One Thousand Protesters at Marineland, Canada

by Ric O’Barry
Dolphin Project

This past weekend, Marineland held its official opening for the season.  They were greeted with one thousand protestors, objecting to the terrible conditions under which the marine mammals are kept. 

A smoking series of articles in the Toronto Star newspaper documented numerous instances of poor water quality and health conditions for several of the animals housed in Marineland.  Several former trainers have publicly spoken out against animal conditions in the park, and the owner, John Holer, has sued these former trainers in retaliation.  Yet, two of those trainers joined the demonstration, showing they would not be intimidated or shut down by legal threats to their freedom of speech.

A large chain-link fence protected Marineland this time.  No matter!  With a thousand voices echoed by a couple of bullhorns, we made our presence known.

In addition to folk singers and speakers from anti-captivity organizations, a number of children were featured speakers this weekend.  It is their world that they will inherit from us, and they have a right to speak out against injustice.

I spoke to the crowd, encouraging them to push for the closure of Marineland and the rescue of its animals from harm.  I challenged John Holer in front of the Canadian media to a debate on keeping dolphins in captivity.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.32.55 AMRic speaking at the Marineland demonstration.  Photo by Mike Garrett.

I mentioned we had just heard that morning that the government of India had put in place a ban on holding dolphins in tanks in that country.   The Ministry of Environment and Forests even cited the fact that dolphins are special beings with characteristics very similar to humans.  It was a remarkably forward-thinking decision.  I urged the people in Niagara Falls to push for Canada to join India and other nations in banning dolphinariums.

Rachel Larivee, our outstanding volunteer here in town and one of the demo organizers, said: “Today’s event filled me with so much hope. I see the light getting brighter! So many people, from all walks – families, kids – it was uplifting!

“John Holer and his operation trying to do damage control did not faze the many activists, of whom there were approximately 1,000!” Rachel added.  “No fence and no amount of PR will shut down this campaign, but you better believe this campaign will shut down Marineland!”

Marineland is just one of many dolphinariums around the world.  All of the dolphinariums are cruel to dolphins, no matter how big or how well-managed, because even the biggest cannot substitute for the beauty, size and intricacy of the ocean environment, nor can dolphins be kept with their whole clan of relatives in captivity – they share the small tanks with strangers.  Marineland happens to have a worse record, according to the reports, than any other big park around.

It is way past time for these places to close, once and for all.


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About Ric O'Barry

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Ric O’Barry, Dolphin Project Founder & Director has worked on both sides of the captive dolphin issue, making him an invaluable asset in the efforts to end exploitation. He worked for 10 years within the dolphin captivity industry, and has spent the past 40 working against it.

In the 1960s, O’Barry was employed by the Miami Seaquarium, where he captured and trained dolphins, including the five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular American TV-series of the same name. He also trained Hugo, the first orca kept in captivity east of the Mississippi. When Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper most of the time, died in his arms, O’Barry realized that capturing dolphins and training them to perform silly tricks is simply wrong.

From that moment on, O’Barry knew what he must do with his life. On the first Earth Day, 1970, he launched a searing campaign against the multi-billion dollar dolphin captivity industry and has been going at it ever since.

Over the past 40 years, Ric O’Barry has rescued and rehabilitated dolphins in many countries around the world, including Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Bahamas Islands and the United States. He is a leading voice in the fight to end brutal dolphin hunts in Japan, the Solomon Islands, the Faroe Islands, and wherever else they occur.

O’Barry has been recognized by many national and international entities for his dedicated efforts, such as being voted Huffington Post’s 2010 Most Influential Green Game Changer, and being listed on O Magazine’s 2010 Power List – Men We Admire for his “Power of Passion.” O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. He has done countless interviews with such prestigious news programs as Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, the Mike Huckabee Show, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His book Behind the Dolphin Smile was published in 1989; a second book, To Free A Dolphin was published in September 2000. Both of them are about his work and dedication. He is the star of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove and the Animal Planet television series Blood Dolphin$.

Author: Ric O'Barry


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