By Rachel Larivee
I would be the first to admit that politics have always confused me, so I can’t imagine what it would have felt like for Ric O’Barry, being a ‘foreigner’.
Ric arrived on a late, crisp autumn Thursday evening in Toronto. The task at hand – Marineland, one of the worst dolphinariums in North America. The multiple issues with this establishment are well known, and Ric has been up here to protest many times. Now it is time for ACTION, and entering the world of Canadian politics is next on the agenda.
On Friday, accompanied by Rob Laidlaw, Executive Director at Zoocheck, an activist organization that has worked on the Marineland problem for many years, our journey began. Understanding how legislation can work for you is important in any fight. We hope legislation will be what can drastically change the future for marine mammals in Canada.
A meet-and-greet with a Member of Provincial Parliament, Madeleine Meilleur, was first up.
“Since coming to my current position a year ago this month, this has been one of my most engaging files,” she said, adding that in 2009, there was an amendment to the OSPCA Act (Ontario’s Animal Welfare Legislation), which had remained unchanged since 1919. “These changes,” she went on to say, “included standards of care for ALL animals and specific standards of care for captive wildlife.”
Ric has a history with Marineland, dating back to the 1990’s. The issues with neglect of the animals remain the same, and thus the amendment appears to have made no significant impact. So, while it is promising that the government is moving in the right direction, clarification to these amendments must be done so there are no gray areas.
Our press conference at Queen’s Park, that followed, was a great platform to address some key points for the Canadian media. Rob Laidlaw stated, “There needs to be additional changes. The regulations, as they stand now, are vague. They are weak. And anyone who has tried to prosecute these kinds of cases in the courts will find that, to a large extent they are unenforceable, because they are so vague and weak.”
Ric proceeded to give some perspective, to those in attendance, as well as the Canadian Ministers watching the live stream in their offices, about how captivity for dolphins and whales is more stressful than any other animal.
“If you go to the Toronto Zoo and look at the reptile exhibit – the snake exhibit…even a cold blooded snake, with a very small brain, is given more consideration than any of these dolphins and whales at Marineland. When you look at the snake exhibit, you’ll see that the snake has at least something that’s connected to nature – grass, some dirt…some rocks to hide under…but if you were to go to Marineland and put a face mask on and put your head under the water, you’ll notice they are in a bare, concrete box. We wouldn’t do that to a snake.”
Ric appealed to the public via the media to continue this crusade. After Sunday, when Marineland closes its doors for this season, and the demonstration outside its gates has ended, and the media coverage has faded away, he urged us to get in touch – to STAY in touch, with our government officials, MPP’s, MP’s and the PREMIERE, Dalton McGuinty, and ask them to please do something about this.
“If you do that, that will send a powerful, positive message to the rest of the world that Canada respects nature,” Ric concluded.