criticism of Vancouver Aquarium

Last Updated Nov 26, 2016 at 4:04 pm PST

Animal welfare activists demonstrate outside Vancouver Aquarium following the death of Aurora the beluga (Kurtis Doering, NEWS 1130)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Wielding signs and speaking through a megaphone, a group of protesters stood in the rain outside Vancouver Aquarium today and urged people not to patronize the facility.

The demonstration comes one day after the death of Aurora, the second beluga whale to die at the facility in just under two weeks.

“What continues to bring us out is the legacy of tragedy here,” says David Isbister with Liberate GVZoo Animals, “the legacy of early deaths, captive births that are unsuccessful, two different failed breeding programs.”

Other animal welfare groups are speaking out today as well. The non-profit ecology organization Lifeforce is calling for the capture of whales to be banned, and the Vancouver Humane Society is calling for an end to holding cetaceans in captivity.

The humane society’s Peter Fricker argues that keeping marine mammals in tanks is cruel and unnatural, and he doesn’t believe there is any educational component to it.

“Most people just go and look at the show, look at the animals but they don’t go away with a lot of information and remember the important points about the animal and where it belongs,” he says.

Such arguments and protests did not prevent families from going to the aquarium on Saturday.

Naomi Stinton and her son Jack were disappointed to leave having not seen Aurora, Jack’s favourite whale.

“I know that it’s not ideal to have belugas in captivity,” Stinton says, “but I understand that… the only reason they’re in captivity is because they won’t survive in the wild, and it’s an opportunity that’s unequalled just to understand and connect to them.”

Vancouver Aquarium currently has four other belugas on loan to other facilities.