Sunday, June 28, 2015

Animal Sanctuaries as Alternatives to Marineland

PHOTO BY Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Children are naturally curious and fascinated with animals.  Marineland exploits a child's innocent love for animals through their marketing to kids and parents while providing no educational value or conservation efforts in their endless pursuit of profits.  No money spent at Marineland goes to help any animals in the wild and visiting the facility actually hurts animals by enabling Marineland to capture, import and exploit more of them until they die in captivity.  It is difficult however for parents to resist their child's pleas to take them to a zoo or aquarium.  Parents want their children to experience that special connection to animals and nature.  Taking them to Marineland may be well intentioned but it is a bad form of education and a choice based in no compassion.

There are many alternatives to taking your children to a zoo and aquarium, ones that still allow children to make that connection with animals without the destructive side effects of funneling your money to for profit facilities.  Animal sanctuaries are abundant throughout the world and more specifically in Ontario and Western New York which falls within the radius of a family day trip to Marineland.   Animals sanctuaries, unlike zoos & aquariums are true non profit organizations which almost always rely on donations and help from the public in order to provide much happier homes for saved, abused, neglected, exotic or what would have been otherwise discarded animals.   They put the needs of the animals first rather than the whims of visitors like at Marineland.

While it's true you likely won't see a whale or dolphin at a local sanctuary, there are a wide variety of animals your children can see that have been rescued.   Your visit whether it be through a limited tour or even 'working  visit' (where you can pitch in to help) will be designed to assist animals truly in need.  Your children will come away with a much better educational and personally compassionate experience.  Choosing to support a sanctuary is one of the best things true animal lovers can do and it will help foster a better relationship with animals than your child staring at animals through bars or glass.

Within a few hours drive of Marineland in Niagara Falls you can find the following animal sanctuaries that are very much worth supporting.  There are many more throughout the province of Ontario and State of New York as well. 

Cedar Row Sanctuary is located near London Ontario and has been rescuing animals since 1999.  The sanctuary is home to goats, pigs, donkeys, turkeys,  chickens and ducks.   They welcome volunteer working visits to their sanctuary, where people can help contribute to the much needed farm work to be done, as well as get to visit the animals. 

Ralph's Retreat located in Norfolk County Ontario and is home to an assortment of rescued farm animals and domestic animals including pigs, horses, ponies, dogs, cats and chickens.   It's a small family run sanctuary that specializes in special needs visitors such as children who are autistic.  You can call ahead to arrange a visit and learn what kind of experiences are offered.

The Farm Sanctuary at Watkins Glen New York was established in 1986 and is home to cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and more.  Visitors can even stay at a lovely Bed & Breakfast on site and learn about farm animal issues.

Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary near Rosseau Ontario rescues and rehabilitates nearly 500 animals a year and is home to bobcats, coyotes, lynx, bears, wolves and deer.  The sanctuary has an extensive educational component on how people can peacefully co exist with these animals often found in rural areas.

The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada located near Guelph Ontario is the largest animal refuge in the country.  They are home to 75 donkeys who can roam free on most of the sprawling 100 acre farm and have found themselves there because of abandonment, abuse or  neglect.  Education and safe interactions are offered to visitors.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Canadian Senator to Introduce Bill Phasing Out Cetacean Captivity in Canada

For Immediate Release
Thursday, June 11, 2015

Senate Liberal to Ban Captivity of Whales and Dolphins

OTTAWA – Senator Wilfred Moore has announced a federal bill to phase out the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity. “Keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is unjustifiably cruel,” said Senator Moore. “We should do the right thing and end the practice in Canada.” Senator Moore, a member of the Senate Liberal Caucus, will table the bill in the Senate this afternoon. He and several stakeholders – including Green Party Leader Elizabeth May – will offer details at a press conference today at 12:15 pm in the National Press Theater in Ottawa.

Senator Moore’s bill has the support of Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of the CNN-distributed documentary Blackfish, which outlines the suffering of captive orcas. It also has the support of four ex-whale and dolphin trainers; Dr. Marc Bekoff of the Jane Goodall Institute; the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies; the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and Zoocheck Canada (see below for quotes).

The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act prohibits captive breeding, imports, exports, and live captures of all whales, dolphins, and porpoises in Canada. The bill allows for the rescue of injured individuals. It builds on a recent Ontario law, which phases out keeping orcas in captivity (currently, there is one captive orca at Marineland in Niagara Falls, and approximately 50 beluga whales and dolphins at that facility and the Vancouver Aquarium).

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Director of Blackfish

“I made Blackfish because I wanted to understand why a trainer came to be killed by a killer whale. I did not come from animal activism and had even taken my kids to SeaWorld. I simply had a question. I soon learned the heartbreaking story of orcas in captivity. All whales and dolphins suffer in marine parks, and seeing these incredible creatures reduced to performing tricks has no social, educational, or conservational value. It is time for us to evolve. I hope Canadians get behind Senator Moore’s bill and end this practice.”    

This bill also has the support of three ex-SeaWorld trainers who appeared in Blackfish: John Hargrove, Samantha Berg, and Jeff Ventre.

Phil Demers, former Head Trainer at Marineland

As a former Marine Mammal Trainer, I believe the bill to ban cetacean captivity and breeding in Canada is imperative and long-overdue. I have witnessed the physiological and emotional consequences captivity imposes on these magnificent beings, and those who care for them. No living being should be forced to endure what I've witnessed, and it's my hope that this bill will finally put an end to these cruel practices.”

Dr. Marc Bekoff, Ethics Committee for the Jane Goodall Institute

“Science has clearly established that whales and dolphins suffer deep and enduring psychological and physical harms in captivity. The practice is ethically indefensible, and Senator Moore’s proposed ban would be a timely and important change in Canadian law. These highly intelligent, emotional, and social species deserve to live free in the wild, where they belong.”

Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

“Canadians do not support the archaic practice of confining and breeding whales and dolphins for the purpose of our entertainment. This bill puts Canada in a leadership position by advancing marine mammal science without exacting a cost to individual animals.”

This bill also has the support of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Zoocheck Canada

“This Bill will address Canada’s outdated and inconsistent laws regarding the importation and possession of whales and dolphins and will bring Canada into lockstep with other progressive jurisdictions around the world that have moved to address cetacean captivity issues. But, perhaps most importantly, it will finally address the deprivation and suffering that these animals endure in tanks and pools.”

Senator Wilfred Moore

“I hope all parliamentarians and candidates will back this going into the election. Bottom line, whales should not be kept in swimming pools.”

Archie Campbell
Office of Senator Wilfred Moore


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ontario passes Bill 80: Banning Killer Whale Captivity

Photo by OCAW
There will be no more opportunity for Marineland to purchase, import, sell or breed orcas in the province of Ontario. Today the legislature passed Bill 80 an act to amend the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which will effectively ban killer whale captivity.

Kiska, Canada's last remaining captive orca was not included in the bill and will remain at Marineland in solitary confinement unless Marineland owner John Holer decides to move her which is extremely unlikely.  Massive pleas were issued to the Ontario government from the public, activists and even retired TV personality and noted animal advocate Bob Barker who all had pushed for her to be either released or relocated to a more suitable facility where the highly social being would not be held alone.

Bill 80 will also include more regulations which may at least benefit Kiska and there will be an establishment of an animal welfare committee at every facility with marine mammals. A Technical Advisory Committee will determine new standards to the size of tanks for marine mammals and new guidelines for lighting, noise and interaction among animals. The committee will have representatives from several animal groups including Zoocheck, the Canadian Council on Animal Care the OSPCA and Marineland itself.  Many of these details have yet to be worked out or released to the public.

Anti Captivity activist Mike Garrett commented on Bill 80:

"This is not even close to a perfect Bill but an important part of the change that is happening everywhere right now.  Three years ago here in Ontario a law banning orca captivity would be unimaginable yet here we are.  Over a dozen orcas have languished and died at Marineland and now we'll never see them capture another wild orca again.  We will continue to push for more change to ensure ALL animals are safe from this terrible facility."

Marineland's Opening Day Attended by Families - Demonstrating Against the Park

Photo by Mike Sansano

Marineland opened for the 2015 season on Saturday May 18th. For the third straight year it offered free admission to kids in order to bolster attendance on a day met with fierce opposition by those seeking to end marine mammal captivity at the facility.

Five hundred people attended the simultaneous opening day demonstration outside the facility, many of the people in attendance were families and people from all walks of life including students, seniors and professionals. The demonstration was organized by Orca United who seeks to end cetacean captivity at facilities like Marineland.

Photo by Mike Sansano

The atmosphere was positive and friendly as people mingled, held signs, chanted slogans and encouraged those lined up at Marineland's admission gates to change their minds. For much of the demo the strategy seemed to be working as throngs of visitors turned around at the gates after listening to demonstrators and reading their signs. Some families even passed through the fence that separated the crowds and joined the protest.

Photo by Mike Sansano

Media from Niagara this Week, CHCH News & the Niagara Falls Review covered the demonstration that remained peaceful and stretched from the morning to mid afternoon. Marineland owner John Holer, as usual could be seen cruising the parking lot and Portage road in his vehicle and was each time met with a round of boos when seen by demonstrators. The demonstration was monitored by the Niagara Regional Police who reported no problems with the actions of those in attendance.