A massive protest against Marineland in Niagara Falls yesterday attracted hundreds of protesters opposing recent claims of animal abuse. Some of them stormed the dolphin show, shutting it down.
The protest attracted around 500 plus people and came after former trainers at the Canadian aquarium recently blew the whistle on the park for keeping its animals in deplorable conditions. In a recent expose of the Ontario-based park, Linda Diebel of the Toronto Star produced photos, videos and documents about the atrocious conditions Marineland's animals were forced to endure.
The demonstration began shortly before noon and included Phil Demers—a former Marineland trainer and the original whistleblower of conditions at the park; NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park Cheri DiNovo, and activist and star of the documentary The Cove—Ric O’Barry.
On hand to film the demonstration were The Indignants, an independent alternative media team based out of London Ontario Canada. Group member Mike Roy filmed and edited the video (which appears above), documenting Holer's brief visit. Holer arrived and promptly departed, clearly wanting no part of their message to "Shut it down!"
Meanwhile, a separate group of protesters stormed the active dolphin show, the final one of Marineland's season. Observers in the stands rose to quickly leave and the show was soon abandoned. With no trainers in sight, dolphins swam around the pool to shouts of "Shut it down!" which quickly evolved into "There's no excuse for animal abuse!"
Courtesy Alan Howard
Demonstrators at Marineland incensed by a whistleblowing expose of animal cruelty and poor conditions, storm through Marineland gates, forcing a halt to the dolphin show.
One protester who attended the event was Alan Howard, an Administrator with the social media campaign Save Misty the Dolphin. Digital Journal spoke with Howard about his perceptions of the day, how the protest went and where he hopes Marineland goes from here.
So why did you feel that you had to attend?
Like most activists, I've known about Marineland for a while. What compelled me to attend the closing day demo was two things: the death of the baby Beluga back in May, when it was attacked by two adults. It took two hours for trainers to arrive, by which time it was over for the baby.
The other was the recent news, along with photos and video, of the conditions the animals are kept in, and the health concerns that have come to light. Marineland is a classic example of why animals, not just cetaceans, but all animals, should not be kept in captivity unless it is for rehabilitation purposes or as part of a sanctuary. It is not education or conservation. It is about making money. And the money comes from uneducated people visiting places like Marineland.
What message were you hoping to convey to John Holer?
A strong message to the owner of Marineland that we don't like what is happening there, and people are going to stand up and let him hear it. I really wanted to be able to talk with folks who were visiting the place, and that actually happened. Tour buses pulled up, and we would call over to the people as they got off, asking them not to go in and instead join us and talk to us. One group of young people came over taking pics of us, and eventually decided NOT to go in.
They joined the 500 or so protesters. I had two signs with me and handed one to a guy who joined us. And then we educated them, gave them many good reasons as to why it was a wise decision not to go in. These people stayed with us until the rest of their party left the park and got back on their tour bus.
How did it feel to be a part of something this big and be heard?
Well, I knew it was going to be a great day as I arrived in my car. There were already approximately 300 people in attendance. This swelled to about 500. The atmosphere was electric. There was music. The demonstrators outnumbered the visitors to Marineland. I reckon there were about 100 visitors between noon and 3 PM. Most of whom left the facility when the protesters entered.
Some activists stormed the dolphin show, forcing it to end. Some critics are saying this could have negatively affected the marine mammals or scared any children in attendance?
I was a bit concerned when that happened and was worried about the effect of all the noise on the dolphins, and the other animals too. But after seeing the video footage, I am satisfied that the animals were fine.
I know there were families with kids, too, in the audience watching the dolphin show. But again, the video shows that they were not harassed and were allowed time and space to leave without being impeded.
John Holer definitely heard what the protesters had to say, and he wisely got back in his vehicle and left. I was very concerned that a lot of people would be arrested for entering the facility without permission. There were two cops in attendance at first, but there was no way they could hold back the 300 people who decided to enter.
Those people owned Marineland for 20 minutes before other officers arrived. All told, we ended up with 25 cops, a fire truck, an ambulance and a paramedic car, but the only arrest was one female, who received a ticket (a fine of $65, which she intends to contest).
So what do you hope happens with Marineland from this point forward?
I hope that John Holer realizes that the gig is up. People know what is happening there, and they are letting others know. The best thing that can happen now is for the place to shut down ... forever.
The animals should be released to places that can care for them effectively and in adequate conditions. Those that can be rehabilitated and released SHOULD BE RELEASED, I also hope that the authorities can intervene and actually do something. The biggest thing that can happen, as Ric O Barry says.....is DON'T BUY A TICKET. That's how we can shut these places down.
The video referenced by Howard can be viewed here. It was filmed by Bob Timmons of Artist for the Ocean.
As more police arrived on scene to escort the protesters out of the stadium, Const. Derek Watson, a Niagara police spokesman, told Global News that "more than 20 police officers were called in to disperse the protesters, who quickly retreated."
"For the most part the protesters were very co-operative," Watson said.
DiNovo told the Star that she plans to bring a motion to ban the import of sea mammals to Ontario. "Ultimately, we need laws in this province so this doesn’t happen," she said. Currently there are no government regulations governing sea mammal captivity in Canada and DiNovo called Marineland's existence "an abomination in Ontario."
Scroll down for further images, courtesy of The Indignant's Facebook page. All appear courtesy of Mike Roy. The Indignants are also available on Twitter.
Mike Roy/The Indignants
Chanting protesters halt the dolphin show.
Mike Roy/The Indignants
Mike Roy/The Indignants
Phil Demers, the former Marineland trainer who first broke the news about the state of Marineland's animals, spoke at the rally about his love for Smooshi, a female walrus that imprinted on him. If she isn't removed from Marineland said Demers, she will die.
The video of his speech was posted to YouTube by lyaros.