Oxford's Somerville College Cancels Student Plans To Display Living Nurse Shark At Summer Ball

Oxford students have had their plans to display a living shark in a tank as entertainment for a summer ball shot down by their college, over fears of animal mistreatment.

Somerville College told The Last Ball event's organisers it was "inappropriate" to have a shark at the event, adding the college would not condone "any kind of mistreatment of any living creature".

A nurse shark, similar to the one which would have been used as entertainment at the ball

A description of The Last Ball, appearing on the event's website, describes it as "one last night of decadence, debauchery, and indulgence". Several students had threatened to boycott the event if plans to put the nurse shark on display went ahead.

The plans were aired when the posters for the May event appeared, displaying the words: "Ginglymostoma Cirratum" - Latin for nurse shark - adding, "you should go look that up".

Ginglymostoma Cirratum is Latin for nurse shark

Tickets to the ball, which is sponsored by Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons, and will see Raymond Blanc provide the catering, start at £110.

Oxford graduate Clare Phipps, responsible for organising the planned boycott, told the Guardian on Tuesday: "There is a difference from a shark in an aquarium because that has an educational purpose, informing people about conservation, and often zoos are involved in breeding programmes and so on.

"This is about nothing more than showing off. We've got so much money sloshing around we can hire a shark."

An RSPCA spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK: "The RSPCA welcomes the news that the Somerville College authorities have asked students to cancel their plans to use a live shark as entertainment at a college ball.

"Using sharks in any type of event would require very careful planning to ensure their welfare, particularly in terms of transportation, housing and the potential impact of the event itself. Like other fish, sharks are very sensitive to vibrations and low frequency noise and so it would not be advisable to house a shark in an area with loud music playing, for instance."

Charlotte Sidwick, a student journalist at Sheffield University, tweeted her agreement with the college's decision:

The Last Ball's website hosts an elaborate description of the event, stating: "On the fourth night of the fifth month of the fourteenth year of the twenty-first century, anno domini, on the grounds of Somerville College, the Somerville Jesus Triennial Ball Committee will host The Last Ball; one last night of decadence, debauchery, and indulgence.

"Guests will be requested to attend to the standards of black-tie dress. White tie permitted, though less appropriate for the night’s offerings.

"The Last Ball will begin at eight o’clock in the evening, and the last guest will walk out the gate of Somerville at six o’clock in the morning."

A statement from Somerville College read: "The Somerville-Jesus Ball is a student-organised and student-run event held in the grounds of Somerville College.

"Although the organisers had been very concerned in their plans to ensure animal welfare and safety was paramount, Somerville College has nonetheless decided that it would be inappropriate to have a shark at the event, and the College authorities have asked the students to cancel the plans. Neither the students nor the College would countenance any kind of mistreatment of any living creature."

Samuel Levin, organiser of The Last Ball, has been contacted for comment but has yet to reply. He had previously stated he felt "confident" the shark would not suffer.

Popular in the Community