Tag Archives: taiji

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.

Aqua Vino is wine with a cause: marine mammal captivity

The Georgia Aquarium fights to import wild beluga whales.The Georgia Aquarium is promoting its 10th annual fundraiser, Aqua Vino Nights.  According to the Georgia Aquarium, the event offers an opportunity to “witness the remarkable behavior of social animals and socialites” for the ticket price of $150 to $325 (Georgia Aquarium members pay less), for a cause.  The Georgia Aquarium says that the cause is its important southern sea otter research conservation initiatives.  But what other cause does the event support?

Aqua Vino Nights: exploiting some marine mammals to "conserve" others

Aqua Vino Nights: exploiting some marine mammals to “conserve” others

If one traces the money trail for the Georgia Aquarium’s various “initiatives”, he may find a direct trail supporting the aquarium’s claims.  But what of the less direct (or, rather, less obvious) trail?  What does one find?  In the Georgia Aquarium’s own words, one will find “remarkable . . . social animals” held for a lifetime of captivity, doing tricks for a paying public.

Beluga whales captured and held in tanks in Russia awaiting their "disposition." Photo credit M. Lanovoy

Beluga whales captured and held in tanks in Russia awaiting their “disposition.” Photo credit M. Lanovoy

Beluga WhalesOne will find the beluga whales and dolphins housed in concrete tanks, including the window in the Georgia Aquarium ballroom which allows guests to party down while watching the beluga whales.  These whales, who in the wild swim in family and community groups of tens to hundreds and traverse hundreds of miles in regular migration in Arctic waters, are relegated to a morbidly small tank. In its short operation time, four beluga whales have died (the link does not include the death in 2015 of Maris’ latest calf) in the Georgia Aquarium’s tank, and one, Nico, died in 2009 about three weeks after being transported to SeaWorld of Texas.

Despite its morbidity record, or perhaps because of it, the Georgia Aquarium is seeking to import 18 wild-caught Russian beluga whales.  The aquarium awaits the decision of Federal District Judge Amy Totenberg, following an August 14, 2015, hearing in which NOAA, the Georgia Aquarium and intervenors Animal Welfare Institute, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Cetacean Institute International and others presented their arguments for summary judgment.

Georgia Aquarium would steal these lives

Beluga whales in Russian waters. The scale may difficult to grasp, but not so difficult that life in a tank is revealed to be a horrid life sentence.  Image from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Anyone who has seen the beluga whales up close at the Georgia Aquarium will undoubtedly come away with a sense of wonder.  “Wonder” is exactly what its customers should be doing.  They should wonder why aquariums and marine parks exploit certain species while claiming that captivity and exploitation of “remarkable . . . social animals” are necessary to conserve?

The beluga tank serves as a backdrop to the Georgia Aquarium's ballroom.

The beluga tank serves as a backdrop to the Georgia Aquarium’s ballroom. Photo from the Georgia Aquarium flickr photos.

DolphinsAnd then there are the dolphins, another of the “remarkable . . . social animals” whom the Georgia Aquarium keeps captive.  The Georgia Aquarium currently holds 13 dolphins in its tank system, including five who were shipped from SeaWorld San Diego on May 13, 2014, but excluding

Shaka, wild-caught, shipped from the Georgia Aquarium to Marineland Florida on December 9, 2013.

Shaka, wild-caught, shipped from the Georgia Aquarium to Marineland Florida on December 9, 2013.  Photo from Dolphin Quest.

Shaka and Lily, who were part of the original eleven dolphins at the Georgia Aquarium, subsequently shipped to its Marineland location on December 9, 2013.

These 15 currently-alive dolphins tell only a thinly-veiled version of the story.  Behind that thin veil are the thousands of dolphins who have been captured (or bred from those captured) by the aquarium and marine park industry.  Marineland Florida, now owned by the Georgia Aquarium, was one of the first of such attractions in the United States.  Its 14 currently-living dolphins, including two who were captured in the early 1970s, mask a record of death that will shock anyone except the callous.  A 2004 report by the Sun-Sentinel noted that “Seaquarium has lost 64 of 89 dolphins since 1972.  Of those whose age could be determined, more than half died at 10 or younger, including 16 in their first year.”  And that was 2004.  (Because the required record-keeping (16 U.S.C. §1374(c)(10)) is unattached to any meaningful enforcement, one wonders whether it is reasonable to have confidence in the accuracy and timeliness of the records, which are accessible via the Freedom of Information Act.)

Capturing for the aquarium and marine park industry.  While the Georgia Aquarium fights to be able to import wild-caught marine mammals, other parts of the world do not have to wage the same fight to capture them.  Even killing them en masse, intentionally, during the capture process is permitted.  In Taiji, Japan, they do not capture beluga whales because Taiji is not located in the Arctic; they capture, and kill, the marine mammals that migrate in its waters.

On September 18, 2015, a community of 75 to 80 bottlenose dolphins were herded in a “drive hunt” into a small cove.  For two days, family members were ripped from one another, with the ones prettiest and deemed most suitable for displays taken for the aquarium and marine park industry.  Fifty, or approximately two-thirds of the community, was captured in a process that is neither humane nor sustainable.

Dolphins thrash in panic as the Taiji dolphin hunters attempt to separate dolphins into "takes" and "not takes." Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Dolphins thrash in panic as the Taiji dolphin hunters attempt to separate dolphins into “takes” and “not takes.” Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

This photo and others taken by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society reveal some of the terror that the capturing process causes in the dolphins.  While we do not know what dolphins “feel”, we do know that members of the closely-knit dolphin communities will fight to stay together, even at their own risk, during this process.  Yesterday’s image of the dolphin mother and calf being separated so that the mother could be taken into captivity is horrific to an ethical human.  The calf, not taken with his mother, is now condemned to whatever “life” can reasonably be expected, without the relationship with his mother that would have taught him survival skills.

Dolphins are trapped under a net in the process of capturing, subduing and separating dolphins for the aquarium industry. Photo credit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Dolphins are trapped under a net in the process of capturing, subduing and separating dolphins for the aquarium industry. Photo credit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt quota. Image and data compilation from Cetabase on Facebook.

Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt quota. Image and data compilation from Cetabase on Facebook.

But to an aquarium industry and its supporters (ticket-purchasers) this mother-calf separation is invisible.  The predictable death of the calf will not be noted in a statistic anywhere, certainly not in the quota allowed by the Japanese Fisheries Ministry.  His death and the fate of the pod decimated by the Taiji dolphin hunters will fade into oblivion.  It will certainly not be reported by the industry that will be profitable only so long as facts such as these remain hidden from view.

The entire aquarium and marine park industry is culpable.  The U.S. aquarium and marine park industry likes to proclaim, while it neglects to mention or even abandons the current effort of the Georgia Aquarium, that it no longer captures marine mammals from the wild.  Further, it attempts to distance itself from the Taiji hunt.  It does not want the paying public to connect the dots, but it is without question that the world aquarium and marine park industry has fashioned itself on the U.S. model of shows to attract the public to its turnstiles. The boom of U.S. aquariums that started in the 1950s and 1960s is only beginning in the rest of the world.  China, Japan, the Middle East, islands of the Caribbean and elsewhere are busy playing catch-up to the mature U.S. industry.

But what has been revealed in the 50-plus years since the U.S. boom is that dolphins and whales are not suited to captivity.  The statistics alone tell the tale.  But these statistics and the stories behind them have been distilled into films and books that make the institution of marine mammal captivity anything but the benign image portrayed by the display industry.  Films like Blackfish, A Fall from Freedom, Saving Flipper, A Whale of a Business, Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, the to-be-released Born to be Free, and the Oscar-winning The Cove present the truth about an exploitative industry that should have been retired long before 2015.  Books like Orca: The Whale Called Killer, Death at SeaWorld, Beneath the Surface and Of Orcas and Men fill in more details than can be captured in films.  All of them reveal that the fascination with whales and dolphins in captivity is a morbid one

The aquarium and marine park industry is, however, profitable.  Highly so.  And as long as the public continues to pass through the cha-ching of the turnstile, the industry will continue to exploit dolphins and other marine mammals.  The world aquarium and marine park industry, modeled after the U.S., uses dolphins and other marine mammals as replaceable, fungible attractions, much as the U.S. industry did in its early years, in a cycle of unending capture.  In the U.S., aquariums and marine parks are beginning to feel the tide of history turning, thanks to the efforts of non-governmental organizations, authors and film-makers.  The National Aquarium, for instance, ended its dolphin shows in 2014, but rumors of its ending dolphin captivity have not come to fruition.  Yet.

Conservation is the new favorite word. In its efforts to “stay current” and face down the growing awareness of the horror of captivity for marine mammals, the U.S. aquarium and marine park industry is attempting to associate, in the public’s mind, captivity with conservation.  “We do good works” is the new mantra.  “Come to the aquarium and take part in conservation.” But the fact remains, and it is a fact, that it is the dolphin or beluga attraction that keeps the money flowing.  The advertisement for the Aqua Vino event at the top of this post makes this perfectly clear.  It is another fact, also born out by this event, that the conservation efforts of the aquarium industry are mainly focused on other species, not the main attractions.  The new message to the public is that we must exploit to do good.  But we are better and smarter than that.  We know that there need be no link between the two.  And we also know that if they are linked, the money for conservation is tainted with the morbid lives of sacrificed individuals.

Aqua Vino may be an event for a cause.  But that cause is marine mammal captivity.

Beluga Cousteau quote

Trailer for Born to be Free:

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 cultural monstrosity

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

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

So we’ve settled that bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Thankful that the 2013/2014 Taiji Drive Hunt Season has ended

2013/2014 has been a horrid, but “point-tipping”, Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt season.

Much gratitude to the heroes that are the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians, led by campaign leader Melissa Sehgal, who on a daily basis documented for all the world to see the truth of the hunt, the facts of the hunt, the CHOICES of those who support the hunt: not only the fishermen who conduct the hunt, but also the legal system that provides a “color of law” to shield the hunt, and the captivity industry in any country that provides the financial incentive for the hunt.

Much gratitude to the press with special thanks to Jane Velez-Mitchell and CNN, Reuters and other media outlets who covered the horrific nature of the hunt and made the connection between the hunt and the captivity industry.

Many thanks to the celebrities who took a clear stand against dolphin hunting and captivity, focusing on both Taiji and SeaWorld, including the very special Sam Simon, Russell Simmons, Susan Sarandon, David Crosby, Shannen Doherty, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett and Heart.

So proud of the individual activists who daily write letters and emails, make phone calls, stand on the front lines to protest, and use social media to spread the message: the Voice of the Orcas, the Blackfish Brigade, Sandy McElhaney, Paige Nelson, and so many others – thousands – that I could not mention them all without leaving too many out.

Finally, much pride and gratitude for the statement of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, whose tweet heard ’round the world gives significant hope that the world conversation has been forever changed by this season.

U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy

The Tweet Heard ‘Round the World

Be part of the solution to end dolphin hunting and captivity.  Join the communities on Facebook and Twitter to find opportunities to join the movement, to put your voice and your feet to work to free these creatures from exploitation by humans and to restore them their birthright.

Do not go to a dolphin park, aquarium or swim-with program anywhere in the world.

 

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.

The Taiji dolphin drive hunt is not a “cull”: ALERT THE MEDIA

The Taiji dolphin drive hunt is not a cull.  Alert the media.

If the captivity industry found that they had “bad breeding stock” and decided to kill the bad ones in order to “improve” their stock, that would be a cull.

If SeaWorld decided that it needed to separate orca mothers from calves, the chief husbandry officer might, indeed, “cull” his collection.  But of course, SeaWorld says that it doesn’t do that. <WINK>

If a “wildlife manager” found that one species was diseased or was truly overtaking another species, that might be a cull.

The Taiji drive hunt has nothing to do with removing dolphins for the fishing industry, rumors by the dolphin hunters to the contrary.  AND EVEN IF IT WERE TRUE that they were killing dolphins to restore fish stocks, it is human overfishing that has impacted the fish stocks of Japan, not the activity of dolphins.  And the response of humans to restore a balance among wildlife that we caused (when we really need to stop the offending human actions) should not be termed a “cull”.

Even if properly used, the term “cull” is just another of those words we’ve made up to insulate ourselves from the reality of our actions.  “Cull” is just another name for “kill” when we don’t want to see the blood on our opposable-thumbed hands.

Striped dolphins captured, not culled, for the aquarium industry.  Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

Striped dolphins captured, not culled, for the aquarium industry. Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Cove Guardians

But, of course, the reality of the drive hunt is that it is financed, underwritten and generally made lucrative by the large sums paid by the aquarium industry for a few men to capture, kidnap and otherwise steal dolphins, to prop up a 20th Century industry that should be dying and dwindling, instead of swindling us all by taking the lives of the wild ones.  ALERT THE MEDIA.

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?

 

Saving Japan’s Dolphins – Atlanta one of over 100 events worldwide

The Atlanta community is no stranger to dolphins.  But whether it is aware of the issues surrounding keeping dolphins in captivity or the hunting of dolphins for the aquarium industry is another matter.

The Georgia Aquarium houses 11 dolphins, and one, named Shaka, was caught in the wild.

The Georgia Aquarium houses 11 dolphins, and one, named Shaka, was caught in the wild.

The local animal rights community is always ready to stand up to provide the information, which is often lacking elsewhere, in support of the notion that dolphins should be allowed their lives in the wild.  Even before the 11 dolphins and four beluga whales currently held in captivity at The Georgia Aquarium (four beluga whales that have been housed at the Georgia Aquarium have since died) were brought to this land-locked city, activists have stood up for dolphins.  This coming Sunday September 1, they will join over 100 events worldwide and do so again.

The Cove: 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary

The Cove: 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary

Japan Dolphins Day is an event created by Save Japan Dolphins and organized this year by the Facebook community Save Misty the Dolphin.  Launched in 2005, Japan Dolphins Day, was an idea that preceded the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, but followed many years of efforts to make inroads into dolphin capture worldwide.

Why should Atlanta care about what happens in a small village in Taiji, Japan, especially since none of the dolphins at the Georgia Aquarium were caught in Taiji?  The most straight-forward answer to that logical question is that while dolphins have not been intentionally caught in U.S. waters for its aquarium industry in many years, the indirect connection between the U.S. industry and countries where wild dolphins are caught is obvious.

  • The aquarium industry of the rest of the world is recreating the aquarium model developed by that in the United States. One need only to look at the Georgia Aquarium’s own past (via its other property, Marineland) to see that the industry was built on capturing wild dolphins.
  • Members of International Marine Animal Trainers Association – soon to have its annual meeting in Las Vegas – work directly with dolphins captured in Taiji.
  • The Georgia Aquarium is spearheading an effort to import wild-caught marine mammals (beluga whales) into the United States.  Though its application was denied by NOAA, it remains to be seen whether the Georgia Aquarium considers the issue resolved.  It is up to the decision-makers at the Georgia Aquarium and its partners whether they will listen to both the public outcry and the decision of NOAA or will continue to listen exclusively to themselves.
  • As a world community, where dolphins know no borders, it makes little sense to impose our borders on activism.

One local activist, Vivian Liu, had, only a couple of years ago, a season pass to the Georgia Aquarium.  She has come to understand and to teach her children “why we no longer visit places where they hold captive animals for human entertainment. . . Children are innocent and will certainly become what’s being taught.”  This understanding was echoed by former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove in the documentary, Blackfish, now playing at the Midtown Art Cinema, who said that he would never take his three-and-a-half-year-old to the orca show at SeaWorld.  What is being taught, more consistently than anything else at these establishments, is that captivity is cool.  Stephanie Voltolin, an instructor at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, “wouldn’t be anywhere else on September 1” because she knows that “we can make a difference if we can get this information to those who don’t know what’s happening.”

What you can do:

Atlanta location for Japan Dolphins Day

Atlanta location for Japan Dolphins Day September 1, 11:00am – 1:00pm