As the Pride Festival gets into full swing this weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, its weekend events were kicked off yesterday at the Georgia Aquarium, described by the Atlanta Pride Committee on its website:
Th[e Georgia Aquarium] is always breathtaking and the décor is always an assault on your senses.
While Pride notes the decor and the assault on one’s senses, the contradiction between celebrating one’s freedom-to-be at a facility whose purpose involves denying those same freedoms to dolphins and whales (and other animals) is so obvious as to be embarrassing.
As has been repeated here and to Pride on numerous occasions, marine mammals are not suited – by their nature – to captivity. These highly social and intelligent beings swim tens and even up to nearly 100 miles in a single day, use sound to interact with their world (to find each other, identify prey and danger and other curiosities), and live with their family/community groups, generally for life (that is, their relationships are far more permanent and daily-present than our own).
In obvious and inescapable contrast, in captivity, all of these basic characteristics of being a dolphin or whale are denied: they are put in concrete and steel tanks where sound is a confusing and stressful series of reflected and transmitted close-range noises, mostly human-caused, so much that they stop using sound in anything like the way they would in the wild. They stop truly communicating with their world and become individual and isolated beings, notwithstanding “sharing space” with other, similar beings. Their “families” aren’t families, their communities not communities, any more than a random assemblage of people makes a family or a community. Denied access to living fish (their source of fresh water in the wild) as a daily staple of their diet, they no longer obtain the fresh water that is as essential to their healthy lives, and fresh water must either be supplied by a garden hose down their “gullet” or in cubes of gelatin (another product that they do not eat in the wild). In addition to noise and diet, the aquarium industry further destabilizes them by moving them around dependent upon the needs of the industry and often takes the young away from their mothers to populate another park.
The noise was noted in 2011 by Dan Matthews, PETA Vice-President, after his first attendance at a Pride opening party,
As a veteran clubber, I’m used to big loud parties, but the music at the aquarium was so earsplitting that even before we entered, I could only wonder how it sounded to the most notable of the facility’s 120,000 inmates–the beluga whales. These marine mammals are so sensitive to pounding noises that the aquarium shipped them away during construction of the dolphin exhibit. Yet the thumping techno remix of Katy Perry’s “Firework” was as audible outside as a jackhammer.
Thus began the outreach to Atlanta Pride, which continues to the present. Despite years of such outreach by PETA and its spokespersons (like Jane Lynch (2012) and Project Runway’s Tim Gunn (2013)) and other individuals, the Atlanta Pride Committee continues to ignore the body of work made available to it regarding the perils of captivity to marine mammals.
Have a great time this weekend at the Pride events. It is just increasingly disappointing that the Pride leadership does not listen to the consistent outreach about why “Pride” and the “Georgia Aquarium” do not share values.
As long as Pride, whose main purpose is
to promote unity, visibility and self-esteem among lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender and queer persons and to promote a positive image in the Atlanta area and throughout the Southeastern United States through community activities and services[,]
continues to ignore the rights of other beings to be who they are, to have the freedom that life gave them, unaltered by an agenda of an exterior entity, corporation or government, Atlanta Pride will fail its mission.
One cannot build Pride on an assault of humanity’s sense of ethics.
What you can do:
- Learn more about captivity and its impact on marine mammals.
- Sign PETA’s petition asking the Georgia Aquarium to stop using loud music in its venues and parties.
- Pledge not to visit an aquarium that houses marine mammals.
- Watch Blackfish on CNN on October 24.