Back in June local organizer Marineland Animal Defense entered an online charity competition to win funds for their upcoming “Festival for the Animals” protest weekend. The BILLe Celeb Challenge allows you to nominate a celebrity and a charity in a competition of online voting. After a month of voting the winning celebrity gets a cash prize donated to the named charity but ultimately it is the winning celebrity who has final say of which charity.
M.A.D. nominated David Suzuki as their celebrity of choice and named themselves as the charity even though they are not a registered nonprofit which is a requirement to be considered eligible. Suzuki is no stranger to opposition to Marineland and previously helped another activist who was the target of a SLAPP suit by the park by appearing at a fundraiser.
After daily calls for their supporters to vote for David Suzuki it wasn’t very long before M.A.D. made a swift and sudden exit from the competition which left many people scratching their heads. In a post on their social media sites M.A.D. gave the following explanation of why they were “sitting out” the competition:
“After a long discussion with folks in the collective we have decided to pull David Suzuki and Marineland Animal Defense from the Billie Challenge.
When we first threw our hat in on June 6th, there were no competing campaigns and we felt that doing so would not step on any toes or “divide” votes. We entered in the hopes of giving people a daily outlet to get involved, spread awareness and also with the slim hope of ever winning. Our campaign is an all volunteer grassroots campaign and a win in this challenge would be a larger sum than all of the funds we have raised - combined - since our launch in 2011. A fun pipe dream.
We finished 15th in our first attempt and as votes have been reset this round we are in the top ten. However, as new options have been introduced many folks have been torn over where to direct their support. This has also brought out some of the more uglier aspects of competition with people using this online vote challenge to put down, smear, or spread misinformation about this campaign. For us, it’s no longer worth it.
If we could have ever won, it would have been nice to win and split the funds between the Stephen Watson Memorial Fund - a transition fund for the removal of animals from Marineland - and our organizing for closing day events “Festival for the Animals.” That said, our goals remain the same and we will find new and creative ways to reach the same ends that don’t leave room for “division.”
We hope that folks who have voted for us and supported us will understand and not feel like their votes were in vain. We do appreciate that support and thank everyone who voted.
We will be contacting the Billie Challenge folks to have our nomination pulled down. “
In the post, it is clear that M.A.D. attempts to look like they are pulling out of the competition by choice and they are doing it to appear to nobly take the high road of avoiding conflict with other competitors. They lament the loss of their “fun pipe dream” and pine over how those precious funds could have been used for good by depositing them into their much hyped “Stephen Watson Memorial Fund”.
The truth of the matter is M.A.D. and Suzuki were removed from the competition by the David Suzuki Foundation themselves and not by MA.D. for the reasons they claimed.
An email making the DSF aware of M.A.D.’s unauthorized use of Suzuki has since been obtained by Marineland: In Depth. In the email, Suzuki Foundation representative Laurel Giguere explains they were the ones who immediately killed their association with Marineland Animal Defense.
“We were unaware that David Suzuki had been entered into this competition until we heard from you. The website listed David Suzuki as an individual, separate from the David Suzuki Foundation and there were no mentions of the Foundation or of the work we do.
On receipt of your email we contacted the administrators of the website and requested that the name and image of Dr. Suzuki be removed from the webpage as well as any associations with Marineland Animal Defense and the Stephen Watson Memorial Fund”.
Marineland Animal Defense’s goal of ending animal exploitation at Marineland
is commendable but what should
be concerning to their supporters and donors is that their leadership would be
caught lying about something so trivial.
Not only do they do this to save face but in the process they bemoan how
sad it is how their memorial fund named in honor of Stephen Watson could have
benefited from a win, a cheap attempt at drawing sympathy. Canada
With the recent revelation that M.A.D. “cofounder” Dylan Powell’s court order only applied to him and his repeated denials of the legal facts it seems the lies are piling up. This brings up serious concerns for many of the well intentioned supporters of ending animal abuse at Marineland and who in good faith donate money to M.A.D. and attend their protests. If leadership is willing to lie to save face on a small issue of an online competition and also serious matters such as court orders, then what else do they not disclose to their supporters and donors?
Back in April M.A.D. announced the Stephen Watson Memorial Fund, a public savings account where donated funds would be used to transition animals out of Marineland if the time ever came. Leader Dylan Powell boasted the “funds would never be released” until such time as the animals leave Marineland. Previously Powell split a fundraising drive between asking for money for M.A.D. and asking people to pay for a tuition fund for himself. It seems M.A.D.'s asks for money are endless, a recent one centers around asking for people to donate funds to bring ocean advocate Peggy Oki to their closing day protest. This and the tuition fiasco has caused many to ask questions such as where is the donated money really going? What is it being used for? What does M.A.D. have to show for it aside from an "office" in St. Catharines and is any of the money really being used to effectively oppose Marineland? If so, how?