I Protest! So Should You!

When you feel strongly about a subject, you want to share its message.

When you feel very strongly about a subject you need to share its message.

Pro-captivity advocates (from this point on let’s call them PCA’s) and anti-captivity advocates (ACA’s from here on in) both have valid messages they need to share. That’s fine and dandy, it works. They say “yes” we say “no” and the world of captivity, and it’s debates, keeps on spinning round exactly where it is meant to be.

UNTIL……

Blackfish.

Blackfish

Blackfish is a game-changer. Like it or not, this documentary, (aired on CNN for the first time, October 24th) will and indeed already has, changed the way people view marine mammal captivity.

Various polls suggest that anything between 60 and 90% of people who watched Blackfish will now NOT visit SeaWorld.

Game. Changed.

But, in order for Blackfish and it’s effects to stay in the public consciousness, it is up to the ACA’s to keep it there. The PCA’s have it easy, they just have to keep turning up and paying good money to see captive marine mammals. The ACA’s, on the other hand need to stand tall and turn the volume up. Trouble is…we are not all singing the same song.

Some people believe that their way has more importance than good old tried and tested methods:
(because the horrific tales of a WW1 soldier prevented WW2, perhaps? Except, of course, it didn’t)

Um…no they don’t, dear.

They believe that posting pictures of themselves with captive orca somehow “resonates” with people that captivity is a bad thing.  Glamorize it to make it unattractive? Yeah…really not sure how that is going to work.

"Ric, my sign (sobs) it's...it's worthless" "Don't worry son, let's get on Twitter and upload some pics of me and Flipper"

“Ric, my sign (sobs) it’s…it’s worthless”
“Don’t worry son, let’s get on Twitter and upload some pics of me and Flipper”

Showing pictures of yourself standing on an Orca or draped over its face like a nasty outbreak of something mildly contagious is never going to make people want captivity to end. As for extolling the virtues of how it feels for you when a captive orca jerks you off its rostrum as part of the show….well, seems to me that is completely the wrong message to be sending if you want captivity to actually cease.

Some people feel that protests are a complete waste of time altogether

Well, aren't we a little defeatist?

Well, aren’t we a little defeatist?

I believe you aren't quite right.

I believe you aren’t quite right.

anti protest 3a

No, the ticket sales do that. Not the protesters.

Protesting is a highly effective way of communicating your message and engaging with strangers. It also gets under the skin of  who ever you are protesting about. Nobody likes bad publicity.  Ask John Holer at MarineLand.  He’s slapped all sorts of law suits on the protesters there, who incidentally report record attendance levels and even entered the Guinness Book of World Records just a few short months ago.

Picture credit: Marineland Animal Defence

Picture credit: Marineland Animal Defence

So if we don’t protest, what should we do? Hold polite coffee mornings among our friends who already know exactly how we feel? Hand out flyers (or, worse, slip them under car windscreen wipers in the car park) in a discreet way so that they can be screwed up and thrown away the minute our backs are turned? That isn’t really protesting, is it? Isn’t it more a case of interrupting ? Annoying? How many of you have avoided the eye of people collecting money (and rattling their tins in a hopeful manner) outside the supermarket? If you want to know what the message is, then surely you approach it from a distance, read the cardboard sign and then speak to the person on the other end of it? A cardboard sign engages your interest, you want to know more….enter awareness.  On the whole, protesters are a peaceful collection of people with the need to share their message, aggression and all-round boisterousness is not encouraged as local police or law enforcement officers will remove you from the scene and the chances of being able to protest there again in the future are vastly diminished.

Peaceful, colourful, respectful in Las Vegas

Peaceful, colourful, respectful in Las Vegas

Others feel that the only way forward is to work with the dolphinariums to improve conditions and make the tanks bigger.

Yep, still captivity though

Yep, still captivity though

Where are you going to put the orca while the tanks are made bigger? There is nowhere for them to go. While bigger and better tanks are a whole lot better than nothing, they are still captives in an alien world, eating unnatural food, performing mindless tricks and unable to leave. Just in a bigger space.  Not entirely sure how well thought out this plan is…..It isn’t very ACA-sounding to me. Additionally, more space will inevitably mean more orca via “accidental breeding”, after all everyone just loves a new baby…

Asking for bigger and better facilities achieves nothing, it still advocates captivity no matter which way you look at it. So does calling for the end of the breeding program. all that does is keep orca in captivity until they die. So they will keep on bringing in the money.

Then there is the matter of “sea pens” reviled throughout the PCA community because “it’s still captivity”. You’d think that they’d be OK with it then, but apparently it’s the wrong kind of captivity. Because there’s a right kind??
No, “sea pens” are disliked because they would be in the ocean and therefore not so easy to access. Plus, the orca would be in a much bigger space and, therefore, much harder to spot. Oh, and they wouldn’t be performing dumb tricks either. That’s why PCA’s don’t like them. Selfish desires and a complete disregards for the wants or needs of the animals.

Most rational ACA’s are for the “sea pens”. Yes, we know it will cost a fortune and we are well aware that not all orca are fit to return to the ocean and no, we don’t just want to tip them into the ocean and all go home patting ourselves on the back as we go.

We know full-well that it is a logistic minefield, and that we may have failures but if we stopped at the first hurdle and gave up, we’d all still be sitting in caves banging rocks together.

We have a moral duty of care to show these animals the respect they deserve. Treating them as a prop in an “Entertainment Park” isn’t respectful. Feeding them an unnatural diet of frozen dead fish laced with a cocktail of drugs isn’t respectful. Forcing them to live in manufactured pods isn’t respectful. Taking their calves away and shipping them across the country isn’t respectful. Forced breeding isn’t respectful.  Nothing we do to dolphins in captivity is respectful.

They are creatures of the sea. An environment entirely alien to us. We have more knowledge about space than we do our own oceans! They deserve the right to live in their own environment as we do ours.  They have earned the right to return home, a home we should never have stolen them from. They need to feel the ebb and flow of the ocean in exactly the same way as we need to breathe the fresh air on a windy hilltop. It’s invigorating, right? It makes you feel clean, right? We are creatures of the land and we turn to the land to feel better about ourselves. Who doesn’t love sploshing in the puddles? Or kicking the autumn leaves? Or hurling snowballs? Eating your favourite meal? If we were denied life’s simple pleasures we would wilt and die….so why is OK to do it to another species?

Keep on protesting, people….wave those banners high in the air, or do whatever it is that you do that doesn’t detract from the suffering these animals are going through and suggest, even tenuously, that captivity in unnatural surroundings is OK. It isn’t. Carry on being the square peg, the ARA “weirdo” and the “crazy”…YOU are making the difference, not the ego polishers or the attention-seekers, YOU. You’re amazing!

Apple quote

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