Monday, July 1, 2013

Happiness is not Marineland


Marineland first opened in 1961 and is owned by John Holer, a Slovenian who emigrated to Canada in the 1950's. Originally called Marine Wonderland then Marineland & Game Farm and finally just Marineland, over the years Holer built his business from a tacky roadside attraction located on the outskirts of Niagara Falls, to a sprawling full scale amusement park that attracts thousands of tourists each year.  Drawing from his past experience training circus animals Holer's empire includes a vast array of animals on display mixed with various types of midway rides.  John Holer has expanded Marineland on several occasions throughout the decades and the park now encompasses 1,000 acres though much of it is still undeveloped.

Right from the start Marineland's focus has been on keeping animals in captivity for display and for use in circus like shows. The first animals used for this purpose were a pair of sea lions in which patrons were charged 25 cents for admission and another 25 cents to feed the animals.  Marine mammals would be a mainstay at the park but captive animal displays would change over the years at various times Marineland featured elephants, tigers, lions and even alligators.  Marineland is now known for the various types of seals, walruses, sea lions, dolphins, belugas, orcas, deer, buffalo, elk, bears and fish it currently displays.

The issue of keeping animals, especially large marine mammals in captivity has turned into an extremely controversial topic.  Times have changed since Marineland opened in 1961 and modern society has evolved to not only re-evaluate the legitimacy of zoos in general but also to call into question what is now understood as an inhumane practice of keeping cetaceans in what are essentially large swimming pools.

Today there is a plethora of scientific research centered on cetaceans: dolphins, belugas and orcas.  Many are now understood to be highly intelligent socially complex mammals that are self aware, posses their own advanced language and communication abilities and are capable of reasoning and even empathy. They live in large tightly knit social groups and freely roam the ocean covering vast distances in a day.  Scientists who have studied these animals in both captive and natural environments have been in agreement for many years now that keeping them captive in artificial environments is not only unsuitable but it is cruel.

All these years Marineland never got the memo. Virtually copying the model of captivity industry leader SeaWorld, Marineland doubled down on marine mammal captivity capturing more and more orcas, dolphins and belugas. When the process became illegal in North American waters Marineland began importing cetaceans from Iceland & Russia. In their stadium pool shows, trainers rode on the backs of killer whales throughout the 70's & 80's.  Instead of shifting their business plan to a less animal dependent model and building more amusement park rides, in the late 90's Marineland continued to build more tanks...for breeding.

Throughout its entire history Marineland and its owner, John Holer have been connected to numerous troubling events. Enjoying the practically non existent regulations in place for animal protection in Ontario Holer & Marineland have been persistently been accused of animal abuse and neglect.  Marineland has one of the worst records of any marine park in the world for animal deaths drawing the ire of several animal advocacy groups who have protested the park on many occasions. Highly respected animal experts who visited the park called the conditions there deplorable.  Many ex employees have come out over the years against what goes on behind the scenes at the park.  Holer himself has been charged and/or fined for numerous offences in Canada and the United States.  Marineland has had many orders placed on them by agencies such as the OSPCA, CAZA and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.  Dig deeper and you can find Marineland connected to shady land deals with sketchy Niagara Falls politicians, the eviction of 47 families from their homes for no reason triggering the suicide of a resident and numerous alleged assaults and threats directed towards detractors.

On this blog we'll be discussing all of this and more.  Public opinion against captivity is at an all time high and John Holer knows it.  This year Marineland unleashed an unprecedented advertising and PR blitz following a disastrous 2012 season. In August of that year an extensive exposé in the Toronto Star newspaper brought widespread public attention to new accusations of animal abuse and neglect at the park by several ex employee 'whistleblowers'.  This was followed by some of the largest public demonstrations ever held at Marineland and an unprecedented outcry for the tightening of laws protecting animals in Ontario.

Marineland should change their business model to exclude the exploitation of animals or be shut down.  Marine mammals do not belong in captivity and John Holer's 'sea circus' of yesteryear is out of step with today's society.  Marineland should end all captive breeding, stop capturing and importing new animals and phase out the animal shows immediately and let the existing animals retire in peace. The public is educating themselves and are realizing Marineland is a relic of an ignorant past.


  1. This is very well written, thank you for your efforts in elevating awareness ... especially ugly is that Marineland and other "Abuse"ment parks like it persist, vis a vis the research that has emerged and continues to emerge.

  2. Mike you are doing amazing job keep up the good work children are our future if they fight this war then nothing can stop you from winning this!

  3. Put John Holer in a hole for the rest of HIS llife.