Friday, August 24, 2012

An Abomination



The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. - Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve spent a lot of time painting on location in our “sister” tourism and wine-growing region, Niagara Falls. One of my mentors, Jacqueline Baldini, lives there and has been my guide to the area for almost a decade. The paint-outs she hosts there are really exciting, fun venues. Passionately devoted to nature, Jacq often sends out pleas to help her make others aware of her pet cause: putting an end to the mistreatment of animals at the local aquarium park, Marineland.

Beside the gorgeous natural water monument that is the Falls lurks an abomination. Marineland is no small rescue sanctuary or 4-H petting zoo. It is a lucrative, privately owned business, with ticket prices set at $48.53 for adults and $35.95 for children.

Recently, The Toronto Star featured a lengthy article condemning the marine park. (“Marineland animals suffering, former staffers say,” August 16, 2012) National Affairs Writer Linda Diebel details the brutal conditions at the attraction, which include unhealthy water problems and a depressed walrus lying neglected in his own excrement, which have led to staffers resigning over the blatant mistreatment of the resident animals. Accompanying photos are heartbreaking evidence of what goes on that the public does not get to see from their seats whilst being sprayed on command by the animal tricksters.

Lifetime County resident, and former employee at the now closed-to-the-public Bergeron’s Exotic Animal Sanctuary, Tammy Thompson states, “I’m definitely not against zoos by any means, in fact I love them when they are doing right by the animals there. This place is a mish-mash of theme park/zoo/aquarium. It’s as bad as the article states. The animals are in really bad shape and by what I saw about 10 years ago hungry and deprived of anything natural. Their purpose there is to entertain us humans. I hated it!”

I loathed Marineland as well. Compelled to join in on a visit there with some young members of my extended family, I was absolutely horrified by the unsanitary conditions and disrespectful attitudes displayed toward animals during the show. I left in anger. And this was before I read about what happens behind the scenes! One of the less graphic descriptions of the zoo from the Star article reads:

“Five female dolphins… swam almost continuously in bad water in a concrete pool in a facility called the barn. Former employees say they lay at the bottom in murky green water or breeched and thrashed wildly, their reactions changing with the chemicals. Their skin fell off in chunks, their colour darkened and they refused to eat. This lasted intermittently for eight months, from October 2011 until just before show season began in May 2012 when their water was changed.”

That’s entertainment? Vacationers, you have a choice. Families, teach your children well. Choose a decently managed, natural attraction or a rescue/teaching zoo, not these shameful atrocities designed to merely entertain us at the expense of animals. Why not take the tribe out to sea on a whale-watching boat and let them bask in the sheer awe and wonder of seeing these magnificent creatures in their wild habitat? That’s building memories.

We are all stewards of the Earth, and compassion for our fellow creatures is a cause we can all embrace in good conscience. We might ask ourselves, what would Gandhi think of Canada were he to visit Marineland?

Read and comment on the article here

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