Sunday, July 27, 2014

Whistleblower Files Amended Counterclaim Against Marineland

PHOTO: Toronto Star
Former Marineland trainer turned whistleblower Phil Demers has filed an amended Statement of Defense and Counterclaim against Marineland Canada.  Filed on July 24th in St. Catharines, the counterclaim includes additional allegations against the facility and its owner John Holer since Demers filed his original statement of defense and counterclaim last year.

Marineland is suing Demers for $1.5 million dollars after he and other employees went public in 2012 alleging ongoing and persistent neglect of animals at the facility.  In the suit Marineland alleges Demers trespassed on Marineland property and plotted to kidnap Smooshi the Walrus.  Demers immediately fired back by counter-suing Marineland alleging defamation and abuse of process.  Demers is seeking $1.5 million in damages and costs.

Among the allegations made in the 21 page document Demers alleges:

  • Marineland has falsely accused him of wrongdoing and defamed him constantly through various means.
  • Marineland has instructed employees to defame Demers when speaking  about him or Smooshi with the public.
  • Marineland has intentionally delayed moving forward litigation concerning himself and his girlfriend Christine Santos who is also counter-suing the park.
  • The owner of Marineland John Holer has exhibited stalker-like behavior in relation to driving past the Demers & Santos residence, a matter that was brought to the attention of the Niagara Regional Police.
  • New and disturbing allegations of threatening behavior by Marineland owner John Holer directed personally towards Phil Demers.

Marineland Canada is currently suing 3 ex employees, 2 activists and the Toronto Star newspaper.  All defendants have filed their statements of defense or counterclaims and there has been no significant movement to push these lawsuits forward by Marineland.   Legal experts have described the lawsuits as SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

Friday, July 25, 2014

Niagara Journalist Details Marineland's Death Spiral

It is one thing to hear about Marineland's long miserable decline as a star tourist attraction in Niagara Falls from its usual detractors or from the general public on Trip Advisor or perhaps from friends who have personally visited there.  But as one long time Niagara Falls journalist recently found out its surreal seeing it for yourself.

In a story appearing on the front pages of all Niagara's major newspapers today reporter John Law wrote about his experience visiting Marineland for the first time in decades. Showing up unannounced, incognito and just like any other paying customer, his story attempts to cut through all the recent rhetoric and controversy that surrounds the captive animal facility and focus on the value received as a visitor and how the facility is looking.

What Law saw was what many have been hearing about for a long time. Outrageous admission and activity costs, broken down rides, closed facilities, sad looking animals with no purpose and lots and lots of empty space where visitors should be. He describes it in the article as almost apocalyptic:

"Inside, I headed towards the deer park, and immediately felt like I was in The Walking Dead. No one around. Like, anywhere. It would be understandable in October, but this was Niagara Falls in the thick of summer. For months I’d been hearing about a steep decline in attendance at Marineland. Now I was seeing it firsthand, and it was…weird."
Marineland has made a lot of 'coming soon' announcements over the years and Law did not hesitate to point out the broken promises. In his article he noted an almost two decade old billboard touting an aquarium attraction that never materialized.

Perhaps the most poignant part of Law's experience however was visiting Canada's last remaining captive orca, Kiska. Alone in her tank now for many years John Law came face to face with what Marineland has come to represent:

"Kiska doesn’t even seem real. She may as well be a black and white robot swimming methodically in circles in her tiny tank. Why is she here? What purpose does it serve? I watched her and felt an instant lump in my throat. An animal this beautiful and awe-inspiring shouldn’t be reduced to such a solitary life. It just can’t."

You can read the full story with photos here:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Born into Slavery

This Beluga calf was born at Marineland on July 12 2014.  It is believed to be the calf of Isis.  This calf will spend its entire life at Marineland.  This calf will never feel the natural rhythms of the ocean, never experience swimming far distances with its pod in the wild and never learn to catch its own food using its own natural ability of echolocation.   Instead it will eat dead fish stuffed with drugs for its entire life, perform circus tricks, swim circles in a concrete tank and most likely die prematurely.  From birth to death its life will be about profits for Marineland.

In 2012 a baby Beluga named Skoot was killed at Marineland as a helpless tour guide stood by and watched the calf be continuously and brutally assaulted by older males over a two hour period.  Skoot had nowhere to hide. Critics cited chronic understaffing problems at Marineland as a factor in the Beluga's horrific death.

Photo: via CetaBase

Friday, July 11, 2014

Reviews of Marineland

Some of the latest customer reviews of Marineland paint a clear picture that this captive animal facility is in a death spiral.  Not exactly a star attraction in Niagara Falls.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Activists Engage With Public

With the summer tourist season in full swing activists are once again hitting the busy streets in Niagara Falls continuing to provide information about Marineland to potential visitors.  With leaflets in hand and situating themselves right below the infamous Marineland billboard in Niagara Falls' Fallsview district activists handed out information and held impromptu conversations about the facility with people visiting Niagara from all over the world.

"What's really surprising us this year is that there already seems to be a real heightened awareness about Marineland and other captive facilities among the visiting public.  Many folks have told us immediately that they have no plans to patronize such a place" said activist Mike Garrett, who with several others distributed leaflets detailing Marineland's sordid history.

"We're finding a real paradigm shift in the public's attitude towards captive facilities and it is evident when you talk with people.  They are already engaged and interested in what we have to say and even if they aren't they still want to have a look at the leaflet.  That information will end up somewhere, a taxi cab, hotel room, restaurant and that's fine" Garrett said.

Later in the day the activists decided to return to the public property near the exit of Marineland and offer the leaflets to vehicles leaving the park.  Continued public outreach events are planned throughout the summer.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Plight of Marineland's Animals

Marineland has always defended their animal care and maintained they do nothing wrong.  If that is the case then it would be expected little has changed for the animals there since this telling video was shot.