Monthly Archives: May 2012

Baby beluga at Georgia Aquarium dies – despite Maris’ having “stood up to her end of the bargain”

I am almost speechless. So I’ll be brief.

Beluga Whale Maris and Baby at the Georgia Aquarium

Maris and “her end of the bargain” at the Georgia Aquarium, unattributed photo from Georgia Aquarium facebook page

Georgia Aquarium’s official statement, as quoted in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, notes that the baby beluga whale, born on May 18, 2012, in the Georgia Aquarium, died today, despite Maris having “stood up to her end of the bargain.”

What bargain was that, Georgia Aquarium?

I’m just curious as hell. What was Maris’ bargain with you?

I have to say it again: Billy Hurley, Chief Zoological Officer at the Georgia Aquarium, said today, when interviewed about the death at the Georgia Aquarium of the baby beluga whale, “Maris stood up to her end of the bargain…”

The crassness of that statement – while not truly surprising, since Mr. Hurley doesn’t know the difference between dolphins, on the one hand, and dogs or horses, on the other – crossed the line.

What line is that?

It’s the line that reveals that the people who are entrusted with the care of these highly intelligent and sentient beings are incapable of appreciating this intelligence and sentience. It’s the line that reveals that the Georgia Aquarium views its dolphins, beluga whales and whale sharks as merely assets to grow a bottom line. It’s the line that reveals the aquariums’ willingness to tell only part of the story to preserve that “asset”. It’s the line that reveals the call for an immediate rehabilitation and release of these creatures to their god-given life in the wild.

If you had any doubt about these issues before, I trust that Mr. Hurley’s revealing comment got through to you and that you will sign a petition, sponsored by the Born Free Foundation, to end captivity for whales and dolphins.

So, to Mr. Hurley. Back to that bargain that you struck with Maris, what did you promise in return? Another chance to reproduce a baby that would either live its life in captivity, or die as your organization predicted it would? More captivity? Or did you promise something more lofty, like, you would continue to feed her in a small tank of salitified chlorinated artificially-cooled water?

That must be comforting to Maris, in this time of a mother’s grief.

I know, you and I are on the other side of that line, so I could stop there. But then Mr. Hurley said, after complimenting Maris on holding up her end of the bargain, “We will not give up.” Another question, Mr. Hurley. Not give up on what? Having Maris impregnated again, when you know the odds are against the baby’s, or babies’, survival?

Just sign the Born Free Foundation petition to end whale and dolphin captivity. You know he’s wrong.

Georgia Aquarium baby beluga – stable says the news

The last thing I read last night as I prepared to log out and turn off was an article by Save Misty the Dolphin published last year, Swimming in Sorrow: The Story Behind the Captive Breeding Program of Dolphins in the U.S.  It is an awesome article, and I can add nothing to it.

I’ll intro it by saying that, for those who have never considered the trauma to marine mammal mothers of the separation of their children, well, it’s time you did.  Or in the case of Maris, one of the most sentient beings on the planet, the trauma of giving birth in captivity.  And being self-aware, the recognition beyond “instinct” that her baby is in danger.  It is also reasonable that this self-aware being knows that if her baby lives, she will live in the same conditions known to Maris, however that knowledge occurs for her.  But, rest assured, occurring for her is an awareness of her and her baby’s situation beyond what any of us currently comprehend.

Maris and baby girl calf shortly after her birth, Georgia Aquarium, condition unknown

Maris and baby girl calf - motherhood is not something to be accomplished in a "program"

This article is helpful equally for those who consider Maris, who gave birth last Friday to a baby girl calf, as “just” an animal as well as for those who know that motherhood in any species is not something to be accomplished in a “program”.

Maris’ baby is, according the most recently online-available press, stable, but which the most current press release by the Georgia Aquarium was issued yesterday while the calf was in critical condition.

Here,the piece from Save Misty the Dolphin, describes some perhaps little-known facts about mortality among dolphin captive birth.  Because beluga birth mortality is even worse than in dolphins, the captive beluga breeding program is especially egregious.

Hang on, baby.  Freedom awaits you, your mother, and the others.

Baby beluga at Georgia Aquarium – in critical condition

Maris and calf at Georgia Aquarium

From Georgia Aquarium FaceBook page, uncredited

As horrific as the birth of a beluga to captivity is, the Atlanta Journal & Constitution manages to add insult to injury by making a baby bib crack in its opening line.  You know, the line that is supposed to capture the essential facts of the story.  But the insensitivity of the AJC is no real surprise here.  The AJC has been relentless in its support of the aquarium.  Although before the aquarium opened, it did have one pro-con piece, since then, it’s just been one long promotional campaign.

Maris Georgia Aquarium beluga whale

Maris, beluga whale born July 28, 1994, in captivity

The Georgia Aquarium began months ago preparing us for the death of the unborn beluga that Maris was carrying, by pointing out the factual statistic that about half of the belugas born in captivity die as infants.

So why does the Georgia Aquarium continue this larcenous breeding program?  Why not rehabilitate the belugas and dolphins for a life in the wild and release them?

Why?  Because they want to keep charging you money to have parties with Maris, Beethoven et al. in the window on the other side of your wedding reception, your corporate Christmas party, as well as the tours through the

Beethoven beluga whale Georgia Aquarium

Beethoven, beluga whale, born August 8, 1992, in captivity

exhibit, and the new “encounters” with the belugas.  And since they are not allowed to intentionally capture them just to let your rather shallow-if-romantic son propose to his soon-to-be affianced in front of the beluga tank, they have to breed them in captivity.

Hold on, young one.  Hopefully we can in the not-too-distant future secure your release with your mother and father.

In the meantime, we’ll tell the AJC that humor about the possible death of a newborn baby beluga whale is in bad taste, even for them.

For more information, there’s the enemy to dolphin and whale freedom’s blog.  They may be the enemy, but they are also the horse’s mouth.

I was just getting my trousers off about Karl Marx – Hitchens from 2007

This morning I noted – as I wasted my time reviewing the statistics on my blog as if I could do anything to impact them – that someone read a blog I had written some months ago about partisan politics and Christopher Hitchens.  So I clicked on the old post, to see what writing of mine someone was reading and to revisit and share that mental space with the reader.  In a True Confessions moment, I admit that I do this more often than I should.

hitchens n blue by annie liebowitz

Hitchens and Blue by Annie Liebowitz

It was with great disappointment that I found that a video at the end of my blog had been disabled due to multiple copyright claims.  Apparently there are several people out there who claim to own the copyright of certain Hitchens interviews.  Without getting into that, I just remark, isn’t that interesting?  Several different entities think they “own” the same work and may be at this moment fighting about it.  Enough said about that.  Good luck to the true owner, with my sincere wish that the claim inures to the benefit of Ms. Blue and his children.

But apparently, there are videos over which no one has yet made such claim, and I collected one series here for my convenience to watch this May 10, 2007 talk and book signing at Politics and Prose Bookstore.  My apologies to the less ADD-endowed reader, if I’ve done this earlier.

Wait. I was just getting my trousers off about Karl Marx.

 -Christopher Hitchens (at 1:50 in 6 of 6)

Christopher Hitchens, My First Ode

Miss you.  Love you.

Never met you.

Can NOT imagine

Life without you.

See you.  Hear you.

Growing to fear you

won’t be there

in video to see.

This morning, I feel like I’m losing him all over again, this man who put himself out there in all media, at all times, at all of his ages. And now copyright is limiting that access that he created.  And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Cry of the Innocent – End the Fur Trade Now

What is the state of our collective consciousness, our collective soul, when we empower industries that profit from atrocity: whether it is the vanity-laden fur industry, or the vanity-laden leather industry, or the vanity-laden animal entertainment industry, or the vanity-laden animal research industry.

In all those industries, the “need” or “curiosity” of humans is paramount.  The animal gets only enough consideration for humans to avoid fines and penalties.  Some of the time.  Many times, more than you want to believe, the animals are horribly treated.  More horribly than you can imagine.  Unless you can imagine being skinned alive and left to die from exposure and shock.

That is a sad state of affairs.

But we can change this if, today, you become part of the solution:

  • Reach out to an animal rights group.
  • Start reading.
  • Start watching the atrocious state of affairs for animals.

Here is the trailer for Cry of the Innocent, a 2012 film by Katherine Lowson, a film that exposes the ugly underbelly of the industry that puts innocuous little fur thingies on your clothes.  So, even if you are not decked out in movie-star-fur regalia, like JLo or one of the Kardashians, you may still be contributing to the horrendous fur trade.  A trade that stops at no animal for vanity.  And at no practice.  An industry that will skin an animal alive.  That will purchase fur knowing – or choosing to ignore – its very own horrific underbelly.

Start volunteering or donating.

But first, stop wearing fur.  Any fur.  What do you think happens to horses that are no longer useful and are sent to slaughter?  Do you know whether you’re wearing a horse?

And don’t think “faux” fur is considerably better.  Many times, it is NOT FAUX!!  And it still sends the message that you want to wear an animal’s skin.  I mean, seriously.

Iron Gait Percheron Rescue

One of the many opportunities to help animals, thanks to GARP and Iron Gait Percherons, GARP Workday May 18, 2012

For folks in the Atlanta area, the group Georgia Animal Rights and Protections, founded in 2003, has over 700 members, and is an awesome group that can provide you with not only information, but also consistent opportunities to help the plight of animals.  Here’s a photo from our work day yesterday.  The zen of mucking stalls.

More to follow about Iron Gait Percherons – Draft Horse Rescue, where horses are saved from many fates, including being the leather on your shoes or the accent on your purse strap.

The Secret of NIH – Morgan Island

I should not write this short snippet while I’m this freaking disgusted, but fuck! The National Institutes of Health is using Morgan Island, off the coast of South Carolina, as a “free range breeding ground,” of sorts.

What they’re breeding, or allowing to breed, on this small deserted island are not chickens, or wild pigs, which you might expect would have arrived here from a neighboring island.  Nope.

Monkey Island Morgan Beaufort South Carolina National Institute of Health

Monkey Island, Rhesus monkey destined to be someone’s experiment

What NIH is breeding are  rhesus monkeys.  Monkeys who are destined to die, not on Morgan Mutherfucking Island.  No, fuck, no.  Each monkey will die (unless vivisection is ended once and for freaking all) in a lab somewhere, after being poked, stuck, restrained, cut open, had smoke forced into its lungs, and had open brain surgery.

Well, I told you I shouldn’t have written this now.  But fuck.

For the facts, and not just my tirade, read the excellent summary by Dave Wagner of NewsChannel 36.

Update August 9, 2015: Since the links above have disappeared from the interwebtubes, here is a summary by another news source.

And a video:

Call to Free Captain Paul Watson

I just realized that the German Consulate General is just down the street from where I work.


Captain Paul Watson arrested and jailed in Germany on Costa Rica warrant

Free the man who will not stand for illegal fishing and whaling

German Consulate General
Marquis Two Tower, Suite 901
285 Peachtree Center Avenue, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia, 30303-1221
Phone (404) 659 4760
Fax (404) 659 1280

Hello, I’m here to speak to someone about freeing Captain Paul Watson, on the basis of an arrest warrant from 10 years ago, issued by a State (Costa Rica) that was the flag flying on an illegal fishing vessel in another State’s (Guatemala’s) waters (Captain Watson was asked, by the way, to intervene by that other State and to stop the illegal fishing activity), illegally catching and illegally finning and illegally discarding still-live as well as dead illegally de-finned sharks, a warrant that was not honored or recognized as valid just days ago by Interpol.

To whom may I speak to provide my comment? About illegal fishing that Germany certainly does not want to support?

I expect to say something like that to the Atlanta Consul, or his secretary’s secretary.

I am acting as part of a group that is planning to have call day to German Embassies and Consulates General all around the world.  The link contains links to addresses and phone numbers.

Thursday, May 17.  Call an German Embassy or Consulate General.

And now a song as I unplug and close my eyes.

Do me a favor before I go.

Will you do me a favor?

Stand on up.

Stand on up.

And be counted for protecting marine life.  And speaking out against thinly-veiled, unjust harassment by unknown and unnamed thugs who would kill all marine life for half a buck.

Hold on.  I’m coming.

Celebrating Shark Week at an aquarium is, well, abhorrent

Grey Reef Shark from Wikipedia

Grey Reef Shark, Image from Wikipedia

Yesterday, I finished watching the award-winning (31 International awards) Sharkwater again, this time via the nine 10-minute segments that are on YouTube.  And then gobbled up more shark and whale news at The Cyber Whale Warrior Daily Paperli.

I noticed that fellow blogger and publisher of the paper, Holise Cleveland, had posted something I said last year about Shark Week:

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating Dog Week at an animal shelter.

I think I later added a “dog pound” to the “animal shelter” version because I felt that was a more apt comparison.  But it got me to thinking about that analogy, and I came up with a slightly different version; but one that’s getting even closer to how I see it.  See what you think:

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating dog week by going to look at, but not trying to rescue, the dogs living their lives out in cages at a puppy mill.  And saying, “How cute!” as you walk to the next crate.

I know.  It’s longer, and not so clever or quotable, but more accurate.  Having re-watched Sharkwater, another Shark Week simile variant came to me that I feel is even closer to how I see it.  Maybe some people won’t like this version as much as the shorter dog comparison – in fact, it may seem a bit harsh:

How is keeping a child locked up in a basement qualitatively different from keeping a shark or whale in a tank?

Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium is like celebrating Children’s Week by looking into the basement window of your new neighbor and discovering a child being held against its will, having been torn away from its mother, its family and everyone it knew.

Even though held in a 10′ by 10′ room, with only electrical lighting, you notice that the child seems happy when the caregivers come to feed it.   And even laughs when one of the adults teaches it how to cartwheel in that small space.

Then you notice that there are people coming to the house, and you see that they are standing outside a door in the basement looking into the 10-by-10 room, at the child.  And you see the people paying the caregiver money to come look at the child.

You hear an inquiry about paying a little bit more money for cartwheels.  And maybe paying a little more for an interactive program, like a swim-with.

Now, that’s what celebrating Shark Week by going to the Georgia Aquarium is like to me.  Pity I can’t Tweet that one.

So I thought I’d put the question to you:  What is Celebrating Shark Week at the Georgia Aquarium – or any aquarium – like for you? 

How to Celebrate Shark Week this year?  We’re a couple of months out from Shark Week, and I have no idea what is planned for this year. One idea for celebrating Shark Week would be to write our favorite “Celebrating Shark Week” sayings on a poster board, and pay a visit to our local aquariums during Shark Week (in July) to share our message.  No doubt the aquariums will have some promotion.  Let’s have one of our own.  I, for one, plan to go with a few copies of Sharkwater.

Celebrating Shark Week at an aquarium isn’t celebrating sharks at all; it’s really celebrating People Can Do Whatever They Feel Like to Sharks Week.

Captain Paul Watson arrested in Germany to get me to watch Sharkwater

Okay.  Not true.  Captain Paul Watson has no freaking idea who I am.  Or whether I have or have not watched Sharkwater.  But the fact remains that, as a direct result of the Captain’s arrest, I am watching Sharkwater on this rainy Sunday afternoon.

Fact on the ground:  Captain Paul Watson was arrested in Germany.  Here are reports so far from Sea Shepherd, the Cyber Whale Warrior community, Digital Journal and in Ecorazzi.

As noted in the reports, the arrest warrant issued by Costa Rica appears to be related to Captain Watson’s and the Sharkwater filmmakers’ (including the amazing Rob Stewart, whose mission was the making of Sharkwater, and who wrote, produced and directed it) encounter with some illegal fishing of sharks by a vessel flying a Costa Rican flag, or was it flying another flag in Costa Rican waters. Or were they in Galapagos Island Waters.

Clearly I don’t know much.  Which is why I went searching for how to watch Sharkwater.  What I found was that Sharkwater was accessible in snippets on YouTube, posted by Isurus3.  I had confessed earlier today to my marine animal loving cadre, the folks over at Cyber Whale Warrior and Save Misty the Dolphin, that I had only seen the trailer.  That turned out not to be true.  Today I discovered that I had, in fact, watched Sharkwater last year; I just don’t recall how.

So for your convenience, and mine, those snippets of Sharkwater:










So, here’s the thing.  As wonderful as YouTube is and all that, I am trying to download iTunes (I don’t freaking have iTunes on my computer? WTF!) so that I can download an HD version of Sharkwater and watch it on my big(ger) screen.  All at once.  Well, the streamy thing is, well, you know.

And besides which, I want to support more work to protect sharks, and the guys at Sharkwater are doing just that.

What can we do?  Watch the movie, sign a pledge to help spread the word about the dire situation that fishermen are creating for sharks.  And for you and me.

Let the governments know that Captain Paul Watson is the hero here and that they are prosecuting the good guys.

So, Captain Paul.  Thank you for every every everything you do; but really, next time, check to see if I’ve seen the movie.

What the Aquariums taught you while you weren’t looking

With the awesome release of Misha and Tom to the wild, due to the most absolutely awesome work by the Born Free Foundation [jumping up and down and laughing and crying and screaming and clapping. . .], I found myself reflecting on how it could possibly be that everyone wouldn’t celebrate their release and the news of Tom’s and Misha’s having outdistanced the tracking boats



within a very short time, as they literally sped toward their home waters [freaking painful facial smile muscles], with the jumping and clapping, if not the squealing and face-cramping.

Seriously, or not seriously.  Picture this.  These two free dolphins, having been held in captivity for years, are now swimming their asses off, on their own volition, to get home.  No one is pulling them.  No one is prodding them with dead fish.  No one told them where to go and gave them a map.  No one could tell them where to go.  We don’t know how to do that.  They knew and they freaking went!!!

So in this celebratory time, I was remembering a post I wrote a few months ago about the fact that aquariums, like the Georgia Aquarium, teach your kids that humans “owning” dolphins is okay.

Yep, they literally teach your kids – and you and us all – that wanting to own a dolphin is okay.

I’m gonna repeat a little.  Again, consider ownership of dolphins in the context of the release of Misha and Tom.  How did it happen that we thought it was okay that these two dolphins who are now swimming madly for home should be held in captivity?  How did the concept that it was okay to own them come to us?

Well, I say, we were taught.  Not by our parents.  Not by our schools.

You and I weren’t born “knowing” that it was okay to own a dolphin.  None of us were.  None of us thought much about dolphins at all, until we gained access to nature via a pair of nature-show-freak parents, or cool nature-book-reading parents, or unless we grew up with access to a shoreline and parents who would take us where dolphins can be seen.

Those shows, books and shorelines surely didn’t teach us that dolphin captivity was okay.  Or ownership of them.  We were not taught about dolphin captivity and ownership other than by the very institutions that stand to benefit financially if we believe that story.  We were taught by The Georgia Aquariums of this world.  The SeaWorlds.  And more recently, Mattel and Playmobil – no strangers to forming young minds – joined the cartel.  We were taught, in kindler and gentler terms, that ripping an animal out of its natural habitat just because you want to is okay.  Okay.  Okay to own another intelligent, independent being.  To assume full control and domination over their very survival.  And we didn’t even notice that they were teaching us that.

They have distorted what you and I collectively consider acceptable treatment of wild marine creatures.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, manipulating your views about dolphin captivity

And we didn’t even notice.  We didn’t notice that we were learning this warped keeping-of-dolphins-in-small-concrete-tanks-is-acceptable lesson.  The lesson that obscured that it is an abhorrent manipulation of both nature and how we perceive nature.  Geez.  That was pretty slick.

So, let’s just track back through this:  those folks managed to rip dolphins out of their native habitat and have taught us to think that it is FOR ONE SECOND okay.  And they managed to get you to pay to see these beings who were ripped from their natural home and their natural community and family structures.

Without your catching on.  Wow.  Pretttttty slick.

Well, now you’ve thought.  You’ve caught the distorters in the act.

You have seen Misha and Tom, swimming free, racing home, without our “help”.  Look at the picture of Tom catching a fish in the wild for the first time in years [more squeals and shrieks], as noted in the article.  Know that all dolphins deserve to have freedom restored to them, like Tom and Misha.  All of them deserve to go home.

Clap and pledge never to go to the dolphin show.  And never again think that healthy dolphins can’t be rehabilitated for their very own trip home.

Cheers to the Born Free Foundation, Jeff Foster (who “trained” Tom and Misha to catch their own food again) and everyone involved in the effort.