By Doug Draper
With passing drivers offering then honks of support and Marineland’s owner John Holer giving them a stern stare from nearby parking lot, several dozen animal activists from across Niagara and surrounding regions staged a protest in front of the giant amusement park this May Victoria Day weekend against keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.
The demonstration in front of Marineland’s sprawling Niagara Falls property is one of many members of Niagara Action For Animals and other animal activists on both sides of the border have staged near the parking lot and gates to the park over the past 20 or so years.
“These animals do not volunteer to be imprisoned and enslaved to perform tricks or be on display for our entertainment,” said Kimberly Costello, a member of Niagara Action for Animals, the not-for-profit group that played a lead role in staging the demonstration. “By protesting (this May 22) we hoped to communicate our message of compassion for all animals in captivity, to inform people about the inherent cruelty at Marineland, and to remind those entering the park that they can re-consider their choice to support and fund such cruelty.”
Holer, the founder of a Marineland that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has always insisted in interviews with this journalist and others that the accusations of cruelty or suffering are “nonsense” and that everything is done to provide the marine mammals and other animals in his park, including bears and deer, the best of care.
The Marineland owner once asked this journalist what sense it would make for him not to care for these animals. After all, their survival is vital to survival of his park, he said, and the park has been a major tourist draw in the region for decades. Why would so many people come to the park if the animals were being mistreated, he asked.
Certainly, one can drive by Marineland on almost any warm sunny day during the summer months and the parking lot is loaded with cars. Whether the people paying to go through the gates of the park give the questions around keeping marine mammals in captivity any thought is anyone’s guess.
Those demonstrating in front of the park this May 22 said they hope they can get more people to at least start thinking.
“People who have committed a crime and are imprisoned have more rights than an animal that has committed no crime and is imprisoned and forced to entertain two or three times daily until it dies from exhaustion,” said Bob Timmons, one of the demonstrators and founder of a Toronto-based Ocean Activists United.
“Orcas and dolphins live like us – family oriented, social, teach their children how to survive, and they live as long or longer than us in the wild,” Timmons said. “These highly intelligent animals are removed from their families in an aggressive manner and sometimes a few of the family die trying to escape from fear. They are removed from their home and put into a chlorinated cement box where sound cannot travel and be heard, where travel has been limited from 1000 miles to 40 feet, and where the food is fed dead and only when silly human tricks are performed.”
”Marineland is one of Canada’s most controversial captive marine facilities and continues to receive local and international criticism for the live captures of wild cetaceans for purposes of public display,” added Costello. “Since its inception Marineland has imported many wild orcas, belugas, and dolphins from the ocean waters off Russia, Cuba, and Iceland. … These animals do not volunteer to be imprisoned and enslaved to perform tricks or be on display for our entertainment.”
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