Tag Archives: dolphinariums

The Georgia Aquarium and The Art of War

The Georgia Aquarium has announced that it will not appeal the decision of Judge Amy Totenberg in Georgia Aquarium v Pritzker.  Resounding huzzahs were heard in all camps of those opposing captivity.  Feelings nearing jubilation and celebration of victory were shared across social media.

The Georgia Aquarium fights to import wild beluga whales.

The Georgia Aquarium stands down on this phase to import wild beluga whales.

The Georgia Aquarium’s decision not to appeal, however, came as no surprise, and signals little more than that the management at the aquarium was listening to legal counsel.  Its chances of overturning Judge Totenberg’s decision were miniscule, if that.  And so the Georgia Aquarium merely decided that standing down on this permit appeal was the right decision in this war over marine mammal captivity.  The Georgia Aquarium claimed that the appeal would have been costly; this much is true.  It does not say that the appeal would have been futile, but that, too, is most likely true as well.

When the Georgia Aquarium acknowledges that continuing the appeal “would not be in the best interest of the animals in Russia,” it likely means something different than what marine mammal advocates consider “best interest.” Does the Georgia Aquarium intend to step away from its stated goal of creating “a sustainable population of belugas at accredited zoological facilities in North America?”  Notably, its statement did not go that far.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

We are waging a war against captivity. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

So, to the celebrants I say, as we claim a tactical victory, study the art of war.  Consider where and how this announcement plays in the overall war.  Know that this victory came as a result of little more than the Georgia Aquarium’s arrogance and feeling of entitlement at stealing wild animals from the ocean and importing them into the United States and of the system of laws working.  Appreciate the possibility that the Georgia Aquarium learned something valuable to itself in this war and how to play in the next battle, a battle that may not invoke a “taking”, a battle that may not involve a “Near Threatened” species.

Prepare yourself for the next battle.

Because it will come.

Beluga Cousteau quote

Google indoctrinates Title I students about marine mammal captivity

While I have come to expect that the Georgia Aquarium and other marine parks will come after our children in many ways, from discounted to free tickets, I was surprised to see that Google – an innovator and pioneer in searching on the internet – would participate in propping up the outdated concept of  marine mammal captivity.

The Georgia Aquarium gets them early with Toddler Time. Photo: Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium gets them early with Toddler Time. Photo: Georgia Aquarium

From free admission for a toddler with a heavily discounted adult fare during “Toddler Time” to free admission on your birthday, the Georgia Aquarium finds many ways to attract children and their parents.  Now they, along with Google, are exploiting, not only marine mammals, but also those children who are, the theory goes, less likely to be exposed to the natural world.  The solution of Google and the Georgia Aquarium?  Take them to see captive animals on a “one of a kind field trip.”

Google sponsors a "one of a kind field trip" to the Georgia Aquarium

Google sponsors a “one of a kind field trip” to the Georgia Aquarium. Image from the Georgia Aquarium blog.

They may be right about that.  A “one of kind field trip.”  But what is that “kind”?  First and foremost, they are taking children to an unnatural experience but teaching them that it is natural.

No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.  – Jacques Cousteau

Marine captivity is not naturalWhat the Georgia Aquarium, and now google and educators, turn a blind eye to is the observation of one of the world’s foremost marine environment educators, Jacques Cousteau.  Cousteau knew, by virtue of experiencing the marine environment first-hand, that keeping marine mammals in captivity was not natural.

That the Georgia Aquarium continues to entice educators (because who doesn’t love a field trip) into thinking that they are witnessing the natural world when they see a beluga or dolphin or whale shark in a tank, it’s, well, it’s worse than a damn shame.  It is a lie.

One of the educators who, in good faith no doubt, brought her students to the Georgia Aquarium said,

One of the things that I’ve seen, and I’ve taught for 28 years, the biggest part I’ve seen is I can teach them all day and tell them about it, but actually experiencing it, seeing it and doing it, brings it to life. . . You catch ’em with a book, but you hook ’em with an experience.

And that is precisely the point.  The children have now been hooked into thinking – without realizing that their thinking has been hooked – that marine mammal captivity is natural, that it is acceptable – and this is the one view that all who support marine mammal captivity have in common.  Some may like the beluga whales more, some the dolphins; but they all accept tanks as part of the deal.

The human-nonhuman bond.  One has only to watch the Georgia Aquarium’s video of the #googleweek event to see the glee on the part of the students.  It was a field tip.  It was a field trip to see animals.  The connection, the bond, between human and non-human animals is vast and deep.  Humans are nearly always moved by an experience of or interaction with a nonhuman animal.  And now, the hearts of those students were “set” by that moving experience, and that experience taught them, at least most of them, that captivity is a wondrous thing.  While that “setness” is not irreversible, as many are coming to learn, so long as the aquarium industry has its way, it certainly will be.

The impact?  So, now that you know, watch the promotion of the event by the Georgia Aquarium and Google, and witness, firsthand, your own “field trip” to indoctrination into thinking that marine mammal captivity is natural, is acceptable, is good.

No education exists within the mind of man than can justify the enslavement of dolphins.

No education exists within the mind of man than can justify the enslavement of dolphins.

What is the alternativeCatch the inspiration in the children in the video below.  No exploitation involved. Google, in particular, should be able to appreciate that a technology that inspires without exploitation makes a better future for our children.

And hold onto your Inspire Hat for this one:

A field trip to your local wildlife rehabilitation center where they learn a true respect for wildlife is certainly a better, and ethical, alternative.

There is no circumstance in which one can take his or her children to see dolphins, whales or other large migratory marine animals in aquariums, marine parks or swim-withs without letting in the silent specter of “captivity is good.”

What you can do: Contact Google wherever you live and tell them that captivity for marine mammals is not okay and that it is unacceptable to exploit marine mammals under the guise of a field trip of exploitation masquerading as an interaction with nature.

A few Google locations:

  • Headquarters, Mountain View, CA: 1 650-253-0000
  • Ann Arbor, MI: 1 734-332-6500
  • Atlanta, GA: 1 404-487-9000
  • Austin, TX: 1 512-343-5283
  • Cambridge, MA: 1 617-575-1300
  • Chicago, IL: 1 312-840-4100
  • Detroit, MI: 1 248-593-4000
  • Irvine, CA: 1 949-794-1600
  • Kirkland, WA: 1 425-739-5600
  • Los Angeles, CA: 1 310-310-6000
  • New York, NY: 1 212-565-0000
  • San Francisco, CA: 1 415-736-0000
  • Seattle, WA: 1 206-876-1800
  • Washington, DC: 1 202-346-1100
  • Beijing: +86-10-62503000
  • Belo Horizonte: +55-31-2128-6800
  • Dubai: +971 4 4509500
  • Hong Kong: +852-3923-5400
  • London: +44 (0)20-7031-3000
  • Madrid: +34 91-748-6400
  • Mexico: +52 55-5342-8400
  • Moscow: +7-495-644-1400
  • Paris: +33 (0)1 42 68 53 00
  • Sydney: +61 2 9374 4000
  • Tokyo: +81-3-6384-9000

Light up Google switchboards and tell them to stop supporting this antiquated and exploitative partnership with the Georgia Aquarium.

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?


IMATA’s mission: the continued existence of the aquarium industry

This week, the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association is holding its annual meeting in Hong Kong.  And so, while dolphins are being hunted for capture for the aquarium industry (15%) or for their death (85%), both at the hands of 50-member Taiji Fisherman’s Union and assorted marine animal trainers, the trainers get together to talk about stuff.

IMATA image

IMATA: which, in its own words, considers its role and responsibility the continued existence of the aquarium industry.

But before you get into looking at what they’re going to be talking about, let’s consider the question, who is IMATA?

But let’s have IMATA tell us, in its own words:

The International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association was founded to foster communication, professionalism, and cooperation among those who serve marine mammal science through training, public display, research, husbandry, conservation, and education.  Specifically, IMATA recognizes its role and responsibilities to the continued existence of oceanaria, aquaria, and laboratories housing marine mammals(Emphasis added)

I really have little to add to IMATA’s statement, because it really says it all, does it not?  IMATA’s mission is the preservation of the aquarium industry.

You see (by my oh-so-clever bolding) that I rather like something about that second sentence.  But let’s step through both sentences, not just the second one, and read each clause, each bullet, slowly, savoring the meaning of each.

  • The International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association
    • was founded to
      • foster communication, professionalism, and cooperation
        • among those who serve marine mammal science
          • through training, public display, research, husbandry, conservation, and education.

If you know me, you know I have words running through my brain about those clauses and the grand sum of reading them again, all together, having so savored.  But I think the words speak for themselves.  And so, today, in probably marked contrast to other days, you find me not interpreting so much.  Not adding so much of my own, in black and white.

Now, how about that second sentence.

  • Specifically,
    • IMATA
      • recognizes its role and responsibilities
        • to the continued existence
          • of oceanaria, aquaria, and laboratories housing marine mammals.

But if I may borrow a word from the first sentence, I just want you to know that you have been served something.  It has been served on a platter, backed by millions of dollars of marketing, a colored sugar-water liquid whose brand name I shall not edify by using, and profits (or non-profits) tied extensively to the marine mammal exhibits and shows.  A bloody and tainted platter.  Brought to you by the aquarium industry and those whose mission it is to perpetuate it.

What about that is difficult to get?

Okay, so I just have to observe: education is the very last word in one sentence and “marine mammals” the last in the other.  Education and dolphins don’t seem too high up on IMATA’s Mission totem pole.  Jus’ sayin’.

By the way, there’s lots going on at the IMATA conference.  Just ask Scubapro.


Because dolphins are not fungible, we will Follow The Six

We shall follow The Six, wherever they go, under whatever name or number the system gives them.  OR we shall identify that the system does not give them unique names and numbers, but instead, treats them as fungible as the dollars that paid for them.

One of The Six, packaged for transport, having been purchased by ASPRO International, one of the world's largest operators of "leisure parks." Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

One of The Six, packaged for transport, having been purchased by ASPRO International, one of the world’s largest operators of “leisure parks,” with purchasers, sellers and trainers making it happen. Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

As written by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, ASPRO International, whose foundation’s motto involves “living creatures coexisting in harmony,” has acquired The Six – six bottlenose dolphins snatched by the Taiji Fisherman’s Union from their families in the seas of coastal Japan – and intends to ship them to a destination in Europe.  Since ASPRO owns 41 “leisure parks” in eight countries, following The Six may require some diligence.  Sea Shepherd has urged that individuals begin immediately contacting ASPRO.  A petition being circulated will include the ability to quantify the numbers of people who are reaching out to ASPRO to say, show that you mean what you say about “coexisting in harmony” and stop buying dolphins from the Taiji Drive Hunt.

Unnamed dolphn at ASPRO International

Unnamed dolphin at one of ASPRO International’s leisure parks. Photo credit: ASPRO website

While not specifically embodied in either the Sea Shepherd piece or the petition, the right thing to do, ASPRO, is to return The Six to the waters of Taiji and release them together while they can find their families and their lives.

Barring a release, we will follow them wherever you send them, ASPRO.  Wherever you send them among your 41 leisure parks in 8 countries to be part of your “gateway to [a] world of fun, leisure and entertainment” or outside your leisure park system, for the rest of their lives.

The Six, like all dolphins everywhere, are not fungible.  They are unique individuals, with unique histories, and names, whether you or I or we know them or not.  Do the right thing, live by your motto, and ensure that The Six are returned to their families.

Until that day, we will Follow The Six.

Slaughtering dolphins in a drive hunt was news in 1980. Why not now?

When fishermen in the Japanese island of Iki began the practice of slaughtering dolphins in a drive hunt shortly before 1980, it was news.  The news spread, an outcry arose, and the outcry stopped the drive hunt slaughter.

When fishermen in the Japanese town of Taiji slaughter dolphins in the same kind of drive hunt in 2012, the silence from the media is deafening.  The outcry from the public is loud, the outcry is consistent.  And yet the Isana Fishermen’s Union kill more dolphins and whales at every opportunity, at market price.  With no media reporting this news.

Why the difference?

Dolphin Slaughter on in Japan

In 1980 it was news when fishermen in the town of Iki, Japan, drove dolphins to their deaths. The outcry stopped the slaughter. Why isn’t it “news” in 2012? Or 2011? Or . . .

While only the media knows why they make their decisions, a few facts highlight the differences between then and now.

  • The fishermen at Iki considered hunting dolphins as a means of exterminating a competitor for their fisheries.  Truth.  Read the news article.
  • The fishermen at Iki, recognizing that dolphin was not considered a food source, ground up the dolphins to use as fertilizer.  Truth.  Read the news article.
  • The Iki fishermen after “dismantling” the dolphins, also fed the ground up dolphins to pigs. Truth.  Read the other news article, from the Montreal Gazette.

But, more importantly,

  • The Iki fishermen were not paid hundreds of thousands of dollars on a “per dolphin” basis by the aquarium industry.
  • The Iki fishermen were not paid a per poundage basis that “human food” would fetch.


  • The aquarium industry in 1980 did not shop for dolphins in Iki, Japan.
  • Japanese dolphins were not even sold, collaterally, as human food  in 1980.
Evening Independent 022980 Protestors barred from dolphin slaughter site in Iki Japan

Even though protestors were barred from the site, the world was watching, even in the limited a way we could in 1980, because the mainstream media was covering the news.

So, even though protestors were barred from the site of the Iki dolphin slaughter, the slaughter was halted.  Certainly, the activists at Greenpeace did not stop working merely because they were barred from witnessing the slaughter.  Much the same as the Sea Shepherd Conversation Society Cove Guardians and the Save Japan Dolphins Cove Monitors are not stopping, merely because of a few strategically-placed blue tarps.

Meanwhile, as the “CGs” and the “CMs” continue their work of documentation and deterrence, social media groups continue their campaigns to support the efforts of those on the ground by raising awareness not only of the horror on the ground, but where to find the real-time information, actions that people can take on their own by providing phone and fax numbers, email addresses, hashtags on Twitter, demonstration events, and focused “CALLs TO ACTION,” some to gain media attention.  The leadership also continues their good work to raise awareness, through the publication of books, such as Ric O’Barry’s re-release of Behind the Dolphin Smile.

I don’t know why media won’t show up.  But I do know that the main difference between 1980 and 2012 is in the following picture.

Sea Shepherd CS Cove Guardian pic 0912 dolphin headed to aquarium Dolphin Base Taiji Japan

A dolphin ripped from the ocean in September 2012 in Taiji, Japan, is destined for a life as a “trick pony” for the aquarium industry. Photo Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians on Facebook

For more information and an engaging discussion where you’ll learn why a boycott against Japan as a whole is a misplaced idea, and where racism and hate speech will not be tolerated, please visit the Facebook community page of Save Misty the Dolphin.

Two dolphin videos: you choose

Just a short post to juxtapose two videos.  One I shot holding a camera while I watched (online) the April 2010 Congressional Hearings on Marine Mammal captivity.  Now that I think about it, I don’t think I finished watching the entirety of that hearing, but it’s archived.  And I wrote a few words about it.

Dr. Lori Marino, Dr. Naomi Rose, Louie Psihoyos, and others were empaneled, as were representatives from the aquarium industry.  I don’t know how dolphin experts and advocates, as these individuals are, could sit in the same room with Congressman Young (R, AK) and listen to his line about captivity without becoming physically ill.  Just one snippet from Cong. Young reveals his views that freedom was something that we “let” dolphins have.  Really?  We “let” dolphins have freedom?  Well, that is certainly one way of looking at it.  Apparently the way the aquarium industry, or at least their advocate from the great state of Washington, looks at it.  But let’s get on with watching the two short videos.

Congressman Don Young Republican Alaska

Congressman Don Young (R, AK) doesn’t think that we should “let” dolphins run around loose and wild, well, at least not all of them. Photo by Dennis Zaki, AlaskaReport.com

First is the Congressman who apparently doesn’t think we should “let’ ’em [dolphins, that is] run around loose and wild” even in the face of an aquarium industry where it is still debated whether legitimate education is provided.  I know, I know, Congressman Young.  You want to believe that aquariums are educational.

And here are dolphins, loose and wild, being dolphins, being the exuberance of dolphin-ness.

Doesn’t one of those videos seem like truth and the other like the stories we make up to justify some human agenda.  I know.  It’s as plain as the nose on your face, isn’t it?

As we face the start of the Taiji dolphin drive hunt on September 1, 2012, I’d ask that you keep these two videos in mind.  And remember: two videos, one a justification for an industry, the other a simple glimpse into truth and beauty.

It is now time to tell Taiji, Japan, that it must end its hunting of these marvelous, exuberant creatures.  On August 31 and September 1, 2012, citizens of the world in 93 cities worldwide are standing together on Japan Dolphins Day 2012 to say NO! to the Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt and to anyone who defends dolphin captivity or slaughter, including The Hon. Don Young, and to say YES! to dolphins’ being free, being loose and wild.

The event, founded by Ric O’Barry and Save Japan Dolphins, is coordinated by Save Misty the Dolphin, and you can locate an event near you by visiting the Facebook event page.  Stand with us on this memorable day so that it will be the last time that we need stand shoulder to shoulder to stop a dolphin hunt.

Loose and wild.  All of ’em, Congressman Young.  All  of ’em.


The stages of animal rights activism

Atlanta activists stand in front of the Japanese Embassy to protest dolphin and whale hunting

Save Japan Dolphins Day 2011, Atlanta, Georgia

A few mindless quips by a harmless fellow has brought something to my attention.  Apparently, the saying, “If you’re not activist, you’re an inactivist” doesn’t go quite far enough to describe some who don’t stand alongside me as I hold my “Free the Dolphins” signs at The Georgia Aquarium.  It reminded me that there are people who actually advocate against the notion that animals have rights.  Zounds.  People that, as far as I know, don’t even benefit financially from that position.  And it got me to thinking about stages of activism in this human existence.

Here’s how I think the world stacks up with regard to animal rights activism, at least in the part of the world that doesn’t benefit financially from the exploitation of animals.  The people who do, I’ll save for another day.  I will say, however, that just because one benefits financially from a practice, that does not preclude him or her from seeing things without that $$ lens and making a different choice.  My examples are this awesome guy, named Virgil Butler, who used to work in a Tyson chicken slaughterhouse and one of my favorite human beings, Ray Anderson, for whom the light of sustainability flicked on while he was earning enough money to, shall we say, not want to see that particular light switched on.  And then became an activist for sustainability.


milk machine PETA Atlanta GARP Georgia Animal Rights and Protections

GARP and PETA assemble a cast of cows in Atlanta to say, "I am not a milk machine."

The Activist Category A:  In this category, the street can be, uh, the street, or it can be virtual (social media, letter-writing, phone-calling, blog writing, etc).  Activism is activism.  And the crème de la crème of activists are the ones who (get to) participate on the physical front lines rather than from their terminals.  Cat A Activists know this.  The front line and the virtual  Cat A’s have a beautiful friendship.

The Activist Category B:  In this category, I put those who, while they believe that dolphin captivity is wrong, just don’t see themselves as sign-carriers or letter-writers or costume-wearers (you gotta try this one!).  This amalgamation of folks seems to share the recognition that animals have rights, that dolphin captivity can’t possibly be good for the animal, and, therefore, the inquiry stops as it did for Mark Twain when he considered vivisection, and they conclude that they want no part of dolphin shows.

I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t…The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.                                                                        -Mark Twain

The Category B Activist – the “B” stands for Belief – will not do certain things.  This “not doing” generally comes in fits and starts – most Cat A Activists have gone through Cat B – as new informational tidbit after new video surfaces, and they actually consider the math of the range of a wild dolphin (tens and up to a hundred miles a day, depending on the population) and compare that to a life in captivity, whether wild-caught or bred for captivity.  Cat B’s don’t go to SeaWorld or the Georgia Aquarium or Dolphin Quest Resorts, or even the local putt-putt when they realize that the “attraction” there is the Live Alligators as much as the great golfing, even if it means driving a few blocks to the next putt-putt course to show her golfing prowess.

The only free dolphin at the Georgia Aquarium

The only free dolphin at the Georgia Aquarium

The Believers in Cat B, by the way, end up pledging not to go to the dolphin show or swim-with program, which puts them precariously on the ledge of falling into Cat A, just so you know.  It might not be dolphin activism; it might be dogs-off-chains, or ending cock-fighting, or the horrific farm-factory practices here in these United States and elsewhere, but at least some email-writing, petition-signing or maybe even costume-wearing is not far behind.

The Fearful Haters:  Let me explain that downright ugly name, one my momma wouldn’t want me putting in writing.  Maybe when she learns that I almost called this category The Pig Fuckers, she’ll be impressed with my decorum.  Who are the FHs and how did they get to feeling so darned superior over animals?  But even “darned superior” isn’t quite on the mark to capture their disdain for animal suffering.  These appear to be people who have had an animal trauma.  Maybe their dog jumped on them when they were five, and having been thus terrorized by man’s-best-friend, they’ve never felt comfortable in the presence of any animal afterward.  Or their parents took their dog away but told him, or her, that the dog was mean and had to be sent away.  Or the parents truly liked the dog best.  And now they find solace in the subordination of nonhuman animals, these creatures that jumped on him, or her.

Okay, so I don’t believe that.  There’s got to be something else behind all animal hating or malicious indifference.  And just because I clearly don’t understand the mentality, however small, of those who don’t see that compassion restricted to its own group – whether species, race, ethnicity or religion – is not compassion at all, doesn’t mean that it isn’t understandable.  A real live psychologist would undoubtedly find other categories between the Fuck Holes (oops, I forgot what FH stood for), I mean, Fearful Haters, and the activists.  But I’m not a psychologist.  I’m just a human being, with a compassion for creatures other than humans, who recognizes that we have encroached on their territory, extracted them from it for our own purposes – first only circuses, now circuses, education and warfare.

I also see a trend; with regular updating, the U.S. and/or its states have moved in the right direction in recognizing that animal welfare should be protected and that industries who benefit from exploiting them may not be whom you want to define the standards.  So I have hope that we will continue until we get our laws to spring logically from our science.

But who, I ask you, could hate a dolphin enough to want to rip it from the ocean, or worse, breed it in captivity and to live its life in one or several small tanks or ponds, to be gawked at or worse, ridden like a bucking bronco?  Don’t get me started on that one.

Striped dolphins free Georgia Aquarium Seaworld

Striped dolphins as they were intended, free

No difference between dolphins and dogs, Georgia Aquarium?

It is amazing to me that the United States allows people who do not understand the fundamental nature of dolphins to be their caretakers. But that is exactly what is happening right this minute at the world’s largest aquarium. The organization that is entrusted with the lives of “its” eleven dolphins doesn’t see the difference between them and dogs. Or horses.

Now, if you have dogs and horses, you already know that even those two species shouldn’t be lumped. And those two species have been living under the care of humans for over 10,000 years. But let’s get to what the Senior Vice-President of Husbandry (I dare ya not to say “Ew!” when you read the definition of husbandry in the context of the Aquarium’s dolphins. Hey! I didn’t write it!) and Chief Animal Officer, Billy Hurley, at the Georgia Aquarium actually said (listen up beginning at 18 seconds):

Maybe this is gilding the lily, but Mr. Husbandry, I mean, Hurley, also said, in a piece by Access Atlanta, to announce the opening of its dolphin extravaganza:

I look at people playing with their dogs in the park and see the dogs jumping really high in the air to catch a Frisbee and say, ‘That dog is having a lot of fun.’ That’s exactly what you would see in the training of our dolphins; our trainers are playing with them every day.

So, Mr. Hurley thinks that a wild creature living in captivity is having fun. Sayin’.

As is the case with most corporations, they make assertions to sell a product, or rather, to sell an idea which will imprint something on your brain that will then inform your decision to buy that product again and again. So, when the world’s largest aquarium says, with casual authority, that the dolphins could be dogs or horses, it doesn’t really matter, they are counting on that idea – that image of your wagging lap dog or your favorite jumper who likes you but hates your brother (grin) – creating a warm and fuzzy in your brain somewhere. It tells you that dolphins-in-an-aquarium is natural, just like your dog curled up beside you on the sofa while you drink egg nog and listen to premature Christmas carols. Are they ever really premature?

But here are some facts:

Let’s recap that: Dogs always liked table scraps, so they may have sought us out, and live longer with us than in the wild. Horses, same story, except it seems we don’t know much about how or when we domesticated horses. Dolphins are not “domesticated” animals; they are merely wild animals held in captivity, like a lion or an elephant. And how do dolphins fare in the wild-to-captivity transition? Not well. Not well at all. They live longer in the wild. Plain and simple. Ergo, the comparison to dogs and horses is misplaced, Mr. Georgia Aquarium Man.

So, if the Georgia Aquarium almost succeeded in creating that lap dog-dolphin connection in your brain, I’m trusting that you now can begin to see that the comparison is grounded in marketing more than fact. Until the Georgia Aquarium appreciates that a comparison of dolphins to dogs or horses is inappropriate, their ownership of these wild creatures is, likewise, inappropriate.

But to borrow, and modify, an old country expression, that dolphin can’t hunt. Because you won’t let him.

One last thought: while David Kimmel, Georgia Aquarium President and Chief Operating Officer (they don’t get any bigger than that, well, except for Bernie Marcus, CEO and Chairman of the Board) and the rest of us “go about [our] lives,” the Atlanta 11 remain captive in a set of tanks that are morbidly small compared to their natural range and removed from the natural rhythms of the ocean to which the dolphin has been connected for 50 million years.

In an ethical society, these are beings with an inherent right to go about their lives and not be considered someone’s “actor” in an extravaganza, or someone else’s amusement, or even curiosity, or a human-named ambassador for the ocean.

Sign the Pledge: Say No! to the Dolphin Show.

Note to self: Blog for another day is the point that Mr. Hurley also doesn’t see the difference between the dolphins and “other mammals.” Hey, PETA!! I think Mr. Hurley agrees with you! Sounds like you may have a hostile witness.

Whether the Georgia Aquarium dolphin shows are educational

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog on this topic, and if you had the great good fortune to have seen the videos in the blog, you would have seen first hand via video shot by a customer of the Georgia Aquarium that the Aquarium’s dolphin extravaganza was, shall we say, a little lean on educational value.

Seeing unvarnished home movies likely provides something a tad closer to the reality of the dolphin show than a highly polished piece that the Georgia Aquarium would put together as an advertisement.  Make sense?  It does to me, too.

Those home movies are no longer available, but since I want to continue to provide information and facts surrounding the Georgia Aquarium and dolphin captivity, it appears that I’ll have to rely at least in part on the G.A.’s own video.  But before I show you the video, let me set the stage a bit.  It may look like I’m straying off topic, but just hang with me.  I’ll bring it all home.  I promise.

In your mind’s eye, picture the strawberry pie on the menu at Shoney’s.  The big, center-posted picture on the cover.  With radiating smaller pics of fried chicken, Salisbury steak (both with a gravylike schmear), and maybe even shrimp, interspersed with various starchy concoctions, some with peas thrown in for color.

But the pie: the uber bright and shiny red of, not really the strawberries so much (yes, I think there were actual strawberries in there) as the goo that surrounds the strawberries.  The goo that jiggles, but not the same way that Jello jiggles.  Translucent, but again, not the same way that Jello is.  You know it.  More like  snot, really.  But darn red.  A mighty fine red, but one that you know isn’t real.  And this, this picture of the pie that is on the cover of the menu, that is now in your mind’s eye, with its perfect dollop of whipped cream, well, not real whipped cream, really, but some light and fluffy mixture of milk flakes, talc, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oil . . .  Crap.  I really didn’t mean to ruin that (open air quotes) whipped cream (close air quotes) for you.  Oh, who am I fooling?  You’re probably on your way to that single-use plastic container of Cool Whip right now.  (Are these people going to sue me for mentioning them in the same piece as the Georgia Aquarium?  Oh, I am just mean!)  Anyway.  Picture the pie.  The bright red goo.  The perfect dollop.

Flash forward to your having ordered it.  Now watch the pie as it approaches on the tray brought by the hard-working and underpaid (oops, slid into another social issue) waitress.  The reality is not quite as lovely as the advertisement.  The advertisement promised something that it didn’t deliver.

And by comparison, with that picture of the pie in your mind, that fake, fake, fake, fake, fake red of the pie that still somehow appeals to the inner 6-year-old-at-Shoneys-for-the-first-time, consider that the Georgia Aquarium is tinkering with that same appeal. The strawberry pie lie.  The reality isn’t what’s on the cover.  But what’s on the cover is what the restaurant needs you to believe so that you’ll order it.  So what does the Georgia Aquarium need you to believe?

I guess, first and foremost, it wants you to believe that the dolphins are happy.  Happy in captivity.  Happy that they are not in the ocean swimming freely with their close-knit community of family.  I guess there’s a lot they would like you to believe.  That dolphins live longer lives in captivity.  But there is also stuff they don’t want you to know.  They don’t want you know that the average life span of a dolphin in captivity is five years, when dolphins in the wild live far longer.  Or that the aquariums often give captive dolphins daily doses of medicines to control ulcers and intestinal and respiratory issues.  So you can probably expect a Georgia Aquarium online commercial to show you what it wants you to believe.  I expect you’ll see something that looks like happiness.  Jumping.  Splashing.

But what about the education part?  Surely they’ll highlight that aspect, too.  It is supposed to be central to the purpose of the dolphin show, right?  Education.  Right?

And here we are at the finish line, getting ready to watch one of the Georgia Aquarium’s own videos – one that it has placed on Youtube with all the agreements and consents that one gives when posting to Youtube – to see how it invites customers to come be educated about happy dolphins.

Soooooooo.  What did you learn about dolphins?  What do you expect to learn based on the Georgia Aquarium’s own enticement?  What education do the eleven dolphins who are held captive at the Georgia Aquarium provide to justify their continued captivity, held away from the open ocean for which they were designed?

To actually learn about dolphins and whales in captivity, watch A Fall From Freedom.

And don’t go to the dolphin show.

In the meantime, if you need entertaining, just take a gander at what we actually allow to entice us into believing that the food is good.  Or the dolphins happy.

This burger was made from happy cows, too!