Tag Archives: Dolphins

SeaWorld’s view of drive hunts: from “not illegal” to a “horror”

SeaWorld changes its position from being merely "not illegal" to a "horror"

SeaWorld changes its position from being merely “not illegal” to a “horror”

SeaWorld’s Chief Zoological Officer, Brad Andrews, has clarified – on its SeaWorld Cares page – its new position on dolphin drive hunts: they are a horror.  In the past, SeaWorld defended its obtaining false killer whales from a similar drive “fishery” in Iki Island, Japan.  Rather than being considered a “horror”, SeaWorld (either Mr. Andrews or its Director of Veterinary Service, Mr. Jim McBain) characterized SeaWorld’s import of these false killer whales as a “rescue”, “saving” or, alternatively, as being conducted under legal permits.  It also stated that while killing dolphins in a drive hunt was inhumane, taking the ones not killed (i.e., saving them) was humane.  In logic that would seem reasonable in a vacuum, when one has witnessed the drive hunt as have the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians, every day during the drive hunt season since 2010 (and one would think that Mr. Andrews has availed himself of the archived footage of the drive hunts), he or she knows without a doubt that the killing is not the only inhumane aspect of the drive hunt process.

The drive hunt is a horror, in the truest sense of the word, because it is fear, it is panic and horror, that makes the process work.  The entire process is a horror: from the first sighting of migrating dolphins by the twelve “banger boats” to the miles of driving the dolphins by inflicting the cacophony of coordinated noise that is effected by repeated banging on the long metal poles, to the dolphins arrival at what is for most their final destination, the killing cove.   SeaWorld is right, now.  It is a horror.  And any institution that would pay, as SeaWorld has, to underwrite the horror is as well.  So, while Mr. Andrews’ new statement about the drive hunt is perhaps refreshing, it doesn’t go far enough.  The world deserves an apology for the years of blurring, distancing and denying.  The world deserves a statement that the images in the following video of the capturing of marine mammals in Russia reveal a horror.

So, thought I would write Mr. Andrews a short note:

Dear Brad Andrews:

This is what you need to know about the Taiji dolphin drive hunt: the world followed your very profitable business model, a business model that is built on exploiting marine mammals. But the rest of the world found out that how SeaWorld and other aquariums filled their tanks, up until passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (I love your interview in A Whale of a Business, by the way, Mr. Andrews) was still easily available to them, as it had been to you before Congress and the State of Washington said, “Not so much, Brad.”

So now you pride yourself on not importing drive hunt dolphins when it is, let’s be realistic, impossible in the U.S. (and hey, good move on saying that you wouldn’t take the beluga whales that the Georgia Aquarium is/was fighting to import when it looked like a doomed venture).

I understand that the public doesn’t understand the MMPA as well as you and I. But please stop taking credit for not doing something that would never be allowed in the first place.

And, by the way, we are waiting for an apology – not merely a change of heart – for SeaWorld’s having underwritten the horror, as you now call it.

Sincerely,

Mo Brock

Perhaps SeaWorld’s change of “heart” about drive hunts from being “legal” or a “rescue” to being a “horror” explains why SeaWorld refused to accept the beluga whales captured in Russia for the Georgia Aquarium.  Perhaps SeaWorld recognizes that the methods for capturing belugas and orcas and other marine mammals in Russian waters are like a distinction without a difference, instead of, as I suggest to Brad in my note to him, being merely a good move.  Perhaps we can soon expect statements from not only SeaWorld, but also the Georgia Aquarium, the Shedd Aquarium and the Mystic Aquarium that they no longer support the capturing of any wild marine mammal for inclusion in their displays or shows.  Even better, perhaps we will see statements from these and similar institutions that they intend to end the “display” model and to retire the marine mammals currently in captivity to ocean sanctuaries created specifically for that purpose.  Because the fact remains, marine mammal advocates from around the world will not stop demanding it until we have those statements, and until the law is revised to reflect that new, unequivocally humane, policy.

When SeaWorld does that, then we will have greater confidence that SeaWorld does, in fact, care.

Because this, going on right now, is a horror.

Dolphin trapped under the net during dolphin drive hunt in Taiji, Japan. Photo from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

Dolphin trapped under the net during dolphin drive hunt in Taiji, Japan. Photo from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

What you can do:

  • Write a letter to the California Coastal Commission objecting to SeaWorld’s tank expansion project and supporting passage of the Orca Welfare and Safety Act.  This one is time-sensitive.  Write by Monday, October 5.
  • Sign the petition to the California Coastal Commission opposing SeaWorld’s tank expansion project.
  • Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers and newspapers in aquarium locations demanding an end to the capturing of wild marine mammals for any purpose.
  • Write letters to your Congressmen demanding that the Marine Mammal Protection be updated to eliminate the exception for permits for capture or import of captured marine mammals or their progeny.
  • And never, ever (even to a wine tasting or corporate party) go to an aquarium with a cetacean, and better yet, any marine mammal, exhibit
  • Write to your local aquarium demanding that it end its marine mammal displays and that it embrace the creation of marine mammal sanctuaries for the retiring of those already in captivity
  • Support the efforts of marine mammal advocacy groups by making donations to support their efforts, both legal and policy-directed, to end the horror of marine mammal captivity.
  • Write to your relevant department of state to demand that the Taiji dolphin drive hunt be identified as inhumane and unsustainable.

For more information about SeaWorld’s role in the drive hunts, please read Op-Ed: SeaWorld’s Convoluted Logic on Taiji’s Dolphin Slaughter or SeaWorld’s Collaboration in the Wild Caught Industry, leading right back to Taiji.

Freedom from tyranny and the dolphin captivity industry

Fox New’s John Stossel will be airing a show (I’ve never used the word “mockumentary”, and I’m still safe; but gosh, was it tempting) from his Green Tyranny platform.

Whether you watch Fox News or not, but especially if you are a consistent purveyor of its broadcasts, and you watch the show, I would ask you to think from the tagline of this publication: “A Free Press For A Free People Since 1997” and realize that freedom is what is at the core of this issue.  Freedom for humans, and freedom for dolphins and whales.

Freedom for humans. Humans have been fed a line of nonsense about dolphins and whales since aquariums opened, but especially since the mid-1960s, when the aquarium boom started.

Our ability to distinguish the truth about whales and dolphins from the fiction about their captivity is minimal, since most of us are not marine biologists with a focus on studying the wild ones (instead of marine biologists who think that tanks facilitate their next research grant).  That inability to distinguish was complicated by the fact that in the 1960s, no one understood dolphins and whales very well.  Not marine biologists, not aquariums, and certainly not laypeople.

In the ensuing years, we have learned more about dolphins and whales.  We’ve learned about them by studying them in the wild.  What we’ve learned from those in captivity is that they are not suited to it.

So, freedom for a free people?  What’s the tyranny here?  Trying to spread information that corporations want hidden?  Or using a news platform as a shill for the aquarium industry to pass off more aquarium hype as fact?

Freedom for dolphins and whales.  This point is rather too obvious to make, but it would be missing to ignore.  What the “Freedom” tagline underscores is the arrogance of humans to think that we deserve it, but no other species does.  We deserve self-determination, but no other species does.  We deserve happiness (or whatever is our closest approximation), but no other species does.

The irony of that is that we don’t realize that we’ll never find ours, if we don’t encourage their finding theirs (or at least not do anything to prevent it).

Jiyu at Dolphin Base in Taiji, Japan

Jiyu, a dolphin captured for the aquarium industry in Taiji, Japan. Her emaciated appearance should be a bellweather for anyone who thinks that starvation isn’t a human value. Uncredited photo from ProjectAware.org.

Dolphin and whale rights activists have been encouraged by the public’s reception of the film Blackfish, and have promoted its message it via social media.  This film opened the eyes of many, mainly via its broadcast on CNN and its availability on Netflix.  Some have taken this new awareness and have read Death at SeaWorld by David Kirby and former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove’s personal account as a trainer, Beneath the Surface.  Others have watched the PBS Frontline special, A Whale of a Business and A Fall from Freedom.

These are all good resources to learn about the morbid existence that whales and dolphins face by being exploited inside the captivity industry.  So if you watch Stossel’s show or if you don’t, I highly suggest watching these videos and reading these and other materials, so that we can avoid tyranny and embrace freedom for all.

Taiji: An unsustainable and inhumane dolphin hunt

Between September 26 and September 28, in Taiji, Japan, an entire family of pilot whales was eradicated from the face of the planet.

Pilot whales fighting for their lives and losing, in Taiji, Japan.  Photo by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

Pilot whales fighting for their lives and losing, in Taiji, Japan. Photo by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

UnsustainableThis kind of removal of entire components of a gene pool is unsustainable, and is addressed under the laws of certain countries, if not Japan’s.  Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. §1361- 1421 (MMPA), the term “population stock” or “stock” means “a group of marine mammals of the same species or smaller taxa in a common spatial arrangement, that interbreed when mature.”  Under the MMPA, stocks are protected.  The term “strategic stock” means “a marine mammal stock . . . for which the level of direct human-caused mortality exceeds the potential biological removal level.”  The Taiji hunters exceed this mortality level in nearly every single encounter they have with dolphins during hunt season, because they are the proximate and direct cause of the kill and capture of significant portions of, if not entire, stocks of dolphins, even if some of the cause is less visible.

While the US law, and its notion of “strategic stock,” does not impact how the Taiji hunters conduct the drive hunt, it does impact U.S. aquariums.  The concept of “strategic stock” clearly prevents the importation into the United States of any dolphin captured in Taiji because the capture techniques there violate the concept of “stock”, and no animal so caught may be imported into the United States.  So, it is convenient for a U.S. aquarium that the public is largely unaware that such importation into the United States would never be permitted (assuming the proper decision is rendered by the permitting agency) when it “denounces” such drive hunts.  One wonders how the U.S. aquarium industry would view such hunts if it had a prayer of obtaining a dolphin from one.

Inhumane. For purposes of humaneness, the way in which this family was eradicated fails by any measure:

  • Two of the younger ones were taken for a “life” of captivity in the aquarium/marine park/swim-with industry either in Japan or internationally.  The life of a wild dolphin when it is restricted to a concrete tank or even to an “encounter cove” is so far removed from a natural life – devoid of natural family units, natural hunting behaviors, natural food and water, natural movement in straight lines over many miles and to much more varied (greater) depth – that it would be recognized in any ethics-based evaluation as “inhumane”.
  • Fifteen were killed, and their flesh sold as food. Whether food for humans or for some other, the flesh is recognized to contain toxic levels of contaminants, chiefly mercury and PCBs. The knowing and volitional spread of such contamination within Japan or to citizens of other nations is a reckless endangerment to others, and it must end.
  • Approximately 10 were driven back out, after two days of being traumatized by noise, food and water deprivation, watching family members taken from them and others killed, as the “survivors” watched.  These 10 or more pilot whales, likely the smaller whose bodies wouldn’t fetch poundage sufficient to include in the “kill/capture” quota, are believed to have become trapped in the Taiji harbor nets, having been unseen since they neared the nets. These air-breathing mammals would have then drowned. So killed they were, and should be accounted for in the “kill/capture” quota.

We can hope that the “survivors” will be spotted today, but even if they survive the immediacy of drowning in the nets, their chances for survival, without the matriarch and the other mature members of the family, are significantly diminished. The young have lost their protectors, their mentors, all the members who hold the majority of necessary survival skills. So whether they survive the nets, they have been, at least decimated in the short term, and quite likely eradicated in any meaningful, longer view.

Include all in the kill/capture quotaAn immediate call can and must be made by a decision-maker to include all the casualties, all captures, whether killed or “released” in the quota.

Caroline Kennedy got it right. The U.S. State Department backed her up.  But it's been crickets since then.

Caroline Kennedy got it right. The U.S. State Department backed her up in its January 21, 2014 briefing.  But it’s been crickets since then.

After Ambassador Kennedy made this statement, she was supported by the U.S. State Department.  But there has been no word since the eight months since.

Excerpt from U.S. State Department briefing, January 21, 2014.

Excerpt from U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing, January 21, 2014.

What you can do to end the Taiji drive hunt:

Reach out to the U.S. State Department, requesting that it clarify what it promised on January 21, 2014: to find out at what levels the U.S. government is having discussions with the Japanese government; main phone number (202) 648-4000.

Fax the Japanese embassies and ask if the Prime Minister has been briefed on the faxes, phone calls, letters and emails that the Japanese embassies and consulates around the world are receiving.  Include what you know about the inhumaneness and unsustainability of the drive hunt.  A selection of Japanese Embassy fax numbers:

US: 202-328-2184
Canada: 613-241-4261
Australia: 2 6273 1848
Malaysia: 03-2145 0126
India: 00-91-11-2688-5587 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Philippines: 02 551-5780 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Singapore: 6733-1039 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Solomon Islands: 677 21006
Chile: 2 2232-1812 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Costa Rica: 2231-3140
Trinidad & Tobago: 622-0858
UK: 020 7491 9348
Ireland: 01 283 8726
Germany: 030/21094-222
Russia: 495 229-2555
Denmark: 33 11 33 77
Sri Lanka: 11-2698629 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Thailand: 02-207-8510
Bangladesh: 2-984-1591
Peru: 463-0302 (trouble getting through 9/27)
Venezuala: 0212 262 3484,

All other Embassy and Consular info: http://www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/mofaserv.html

Fax Service (allows two free faxes per day, with restrictions): https://www.gotfreefax.com/

An excellent summary of what you can do to help end the Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt, including other phone numbers, email addresses, in addition to other actions that you can take: http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/what-you-can-do.html

Follow the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians on Facebook, Twitter and on their livestream for current and accurate information every day of the six-month Drive Hunt, scheduled to end on February 28.

A reconsideration of the human entitlement to gawk

I grew up in a world that objectified nonhuman animals, a world that had captured and displayed these other animals since we began exploring the world in our new boats, a world that encouraged humans’ infantile fascination with a “new world” of wild animals.  I grew up in a human culture with a convenient capacity to enslave, encouraged by a religious zeal to reproduce with abandon at the top of some mythical dominance pyramid, to consider that other animals were here “for” us.

In that world, humans taught me to think that this little nonsense rhyme by Gelett Burgess was funny:

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.

That world is the one in which a family of Rissos dolphins was just slaughtered in Taiji, Japan, and in which humans drive pilot whales onto a bloodied shore in the Faroe Islands.  It is that world, 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 family of 8-9 Rissos dolphins killed on September 16, 2014, in Taiji, Japan.  Photo by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Operation Infinite Patience.

A family of 8-9 Rissos dolphins killed on September 16, 2014, in Taiji, Japan. Photo by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Operation Infinite Patience, on Facebook and Twitter.

The cloak of this entitlement can be thrown off.  It can, because many of us have learned to abandon a sense of entitlement to seeing any of them, even as we acknowledge the wonder at being in their presence. It can and must be left as a relic of the misinformed past if we are to advance into the promise of humanity.

So I’m rephrasing Burgess’ poem, and hoping that this resonates with a few of you and that we grow a world in which our greatest aspiration is to leave the wild ones in their homes, unharassed by our prying eyes:

Be the purple cowI never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather BE than SEE one.

I don’t advocate literally never seeing them.  There are many opportunities for interacting with the wild ones, many of whom feed and rest in our gardens, who dig nests to bury their eggs right in our yards.  There are many as close as the nearest park or mountain trail.  There are others, like orca, who can be viewed from shore, although it is quite true that one loses some of the “front row seat of the theater” convenience when doing so.  But we also lose our dangerous entitlement.

I adopt this position because I don’t yet trust humans to understand their impacts on the others, even with the ever-increasing numbers of humans who choose a vegan lifestyle.  Even with veganism, humans still have a desire for love and a curious bent.  When these two attributes are coupled, the other animals can pay too high a price.

Join me in a life of choice, of imagining what it is to BE rather than SEE a purple cow, or an orca or other dolphin, or wolf, or bear, or box turtle, and give them a wide berth, their berthright and birthright.  Find out what you can do to raise your voice in support of an ethical world based in respect.

choice

It’s up to you.

Open Letter to the City of Jacksonville

The City of Jacksonville, Florida, is considering opening an aquarium. A group called Aquajax is actively promoting this project, with one of its stated goals to “[m]ake the city a desired vacation location for both local and foreign visitors.”

From Lolita, A Slave to Entertainment.

From Lolita, A Slave to Entertainment.

Please consider the following issues as evidence that in contrast to making Jacksonville such a “desired” location, the erection of an aquarium, at considerable financial cost, such a facility will doom Jacksonville to being out-of-step with the current and growing sensibilities of an increasingly ethical public.   Some of the problems of captivity for orcas were brought to the public’s attention by the book, Death at SeaWorld, by New York Times best-selling author David Kirby, and the award-winning film, Blackfish, but the problems of captivity extend beyond that one dolphin species.

SeaWorld, which showcases orcas but owns in its “collection” many other species.  These other species are doing little to redeem SeaWorld’s reputation, as the public, worldwide, becomes aware that exploitation of marine creatures, including but not limited to marine mammals, is an endeavor that we must begin to phase out, not encourage.  The public, which may recognize SeaWorld’s efforts in coordinated rescue efforts of stranded or injured marine animals, also recognizes that one good deed (rescue) does not offset a horrid one (captivity).  There is no balancing that will remove the blemish of captivity from SeaWorld.

Consider these other “current events:”

  • The National Aquarium is ending its dolphin captivity after it recognized that phasing out its dolphin shows, which it had done only about a year previously, was not “enough”.
  • The Vancouver Aquarium Board has voted to end captive breeding.
  • Southwest Airlines ended its 25-year cross-promotion with SeaWorld.
  • The Georgia Aquarium has been denied a permit to import 18 wild-caught Russian beluga whales.
  • Bills to end orca captivity are under consideration in both California and New York. These bills, with the support of over 1.2 million people, are a reflection of the recognition that marine mammals and other oceanic aquatic life should not be exploited for human entertainment.
  • A plan to release Lolita (Tokitae) from the Miami Seaquarium has been proposed by the Orca Network.
  • Facilities in the United States that hold marine mammals inspire the growth of such facilities worldwide, which, in turn, supports a horrific dolphin hunting industry in Taiji, Japan, and elsewhere, where thousands of dolphins, hundreds of entire families of dolphins, can be slaughtered each year, in order for a number of young, pretty dolphins to be forced to live a life forever in captive, money-making (whether for-profit or non-profit) facilities.
  • Other marine mammals, such as polar bears, seals and sea lions, have an equal right to live in their own natural habitat.  Zoos and aquariums that hold them are targeted for being unable to provide suitable habitat, and in any case, deny them their birthright.
  • Zoo Mendoza in Argentina is being called upon by nearly a million people to release Arturo, a polar bear living in desert-like conditions, to a better facility in Canada.
  • SeaWorld’s last remaining polar bear, Johnny, who lived an unnatural solitary life, finally succumbed to this life and died, even while being touted as being in good health.
  • Zoos are coming under more scrutiny as being incapable of providing the kind of life that actually teaches our children to respect wildlife.

It is becoming all too clear every day to more compassionate and ethics-centered humans that “education” at the cost of denying the birthright of animals who should have freedom is a cost that is inconsistent with a humane society.

To learn more about the reality of the captive marine mammal industry, please watch A Fall from Freedom, Blackfish, A Whale of a Business, Lolita: A Slave to Entertainment.

To learn more about the link between dolphin captivity and dolphin killing, please watch the Academy Award-winning film, The Cove, and follow the efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its campaign, Operation Infinite Patience, dedicated to ending the horrific dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan.  Here is one report from last year’s dolphin hunt, which is set to resume on September 1.

Do not invest your monies, or your ethics, in a dying industry.

Cove Blue for Jiyu

Photo Credit: James R. Evans / U.S. Pacific Fleet

SeaWorld adds new boat to its Flotilla of Fabrication and it’s NEWS!

A new statistical evaluation by the Associated Press of survival rates of marine mammals in captivity asserts that marine mammals live longer in captivity than in the wild.  While one might be called a heretic for considering a statistical evaluation by a “news” organization to be inferior to one conducted by scientists, readers or viewers of “news” reports should know enough to be skeptical about “glommy” statistics, whether by a news organization, or scientists whose livelihoods depend upon maintaining a captivity industry, or scientists whose job is the welfare and study of wild marine mammals and their habitats.   I am not a statistician, any more than is ABC or the Associated Press, so I’ll leave the statistics dialogue to the scientists.  But it does leave me asking, “Who ees thees Associated Press?”

But perhaps it is appropriate, then, that ABC News then followed the “launch” of the Associated Press’ new-found expertise in marine mammal statistics by a story about SeaWorld launching a new boat in its latest effort to rehabilitate its image.

SeaWorld's latest effort to rehabilitate its image.

SeaWorld’s latest effort to rehabilitate its image.  Okay, I added the quotation marks.  Original photo by ABC News 10.

While I am not an expert in boats either, I do have at least five senses, a brain, a heart and the ability to use all of them in evaluating “news” stories.  It must be big news that SeaWorld is using boats.  Big news that SeaWorld has veterinarians on staff whose job it is to keep captive marine mammals alive, and have had 50 years to perfect their craft.  Big news that SeaWorld is doing rescue.  Big news that SeaWorld now has new boat technology.  Big news?

Else why would the Associated Press and ABC News cover it?

I cannot claim to know, but it certainly begs, on its knees with a mournful plea, the question.

Using the “news” to turn the conversation on the uncertain statistic of life expectancy is tricky, as is a suggestion that medical care should be improved, as if resolving those two issues also resolves the “problem” of captivity for marine mammals . . . as if saying, “If we can make them live longer in captivity than in the wild, we have a right to and we should,” when that is based in an ethical as well as logical fallacy.

That conclusion omits the entirety of the notion that animals have a right to live their birthright, not a plasticized, containerized, medicated, jelloized – that  is, captive – version of it.

What you can do:  Support the efforts across the nation to find a legislative solution to the real ethical problem injected into our culture by marine mammal captivity.  One easy first step is to sign three petitions.

  • Support California orca legislation, the Orca Welfare and Protection Act, by signing the petition at SumofUs.org.  Over 1.2 million people have already signed.  Add your voice to this groundswell.
  • Support Senator Greg Ball’s effort to ban orca captivity in the state of New York (can be signed by New York residents only).
  • Sign Florida fifth grader, Marissa’s, petition to Senator Mark Rubio to introduce a bill banning captivity.
  • Reach out to your own state leadership and find the ones who are the true advocates for ethics and compassion for animals.  Find the ones who are willing, as are California Assemblyman Richard Bloom and New York State Senator Greg Ball, to request that an industry that has literally banked on our inability to see through the spandex and the splashing to the horrific nature of captivity for marine mammals retire its business model of exploitation.

Because this is worth fighting for.  When SeaWorld ends its current exploitative business model, that will be news.

Celebrate life by working to preserve habitat, not by going to see orcas held in small concrete tanks.  Photo by NOAA.

Celebrate life by working to preserve habitat, not by going to see orcas held in small concrete tanks. Photo by NOAA.

 

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

The “Hope” of the dolphin captivity industry

While not news, a story reported this week in the Tampa Tribune Online reminded us of the ways that monies move around to support the institutions dedicated to dolphin captivity.  The story recognizes that the movie industry often demands, or perhaps expects, tax incentives to arrive in “your town” to film its highly lucrative product.  These incentives do not appear out of thin air.  They are accomplished by funneling the hard-earned money of taxpayers to support selected corporate endeavors.

About midway through the article, is a recognition of how this was accomplished to support both the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the makers of the upcoming film, A Dolphin Tale 2.

The movie sequel “Dolphin Tale 2” faced a similar dilemma last year. Producers wanted to film in Clearwater but tax credit money was an obstacle.

So backers persuaded the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to sign off on $5 million in state money for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aquarium turned over the money to producer Alcon Entertainment.

It isn’t clear whether the real shame here is that the aquarium industry is being supported, or, rather, whether it is that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), in particular, is.

Winter who will forever reside amid the noise and crowds of a movie

Winter who will forever reside amid the noise and crowds incited by a movie

The shame is that the CMA and Hollywood use Winter, a dolphin whose tail fluke was so damaged by being caught in a crab trap that her fluke was removed, to make money. It really isn’t complicated.  Winter pulls on the heart-strings of people who rightly feel compassion for this unique, handicapped dolphin.  Of course she does.  All dolphins should.  But rather than have our compassion support an industry whose primary goal is to maintain captivity, we should open our eyes and find those institutions whose goal is to end the notion that captivity teaches us anything like respect for the wild ones.  That the CMA is willing to pass the $5 million to the film-maker should tell you something.

The new movie, paid for in part by that $5 million in taxpayer monies, will focus on yet another dolphin, this one named Hope, who was reportedly rescued three years ago as a baby after she stranded in the Indian River.  The rescue of stranded dolphins is a noble undertaking.  But rescue should come with the remainder of the “Rs” : Rescue, Rehabilitate and Release.

But one should consider that the same industry that wants us to believe its commitment to all three of the Rs, has seen – and been a proximal cause  for – the deaths of  91% of orcas captured since 1961 by and for their industry.  The numbers of dolphins who have died in captivity is mind-boggling when one considers that their captivity only became significant during this human generation’s lifetime.  In its defense, the CMA has released a significant number of dolphins that it has rescued. Far more, however, have died at CMA, likely because once stranded, the odds against successful rehabilitation of dolphins are low.

But it is also undeniable that Winter’s “uniqueness” is being used as capital for those who charge admission, whether to aquariums or to movies.  So, is Hope also “unique”?  Does Hope have an infirmity that prevented her release to a wild Indian River pod? Or does she, like Winter, merely “‘have that . . . something particularly interesting and readily visible’ to keep attracting visitors?

The fact remains that each dolphin is unique.  While we may not know their real names, it has been demonstrated that dolphins do know each other by something that we call “names.”  In the meantime, we call them “Winter”, “Hope”, “Tilikum”, “Lolita”, “Shaka” and we use whatever “uniqueness” we can invent via our language to justify their retention in the captive quarters of concrete tanks.

The “hope” that we should have for the dolphins is not found in a movie, the aquariums that those Hollywood productions support, or even in the successful rescue of a flukeless individual.  The real hope for the dolphins is in their freedom from captivity and in safeguarding their passage through life in an uncontaminated habitat.

While those who would put tax monies on the production of a movie, perhaps those tax monies should be utilized to find the reason that dolphins are dying in record numbers in Florida’s Indian River, to clean up the mess that has been made by years of discharge into that water body, and to stop the polluted run-off from pesticide- and fertilizer-enhanced agriculture-water.

Instead of being hope for the dolphin captivity industry, that would provide real hope for the dolphins.

Dolphin in Indian River. Photo Credit: discoverelc.org

Dolphin in Indian River. Photo Credit: discoverelc.org

To learn more about the captivity industry, go see Blackfish (available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon), winner of the 2014 Genesis Award for outstanding reporting and creative portrayals of animal-protection issues.

For JerryLee.  Thank you for your unwavering support for the real welfare of dolphins.

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

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

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

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

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

For Jiyu. Forever.

Open letter to Gretchen Wilson: our choices make a difference

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

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

Gretchen Wilson's choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information for one’s own research: