TORONTO—Animal Justice is expressing shock and disappointment after Crown prosecutors stayed a criminal charge against Marineland today, for holding illegal dolphin shows. The aquarium was charged in December, 2021 after Animal Justice filed a legal complaint with the Niagara Police.
It has been a criminal offence since 2019 to use whales and dolphins in performances for entertainment. The practice was banned at the same time that Parliament passed sweeping new laws to phase out whale and dolphin captivity. But the ban didn’t stop Marineland, which continued to use dolphins and beluga whales in daily shows that it described as “educational performances”.
Animal Justice obtained video footage of Marineland’s dolphin performances in 2021, which featured pop music like “Mambo No. 5”, trainers announcing a “dolphin dance party”, and dolphins performing tricks that included jumping out of the water, spinning in the air, and pushing trainers through the water. Spectators were encouraged by staff to cheer on the tricks.
Crown prosecutor Michal Sokolski stated that there was a reasonable prospect of conviction in the case, but decided that it was not in the public interest to prosecute Marineland, despite clear video footage depicting the dolphin shows.
“The shocking decision to stay this charge sends the message that animals don’t matter to the legal system,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “It’s deeply disappointing that there will be no justice for the dolphins used in entertainment shows at Marineland—something our country outlawed in 2019. What’s the point of passing new laws to protect animals if prosecutors refuse to accept that animal cruelty is a serious matter of public interest, and won’t bring Marineland to trial?”
This is the second time Marineland has avoided a trial on charges for animal welfare violations. In 2017, the Crown also cited a lack of “public interest” when it dropped provincial animal welfare charges laid against the park by authorities.
Marineland has long been criticized for the animal welfare conditions at its facility. In 2021, provincial animal welfare authorities issued multiple orders against Marineland, after a lengthy investigation determined that marine mammals at the facility were in distress due to poor water quality.