Category Archives: Uncategorized

For Marius: an honest conversation about domination

Perhaps some of you are being accused of being ignorant in our objection to the execution-of-convenience of Marius by the Copenhagen Zoo.  Some accusations hurl the moniker “hypocrite” for objecting only to Marius when “this kind of things goes on all the time in zoos.” Others say the ignorance is of the very essence of animal husbandry in collections.

Of course it isn’t only about Marius; but just as clearly, if we don’t object to the execution of one, we lose the right to object to the execution of many, because then we have become like them. We will have lost sight of the individual and become a mere zookeeper ourselves, who judges when and how many it is acceptable to kill, or in perhaps the one accurate use of the word, to cull.

I will never defend zoos or aquariums, except to save a species; and only then if we are also waging the war to save their habitat, to push the humans off their land and out of their water, to have the humans stop cutting their trees, to criminalize the act of stealing another’s habitat.

To Marius and all the others, I apologize for our unhealthy ability to cloak our racist and ethnist expressions of domination in the control of you.

I highly recommend that you read the very interesting article by David Samuels in Harpers referenced in my blog post, Animal rights, animal captivity, slavery and racism, to end the real ignorance about zoos and aquariums: they are rooted in values that, if exposed to the light of day, no healthy person would want.

Marius at the Copenhagen Zoo. Photo credit Scanpix Reuters Denmark

Marius at the Copenhagen Zoo. Photo credit Scanpix Reuters Denmark

For Marius. It’s time to have an honest conversation about zoos and aquariums, about their roots in an unhealthy need for domination, an acceptance of distinguishing other beings as inferior, a willingness to exploit other beings, and begin a robust and aggressive conversation about actually preserving and restoring habitat for the wild ones so that we return to them what is rightfully theirs, not ours.

For Marius. For Jiyu. For the Longleat lions. For Anne. For the Southern Residents. For the dolphins who are dying in the Indian River and along the eastern U.S. seaboard. For all the creatures who died, and those who are trying to survive, in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater/Corexit debacle.

For Marius. For Jiyu. Let’s have a conversation about replacing our current conversation based in domination with one based in respect and love.

Because as long as we just export to the rest of the animal kingdom – or even to the vegetable and mineral ones – our ability to distinguish-and-dominate, nothing is safe. No gay person, no person of color, no religious belief, no belief of any kind: NOTHING is safe.

For Marius. For Jiyu.  An end to zoos and aquariums as we know them.

What you can do:

Honoring another creature recognizes the divinity in all

Recognizing the divinity in all

SeaWorld still doesn’t understand how the SRKW became endangered?

SeaWorld still doesn’t understand how the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population became endangered  Either that, or they do understand full well, but fly the balloon of uncertainty for reasons of their own.

Reading this just might make you gasp.

SeaWorld's claim that it is not known why the Southern Resident Killer Whale population became endangered, for all the world to see

SeaWorld’s suggesstion that it is not known why the Southern Resident Killer Whale population became endangered, for all the world to see  From

Oh, SeaWorld.  No study on captive orcas is needed to understand that the horrific and massive extraction of the young orcas for the aquarium industry coupled with the birth-age of females and their gestation cycles is largely responsible for the SRKW population’s being placed,  and very little recovery since being so placed, on the list of Endangered Species.

As of September 2013, the SRKW population totaled 81 individuals ( J Pod = 26, K Pod = 19, L Pod = 36). The size of all three Southern Resident pods was reduced in number from 1965-75 as a result of whale captures for marine park exhibition. At least 13 whales were killed during these captures, while 45 whales were delivered to marine parks around the world. Today, only Lolita (Tokitae) remains alive in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium.   – From the Center for Whale Research

But for SeaWorld to suggest that it is still apparently a mystery reveals little more than its agenda; I’m not sure if that is “at best” or “at worst.”  As with other similar situations with SeaWorld and other aquariums <guess who>, I honestly don’t know if it would be better if they knew the truth and infused uncertainty, or if they truly didn’t know, but were entrusted with the lives of these magnificent beings.

Either way, looks like a Catch-22 for the orcas, both captive and free.

The rest of us can understand that studying orcas in concrete tanks has not translated significantly to conservation of the wild ones and will not tell us why the wild ones became endangered.  In contrast, organizations like the Center For Whale Research, whose mission is the study and conservation of the SRKW population, is where the daily scientific study of this wild population actually occurs, study that may yield important information on how to protect them and their habitat from further assaults.

Perhaps SeaWorld “may someday” understand how the Southern Residents became endangered.  If it really is “someday”, that day will be after SeaWorld has been forced to retire its “collection” of living beings to sea pens where they can once again, or for the first time, enjoy life in real seawater, with real tides, and a real sun, moon, and stars, and a real shore, and people who really get the right of orcas and all beings to have that life, to experience their birthright.

What you can do: Become a member of or donate to the Center for Whale Research and contribute to real protection of the wild ones.

Orcas K14, K42 and K26 - Sept. 17, 2009, known by and photo credit to the Center for Whale Research

Orcas K14, K42 and K26 – Sept. 17, 2009, known by and photo credit to the Center for Whale Research

For Jiyu, Faith, Hope and all the captives of the aquarium industry

Humans have created an unnatural world in which they, or some of them, think they can tell others who they are. It just isn’t true that humans have that power or that right: others aren’t food, aren’t clothing, aren’t entertainment, aren’t research projects. They are who they are. They are their birthright, not some small fraction of it that we say we have the power to allow them.

This is why Jiyu is so important to me. Jiyu was an individual. Jiyu was a failure in the human machine. Jiyu didn’t do what we told her to do. And Jiyu died because of the arrogance of man, that he thought he could control her.

I think of her and honor her life every day, as do others who worked to try to save her and continue to work to save the rest. Those on the ground working to save Jiyu were Heather Hill, Rosie Kunneke, Martyn Stewart and others whose names I do not know.

Heather Hill, whose image of Jiyu inspires me every day, has made this beautiful reminder of that very principle: The All-One – many call that God – tells them who they are, not we newcomers to this vast and wondrous Universe. Thank you, Heather, for this perfect tribute to those who would not go gentle into that dark, not good, night of captivity.

For Jiyu. Forever.

Open letter to Gretchen Wilson: our choices make a difference

This HARLAN COUNTY gal (which I reckon qualifies as good as any as being a Redneck Woman) knows that some artists will play at venues that don’t reflect the ethic of respect for animals to fulfill their birthright.  Other artists, however, make choices that lift us all up higher than the exploitation and abuse of withholding that right.

When an artist or performer makes the CHOICE to play at SeaWorld, she is making a CHOICE that perpetuates and supports a company and a system that misleads the public, that misleads our children into thinking that captivity is an acceptable 2014 institution.  We “didn’t know no better” in 1964 when SeaWorld was founded.  We do know better now, although not everyone has been involved in the issue of captivity enough to come to their own, and very personal, realization.

Gretchen Wilson's choice.

Gretchen Wilson’s choice: taking her FANS down the garden path that leads to the witch’s cabin in the woods

When an artist makes the CHOICE to listen to the company that pioneered captivity and which the rest of the world parrots when they open new aquariums in their countries, this is a downfall in a moment of CHOICE, and it leads so many others who then act out their own bolstering of that outdated and unethical system by spending their dollars to keep alive something that should be retired.

Gretchen Wilson relies upon having fans to follow her CHOICE to play at SeaWorld

Gretchen Wilson relies upon having fans to follow her CHOICE to play at SeaWorld

Every CHOICE we make today builds the future.  And Ms. Wilson is building a future that is unethical, inhumane and unsustainable.

This isn’t about FANS or NOT-FANS, Ms. Wilson; this is about whether you are serving as a point of mirroring ethical values or merely profit-at-any-cost.  Either is your CHOICE. And because of your career, when you make a choice that results in the suffering and death of untold numbers of marine mammals, you take others with you down that unethical garden path to the witch’s cabin in the woods.  Choosing to ignore the fact that captivity is a morbid experience for innocent creatures who have been denied their birth-right is, after all, one of the choices you had before you.

Our choices makes a difference.  The future will hold us all to account for our choices, including those who, at the moment of choice, made the one you just did.

Ms. Wilson says that she did her research.  We obviously don’t know what that effort entailed.  But she told her fans that she had, and for some or even for many, that will be good enough for them to walk through the ticket turnstyle at SeaWorld.  This, aside from the travesty of captivity itself, is the real failure in the act of choice which was served up to her “fans”.

For one’s own research, a very good starting point is watching (not hearing about) the award-winning film, BlackfishIf you have not yet seen Blackfish, it will be aired again on CNN this Sunday, February 9, 2014, at 9pm and 11pm ET.  Over 1 million people watched it when CNN first aired it over about a two-week period in October and November 2013.

Because everything is about choice, do your own research, and do it well.  Imagining that a profit-center has your or our or even their best interests at heart is giving up your choice to them.

More information for one’s own research:

SeaWorld is coming for your children

SeaWorld is coming for your children.

SeaWorld's Fairy Kingdom

SeaWorld uses cute pictures to create a happy sea wonderland. Who could resist? Hmm. How about YOU!

It will use pop music and pretty, clapping, spandex-clad youths riding and standing on captive wild creatures to create a living fairy tale that only a few of your children will understand is actually a lie.

Don’t let your children become a trussed up Hansel & Gretel to a dressed up, but very hungry, witch.

And lest one imagine that it is any better at other aquariums with captive marine mammals, stop it.  You’re about to enter the fairy tale again. Which is exactly what they want.  The Georgia Aquarium expressly entices you with the promise of magic:

It’s Broadway theater. With dolphin stars! Original music! Amazing choreography! And soaring action!

Be part of something magical.

Only at the world’s largest, most magical aquarium. Georgia Aquarium, where imaginations go to play.

I might have added, “And belugas go to die” if I didn’t want to extract you from that “most magical” wonderland of dolphin domination and alternating cycles of sensory deprivation/sensory overload. Take a moment to think about that. Just a moment.  You can handle it.

Dolphins in barren concrete tanks, where they have ceased using much of their echolocation because it bounces around the concrete in a confusing manner that does not occur in nature.  Alternate that with the aquariums’ cueing their horrific music. Every day. A never-ending cycle of silence-loud-silence-loud-silence-loud. “Three shows daily!” For the rest of the dolphins’ restricted and unimaginably empty lives.

At the risk of losing you to the “most magical” kingdom, here is the Georgia Aquarium’s ad to lure us in with our children, not to mention our secret and just-as-innocent inner child.  Remember, it is not true. It is a constructed, “most magical” facade of domination and deprivation.  Deep breath – now go on in.

Ugh. I suspect that you can see that it is hype, very well-made hype.  But please, see behind that hype to the horrid existence for captive dolphins and whales and know that you’ve been had for your entire life if you thought that dolphin shows were okay. Had. Conned. By hype. To believe that you were doing something good for dolphins if you went to their show. Guess again.  You weren’t. You were had.  We were all had.

Georgia Aquarium Dolphin Tales

There are so many things wrong with this picture. How many can you find?

But don’t let them have your children.  Take a pledge that you will not go to the dolphin show.

And if you see this post in time, watch Blackfish on CNN this Sunday, February 9, at 9pm and 11pm ET.

The supply and demand of the aquarium industry

Taiji and the aquarium industry know something about supply and demand.  They, like we, know that Taiji is the world’s largest supplier of live dolphins for the aquarium, marine park and swim-with industry.  They also know something that does not occur to you or to me.

Taiji and the aquarium industry searching for the intersection via capture vs kill

Taiji and the aquarium industry searching for the intersection via capture vs kill

They know that this graph steers the daily tactics inside a strategy.  They know that the X-axis is the number of dolphins available to the trading in dolphin lives and that the Y-axis is the amount of money that can be made from that trade.

They know that killing dolphins has little to do with eating dolphins.  They know that it has to do with this graph.

Taiji and the world’s aquarium industry know that, somewhere on this graph, there is a sweet spot for both of them.  And that killing is part of skewing the sweet spot to one intersection point or another.

This graph shows all that.

It also shows why the aquarium industry is at least constructively complicit in the killings when it provides a market for Taiji dolphins.  And why the International Marine Animal Trainers Association and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums need to step away from Taiji and cease purchasing dolphins from this “sweet spot”, that is, killing, machine.

Don’t go to the dolphin show and get that complicity all over you when you buy the ticket.  Sign the petitions to IMATA and WAZA to demand that they stop supporting the Taiji killing machine.

Otherwise, this is what you buy.

pStriped dolphins Taiji February 11 2013

On February 11, 2013, a family of 100 – 120 striped dolphins was driven into the Cove in Taiji, Japan. All family members were killed but about 20.  The mothers and brothers and children in this photo are now dead.  Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians



The Georgia Aquarium’s “education” is obvious on Election Day

The Georgia Aquarium likes to use “its” dolphins.  They use them to pick the Superbowl winners at Superbowl time.  They use them as the backdrop to wedding receptions and Christmas parties. Proposals of marriage are apparently romantic in front of these captive marine mammals.  Stars come to town, wearing their furs or not, and have kiss-the-dolphin (or beluga whale) photo ops.

So, it should come as no surprise that the Georgia Aquarium would use the eleven dolphins that it houses here at its Atlanta facility as a prop for the Presidential Election, when it mused that the eleven dolphins were performing only once today because they were voting.  But the soft “joke” quickly turned to a substantive conversation about dolphin mortality, not by an advocate for dolphin freedom, but by, apparently, someone who supports dolphin captivity, who suggested that dolphins live longer in captivity, when that is not the case.

Georgia Aquarium uses dolphins as prop for Election Day

Georgia Aquarium uses dolphins as prop for Election Day

Sandy McElhaney, an administrator at Facebook community Save Misty the Dolphin, hit the nail on the head when she mused whether that erroneous information may have come from “education” from the Georgia Aquarium.  Her comment is consistent with a report by the Humane Society of the U.S., which summarized four studies all demonstrating that dolphins in captivity live a significantly shorter lifespan, one study by a factor of almost two.

But going back to the Georgia Aquarium’s prop piece, Ms. McElhaney was also spot on when she said, “I am sure they would vote for FREEDOM given the opportunity.”

Vote for dolphin FREEDOM.  Don’t ever ever go to a dolphin show.

Translation software for the cetacean captivity industry – Georgia Aquarium announces intention to capture belugas

While doing research on the effort by the Georgia Aquarium to import more wild-caught beluga whales, and to increase the population of the belugas whales in the United States by more than 50 percent, I have found that some of the translation software out there results in pretty much garbage sometimes.  I noticed this, too, during efforts to stop the dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan.

Baby beluga whale, now at the Alaska Sea Life Center

A baby beluga whale was recently rescued, but this doesn’t help enough with the captivity industry’s gene pool problem

So, it is with some not small relief that I tell you about a translation software that I think finally works.  I want to show you the translation of the Georgia Aquarium’s blog about its intentions to import 18 beluga whales into the United States, which it published two days after the first news broke.

Here goes, the Georgia Aquarium’s text in italics, followed by the translation software’s version in bold text.

Georgia Aquarium Leads Conservation Efforts for Beluga Whales

Transl Georgia Aquarium Leads Effort to Import more Wild-caught Captive Beluga Whales

Georgia Aquarium is taking a leadership role in the zoological community to conserve and protect beluga whales everywhere. The beluga whale is listed on the IUCN as a “near-threatened” species. Through the study and observation of belugas in human care, we continue to gain a better understanding of their biology, physiology and diseases that affect them, all with the goal of learning how we can help those populations in their natural habitats. Georgia Aquarium is proud to take a bold step to ensure the care and understanding of belugas in human care and in the wild. We recognize the immense knowledge and education that the study of these animals can provide, and we aim to inspire the public to conserve and protect the species.

Transl:  The Georgia Aquarium leads a worldwide effort to increase the captive beluga whale population and wants the public to believe that it has something, anything to do with conservation of the species in the wild.

Transl:  We once did the right thing by retrieving two very distressed beluga whales from horrid conditions, but now we want to do more than rescue belugas.  We want to charge $169.95 for the honor of having an experience with an animal that was ripped from its wild life, its life with its family.  And so we need more whales.  If we don’t capture the beluga whales, all the beluga whales in the wild will disappear.  The research that we just paid for showed that taking more beluga whales from the wild will not negatively impact the wild populations.

Me here: I’ll just point out very quietly from the corner, that those last two statements cannot logically coexist.  I don’t think Billsy or the Georgia Aquarium understand that.  Really? Okay, so I’m not surprised.  I knew that they didn’t understand their impact on cetaceans, but now I also know that they don’t understand even logic.  Don’t you need logic for scientific research?  Jus sayin’.

As part of an initiative to maintain a sustainable population of belugas in human care, Georgia Aquarium supported an important research project to learn more about a population of animals from which whales have been collected by Russian scientists in the Sea of Okhotsk in northern Russia. This extensive body of research has been reviewed by our peers and validated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, also known as IUCN. In full accordance with the Animal Welfare Act, U.S. and international law, the bylaws of the zoological associations to which Georgia Aquarium belongs, Georgia Aquarium will acquire beluga whales which originated from the Sea of Okhotsk. In its review of the research, the IUCN found this acquisition will have zero negative impact on the native population.

Transl: We need the population of captive beluga whales in the United States to be stable and growing.  We paid a lot of money to acquire research that would show that if we take more belugas from the wild, we won’t hurt the wild population’s stability.  These laws give credibility to our position, but I hope no one reads them and finds out that we pretty much set our own standards, and the IUCN is pretty much toothless, so who cares what it says anyway.

We have applied for a permit to bring these animals to the United States. After we welcome the animals to the U.S., the whales will make their home at Georgia Aquarium and other leading accredited aquariums and zoological parks in North America and will become part of a collective breeding program among these institutions known as a Species Survival Plan. Georgia Aquarium is proud to take this bold step in beluga conservation and is excited to show our new belugas the same love and care that we give to all of our animals.

Transl: We really, really want to increase the number of captive beluga whales.

Please watch as Georgia Aquarium Chief Zoological Officer William Hurley explains more about our beluga conservation project.

Transl: Please watch our carefully scripted attempt to dig out of the hole caused by the AJC article.

You know the moment in The Wizard of Oz where the Cowardly Lion shares his vision of what he would do as King of the Forest?  Well, the translation software reveals that my entire blog can be translated into, “I’d wrap ’em up in celephant.”

And to help stop this atrocity before it goes further, please sign the petition:



It started as a Facebook post and ended as a blog

I have no original thoughts.  There.  You have it.  But you bloggers know how unprofound that statement is.  Why bother having original thoughts when observing-and-commenting is so much fun.

So, without (for once) belaboring the point, here is another installment of “It started as a Facebook post and ended as a blog.”  Which theme I will, as any reader of mine could predict, later belabor.

Here is Lewis Black, with so many gems inside ten minutes, that – except for any ten minutes that Christopher Hitchens’ pen or mouth were moving – it challenges almost any ten minutes of memorialized thought.

“Was the Earth created in seven days?”


For those of you who believe it was, um, for you Christians, let me tell you, then you do not understand the Jewish people.  We Jews understand that it did not take place in seven days, and that’s ’cause we know what we’re good at, and what we’re really good at is bullshit.

This is a wonderful story that was told to the people in the desert in order to distract them from the fact that they did not have air conditioning.

I would love to have the faith to believe that it took place in seven days, but . . . I have thoughts.  And that can really fuck up the faith thing.

Just ask any Catholic priest.

If that isn’t enough on his consideration of the seven-day thing:

And then . . . there are fossils.

Whenever anybody tries to tell me that they believe that it took place in seven days, I reach for a fossil and go, “Fossil.”

And if they keep talking, I throw it just over their head.

Not had enough?

There are people who believe that dinosaurs and men lived together; that they roamed the Earth at the same time.  There are museums that children go to in which they build dioramas to show them this.  And what this is, purely and simply, is a clinical psychotic reaction.  They are crazy.  They are stone-cold fuck nuts.

I can’t be kind about this, because these people are watching the Flintstones as if it were a documentary.

Oh, I could keep going with this transcription thing.  Because if I thought that I could actually reach more of you, and cause you to laugh and think, I would keep typing and typing and typing.  But I think it’s time that if you’ve read this far, you should go straight to the gem itself, instead of my thoughts about it.

Lewis Black (either because it’s secure video or I know nothing about the internet <guilty grimace>, I can’t embed it).  You owe to yourself the click over if you’ve gotten this far.)

Namaste and many laughs and thoughts.

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.