Saturday, February 15, 2014

Oppose School Trips to Marineland

You wouldn't know it by the weather we are having in the Niagara region but Spring will soon be on its way.  Locally here in Southern Ontario and Western New York many schools will begin planning their year end trips for students.   In the past Marineland had been a frequent destination of many of these trips however as more people come to understand what the captive display industry is all about many schools have chosen not to send their students to Marineland.

There is after all no educational value in observing marine mammals imprisoned in an environment so far removed from what is natural for them.  Marineland is especially devoid of any educational merit with little information presented to students on site by staff and signage and the park is not involved in any conservation efforts.  Their answer to this is to simply say visitors will automatically gain an appreciation for the animals by watching someone ride around on them and then young people will want to become 'champions for their wild cousins'.

Even though there is a lack of any real education about the animals at Marineland and the outright promotion of captivity and cruelty some schools will still choose to send their students there.  Marineland offers picnic areas, rides and food stands and also gives deep discounts to schools.  Often cash strapped educators pick Marineland because it is an easy and simple outing.

Despite the discounts, the money Marineland makes from the influx of large groups of students visiting each year is significant.  So much so that when news broke in 2012 about what was really happening behind closed doors at Marineland one of the first acts of damage control by owner John Holer was to send out a letter to teachers trying to spin the bad news.  Marineland: In Depth obtained a copy of the letter:

In the carefully crafted letter, Holer wastes no time attacking the thorough  investigation by the Toronto Star newspaper labeling it a 'campaign' to shut the park down.  On the contrary the Star never made such calls and the articles written by reporters Linda Diebel and Liam Casey focused on the concerns of many about the well being of animals at the park.

In the letter Marineland owner John Holer attempts to smear the reputation of two former employees who blew the whistle on animal abuse at the park.  The letter fails to mention they are just  two of (now) SIXTEEN former employees who have risked severe legal consequences to step forward to talk about what they witnessed during their time employed by Marineland. 

Holer notes Marineland 'passed' inspections conducted by CAZA which is a zoo & aquarium industry funded organization that in its history has only ever revoked accreditation of one of its members (also because of animal abuse) only to give it back.  The letter boasts the OSPCA found no evidence of any problems at the facility even though at the time the letter was sent the OSPCA investigation wasn't even completed.  The OSPCA actually did place several orders on Marineland and the Provincial government was also forced to admit the OSPCA didn't even have the  resources in place to properly and thoroughly investigate how Marineland cares for its marine mammals.  Holer wraps up the letter accusing anyone against zoos and aquariums of being a radical bully and that he will fight to get Marineland's reputation back.

Marineland's true reputation is well documented on this website and we invite you to have a look through the news archive, animal death tallies and articles featured about John Holer himself.  We think it'll give you a clear picture of why Marineland's reputation among real scientists and biologists who aren't on aquarium payrolls, is actually one of the worst in the world.

If your school or your child's school is planning on a visit to Marineland take action immediately.  Call the teacher, the principal and the school board to let them know a trip to Marineland is unacceptable.  Write emails and use the school's own social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc) to express outrage over any plan to send students to a captive display facility with no educational value.  You can also organize with other students and parents to encourage them to do the same and even reach out to your local media to express your thoughts.  There are plenty of alternatives for a year end trip, depending on your area be sure to offer suggestions.

Most importantly if you are a parent, talk to your children and don't be afraid to discuss the problems of marine mammal captivity with them.  Give them the facts.  Kids are smart, they get it.  

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