This barbaric act—forcing dolphins to perform tricks for food—will be outlawed in Switzerland, following the country's decision to ban dolphins in captivity. (Photo: Tambako the Jaguar / Flickr)

In a major victory for dolphins and dolphin advocates, Switzerland’s House of Representatives has voted to outlaw the keeping of dolphins in aquariums or for entertainment purposes.

The Swiss Senate also banned the importation of dolphins going forward, meaning that the three dolphins currently “living” in Connyland, the country’s only dolphinarium, will not be replaced when they die, reportsSwissInfo.

 “We’re very excited about it,” says Mark Palmer, in an exclusive interview with TakePart. He is the Associate Director of Earth Island Institute’sInternational Marine Mammal Project.

“The grassroots group Ocean Care deserves a great deal of credit for working on this for many years, working with Ric [O’Barry, of The Cove] in Switzerland. We also think that Ric’s appearance last year during the Bambi Awards, which aired in Germany and Switzerland, and in which he said, ‘Don’t buy a ticket to these shows’ played a big part.”

The ban comes in the wake of two dolphin deaths last year at Connyland, an amusement park in Lipperswill.

Autopsies conducted in mid-January revealed that eight-year-old Shadow and 30-year-old Chelmers died from brain damage after overdosing on antibiotics.

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Their deaths, which occurred days apart last fall, ignited international outrage after it was at first suspected that they were poisoned by hallucinogens thrown into their enclosure by ravers. Shortly before their deaths, a two-day techno party was held on the grounds of the amusement park.

Switzerland joins Norway, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and Cyprus as countries that ban dolphins in captivity.

In the boundless waters of the open ocean, a free, wild dolphin can live up to 50 years. A caged dolphin, on the other hand, circles its tiny tank without purpose—often to the point of depression and suicide. Even in the largest aquarium facilities, captive dolphins have access to less than 1/10,000 of 1 percent (0.000001) of the swimming area available to them in their natural environment. Compare this to the fact that some wild dolphin pods can swim up to 100 miles a day hunting for food, and you’ll begin to grasp why holding one captive in a tank amounts to nothing more than the cruel deprivation of basic cetacean rights.