We can thank either the Toronto Star, the courage and integrity of former employees, or journalism itself, but something is finally coming to light in Niagara Falls. The Star’s series of articles are proving powerful as 500 protestors set up a demonstration outside of well-known attraction Marineland on Sunday Oct 7th. Sunday marked the last day of Marineland’s operating season and 150 of the 500 protestors took the opportunity to storm inside the gates, chanting “shut it down.” The protestors gathered by a pool where visitors were watching a show, in response to recent reports from former employees stating the poor water quality and short-staffing were causing animals to get fatally sick.
It all started with a Toronto Star series that has since published more than a dozen articles since mid-August. Extensive interviews were held with 8 former Marineland employees, resulting in heart-wrenching stories of animals who have gone blind due to poor water quality, a baby beluga who died, perhaps because there were not enough staff to intervene as it was assaulted by two adult male belugas, and dolphins whose skin is falling off in chunks as they lay at the bottom of murky green water thrashing wildly in response to changing chemicals.
Social media buzzed after these reports, and Suzie McNeil, the voice of “Everyone loooooves Marineland” commercials wanted her voice pulled from the commercials. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) decided to conduct an on-site inspection. The Emcee of the stadium show quit after he said he ‘couldn’t take it anymore,’ happily showing off the animals to children whilst knowing how they were treated behind the scenes. Former trainers got together and made plans to deliver a 75,000-signature petition to Premier Dalton McGuinty in order to protest the lack of laws covering zoos and aquariums in Ontario. They said that the premier’s plans to wait for SPCA findings were inadequate, since no legal regulations exist for sea mammal captivity in Canada, leaving the animals to live in a legal void.
NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo said yesterday that she’ll be bringing a motion to Queen’s Park to ban the import of sea mammals to Ontario. “The fact that this place exists is an abomination in Ontario,” she added. Phil Demers, a former employee speaking at the demonstration, said, “I think something’s going to happen here, the world is watching now and I never would have guessed that this was possible.”
It would seem that the concerned voices of former trainers, along with the persistent Star reports to help increase the volume and exposure of their voices, has really amounted to something. Perhaps it is because of the history Ontarians have with this attraction (so many have been), or simply because of its location (right in our own backyard). Perhaps, it is because there are only a few to blame (rather than the plastic in the ocean, in which case all of us are to blame). Personally, whatever the reason, I am happy to see this finally come to pass. My family has always boycotted Marineland because my mother said that it was obvious that sea mammals in captivity was in and of itself of violation of animal rights. The fact that hundreds of Ontarians would show up on Thanksgiving weekend to defend the dolphins and seals …well, it makes me smile.