I can’t believe this day is finally with us.

Instead of a general news report on this, as Campaigns Director at FFA I wanted to write a personal letter to all of our supporters and to animal campaigners around the world. This moment is so special I wanted to speak to you directly.

The arrival of these whales at a sanctuary is not only is a fantastic victory for these whales, but also marks a historic day for anti-captivity campaigning worldwide. This achievement shows us that we can create a world where animals are free.

But firstly let’s start with these whales.

As of 18th June 2019, Little White and Little Grey have finally left their barren tank behind and now face a future in the sea. They will not be living completely wild, sadly they have been living in captivity for too long to be released. But they are living in section of the sea cordoned off using a special barrier, in a bay in Iceland, in as natural an environment as any animal in captivity can have. And crucially, they will no longer be exploited in daily circus shows for screaming crowds, a reality they have faced for years.  

This is thanks to you, the animal advocates of the world. Thanks to you, public opinion has strongly turned against the keeping of cetaceans, whales and dolphins, in captivity. This has put pressure on companies like SEA LIFE and their parent company Merlin Entertainments, to end their involvement in this cruel industry. When we exposed SEA LIFE’s ownership of the aquarium in Shanghai, you took swift action to let them know they could not carry on doing this. Your actions worked and they committed to building this sanctuary, a world first.

This is no small victory. Merlin Entertainments are the second largest entertainment company in the world, with businesses worldwide and millions in the bank. To think that together, we have forced the hand of this company is incredible.

Thank you so, so much, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has taken action for these whales. I truly cannot thank you enough.

Sadly, though this news comes too late for another whale, Jun Jun, who lived with Little White and Little Grey. She tragically died in 2017 after 10 years at the aquarium. She will never be forgotten in the history of our struggle to free these animals. We just wish the sanctuary had come sooner for her.

So what is next for the two who made it out?

The whales will spend a period of time in an indoor holding pen while they undergo quarantine and continue to acclimatise to the Iceland environment. Then they will be moved to their sea pen in the bay, where they will live out their days alongside other wild animals that can naturally come and go in the bay, like fish and crustaceans.

A lot will happen over the next month or so we will keep everyone updated as much as we can via social media.

Alongside the amazing feelings we have about this sanctuary and the future of the whales, I feel it’s important to make this clear: we still have great reservations about SEA LIFE and Merlin Entertainments and will not end our campaigning against them – after all they still hold thousands of animals captive at aquariums and zoos all over the world, many in the UK. They are not in any way ‘anti-captivity’ and we have shown that animals suffer greatly at their hands.

It is fantastic that they have created this sanctuary which can do a lot of good but we believe it should be run completely independently, and not linked to SEA LIFE. (Read more here). We are also deeply saddened to see that the sanctuary will have an aquarium onsite where other animals will be held captive.

But we cannot deny that this sanctuary will make a difference. Not just for these two whales or the other whales the sanctuary says it could possibly take in in future, but also because of the incredibly clear message it sends to the world: that cetaceans should not be held captive, those who do this will be forced to stop and there is a future for those animals currently being exploited.

And it is for that I thank you, everyone who has fought on behalf of these whales and other captive animals worldwide. You can and HAVE made a difference, and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve next for animals.

Until all are free,
Nicola O’Brien
Campaigns Director

P.S. You can secure freedom for more animals, by joining us as a Freedom Champion. Set Up a Monthly Gift this special action which makes crucial campaigns like this happen for animals. Thank you

Sanctuary photo: SEA LIFE Beluga Whale Sanctuary