Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Year in Review

After a disastrous 2012 that featured bombshell revelations of ongoing and persistent animal abuse at Marineland which made international headlines and triggered unprecedented  public outcry, it is likely the captive display facility was eager to usher in 2013 and forget the previous year.

The new year proved that there was no rest for the wicked as Marineland would attempt to strike back at critics, was forced to endure  further investigations and was targeted in new and creative ways by folks determined to stop the suffering of its animals.

Ultimately 2013 did not turn out much better for Marineland and its owner John Holer as the park saw sagging attendance, enormous new expenditures, personal tragedy and unwavering opposition.  Marineland: In Depth looks back at 2013:

Marineland began construction of an enormous chain link fence that once completed, would end up running almost the entire length of the front of the property.

The investigation by Ontario's Ministry of Environment into the burial of animals at Marineland continued throughout the month.  The MOE ordered Marineland to stop burying dead animals in mass grave pits on the property until a full environmental assessment could be completed.

It was revealed by the Toronto Star that the OSPCA had ordered a complete overhaul of Marineland and issued 7 orders for the park to comply with before their investigation of the facility could be closed.

Former trainer Christine Santos, a 12 year veteran at the park who is being sued by Marineland for $1.25 million filed her own counterclaim against the park for $750,000.  Santos was fired by Marineland after refusing to sign a legal document stating she witnessed no animal abuse at the facility.  Santos was one of 15 whistleblowers who went public detailing poor conditions at the park which contributed to the suffering of its animals.

The park which was closed for the season saw rare winter protest activity on New Year's Day with approximately 25 people attending a demonstration in front of the main entrance.

Marineland filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against former senior trainer Phil Demers, another one of the 15 whistleblowers who spoke out about what he saw at the park. Marineland leaked their statement of claim to Sun Media sources claiming ridiculously that Demers plotted to kidnap Smooshi the walrus.

Marineland continued to work towards complying with the orders given by the OSPCA and it was revealed that the park threatened to sue the OSPCA as well as its chairperson if details of the orders were published.

The Niagara Falls Humane Society remove a plaque honouring Marineland owner John Holer that had been in place since 1981. Holer bought the land where the NFHS was originally located, razed the shelter and absorbed it into Marineland property.  A new location was donated by Holer to the NFHS.

Several witnesses alleged that in 2010 Marineland owner John Holer shot two neighborhood dogs and had them buried in one of the mass graves on the property.

After Marineland complied with all outstanding orders the OSPCA completed its 8 month investigation of the park.  At this point Ontario is still without even the most basic standards for marine mammal care.

Marineland filed a $7 million libel suit against the Toronto Star newspaper and two of its reporters who had been writing an extensive exposé on the park.

Marineland's recently hired PR spokesperson John Beattie began making appearances in the media.  He would also appear in several poorly produced PR videos uploaded to the Marineland's YouTube channel.  Beattie had previously worked for former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Marineland's opening day was met with what was likely the largest public demonstration in the park's five decade history with approximately 1000 people in attendance.

After initial reports and rumors began spilling out Marineland was forced to confirm via the media that two young Beluga whales had died in recent months at the facility.

Former senior trainer Phil Demers filed a $1.5 million counterclaim against Marineland citing abuse of process and defamation.

Demonstrators began appearing on a regular basis on public property near the exit of Marineland and offering leaflets to the public containing information on the park.

Marineland owner John Holer was captured on video jostling and threatening demonstrator Mike Garrett while he attempted to offer leaflets to the public.  Despite the video evidence of Holer threatening to "stab & bury" Garrett, no charges were laid by police after a complaint and investigation.

Marineland announced the death of another high profile animal at the facility, Baker the sea lion.

Marineland began a heavier than normal seasonal advertising blitz utilizing mainstream media articles, social media and direct mailing.  This would be followed by its usual onslaught of TV and Radio ads.

It was confirmed by the Regional Municipality of Niagara that Marineland had approached the region about leasing public property near their exit.

Marineland: In Depth was launched providing up to date information on some of the issues and news involving Marineland and for the first time ever offering a large online database of historical articles and documents about the park.

Marineland: Into the Water was uploaded and released on YouTube.  The short documentary created by Mohawk College students tells the stories of some of the animals at Marineland and the whistleblowers who came forward in hopes of protecting them.

Marineland launched their sixth SLAPP lawsuit against Mike Garrett, a local activist who led a small campaign of leafleting and demonstration outside the park since June.  Marineland seeks $1.5 million in damages.

Marineland released a new version of their TV commercial which featured a new singer performing their familiar jingle.  The previous version and variants had been in use for years and featured singer Suzy McNeil who expressed her desire to have her voice removed from the commercials after stories of animal abuse surfaced.

Les Stroud, star of the TV show Survivorman publicly threw his support behind the whistleblowers and their legal fundraising efforts.

Marineland began routing exiting vehicles out what was traditionally an entrance to their parking lot in an attempt to direct their customers past demonstrators leafleting near the exit of their parking lot.  Customer will initially directed out an uncontrolled intersection on Portage Rd. creating a dangerous traffic situation.  

Niagara Regional Police officers were utilized to direct traffic for several weekends as well as Marineland staff.

Marineland had to close for the day and direct guests to leave the park due to a water main problem.

Marineland obtained a permanent injunction against a local activist and organizer Dylan Powell.  The court order which was incorrectly interpreted by Powell lists several restrictions on his behaviour and language when demonstrating near Marineland.  The park also obtained a temporary injunction against activist Mike Garrett but with less restrictions.
The city of Niagara Falls, via city council leased two more parcels of public land to Marineland in order to further block demonstrators outside the park.

Marineland repainted the entrance to their parking lot and with permission of the city, installed temporary traffic lights to utilize the entrance as an exit for vehicles to use to bypass demonstrators handing out leaflets at the usual exit.

In a response to the public land lease by the city of Niagara Falls to Marineland,  advocates began handing out leaflets about the park to the public in busy tourist districts of the city.

Two park visitors were horrified to witness a seal with an open flesh wound bleeding inside one of Marineland's tanks.  The pair photographed the distressed animal and went public with their experience of encountering seemingly unconcerned Marineland staff.

A female trainer was injured during a performance with a Beluga whale at Marineland's stadium pool.

News broke that Marineland's vets were  under investigation by the Ontario College of Veterinarians.

John Holer Jr. the biological son of Marineland owner John Holer died suddenly.

The blockbuster documentary film Blackfish had its Niagara premiere as part of a benefit event for the Marineland whistleblowers.  Samantha Berg, a former Seaworld trainer who is featured in the film and renowned marine biologist Dr. Naomi Rose were special guests.

The Ontario government announced an increase in the funding to the OSPCA in order for it to properly train inspectors of zoos and aquariums.  The announcement also brought the promise of the development and introduction of standards of care for marine mammals in captivity.  The government also announced an increase in 'surprise inspections' and a voluntary registry that zoos and aquariums could join.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment issued Marineland a permit allowing it to continue burying dead animals on the property.

A photograph of Gemini, a captive female Beluga whale was used on a WWF Canada (World Wildlife Fund) holiday card sent out to the organization's supporters.  WWF Canada was forced to make a public apology for featuring a captive animal and announced they would stop using the card.

1 comment:

  1. This review is put together really well. Kudos to the writer!