Saturday, April 19, 2014

UPDATED Mayor of Pelham Defends Trips to Marineland

UPDATE: This story was picked up in the Niagara Region by Sun Media writer Greg Furminger you can read it here

It was revealed this past week that the town of Pelham Ontario is sending children to Marineland through the town's summer camp program.  The program which is administered through the town's Department of Recreation, Culture and Wellness has been promoting the trips via the town's website along with trips to various other captive animal facilities.

Pelham Ontario (population 16,500) is located within the Niagara Region and borders beautiful Short Hills Provincial Park which features plenty of natural wildlife and nature trails.  The Mayor of Pelham is Dave Augustine and he is running for re-election in 2014 under the slogan "Working with you to make Pelham a vibrant, creative, and caring community in Niagara".  

You would think if Mayor Augustine was really interested in making Pelham a more 'caring' community he would be speaking out against the town's promotion of captivity and animal abuse by attempting to get the town to withdraw support for sending kids to a facility such as Marineland but that is not the case.

When asked for a statement about the trips to Marineland which is now internationally known more for its mass animal gravesites and lawsuits rather than its 'performing' whales the Mayor had this to say about the issue:

"I understand that governing authorities (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) deem the spaces to be liveable.  I do understand from staff that the weeks that contain trips to Marineland and to African Lion Safari are the first to sell out."

Apparently Mayor Augustine sees nothing wrong with the living space of Marineland's last remaining orca Kiska, even if her tiny concrete tank represents less than 1% of her natural habitat in the ocean.  He must not also know about the single tank where as many as 25 Belugas at a time can live together in one small space.  Maybe Mayor Dave has never watched the video of the orca Junior who died prematurely and alone in a windowless dank warehouse in a tank so small and shallow he could barely submerge himself.

This past year the Ontario government announced an overhaul to the OSPCA admitting it had neither the expertise nor the standards in place on which to competently judge the care animals receive at facilities such as Marineland.  Currently there are no laws in place that protect marine mammals in Ontario.  And unlike Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson who just a few weeks ago publicly stated it was time to end cetacean captivity at his city's Aquarium, Mayor Augustine's statement reflected his desire to just not get involved.

Recently many schools have cancelled trips to Marineland in favor of alternative plans for students, some even going so far as to hold screenings of the film Blackfish to show kids the truth about captivity.  Responding to shifting public attitudes, community leaders and lawmakers are waking up to the fact that watching animals languish in tiny cages or tanks or performing circus tricks is no longer an acceptable form of entertainment.  Mayor Augustine does not appear to be one of those forward thinking leaders but in fact one who would rather just look the other way.

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