This weekend marks a full year since I attended my very first animal rights protest. It was at the same place, Marineland Canada, in Niagara Falls.
I grew up in Niagara, so I am very familiar with Marineland. Our family attended way back when it was first opened and was called Marineland and Game Farm, and it was puny and didn’t have much oomphf. I recall even back then it seemed dirty to me, and chaotic, and I felt sorry for the animals. I was very young.
I attended the park a few times over the years with school trips, or visiting family; as I grew, so did the park. It expanded, added more rides, and acquired more animals including Orcas, seals, walruses, and dolphins. By this time I was older, more cognizant of my surroundings, but it still seemed dirty and chaotic and something else too: sad.
The animals were all sad. All. Of. Them. They had a sense of desperation about them when you viewed them, clamoring for more treats, knocking into you and each other in a frenzied attempt for attention and there was this little voice in my head that said “this is not normal.”
The marine mammals were just as sad. They put on a great show, with lots of leaping about and splashing, but something wasn’t right about it. It was an act. The seals cut through the water with speed, sleek and shiny; the dolphins danced on the pool waves, laughing in their merry way; the orcas intimidated us with their sheer size and razor sharp teeth. Everything seemed super fun and exciting. But it was fake.
I know now, and I knew it then, they were literally putting on the best act of their lives. Their very existence depended on it. And that’s all they could do, instinctively, every single day: exist. Because that’s all they knew how to do in this plexiglass environment with chlorinated water and invisible borders.
Someone took away their choice.
If they are hungry, they must wait until the almighty god of this organization deems it dinner time. There is no thrill of the hunt and chase for these animals, which is a part of their natural lives when they are in the wild. Food is just plopped in at a certain time, and they eat because not to is to die, and they still have a will to live.
If they want to swim deep, surface, and cavort, as they would in the ocean, for miles and miles, with different scenery, they can’t. Their world is a round pool, with limited expanse and depth, infused with chemicals which are not natural to their normal eco-system.
Those mammals which are amphibious, like seals and walruses, are kept in cages when not in the pool. Cages with metal bars and concrete floors. Sound familiar? Yes, the same environment in which we keep the dregs of society who have been judged unworthy of freedom in a court of law and are being punished: jails. These animals were wild caught, they know what an alternate natural life is, and this is where they now live.
And you know, I look back and I think we know so much more now about wildlife. I mean, back then, I could see how zoos and marine farms were a valuable educational tool and exciting entertainment. It reminds me of the Freak Shows of yore – no longer politically correct – but back then it was something different the “normies” could oogle. In the case of Marineland, the average person did not get a chance to see these unusual animals in real life; learning about them was hazardous in the wild; it was much easier to capture them, utilize them for viewing and entertainment to offset the cost of procuring them, and then study them as well. A twofer.
But we are better now. The technology we now have and world travel allows us to see and study these animals in their natural habitat, and the internet allows us to disseminate this information – in full colour! We don’t need to have these magnificent creatures caged and jailed anymore. But companies like Marineland and SeaWorld are still wild-capturing them and “training” them and putting them on display, forcing them to do tricks for food, keeping them enslaved by their dependency on us in this environment, taking away their free will and their health all for OUR ENTERTAINMENT.
It’s got to stop!
People don’t seem to realize that when humans dominate and subjugate wild creatures for their own ends, it’s showing a disrespect for life. And if humans can disrespect a life in this way, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump before other levels of life are oppressed and that oppression justified – like free speech or body autonomy. Humans are masters at objectifying things to benefit themselves, and sadly we also seem to have this desire to conquer anything we consider to be lesser than ourselves.
At some point we have to stop and consider all other life forms on this earth as equal to ourselves, in their own right. We are not better than the lowly bee; in fact we now know bees are fundamental to our existence. So why should we feel we are better than the mighty Orca and keep them imprisoned and indentured in small pools being stared at by flat pink faces smushed against the glass? Why do we feel it’s ok to keep bears in a cement pit with a few concrete caves and trickle of filthy water and throw marshmallows and peanuts at them so we can laugh at them trying to eat the sticky substance like little gods perched on our holier-than-thou thrones? Why do we feel we have the right to decide what a woman can do with her body if she gets impregnated and doesn’t want it? Oh wait – that’s another debate … BUT IS IT? Is it really?
So when I went to the Marineland Opening Day Demonstration, I was protesting not just against the enslaving of wild marine mammals and land animals, I was protesting our tyranny against all creatures, including US! I was protesting against segregation; I was protesting against discrimination; I was protesting against the “heartbeat bill”; I was protesting against nukes; I was protesting against wars; I was protesting against the ban on refugees; I was protesting against all the evil treatment humans perpetrate on all animals on this earth.
I was demonstrating FOR a new way of living where all creatures are embraced as equal and respected as life; where an individual has the right to choose it’s own path without fear of reprisals from others or government; where no one has to live in fear of being bullied or dominated in the name of righteousness.
I was demonstrating FOR ALL OF US!