Marineland Demonstrators Aim To Raise Awareness About Marine Mammals In Captivity

 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.

Passing drivers offer honks of support as animal advocates demonstrate in front of Marineland in Niagara Falls. Photo by Doug Draper.

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.

Activist Jillian DiTillio answers questions from a CBC news crew.

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.”

You can find out more about Niagara Action for Animals  by clicking on and more about Bob Timmons by clicking on

(Click on www.niagaraatlarge for Niagara At Large and more news and commentary on matters of interest and concern to our greater binational Niagara region.)


5 responses to “Marineland Demonstrators Aim To Raise Awareness About Marine Mammals In Captivity

  1. Is it ~50 years that humans have been capturing, imprisoning & training orcas & dolphins.

    Let’s acknowledge that we have now learned enough to know that these mammals are sonar-based, intelligent, family-oriented, etc.

    But, did we not learn this By capturing them, and inviting humans to visit & learn &/or watch documentaries about these lessons learned?

    Have we now progressed enough technologically that we can release all orcas & dolphins? Can we trust that subsequent human cohorts (humanity travels in time & knowledge by means of successive cohorts) will we not need further direct contact/education?

    Furthermore, when will we become intelligent enough to learn their languages & communicate with them? Or do they use mental telepathy, in addition to their sonar tools?


  2. Fred Williams

    Really…you all should watch “The Cove” -

    trailer is here


  3. Fred Williams

    2010 Oscar Winner

    Documentary (Feature)

    “The Cove” Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens


  4. I’m not entirely sure what one of our regular readers and comment writers here – Mr. Fred Williams – means when he says; “Really … you should all watch The Cove.” But if it means that people who protest against the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity at parks like Marineland should simmer down because the graphic slaughter of dolphins in the waters off Japan, as depicted in the award-winning documentary The Cove is so much worse, then as a columnist who has spoken out against keeping marine mammals in captivity for two decades now, I must respectfully take issue with that.
    The bloody slaughter of dolphins captured in this move is horrific, but it doesn’t follow that one wrong, as graphic as this one is, negates another, which is snatching these magnificent animals out of their natural environment and displaying them in a chlorinated tub, where most of them never come close to surviving their normal lifespan.
    It is important to note that one of the principle people responsible for the production of the Cove is Ric O’Barry, who first made his name as the trainer for the dolphins used in the old TV series, Flipper, and later went on to write a book called ‘Behind The Dolphin Smile’ and become a major voice against keeping whales and dolphins in aquariums for human amusement. O’Barry also became a strong critic of Marineland during the 1990s and once publicly expressed his willingness to debate the park’s founder, John Holer, on the merits of keeping these animals in captivity. There was no response to O’Barry’s challenge from the other side.
    As a reporter who interviewed O’Barry about places like Marineland on two or three ocassions, I doubt he would ever argue that because the bloody slaughter of dolphins in The Cove is so horrific, keeping dolphins or whales in captivity is, by contrast, okay.


  5. Fred Williams

    No Doug, the part of The Cove that would be most interesting to your readers is that the slaughter of the dolphins in Japan is predicated by the money to be made by capturing and exhibiting live dolphins.
    No Marinelands, no slaughter, as the financial incentive would be removed.
    Hell, I don’t like zoological parks, either!
    My animal friends should all be free!

    As the old bumper sticker says ” Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends.”

    I don’t mind “eating” – metaphorically, that is – some of your more ridiculous regular commenters, however!


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