Tag Archives: Animal rights

Handy Affidavit for supporters of the aquarium industry

A great white shark captured for display at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, has died after three days in captivity.

This is not surprising, given the generally morbid conditions that exist in aquariums, conditions that do not come close to mimicking those in the wild.  But the aquarium industry, with its peaceful music in many displays – and despite the blaring music in others – has managed, over its relatively short existence, to persuade consumers of entertainment that watching wild marine creatures in concrete tanks, or even plastic-lined tanks in traveling shows and exhibits, is acceptable treatment of these magnificent nonhuman animals.

It is not surprising since the aquarium industry has been in control, until fairly recently, of the “captivity message” that is doled out like baby’s pablum to an unsuspecting, and already humancentric, population.

Day in, day out, the aquarium industry doles out its "captivity is good" message, despite its morbid record.

Day in, day out, the aquarium industry doles out its “captivity is good” message, despite its morbid record.

Large aquariums and marine parks, like SeaWorld and the Georgia Aquarium, use their public relations and training staffs to carefully craft the message to a public who hasn’t the sophistication or knowledge to know that the message is, at best, skewed by well-placed omissions, and, at worst, a cobbled-together rubric of self-serving misinformation.

Many aquarium-goers are still ignorant about the true nature of captivity for marine mammals and other wide ranging marine animals, largely because they get their information from only, you guessed it, the aquarium industry.  But this blogger is getting tired of giving aquarium-goers that “pass”.  Even aquarium-goers (and I was one once, at the age of eight), have an internal sense of ethics, regardless of what Madison Avenue or the aquarium industry says.  Even aquarium-goers can see with their own eyes that the tanks are:

  • made of concrete
  • infinitesimally small, compared to the ocean
  • devoid of any natural attributes

They may not know that dolphins and whales swim in family groups, many of

Shaka, wild-caught at estimated age of three in 1988, was moved from the Georgia Aquarium to its facility in Florida, where she has given birth to another "asset" of the Georgia Aquarium

Shaka, wild-caught at estimated age of three in 1988, was moved from the Georgia Aquarium to its facility in Florida, where she has given birth to another “asset” of the Georgia Aquarium

whom never change over their lifetimes, while aquariums treat individuals as assets to be moved into whatever column and location serves the needs of the aquarium (e.g., Shaka, a dolphin captured in 1988, was brought to the Georgia Aquarium in 2010, but never incorporated into the show.  She served as a football game predictor, so still handy for press opportunities.  The Georgia Aquarium moved her to Florida, where she has now given birth to an “asset” of the aquarium.).

Other aquarium-goers, on the other hand, are aware, fully aware of the disparity between life in a tank and a natural life for dolphins and whales.  They just don’t seem to think that dolphins and whales have a right to that life.  They seem to think that their own “right” to see a dolphin in a tank trumps the rights of dolphins and whales to have something more than a concrete tank, a diet of dead fish, fresh water and gelatin supplementation to stave off dehydration, and drugs in the event the dolphins become ill.

Especially for the latter category of aquarium-goers (and swim-with dolphin freaks), it seems fair to “keep it real” by at least acknowledging that they know that dolphins and whales are being denied their birthright, and frankly, don’t care about that as much as they do about satisfying the instant gratification bone by seeing them in tanks.  If aquarium-goers would acknowledge that they just don’t care, at least we could have a real conversation about what’s going on here.

So, for the aquarium-goers and swim-withers, I’ve provided a handy AFFIDAVIT below, which you can sign and turn in to your local aquarium on your next visit.  Better yet, if you have been an aquarium-goer, but you now sense that something is rotten in SeaMark, then sign the affidavit, but make the necessary marginal edits to show that you know better than to believe the pablum and you will never again turn their stiles.  Then turn it into your local aquarium.

For more information:

A handy affidavit for aquarium-goers to keep the conversation honest.

A handy affidavit for aquarium-goers to keep the conversation honest.  Please print out and take to your local aquarium.

 

SeaWorld’s cluelessness about anything “natural”

As SeaWorld describes on its own page, SeaWorld Cares, its President and CEO Joel Manby announced, “the company has initiated production on a new orca presentation for its San Diego park.”  The new presentation will showcase “more of the species’ natural behaviors.”

The new experience will engage and inform guests by highlighting more of the species’ natural behaviors.

SeaWorld has provided little to no detail on what is meant by this, but the following image from its website may provide some clues.

What does this picture tell the public about what SeaWorld has in mind for its new show format?

What does this picture tell the public about what SeaWorld has in mind for its new show format?  Image from SeaWorld Cares.

I guess that SeaWorld is attempting to make the point that because, in the wild, orcas breach, when SeaWorld trains the orcas in its collection (by using food deprivation) to jump out of the water, this is a natural behavior.

But if it isn’t exactly clear that this is what SeaWorld means, one can read further in its blog for tells.  Describing the following image, SeaWorld states that “[i]t’s going to be focused more on the natural setting, natural environment and also the natural behaviors of the whales.”

SeaWorld's next example of "natural behaviors." Image from SeaWorld Cares.

SeaWorld’s next example of “natural behaviors.”  Image from SeaWorld Cares.

So, yet another image of orcas leaping out of the water is provided, with the implication, again, that because orcas leap out of the water in the ocean, when they do so upon command in a concrete tank, this makes it a “natural behavior.”  Never mind that the wild orcas are not rewarded with frozen, dead fish or signaled “trick successfully completed” by the toot of the trainer’s whistle, or “bridge”.  SeaWorld is apparently telling us that this is natural behavior.

The concept of “natural behaviors” seems to be the focus, because nothing in SeaWorld’s presentation to stockholders on October 9 or on its SeaWorld Cares site would indicate that “natural setting” or “natural environment” is truly in the offing for its collection of orcas.  Quite to the contrary, SeaWorld has steadfastly refused to signal any support for the creation of actual natural settings or environments, like a marine sanctuary.  In fact Mr. Manby has reportedly stated that “doing so would only lead to the orcas to get sick, and likely die.”

But what might SeaWorld have in mind to make the tanks a more “natural setting” or “natural environment?”  Less blaring music as during the theatrical performances?  Some concrete formed to look like, um, the ocean bottom?  Since it has abandoned the Blue World project, it has apparently rejected the notion of an additional 14 feet in depth to make the tanks more “natural”.  But of course, this additional 14 feet would have done nothing, as in nothing, to make a tank a more natural setting.

The natural setting and natural environment of an orca. Image by Candace Calloway Whiting

The natural setting and natural environment of an orca. Image by Candace Calloway Whiting

While we wait to hear what SeaWorld has in mind for its mission of “naturalness”, it is clear that just as whatever trick SeaWorld entices the orcas to perform, or whatever it may add or subtract from its system of tanks, there is nothing natural about it.

Too bad that the entity responsible for 24 orcas in the United States is apparently clueless about this.

The parallels between this graphic that I made for fun and SeaWorld's own are striking. And disturbing.

The parallels between this graphic that I made for fun and SeaWorld’s own are striking. And disturbing.

Maris died after being an experiment in life and death

The death of beluga whale Maris came as a shock to us all, including the Georgia Aquarium.  But the Georgia Aquarium knows what it rarely shouts from its tank-covering rooftops:  the beluga whale captivity industry is dying, just as surely as are “its” beluga whales.

Dying it is.  But becoming “extinct”?  Whether calculated to mislead the American public or not, the Georgia Aquarium has used the word “extinction”, generally known to characterize wild populations only, to describe the beluga whales in captivity.  It is obvious that this is a misuse of the term, but it is, however, true that the captive beluga whale industry is declining and dying, along with the 35 or so beluga whales now held in U.S. aquaria, and the only saving grace for this industry is, apparently, the influx of wild blood.

One need look no further for evidence of this industry’s death than the Georgia Aquarium’s own statement.

Because of the extraordinary, long-term care beluga whales receive at accredited zoological organizations like Georgia Aquarium, this birth is significant as it is the first viable calf to be born from parents who were born in human care. Maris was born at the New York Aquarium in 1994, and the father, Beethoven, was born at SeaWorld San Antonio in 1992.

Here the Georgia Aquarium revealed that there has not yet been a beluga calf successfully born in captivity who was born to parents who were both born in captivity.  I hope you got that.  Not one.  Not a single successful birth to a captive-born couple.

We’ll tell you the truth now. Even though the Georgia Aquarium was elated to announce that Maris’ second calf was considered “viable” – a significant milestone in the ongoing “experiment” to figure out how to breed captive beluga whale calves – the calf died after only 26 days in the tank at the Georgia Aquarium.  In the run-up to both of Maris’ calves’ births, the Georgia Aquarium spent far more time pointing out the high mortality rate, even among wild beluga whales, for first-born calves, and, as far as I can tell, told the public this significant factoid (that not once had a calf born of two captive-born beluga whales survived) only after they thought they had one who would survive.  So, why the consistent omission of this significant fact?  Notably, they did not mention it when the calf died, demurring to the “statistical probability of survival.”  Is this just another example of the “smoke and mirrors” that Judge Totenberg observed on the part of the Georgia Aquarium (Georgia Aquarium v Pritzker, at page 98)?

Maris giving birth on May 10, 2015, to her second female calf, considered viable. Neither are alive today.

Maris giving birth on May 10, 2015, at the Georgia Aquarium to her second female calf, who was considered viable. Neither are alive today.

Nowhere in the recent statements to the press does the Georgia Aquarium acknowledge this significant fact.

So, what to do? Capture! Import! It is little wonder, then, that the Georgia Aquarium took the unprecedented initiative to spearhead an effort to import 18 wild-caught belugas into the United States to add to the U.S. broodstock.  Eighteen: more than all the  wild-caught beluga whales currently-held in the United States.  To allow more successful breeding.  To maintain an industry.  To continue to feed the public the notion that it has a “right” to see them in tanks.  To “love” them so much that visitors will once again grace the turnstiles of the aquarium, season pass or no.

But right?  Entitlement?  As correctly and succinctly summarized by Judge Amy Totenberg in her Order in the case of Georgia Aquarium v Pritzker, at page 76:

In addition, Georgia Aquarium’s arguments presume that — contrary to the express purpose of the MMPA — the limited exceptions for public display and scientific research permits in section 1374 opened the floodgates for unfettered importation of marine mammals.  Nowhere does the MMPA “allow[] for the
continuing import of marine mammals for public display in the United States” or the unfettered right to such importation.  (Doc. 55-1 at 49) (emphasis in original).

The Georgia Aquarium knows that the beluga whale captive industry is dying in the United States, just as surely as have all the calves born to two captive born parents.  And now, the Georgia Aquarium has been schooled that it has no “unfettered right” to grab wild beluga whales to prop up the display industrym and it should stop sending any such signals to the public.

The future of the captive beluga whale industry is dying because United States aquariums hold only a handful of wild-caught beluga whales, and of these, only three are males.

  • Ferdinand, M, SeaWorld San Diego, caught 1975
  • Naluark, M. Mystic Aquarium, caught 1992
  • Imaq, M, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1990
  • Natasha, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1984
  • Mauyak, F, John G. Shedd Aquarium, caught 1984
  • Martha, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1988
  • Crissy, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1988
  • Allua, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1985
  • Kela, F, Mystic Aquarium, caught 1985
  • Naya, F, John G. Shedd Aquarium, caught 1992

This is certainly not the stable of studs and broodmares that the aquarium industry needs to build a genetically diverse, and therefore, robust, population of captive beluga whales, and the industry knows this.  For this reason, and perhaps others that only it knows, the Georgia Aquarium tried to import those 18 wild-caught beluga whales.  But its effort has failed, in failing to demonstrate that its import would not negatively impact the wild populations from which it may have hoped to extract fresh genes and better odds at reproduction.

It is impossible to speak about a dying industry without also coming to terms with the fates of 35 or so captive beluga whales in the United States.  As those in support of the Georgia Aquarium often say, “whales die.”  You just won’t hear me say, as they have done, “that’s life; get over it.”  I grieve for both the living and the dying captives.  But in particular, I grieve for the mothers who are used as part of a failing experiment to successfully breed a captive beluga whale born of captive-born parents.

So, how many more times must female captive-born beluga whales experience the death of a calf, being used as part of the aquarium industry’s Experiment in Breeding, before the public says, “enough is enough?”  Will the death of Maris and her two calves be enough?

I do not know if it will, but it should.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Rehabilitation and release for marine mammals – a stacked deck

Imagine that you’ve experienced a significant trauma, like a car accident.

A traumatic injury begins a journey of rehabilitation for marine mammals

A traumatic injury begins a journey of rehabilitation

You are taken to a hospital, where the hospital finds that you require emergency care and a prolonged rehabilitation with physical and occupational therapy.

After two and a half years, you can finally walk again, and you are able to resume your normal life.

But imagine that the hospital staff, instead of discharging you, claims that you must stay in the hospital indefinitely because the decision about your future was made at the two-year mark and that there is nothing mandating that your condition be re-evaluated.

Spoon-feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape o the spoon.  - E. M. Forster

Spoon-feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon. – E. M. Forster

Imagine that during those two years of rehabilitation, the hospital staff, instead of teaching you how to feed yourself, insisted on spoon-feeding you your every meal.  Imagine that the food they fed you wasn’t anything you’d ever eaten, but was merely what the hospital insisted on providing.  And, to add insult to injury, imagine that you could have fed yourself, but that the decision to spoon-feed you was based on nothing to do with you as an individual, but was based purely on hospital policy and practice, a practice that was a function of cost, convenience to and, perhaps, an ulterior motive of the institution, rather than a decision based upon your well-being.

That is the life of many stranded marine mammals, especially cetaceans.

So, there are several questions:

  • Who makes the recommendations and determinations regarding the releasability of stranded marine mammals?
  • What are the criteria of releasability and are these criteria being followed?
  • When is this decision made?
  • Once made, can the decision be changed (or is the deck stacked against release)?

Who? For marine mammals who have the (mis)fortune of becoming stranded and rescued in the United States, it is up to NOAA to determine whether they can be released to the wild.  The criteria for “releasability” are not well-defined in regulation and, like many federal programs, are better-defined in guidance issued by the agency.  NOAA’s guidance on releasability provides more detail, where it states that it is not NOAA that actually performs the evaluation or makes the recommendation, but rather,

The attending veterinarian and their Assessment Team (i.e., veterinarians, lead animal care supervisor, and/or consulting biologist with knowledge of species behavior and life history) representing the Stranding Network Participant, Designee, or 109(h) Stranding Participant will assess the animal and make a written recommendation for release or non-release.

Part if not much of the team performing the evaluation and making the recommendation to NOAA is often occupied by SeaWorld staff.   NOAA reviews the written recommendation and uses it to make its determination.  Contrast that with the trainer message in the SeaWorld video below, where the trainer seems to go to great lengths to suggest to its paying audience that NOAA, without assistance from SeaWorld or others in the network, makes the recommendation to keep marine mammals at SeaWorld.

What?  The evaluation criteria in the guidance states that “[b]ehavioral clearance also should include confirmation that the cetacean is able to recognize, capture, and consume live prey when such tests are practical” and that “[b]asic behavioral conditioning of wild cetaceans for husbandry and medical procedures may be necessary during rehabilitation as long as every effort is made to limit reinforced contact with humans.”  In contrast with the guidance, the predominance of husbandry and maintaining human contact are evidenced in the SeaWorld video below, where the trainer states to the audience, “So, we teach [Fredi] lots of behaviors.  A lot of the behaviors we first started teaching her are called “husbandry” behaviors.”

When?  Further, releasability is a determination that is conducted no later than six months after a stranding, continued, theoretically, during the remainder of the first two years after the event, and effectively terminated after two years.  In your case, as with marine mammals, if the “hospital” has you at two years, they likely have you for life.  Especially if they never teach you how to feed yourself.

Meet Fredi, Ace, Ava, and Piper.  They stranded in separate events.  Fredi stranded in 2011 and Ace, Ava and Piper stranded in 2012.  They were all deemed unreleasable by NOAA on recommendation by, you guessed it.

This is a video of the event in which Ace, Ava and Piper and members of their pod stranded on a beach in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Ave, Ace and Piper, as Fredi before them, were turned over to SeaWorld.

See how they were doing in 2013.  And how SeaWorld wants to “invite you all back over the next days, weeks, months, and years, to come back to see how these guys are growing, and learned over time, because hopefully, one day you’ll see these four pilot whales do their own segment in the Blue Horizons show.”

I think I can hear you, thinking, along with many others who are becoming aware of the many secrets of the aquarium industry, that it is less than clear that SeaWorld, as part of its rehabilitation program, made any effort to teach Fredi, Ava, Ace and Piper to catch their own fish.  And doesn’t it suggest that SeaWorld did not follow NOAA guidance in its program?

It’s hard to know.  Obtaining documents through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (whining here) isn’t always successful, especially if your fact-finding is constrained by being able to afford the cost of the request.

A change is clearly needed that will end the deck-stacking in favor of “unreleasability.”  And that change will likely come only if we insist that the deck should not be stacked, it should be neutral, and cetaceans should be taught to hunt, with husbandry used only to administer procedures beneficial to the once-free, now captive marine mammals.

But if the deck should be stacked at all, shouldn’t it stacked in favor of freedom?  Just as with your car wreck, cetaceans no more than you should have to worry about becoming victims of a system that spoon-feeds, and then blames the one injured for it.

Shouldn't the deck be stacked in favor of release?

Shouldn’t the deck be stacked in favor of release? Image by Emmanuel Jose

What you can do:

Contact and call upon your legislators to update the regulations that implement the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Some suggested updates:

  • Specify that if the institution who will be receiving the marine mammal is part of the display industry, it is not a member of the review and recommendation team (or a more straightforward but also more dramatic change – and one I like better – would be to remove all members of the display industry from being part of the review teams).
  • Specify the behaviors that must be taught, if practicable, including a requirement that natural feeding behaviors be taught during rehabilitation, with a directive to remove the animal if there is no effort to teach natural behaviors, like feeding and hunting.
  • Require that the two-year “rebuttable presumption” be removed in favor of a neutral evaluation of the animal at each independent time period.
  • Require that reports of the rehabilitation agencies be made publicly available on NOAA’s website (rather than enduring the – ugh – FOIA process).

A cultural monstrosity

A blogger has written an Op Ed that attempts to support the notion that those who kill animals or benefit from the killing by partaking in its repast – whether by eating animals or, I presume, by going to dolphin shows or “swim-withs” where one leaves with a selfie as she kisses or hugs a dolphin – are not “monsters”.

In the first instance, any pretense of discussion of name-calling can be answered quite readily without pretending to have a rational discussion of psychological pathologies.  The ready answer is, be polite.  Most humans were taught at a very early age, sometimes with the aid of soap-in-the-mouth, that name-calling is not polite.

So we’ve settled that bit.

 Thinking people will recognize that his argument is based in a “because lots of people do it, it cannot be monstrous” position.  But let’s be clear:  that a monstrosity is cultural makes it no less monstrous.

There are obvious and numerous examples of acts that are no more acceptable just because many can do it in their sleep while chewing gum.  Most of us living in 2014 would need but a second or two to recognize and list examples of past and culturally-accepted behavior that violate our current sense of ethics:

  • Slavery/human trafficking
  • Genital mutilation
  • Stoning of women
  • Hysterectomies to address, you guessed it, hysteria
  • Rape
  • Foot-binding

to name just a few.  These all have in common that each had a time when it was accepted as a social norm.  Some cultures have modified the practices to be more palatable in a “rational” and “ethical” world.  All of these remain acceptable practices in some cultures.  All of them share something else: the need to be considered and eradicated without attempting to assuage the consciences of those who either cling to them or took part in them in the past.

Objectification of animals shares something with human slavery: they were both once accepted as ethical. Photo by Murky1

Objectification of animals shares something with human slavery: they were both once accepted as ethical. Photo by Murky1

Any attempts to assuage those consciences should be outed as nothing more than a red-herring.  None who genuinely work for a more ethical, sustainable world are motivated by or interested in making someone feel bad for something they did in a state of ignorance.  And it is undeniable that, nearly without exception, all who considered these practices acceptable were ignorant to the reality that the practices were never ethical, in the sense of ultimate ethics.  The best that one can do to justify any of these activities is found using some amalgam of relative and cultural ethics, where ethics are justified or even created by the circumstances.

But I invite you not to go down the rabbit hole of some red-herring debate of whether someone is a monster by virtue of his killing or exploiting an animal, or is, rather, merely “punching a clock” like any Average Joe.

If one avoids joining a discussion on whether or not someone is a monster for his acts, he can spend more time doing the good work of examining his ethics in the light of day instead of in the dark tunnel of justification.  He can, then, make informed choices.  Rather than justify behaviors while taking a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance kool-aid sweetened by speciesism with more than a dash of relative ethics, examine.  Read about speciesism.  And examine again.  Don’t waste time feeling bad in the “blame game.”  Make choices and move on, as many of us consistently invite the Taiji or Faroese dolphins hunters to do.

Monsters?  I don’t know and don’t care.  Some of them may be.  Some may actually revel in the taking of a life.  But monstrous, Mr. Smith?  Yes, indeed, the acts that you describe are monstrous.  Without exception.

It is . . . our collective culture of objectification, not some subculture of food on one island or in one theme-park-based city, that is responsible for this act.  This culture is the vestige, however powerful in forming our opinions, of ancient misunderstanding that all of us must throw off.  We must throw it off because it was never true in the first place, and it will kill the planet and most of the creatures that found their lives formed here.  – A reconsideration of the human entitlement to gawk

Nellie

Nellie

I hear your call to the water,
The roll and swish and wish of the mother
Not the decimated, chlorinated, death-indoctrinated stuff of this other
In a tank.

Made to suppress the life inside
Leaving the urge, the call, the jump for true joy behind
In some memory of a birthright
From a tank.

A thousand cuts upon your soul
A thousand children cheering the knife
That took away your life
In a tank.

What language you speak
We need not learn.
Merely another tool of the master
Of a tank.

Leave your boats on the shore
Leave us to the language of the sea
A million questions we can ask in the wild
Only a few
In a tank.

Can you see me at all
Can you hear my cry
Can you save my children
From a tank?

Nellie. February 27, 1953 - May 1, 2014

Nellie. February 27, 1953 – May 1, 2014

SeaWorld reprised its 1976 rhetoric to oppose 2014 legislation

SeaWorld has the potential either to earn the support or the opposition of conservationists.  It has the potential for conducting genuinely educational work, but the evidence to date suggests that the business rather than the educational interests are dominating management decision . . .

This statement of the Florida Audubon Society does not refer to California’s proposed legislation, AB2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, proposed by Assemblyman Richard Bloom.  Rather, it was written in the Lakeland Ledger nearly 40 years ago when, as federal legislation was proposed in 1976 for the protection of orcas, SeaWorld took the same position then as now in opposition to legislation which would limit and even end the practice of exhibiting orcas.  SeaWorld’s familiar refrain is from the same songbook that we heard them consult during this week’s hearing in the California Assembly conference room, despite the evidence of increased mortality and health risks among captive orcas.

The effect of this legislation will be to prevent you and your children from experiencing, enjoying and learning about marine animals.  It would prohibit the valuable research and educational activities carried on by SeaWorld and other zoos and oceanariums. – SeaWorld flyer distributed to patrons

The Florida Audubon Society foretold this outcome, not as a prediction, but as a justification for the precautionary steps that supported the passage of the 1976 legislation:

If, despite careful veterinary care the whales die prematurely, as has happened at SeaWorld, the possibility should be faced that the Orlando area is not a suitable habitat for the species.

Unfortunately, we did not heed that warning.  Instead, the Congress did not pass the legislation and many lives have been sacrificed just so we could see an orca in a concrete tank.  The truth is, this only allowed 40 more years of SeaWorld teaching us to teach our children that we “deserve” to see them in the morbidly small and barren tanks, to teach humans that we have an “entitlement” to see them and have them splash us, as our innocent children giggle while being corrupted to accept without realizing it a worldview of domination and exploitation.

What is more disturbing in 2014 than in 1976 is that the last 40 years have borne out what we feared might be the case in 1976: increased mortality, ill-health and denial of a birthright to live in the ocean are the costs paid by an unwilling orca to line the pockets of SeaWorld with money and children’s mouths with cotton candy.

Not all the orcas on the following list were captured by SeaWorld.  They are included because they were either captured by/for or sent to United States aquariums.  But what if the legislation had been passed in 1976?  What if other countries had followed suit with similar protections in 1976 and the years preceding the captures of the ensuing years?

The following list includes those orcas captured in or after 1976 (information from Orca Home and Ceta-base) or born (including stillborn/miscarriage/fetus) to mothers or out of fathers captured in or after that year, who might not have been in captivity if the 1976 legislation had passed not only the Senate, but also the House.  For comparison, the oldest known orca living in the wild is Granny, the oldest member of the J pod, and is estimated to be 103 years old.  Deceased orcas are shown in bold text.

Dedicated to all the orca mothers and fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers who have found themselves in captivity and have lost children, parents and siblings, or seen them live only to be taken away and shipped to another tank in another city or country as a result of the morbid thing that is orca captivity:

  • Kenau (F, captured in 1976; died after 15 years of captivity)
    • Baby Shamu 2 (F, died in 1986 at 11 days old)
    • Kayla (F, born in 1988; has lived 26 years in captivity)
      • Halyn (F, born in 2005; died after 2.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed, unborn child  (both Kenau and her baby died in 1991 during Kenau’s 12th month of pregnancy)
  • Gudrun (F, captured in 1976; died after 19.5 years of captivity)
    • Taima (F, born in 1989; died after 21 years of captivity)
      • Sumar (M, born in 1998; died after 12 years of captivity)
      • Malia (F, born in 2007; has lived 7 years in captivity)
      • Stillborn child, in which Taima also dies during labor, 2010
    • Nyar (F, born in 1993; died after 2.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed stillborn child, 1996
  • Canuck 2 (M, captured in 1977; died after 4 years of captivity)
  • Kona 2 (F, captured in 1977; died after 10 years of captivity)
    • unnamed fetus discovered during Kona 2’s necropsy
  • Kandu 5 (F, captured in 1977; died after 12 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed stillbirth, 1986
    • Orkid (F, born in 1988; has lived 26 years in captivity)
  • Winnie (F, captured in 1977; died after 24.5 years of captivity)
  • Shawn(?) (F, captured in 1978; died after 1 year of captivity)
  • Katina (F, captured in 1978, has lived 36 years in captivity)
    • Kalina (F, born in 1985; died after 25 years of captivity)
      • Keet (M, born in 1993, has lived 21 years in captivity)
      • Keto (M, born in 1995; has lived 19 years in captivity)
      • Unnamed (Stillborn in 1997)
      • Tuar (M, born in 1999; has lived 15 years in captivity)
      • Skyla (F, born in 2004; has lived 10 years in captivity)
    • Katerina (F, born in 1988; died after 10.5 years of captivity)
    • Taku (M, born in 1993; died after 14 years of captivity)
    • Unna (F, born in 1996; has lived 18 years in captivity)
      • Unnamed (F, stillborn in 2006)
    • Ikaika (F, born in 2002; has lived 12 years in captivity)
    • Nalani (F, born in 2006; has lived 7.5 years in captivity)
    • Makaio (F, born in 2010; has lived 3.5 years in captivity)
  • Kasatka (F, captured in 1978, has lived 36 years in captivity)
    • Takara (F, born in 1991; has lived 23 years in captivity)
      • Kohana (F, born in 2002; has lived 12 years in captivity)
        • Adan (M, born in 2010; has lived 3.5 years in captivity)
        • Vicky (F, born in 2012; died at 10 months old)
      • Trua (M, born in 2005; has lived 8.5 years in captivity)
      • Sakari (F, born in 2010; has lived 4 years in captivity)
      • Kamea (F, born in 2013; has lived 5 months in captivity)
    • Nakai (F, born in 2001; has lived 13 years in captivity)
    • Kalia (F, born in 2004; has lived 9.5 years in captivity)
    • Makani (M, born in 2013; has lived 1 year in captivity)
  • Kahana (F, captured 1978; died after 12.5 years of captivity, six months after miscarriage of only child)
    • Unnamed child (died during miscarriage, 1990)
  • Kotar (M, captured in 1978; died after 16.5 years of captivity)
  • Surfer Girl (F, captured in 1979; died after 9 days of captivity)
  • Vigga (F, captured in 1980; died after 19.5 years of captivity)
  • Bjossa (F, captured in 1980; died after 21 years of captivity, originally captured by Vancouver Aquarium)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1988 at 22 days old)
    • K’yosha (F, died in 1991 at 96 days old)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1995 at 1 day old)
  • Ulises (M, captured in 1980; has lived 34 years in captivity)
  • Tilikum (M, captured in 1980; has lived 34 years in captivity)
  • Nootka 4 (F, captured in 1982; died after 12 years of captivity, originally captured by Marineland of Ontario)
    • Unnamed (M, died in 1992 at 33 days old)
    • Unnamed stillborn child, 1994
  • Haida 2 (F, captured in 1982; died after 19 years of captivity)
    • Kyuquot (M, born in 1991; has lived 23 years in captivity)
    • Unnamed (F, died in 1994 at 38 days old)
    • Unnamed fetus dies in 2001 with his mother in her fifth month of pregnancy
  • Samoa (F, captured in 1983; died after 8.5 years of captivity)
    • Unnamed near full-term baby dies in 1992 during labor with his mother
  • Splash (F, born 1989 to Nootka  5 (captured 1981) at Marineland of Canada; taken from her and transferred to SeaWorld of California in 1992, she died in 2005 after 15.5 years of captivity)

The shame of these lives and deaths should sit heavy on all our hearts.  When we have an opportunity to support legislation, whether federal, state or local, to limit and ban marine mammal captivity, we owe it to these and many other marine mammals all efforts to secure them as much of their birthright as we can.  We have denied it for far too long.

Sign to support the Orca Welfare and Safety Act.

orca

They each and every one of them had the right to live this life, but the captivity industry and its patrons took it away. Photo by the Center for Whale 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.

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.