Last weekend, (May 19, 2018) I had the adventure of my life. I participated in the opening day demonstration against Marineland Canada, and I had an epiphany.
Marineland Canada is an aquarium-based theme park which includes orca shows, dolphins, seals, walruses and various land animals, such as bears, deer etc with some crazy rides thrown in to break the monotony of walking a curvy tarmac path between small, unadorned cages of sadly confined wild animals.
Although the pool is one of the largest for sea mammals, it is very small when compared to the vast waters of an orca’s natural home: the ocean.
Marineland Canada has one of the worst reputations in regards to animal mortality rates, living conditions, and treatment, with Seaworld even taking legal action against them after lending them an orca for breeding purposes which came back in ill health.
As a child, my family often took visiting relatives there as part of the sightseeing program, so I am no stranger to it. I visited it when it was very small and basically had a few sea mammals and some deer, to after they had grown as a theme park, housing numerous species of land animal and birds, to the ocean animals: orcas, dolphins, beluga whales, sea lions, and walruses. I haven’t been there for more than 30 years now, and I stopped referring visiting relatives there for just as long.
I hate Marineland.
I spent the day holding a sign, trying to educate the public about the plight of the ocean-dwelling animals housed in small spaces therein. As I did this and chatted with the like-minded protesters surrounding me, I found myself realizing our animals really don’t have a say in their own lives in this world of ours. They come into this world completely dependent on our whim, and often go out the same way.
Whether in the wild or domestic, they have zero control on where they live, what they eat, whether they get medical care when they are sick, whether they have babies or not, whether the home in which they start off is where they stay forever … or not.
They can’t complain when something is not right; they can’t write letters to the editor or the Prime Minister. They can’t save their money and move elsewhere if things are not to their liking. There isn’t a human resources department for them to lodge a complaint, or a union to stand up for them.
They can’t petition, rally their friends and like minds and demonstrate against indecencies perpetrated against them while protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, like us. They have to trust the humans in their lives will do the right things by them, and they love them whether that is the case or not.
How do their needs get met then? How is change effected for those who can’t speak?
It is our responsibility to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. We, as humans, have the virtue of compassion. It’s unique to us, and to us alone.
I hate the fact that these large, beautiful marine creatures are kept confined to what amounts to a fishbowl; I hate the fact walruses, which are typically social animals, are kept alone in cages when not in training; I hate the fact that the bears live in squalor in a cement pit with people tossing marshmallows or garbage in to see their reactions. I hated it as a child, and I hate it now even more.
The original whistleblower, Phil Demers, a one-time trainer and employee of the park, spearheaded the movement and has provided myriad documentation to the deplorable conditions of the animals, as have others.
I learned, this last weekend, that giving voice to our animals is a wonderful thing. All animals, including our domestic pets, depend on us to make the right choices for them, to allow them to fulfill their lives in healthy, compassionate, and happy environments.
Whether its a wild animal being kept in deplorable conditions in captivity, the domestic ‘food’ animals mercilessly abused and eventually killed, or disenfranchised pets who have been dumped, the job of helping these creatures and educating our fellow humans is no small feat. Many don’t want to listen, and many simply do not hear. And that is a very sad thing indeed, because surely in this world of plenty, in this world of education, humanity and political correctness, these lives can’t be overlooked.
On this day of protest, I was doing something which could make a difference to the plight of these wild animals held captive. Maybe our actions will contribute to educating the public about respect for nature and all living creatures – even if it just starts here. As humans, the supposed intelligent species, we have a responsibility to care for our world and all the creatures in it as humanely as possible. (if we don’t, then the meaning of the word ‘humane’ needs to change in the dictionary!)
I know some people believe we have a right to use this world as we see fit to further our needs. That these things were made available to us by ‘God’ or some omnipotent being for our use. I call bullshit!
Whatever your religious affiliation (and I could care less) we are one of many species inhabiting this planet with no more rights than any other, and far more responsibility to behave appropriately to the betterment of our world and all that resides in it.
And I was proud to say I acted on that this weekend, and will continue to act on it in future. I was part of something huge, magnificent, and positive, and I still feel the impact of those energies three days later! I ditched one destructive part of my life and embraced a life-affirming, constructive and powerful element which will benefit not just me but animals all over and maybe even the world at large.
That’s pretty momentous. yay me!
But more importantly – yay them!