Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Taiji dolphin drive hunt is not a “cull”: ALERT THE MEDIA

The Taiji dolphin drive hunt is not a cull.  Alert the media.

If the captivity industry found that they had “bad breeding stock” and decided to kill the bad ones in order to “improve” their stock, that would be a cull.

If SeaWorld decided that it needed to separate orca mothers from calves, the chief husbandry officer might, indeed, “cull” his collection.  But of course, SeaWorld says that it doesn’t do that. <WINK>

If a “wildlife manager” found that one species was diseased or was truly overtaking another species, that might be a cull.

The Taiji drive hunt has nothing to do with removing dolphins for the fishing industry, rumors by the dolphin hunters to the contrary.  AND EVEN IF IT WERE TRUE that they were killing dolphins to restore fish stocks, it is human overfishing that has impacted the fish stocks of Japan, not the activity of dolphins.  And the response of humans to restore a balance among wildlife that we caused (when we really need to stop the offending human actions) should not be termed a “cull”.

Even if properly used, the term “cull” is just another of those words we’ve made up to insulate ourselves from the reality of our actions.  “Cull” is just another name for “kill” when we don’t want to see the blood on our opposable-thumbed hands.

Striped dolphins captured, not culled, for the aquarium industry.  Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

Striped dolphins captured, not culled, for the aquarium industry. Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

But, of course, the reality of the drive hunt is that it is financed, underwritten and generally made lucrative by the large sums paid by the aquarium industry for a few men to capture, kidnap and otherwise steal dolphins, to prop up a 20th Century industry that should be dying and dwindling, instead of swindling us all by taking the lives of the wild ones.  ALERT THE MEDIA.

SeaWorld’s impact: Teaching children that captivity is okay, since 1964

I’m not a screenwriter, so I don’t know the technical names and symbols, but as I watched SeaWorld’s latest commercial, I imagined how the script might have looked:

[Fade in]

[Cue soft, soothing music]

[Underwater shot, ethereal light shining down through digital image of water]

[Cue caption: “Kelly Flaherty-Clark Head Animal Trainer at SeaWorld, Orlando]

[Voiceover]

Ms. Clark:

What does SeaWorld mean to me? SeaWorld is my life, has been my life. It’s been my family.

[Inspirational flash of light (IFOL)]

[SeaWorld, beside orca tank; day]

[Two trainers wearing spandex in water (aka dry work) in background working with orca; Ms. Clark in foreground, wearing same spandex, “bridge” whistle around neck]

[Medium Close up Ms. Clark, pan right; Ms. Clark gesturing convincingly for emphasis]

Ms. Clark

There’s nothing [arm gesture] in the world [arm gesture] that compares [pan left] to having a rapport, [arm gesture] and a relationship [arm gesture] with an animal like this

[gestures toward orcas in small concrete tank; trainer in water with orca pats orca]

[Close up Ms. Clark]

But there’s also [arm gesture] nothing [arm gesture] that compares [arm gesture, eyes lift, camera pan right] to watching the impact that that relationship that you have, [body gesture toward orca] has [gesture open arms toward camera] on the public. [smile]

[Medium close-up Ms. Clark] 

It’s as exciting and inspiring for me [trainer in water (dry work) in background continues to rub orca] to watch a baby killer whale be born [gesture toward orcas in concrete tank] as it is to watch, you know, the six-year-old or the ten-year-old in the audience. [another IFOL]

From SeaWorld's video advertisement "The Bond . . "

From SeaWorld’s video ad “The Bond . . “

[Fade, medium close-up of two orcas on slide-out, trainers in matching spandex continue to rub orcas; make sure female trainer has top knot and orcas (use Kayla and Nalani if available) don’t have much flacid dorsal fin syndrome, aka dorsal fin collapse disorder]

I’ve had people tell me that their children, uh, were so affected [arm gesture toward orca and backside of trainer leaning over orca] by what they saw that they wanted to [Swish pan to close-up Ms. Clark] learn more about whales . . . where do they come from.

[Extreme close-up]

And when they find out they’re from all [voice emphasis] oceans of the world, then they care about all of the oceans of the world.

[Medium close-up]

So that what they see here and how it impacts them, [background female trainer uses bridge to cue orca to splash tail in water] changes the way they behave, outside of SeaWorld.

[Cue final credits; use “truth” in title]

[Fade out]

So, what did all that spandex and music and panning and orcas’ getting patted mean? It means that SeaWorld teaches your children that captivity is okay.  Moreover, I think it tells us that SeaWorld is intentional about that.

If your child went to SeaWorld in the last year, ask her about what oceans she’s thought about protecting.  And then ask her when she wants to go back to SeaWorld.  Then show her Blackfish and ask her again.

Title asks whether Taiji may be causing problems for SeaWorld

The Texarkana Gazette has published (and pulled, much like what happened when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote a story about the Georgia Aquarium’s plan to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales), a story about SeaWorld’s triggering with admission prices as a demonstration that it really does not care about profits.

Pulled from online publication is a story in which SeaWorld looks to ways to salve its recent wounds

Pulled from online publication is a story in which SeaWorld looks to ways to salve its recent wounds

Since the story has been removed, we are left wondering why it was out there to begin with and why it was pulled.  In the case of the Georgia Aquarium’s pulled story, the same story was, indeed, slipped out for publication exactly as it had been written in the “pulled” version, so if like the Georgia Aquarium case, it may be eventually printed that “Fred Jacobs VP of Communications at SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. says they are about to ‘waive all admission fees until July 31st 2014 at their San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando locations. It’s our way of proving SeaWorld does not place profits above the care of its whales and dolphins.'”

As if straight out of The Onion or something from my generation, Mad Magazine, this text is the stuff of which satire fans’ dreams are made.  And since I am a generally snarky writer, one might expect me to be sitting here shaking my head, chuckling, at what is, if true, merely the latest misjudgment of SeaWorld.  But since I am far bigger than that (don’t believe it for a moment), I’m not.  Okay. I am.  It truly never ceases to NOT amaze me when I see how SeaWorld just does not get it.  It isn’t about the money.  We, or at least I, don’t give a flip if SeaWorld makes cabillions of dollars.

We just don’t want it to be at the expense of animals.

The truth – not opinion – is that marine mammals, that is, dolphins and whales, do not belong in concrete tanks.  Not for entertainment.   Not for education.  Not for research on their communication.  Not as bomb finders. They belong in the ocean. Period. Human beings have the remarkable talent for thinking that anything they can do, they should be allowed to do.  We know this isn’t true.  We can exterminate human beings on a massive scale.  Because we can does not imply that we should.

But as delicious, however expected, as it might be to see another SeaWorld misstep, it is the catch-line of the article that is the most notable.

Troubles in Taiji

It asks, “Are troubles in Taiji to blame?” for SeaWorld’s potential of “sinking”.  The erstwhile article doesn’t touch this subject (which leads me to believe that it was prematurely published), and merely points to SeaWorld’s troubles being linked to the award-winning documentary, Blackfish.

What “troubles” the reporter means in reference to Taiji, Japan, I am wondering and have sent a message for clarification.  Meanwhile, since this is a blog, I can just muse what those might be.

Could the troubles be:

  • The statements of the U.S. Ambassador, the UK Ambassador, and the ambassadors of Italy and Germany who all stated that they have concerns about the drive hunt;
On January 17, U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy sent the "tweet heard round the world"

On January 17, U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy sent the “tweet heard round the world”

  • The letter from Yoko Ono to the fishermen of Taiji requesting that they cease killing the dolphins;
  • The incredible amount of media attention from CNN, HLNTV, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Anderson Cooper, Piers Morgan, Reuters, BBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, the Daily Mail, and many others; or
  • The involvement of the “star” factor, where people with significant name recognition, and ethics, are voicing their concerns and objections to the Taiji Drive Hunt, including Moby, Susan Sarandon, Ricky Gervais, Kirstie Alley, William Shatner (OMG! Sorry, other stars, but William Shatner is Captain Kirk!!!!!!), Wynonna, Hayden Pannetierre, Alyssa Milano, Shannen Doherty, the band Nickleback and others (see this reported in the preceding link).

The real and immediate troubles in Taiji are not for SeaWorld.  The human arrogance of imagining that Taiji is more a problem for SeaWorld than it is for the lives that aquariums worldwide exploit is the root of the problem: of imagining that Taiji is more of a problem for SeaWorld than for the 52 bottlenose dolphins who were forcefully removed from their immediate family and the greater community that defines them and upon which they looked for all of what it means to be a dolphin over five horrific days; of imagining that Taiji is more of a problem for SeaWorld than it is for the 41 who were brutally and painfully killed by a metal pike that severs the spinal cord with no guarantee of immediate death, but merely paralysis to allow the transfer of their motionless bodies to the butcherhouse, while some of them drown during transfer; of imagining that Taiji is more of a problem for SeaWorld than for the 250 bottlenose dolphins in this community who were harassed by “banger boats” into a dead-end killing cove, only to have that community ripped apart by death and capture and to have a remnant of the community driven, splintered, fractured, traumatized, back into the open ocean, where they could attempt to regroup and survive; of imagining that Taiji is more of a problem for SeaWorld than for the entire family of striped dolphins that was killed while the entire world watched; of imagining that Taiji is more of a problem for SeaWorld than for over 1,000 dolphins who have been driven into the Taiji Cove this year alone and all the dolphins who have the current misfortune of migrating past Taiji, where the Isana Fishermen’s Union leaves port daily to catch dolphins for aquariums, the “seaworlds” of this planet: this is human arrogance at its clearest if not finest.

There are life-threatening problems in Taiji.  And the world needs to know that aquariums, “seaworlds” everywhere, are likely the biggest cause of those problems.

So when the Gazette queried whether Taiji was a source of problems for SeaWorld, it is fitting that the question be asked and the connection be made, the connection between the fact that aquariums need dolphins for their ridiculous, exploitative, uneducational shows, and that aquariums get many of them from Taiji.

But SeaWorld’s problems? Not ticket problems.  Not revenue problems. Not stuffed-toy-sales problems.  The problems that SeaWorld has are ethical ones.  Since SeaWorld has more orcas (the largest species in the dolphin family) in captivity than any other aquarium in the world, and since SeaWorld pioneered the unnatural holding of these beings in tanks that don’t even approximate a sufficient habitat, the responsibility is on SeaWorld to genuinely revisit its 50-year-old business model cum inspiration for the world aquarium market and turn away from its heretofore lucrative exploitation of these animals.

The good news for SeaWorld is that if it desired, it could rehabilitate itself, its image, its ethical foundation by genuinely engaging with the marine mammal experts to begin a program of rehabilitating the dolphins and whales in its control and preparing them for life in a sanctuary or, in some cases, perhaps many cases, for a life as free as she may remember in her youth.

Tokitae (Lolita)One sidebar about Lolita: on January 24, NOAA published the Proposed Rule to “revise the endangered listing of the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment to include Lolita.”  The public is now invited to submit, by March 28, 2014, its comments on the Proposed Rule.  Wouldn’t it be a class move if SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium both submitted comments that they will support efforts to evaluate the prudence of retiring Tokitae to somewhere other than the horridly small tank in which she has been held for 40 years.

So troubles? Yes, there are troubles.  For the dolphins and whales.  SeaWorld, should it choose, could rehabilitate and restore them to a better life, and in so doing, rehabilitate its image like no Public Relations firm can do.

In the meantime, while we wait for SeaWorld to recognize that we don’t hate it, but that we fully expect that it has the wherewithall to do the right thing and to remain profitable, please learn more about the dolphin hunt, find out what you can do to help, and sign a pledge not to go to the dolphin show.

Update January 27:  In art imitating life (I know it’s the other way; come on!), the story snafu has been claimed to be the work of a hacker, says Texarkana newspaper editor Les Minor, in this report by My San Antonio.  But what if this newest report is the work of a hacker?  Oh, the pain.  The pain!  Will we ever be able to distinguish the real missteps of SeaWorld from satires of their infamous moves?

 

Why DO people like “Blackfish”?

James Franco has “analyzed” the appeal of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s award-winning film Blackfish and has what I’ve seen characterized as some interesting observations.  His theory is that Blackfish delivers on a dark underbelly: it dishes out blood without the guilt.

While he may be onto something about those who go to the shows at SeaWorld who may have a secret, lurking, black desire to see some violent orca-on-human behavior, much as those who go to the circus might secretly hope for the tight-rope walker to need that net, I’m thinking that doesn’t explain the appeal of Blackfish.

Rather, what resonates is the universal truth that all living beings share, which is a desire to live a fully-expressed life. What comes through is our ability to have walked on a darker side of life, to have contributed to a machine of which we were but vaguely aware or perhaps quite aware, to have been even an integral part of that machine, but to be able to truly undo, to redo, and to redress.  What comes through is celebration and redemption: something that even SeaWorld could embrace if it chose.

The dark side of Blackfish? I’m not sure there is one.

If it’s dark you want, just preserve the captivity-making machine of SeaWorld, of Marineland, of Miami Seaquarium, of Loro Parque, of the Georgia Aquarium, of Shedd, of SeaWorld Kamogawa, of the Dubai Aquarium, of Atlantis: The Palm, of the Utrish dolphinaria, of the Beijing Aquarium, of the Nagoya Aquarium or the more than fifty aquariums in the nation of Japan (more than any nation on Earth).  If dark you want, don’t stop the new projects that are continually wanting to emulate SeaWorld’s model.

If, on the other hand, one wants to step into an ethic that preserves and respects life, be part of closing all dolphin and whale shows and ending the capturing and breeding-for-captivity.  Learn about the wild ones on their terms, without the noise, without the shows, without the artificial splashing of stuffed-toy-purchasing children and their parents.

So, at the risk of closing with a “pretty but uninspired long-lens shot[] of whales frolicking peacefully . . . ,” it is an image like this that is the inspiration of those who so love Blackfish and the Blackfish Effect.  This is our goal for all of them.

Why do people like Blackfish?  Because they resonate with truth. And because they very much like redemption. Both for us and for the dolphins.

Support this for all of them by signing the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.

Don’t invest in the captivity machine. Take the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.

What you can doRespect and celebrate life.  Take the pledge to never go to a dolphin show.  Join the #Blackfish Brigade on Facebook and Twitter and take part in coordinated action to get the attention of the entertainment (e.g., concerts at SeaWorld properties) and service industries (e.g., Southwest Airlines) that we want to end the dolphin shows.  And never stop until the shows stop.

Sometimes A Great Nocean: the Simpsons Does SeaWorld

The Twitterverse plants ideas that can’t be shaken, like the tune that someone innocently hums while passing you on the opposite escalator.  Today’s sticky thought began innocently enough.

Watch as the SeaWorld-Simpsons connection is established in your brain

Watch as the SeaWorld-Simpsons connection is established in your brain

A proposal for a perfectly lovely animated movie based on Blackfish that would teach children to respect wildlife enough to see them in the wild (before they had been derailed and come to expect to “have” wildlife on the other side of a glass wall, in the best of instant gratification schemes) turned quickly into an episode – no, an entire series of mental episodes – of The SimpsonsThe Simpsons is especially fitting since Sam Simon, co-developer of The Simpsons, is an exemplar for championing the true nature of this world and whose support for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society resulted in The Sam Simon being part of the SSCS-Australia organization’s whale-protecting fleet.

And because I have neither the skill nor the rights to write the erstwhile Simpsons scripts, I will leave it to the imagination of the overlapping Venn Diagram of Simpsons and wildlife fans.

But rolling around in my noodle are the images of the battling Bart (wants to own a dolphin) and Maggie Lisa (understands that wildlife belongs in the wild), with Bart’s selfish desires being manipulated by the evil Mr. Burns and his shifty

Even Mr. Burns revealed that he had a heart, if memory serves

Even Mr. Burns revealed that he had a heart, if memory serves

Blue-Haired Lawyer to project his desires onto stuffed toy ownership and dreams of becoming a trainer, while hapless Smithers allows his loyalty to Mr. Burns to take him, once again, down the garden path, offering special rates to schools for “field trips” to the Mega Aquarium Chain.  Or the trainers Ernst and Gunter, spewing out the latest script written by Sideshow Bob, while Patches and Poor Violet are exploited in a Public Service Announcement that reveals that orphans deserve to exploit captive dolphins, too.

Or the secrets revealed by Groundskeeper Willie about how a young man was pulled into the orca tank at night and killed, while Smithers (or was it Dr. Julius Hibbert?) was backed into regurgitating a story about hypothermia.

I think I was on a roll until that last bit. But the truth of captivity is not funny.  Dolphins consistently die around the world to feed the aquarium machine, to supply the demand of the market that the aquarium industry created.

Sometimes a Great Nocean would be a wonderful script indeed when Mr. Burns realizes that his greed has resulted in a massive manipulation of both nonhuman and human life, has degraded the lives of all and the ethical compass of humans, and sends Smithers out with an announcement that captivity, while begun in an innocent time, would be irresponsible if continued and that Mega Aquarium Chain would now be turned to an enterprise dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of stranded marine mammals and genuine studies of how to protect their marine habitats.

DOH!

What you can do: To become involved in resetting the ethical compass to the True North of respect for marine mammals, first WATCH BLACKFISH! Then follow your heart and your head and host or join an event in your city to Empty the Tanks, and follow the Blackfish Brigade, the Voice of the Orcas and the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians for daily actions to bring marine mammal freedom into reality.

A generous reader pointed out that I meant Lisa! Thank you! 😉