Tag Archives: seaworld

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.

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.

 

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

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

Reading this just might make you gasp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Jiyu. Forever.

Open letter to Gretchen Wilson: our choices make a difference

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

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

Gretchen Wilson's choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information for one’s own research:

SeaWorld is coming for your children

SeaWorld is coming for your children.

SeaWorld's Fairy Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

Be part of something magical.

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Aquarium Dolphin Tales

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

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

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

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?