by Ric O’Barry
This past weekend, Marineland held its official opening for the season. They were greeted with one thousand protestors, objecting to the terrible conditions under which the marine mammals are kept.
A smoking series of articles in the Toronto Star newspaper documented numerous instances of poor water quality and health conditions for several of the animals housed in Marineland. Several former trainers have publicly spoken out against animal conditions in the park, and the owner, John Holer, has sued these former trainers in retaliation. Yet, two of those trainers joined the demonstration, showing they would not be intimidated or shut down by legal threats to their freedom of speech.
A large chain-link fence protected Marineland this time. No matter! With a thousand voices echoed by a couple of bullhorns, we made our presence known.
In addition to folk singers and speakers from anti-captivity organizations, a number of children were featured speakers this weekend. It is their world that they will inherit from us, and they have a right to speak out against injustice.
I spoke to the crowd, encouraging them to push for the closure of Marineland and the rescue of its animals from harm. I challenged John Holer in front of the Canadian media to a debate on keeping dolphins in captivity.
I mentioned we had just heard that morning that the government of India had put in place a ban on holding dolphins in tanks in that country. The Ministry of Environment and Forests even cited the fact that dolphins are special beings with characteristics very similar to humans. It was a remarkably forward-thinking decision. I urged the people in Niagara Falls to push for Canada to join India and other nations in banning dolphinariums.
Rachel Larivee, our outstanding volunteer here in town and one of the demo organizers, said: “Today’s event filled me with so much hope. I see the light getting brighter! So many people, from all walks – families, kids – it was uplifting!
“John Holer and his operation trying to do damage control did not faze the many activists, of whom there were approximately 1,000!” Rachel added. “No fence and no amount of PR will shut down this campaign, but you better believe this campaign will shut down Marineland!”
Marineland is just one of many dolphinariums around the world. All of the dolphinariums are cruel to dolphins, no matter how big or how well-managed, because even the biggest cannot substitute for the beauty, size and intricacy of the ocean environment, nor can dolphins be kept with their whole clan of relatives in captivity – they share the small tanks with strangers. Marineland happens to have a worse record, according to the reports, than any other big park around.
It is way past time for these places to close, once and for all.