Vancouver Aquarium's beluga yoga sparks protest postures
Animal rights activists threw down their yoga mats in protest of a Vancouver Aquarium yoga class Thursday. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
A Vancouver Aquarium program offering yoga enthusiasts a “unique experience to stretch, strengthen and breathe” with beluga whales Qila and Aurora attracted protest postures Thursday.
Several dozen animal rights activists practiced hatha yoga and meditation outside the facility, arguing the Yoga with the Beluga Whales program is “unnatural,” “appalling,” and contradicts yoga's spiritual principles.
“Yoga is about freedom and the interconnectedness with all beings, not about captivity,” said protester Cynthia Ganatra. “They're using yoga as a marketing ploy for the aquarium, taking advantage of these animals that are trapped.”
But a researcher at the University of B.C.'s Marine Mammal Research Unit said beluga whales are more tolerant of small spaces than some other marine animals, and captivity can provide essential research data to help preserve the species in the face of global warming.
“The animals in the wild are facing incredible challenges,” said Andrew Trites. “There's things we simply can't learn by going to the wild to observe them.”
In addition to providing an opportunity to learn essential information, aquariums also help average people care about the survival of species.
“People tend to care more about animals they know as individuals than they do as an anonymous member of a big population,” Trites said.
The Vancouver Aquarium declined to comment.