The Plight of the Orca's
by Sue Arnold
Co-ordinator of Australians for Animals
The plight of orcas at Marineland, Niagara Falls, Canada is enough to make any aware human being weep in shame. Never, in l6 years of campaigning, have I witnessed such cruelty.
In a pool which measures approximately 24 foot in diameter, a fully grown male orca lies motionless. There's no place to move. On his back are the signs of sunburn or airburn where the skin has bubbled, caused by the orca's inability to stay under water, he can barely move. Around his blowhole is more evidence of the pitiful exposure to the sun. A plume of chemicals snakes around the pool, it keeps going for nearly three quarters of an hour. Poor whale, it is obvious he is dying, by inches. Condemned to a slow torturous release from life as his giant heart keeps beating. A strong heart - made to power a majestic body capable of swimming hundreds of kilometres of the turbulent oceans, taking seals, sneaking up on careless penguins, leaping, breaching, wild and free.
His dorsal fin is almost completely curled over. Someone tells me that whales and dolphins never sleep as they're voluntary breathers. So there's no relief from their conscious state in these dreadful tanks. Keeping a fully grown orca in this tiny pool is like locking a human into a broom cupboard for the term of his natural life.
There's a gate which separates the male from a bigger pool where two female orcas and a young calf swim lethargically. All their dorsal fins are curled over. The space is not nearly big enough for these creatures from the wild, its a bathtub. The pool is bare, the walls silently reflect streams of sunlight and a profound sense of loneliness which is awful. I imagine what its like for a creature of the sea to be deprived of the wonder of the sonic world he comes from.
The calf is bored, stressed and hungry. He tries to feed from his mother but nothing comes. Later I am told that the orcas are kept low on food, they don't get fed unless they perform tricks. I weep as I watch the little one flit around the pool, desperately trying to find something to play with, to amuse himself. Eventually, the calf blows some bubbles and follows them up to the surface. In a little while, he'll be moved inside the warehouse where two young adult orcas have been kept in a small pool, without sunlight of fresh air for the past two years.
The warehouse is the place where Junior, another young male orca caught at the same time Keiko was captured, was kept for nearly five years. In a tiny pool in this dark factory space at Marineland, circling round and round without company, space, stimulation, release, compassion or mercy. Eventually,Junior went mad. Finally, his great heart gave up its life . Canadian activists produce photos of Duke, another orca kept in the warehouse prison, blind, burned by chemicals, in a pitiful, hideous condition. Mercifully he too is now dead.
The thought of two young orcas being incarcerated in the same place, this horror house for cetaceans is almost more than I can deal with. Yet in the stands surrounding the obscene Marineland pool, hundreds of families are applauding and laughing at the mindless tricks the trainers push the orcas through. It's hard to believe that in l996, people could actually pay money to expose their children to such cruelty and pretend it is entertainment. Particularly after seeing Free Willy .
In just a short while, the baby orca in the big pool with its mother and another female will go into the warehouse. Marineland separates the calf from its mother at seven months. In the wild, the young remain with their mother as they grow up and stay in the pod with her throughout their life.
There's not one shred of anything educational about Marineland's orca show. This is l00 per cent exploitation, greed and abuse at its very worst. The death rate at Marineland is extremely high, understandably.
In the miserable dolphin tank, which is inside and totally enclosed, dolphins are kept in total isolation with only the regular shows to amuse them. Their flukes look burned and flaky, we are later told its probably the chemical load in the pool . The walls are bare, you can see paint flaking off in several places. There's nothing inside this dreadful place, no sea plants, fish, shells, toys, balls, nothing nothing nothing.
You may be finding this article hard to read, believe me it is difficult to write. Some things are branded forever into the soul, I will never forget the footage of Junior's physical condition shortly before he died, or the plight of these creatures I have seen at Marineland. Their lives are being deliberately and systematically sacrificed as they continue to be exposed to the most extreme sustained cruelty and suffering . Suffering which people actually pay to witness and laugh over. This place is hell on earth.
You might ask why the Canadian authorities have not acted to close Marineland down. Well, its simple really. This is the country which is planning to increase the seal pup quota to 400,000 next year. The country that allows baby seal pups to be shot for sport. Why would you wonder ?
And surprise surprise... there's no legislation in Canada which protects whales and dolphins in captivity. That explains why at West Edmonton, dolphins have been kept in a shopping mall pool for years, to amuse the patrons. At night the animals are left unguarded, some times people throw rubbish into the pool. All the babies born have died. The dolphins havent seen sunlight or fresh air for years. No government authority takes any action. After all, someone is making money out these creatures' misery.
Niagara Falls must be one of the most awful places on earth. Mile after mile of souvenir shops, tacky food places, Hollywood museums and hundreds of Italian restaurants. As one of the North America's most popular honeymoon spots, one can only wonder why anyone would go there for any reason. The sight of the magnificent Falls pales into insignificance in the face of such gross commercialism. If Niagara is a window into the future, then God help us all.
Deluge the Canadian Embassy in your country with protest. Our humanity demands that we act. To do otherwise, is to abandon a generation to the Dark Ages and open the door to unchecked ongoing wicked cruelty to a magnificent species -for there's no doubt that captivity is a crime against the cetacean race. As the century draws to a close, humanity must make a gigantic shift if the earth is to survive. We must recognise that we are not alone, that the natural world which is being killed off daily is a treasure trove of intelligence and diversity. Cetaceans are highly intelligent creatures; taking these creatures captive is an obscenity. Whilst the oceans are becoming increasingly polluted habitats for cetaceans, the solution to their survival doesnot lie in aquariums. Nor will children learn anything from seeing dolphins and whales in captivity, they belong to the ocean and that is where they must be returned.
Captivity is slavery. In enslaving cetaceans, we enslave ourselves. Marineland's orca and dolphin pools must be shut down and the animals immediately returned to proper care in a temporary seapen where they can be rehabilitated to return to the wild.
A coalition of anti captivity groups from 25 countries held a day long demonstration outside Marineland on lst September. It was the biggest anti captivity demonstration ever seen in North America with over 300 people turning out to register their protest. In response, the owner of Marineland, John Holer, mustered up a huge army of security guards, and the Niagara police were there in force. It was a peaceful non violent demonstration on our part, but that fact didn't deter the Niagara police from using extraordinary physical violence in arresting activists. One young arrestee said later he had been stripped down to his underpants and left in a freezing cold air conditioned cell for 7 hours. All six people who were arrested were left in the cells without food or water for the same time period.
At ll.30 am on that Sunday, the first arrest took place. At the same time in a tiny Greek Orthodox chuch in Toronto, a statue of the Virgin Mary began to cry. My prayer was that the Holy Mother was weeping for the plight of all captive dolphins and whales. That her tears create an ocean of compassion for the poor creatures at Marineland and all other dolphin and whales languishing in thier concrete prisons.
ACTION: Some addresses which might be helpful in protesting.
1- Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, Fax# (416) 325-3745 .
Write and tell him you are ashamed of the cruelty to cetaceans taking place in his province.
2- The mayor of Niagara Falls, concerned about the international reputation of
his town, which mainly survives on tourism
Mayor Wayne Thompson
City of Niagara Falls
4310 Queen Street
Niagara Fall, ON
3- The Honourable Fred Mifflin
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
House of Commons
He is the politician responsible for whales at the federal level in Canada. His
department has allowed capture of belugas in James Bay before and does nothing
to improve captivity issue.
4- The Honourable Sergio Marchi
House of Commons
He is the politician responsible for the Federal Environment Department. His department administers CITES for Canada.
5- The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy
Foreign Affairs & International Trade
House of Commons
He is responsible for international issues such as Canada's international reputation
6-Dr. Jim Young
Office of the Solicitor General
Province of Ontario
25 Grosvenor Street
Responsible for developing regulations for zoos and aquariums in Ontario - there are no regulations at the present!
7- Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums,
c/o Magnetic Hill Zoo.
Fax# (506) 853-3569
This association needs to be lobbied to get them to clean up their own industry. Marineland is not a member of the Canadian Association.
If you want to be involved the campaign to free these whales and dolphins and require further information, please contact Australians for Animals by email at firstname.lastname@example.org