Horses for Heroes – Rescued Horses Help Soldiers Recover

For every returning soldier: our nation is deeply grateful.

Today, more than 30 Veterans Affairs medical centers participate in horse therapy for service members and veterans with challenges ranging from mental and emotional to physical.
“The horses we see that were traumatized and abused never forget it,” Roberts said. “But you can mask it over with good behavior, and that’s the same with veterans. They’re not going to forget the trauma they went through. Their positive behavior outweighs it.”

Please consider donating your time, energy, or funds to the organizations that bring together wounded veterans and horses. They need us, and have given so much.

SeaWorld, Russia, plus China Equals a Captive Dolphin and Whale Disaster

Will some of the recently captured orcas wind up in China?

Orca captures result in the injury, death, and disruption of wild pods
Orca captures result in the injury, death, and disruption of wild pods (captured for Miami Seaquarium, please see below).

SeaWorld, while  claiming that their killer whale shows are an exemplary blend of education and entertainment, has inadvertently managed to teach us that whales don’t belong in captivity, yet simultaneously they have also taught other countries – including countries such as China that have little respect for animal life – that there are huge profits to be had at the animals’ expense.
According to an article by Tim Zimmermann, A Surge In Wild Orca Capture for Killer Whale ShowsRussia’s recent capture of 10 wild orcas may result in some of them going to aquariums in China:

“It seems like China is becoming, or has become, a primary source of the demand for belugas, dolphins, and orcas alike,” says Courtney Vail, Campaigns and Programs Manager for Whale And Dolphin Conservation, which helps sponsor Hoyt’s and FEROP’s work. “Chinese facilities also source from the Taiji dolphin hunts. Twenty-four dolphins were exported from Japan to China in 2012, and CITES trade reports suggest over 60 wild-caught belugas were exported from Russia to China between 2008 and 2010 alone.”

The thought of orcas in Chinese hands is particularly onerous, as that country has no laws to protect animals from cruelty and abuse.  That fact, coupled with deeply held superstitious beliefs by large segments of the Chinese population means that animals in that country suffer on all levels – the fur trade, scientific research, medicine, dietary preferences, and amusement. Dogs are baked and boiled alive (thought to taste better), other animals are skinned alive for fur, then sprayed with water to keep them moist until killed for food. Bears are cut to produce bile for Chinese Medicine. (A simple google search will show you more than you want to know on animal cruelty in China.)
Live animals sealed in plastic for key chains, which will be discarded when the animal finally suffocates.
An orca in a Chinese aquarium may receive better care than most animals there are entitled to, due to the whales’ high price tag as well as to the standards set by other aquariums. In order to belong to an accredited organization, any aquarium or theme park must care for animals by certain minimum standards – but when you think about it, even in the U.S. amusement parks such as the Miami Seaquarium are able to dodge the minimum standards as set by law as well as by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In the photo of Miami Seaquarium below, one lone orca has been forced to live in a tank that is substandard in size for over 40 years. ( As far as I am aware, there are no aquariums on mainland China that are even accredited at this point anyway (there are two in Hong Kong which is independently governed).

(Courtesy Orca Network)
Captured as a calf, pictured at the top. (Courtesy Orca Network)

Zimmermann points out that we can help stem the flow of wild orcas into captivity by refusing to visit the amusement parks entirely.

But as the Russian Far East threatens to become the next wild orca gold rush, tapping into a remote orca population that until now has mostly been left alone, [Researcher Erich Hoyt] sees only one way the wild orca hunts will truly stop. “A lot depends on how many people per year pay to get into SeaWorld in the U.S., as well as paying to get into the growing number of such facilities in China, Japan and Russia,” he says. “By last count, more than 120 facilities in these countries exhibit whales and/or dolphins.

In Will SeaWorld tank after expose in ‘Blackfish’?  Commentary: Stock sinks as documentary makes a big splash, the author points out the decline in SeaWorld’s stock value, and explains that as a highly leveraged company, SeaWorld may be facing some tough times ahead, due to increased public awareness resulting in part from the documentary film, Blackfish.

Shares of Orlando, Fla.-based SeaWorld (SEAS -0.58%)  have been sinking with the gradual release of this independent documentary, and are now down about 25% from highs reached earlier in the year.

SeaWorld needs to survive this debacle, I personally take no joy in the prospect of them having to close their doors because they are uniquely poised to do immense good for whales and dolphins needing our help. But if instead they choose to move their whales offshore (as they have in Loro Parque, Spain), and to support amusement parks in countries that have few regulations, then they deserve to go down in history as a truly amoral and exploitative organization.

To Protect Dolphins and Whales, Look Behind the Masks of Industry


“Fed Up in Wyoming” reads the caption under this stunning photograph posted on a hunter’s Facebook page (reproduced here under Fair Use). The photo is yet more evidence that, two years after political reactionaries led a successful campaign in the House of Representatives and then the Senate to remove the North Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list, the slaughter of wolves continues to escalate as wolf hunters fall deeper in their paranoid fantasy that the wolf represents a liberal conspiracy against rural communities. (Earth Island)

You may be wondering what shooting wolves in the Rocky Mountains has to do with marine mammals, and the answer is that even though most of what people do to marine mammals occurs out of sight in the open ocean or underwater, the perpetrators are equally hesitant to show their faces as are these wolf killers. Standing up for your beliefs carries risks – someone, somewhere, is guaranteed to oppose your point of view – but hiding behind masks and walls of paperwork only serve to show an awareness of the wrongdoing.

 [Photo-Image: Dead dolphins discovered on Chiclayo shore of Peru, Photo source: ITN News]
[Photo-Image: Dead dolphins discovered on Chiclayo shore of Peru, Photo source: ITN News]
Out in the oceans, fishermen consider dolphins and whales to be competitors or bycatch (unintended when fishing)  and willingly kill them, the animals get tangled in crab and lobster pots or fishing nets, and are hit by ships. The ambient noise levels in the ocean is continually rising, interfering with the whale’s long-range communications. Navies worldwide engage in espionage and mock warfare movements involving loud sonar, and bombing practice occurs over wide swaths of the ocean.
Nations continue to hunt whales and dolphins for meat while pretending it is for scientific research. The oceans are increasing polluted with effluent and plastic debris. Our demand for oil has resulted in devastating spills, and nearly constant deafening sound from seismic surveys.
Seven orcas stranded in Australia, two died (
Seven orcas stranded in Australia, two died (

There is no escape for whales and dolphins, other than to cast themselves on our beaches, which they appear to be doing in increasing numbers.
Unlike the wolf killers, the masks worn by the perpetrators of ocean destruction are more subtle – they hide behind international partnerships that protect them from each country’s laws. Currently Exxon/Mobil and BP are teaming up with Canada’s Imperial Oil to drill in the Arctic, and even though Exxon/Mobil is a U.S. corporation, they have a Canadian subsidiary and also own controlling interest in Imperial.  The upshot? Environmental protections that are drastically more lenient than the U.S., and where the only consideration given to marine mammals is in how the indigenous population will be effected in their hunts. 
canada oil eis
Perhaps most insidiously, they are hiding behind the issues that frighten us most – climate change, energy shortage, and the threat of losing all that we have spent lifetimes building. An example of this occurred last March when a pod of orcas were trapped in the ice at Hudson’s Bay, thought to have been caught off guard by shifting ice patterns. While this shift in conditions was initially blamed on climate change, it turns out that the local power company is probably responsible:

“There’s a connection between the freshwater plumes sent into Hudson Bay from the Quebec power corporation’s huge dams and the quick freezing of water in the bay which led to entrapments of eiders, beluga and killer whales this past winter, suggests Joel Heath, a biologist whose film People of the Feather about Sanikiluaq hunters and eider ducks, received acclaim.
The connection is worth studying, he said, because although entrapments occur naturally, this past winter there were at least three occurrences in southern Hudson Bay.”

Wherever people are hiding behind masks, covering their tracks, or working below the public radar, a price is paid and the world as we know is quietly being changed.

Pilot whales attempting to strand in Scotland, September 2013.  They were guided back to sea.
Pilot whales attempting to strand in Scotland, September 2013. They were guided back to sea. (Huffington Post)

The good news is that although it may seem as though we are powerless to bring about change, we are not – an International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network is being created which will keep track of sightings of injured, stranded, and dead whales and dolphins on a global scale.  This will make it difficult for industry and military to deny the impacts of their activities, and it will help provide data to scientists to help determine why there are alarming numbers of dolphins and whales beaching and dying.

Overall, the experts pointed out that the dead dolphins may be alerting us to troubles in our oceans.

Said NOAA’s Spradlin, “Marine mammals are like the canary in the coal mine”—many bottlenose dolphins live on the same coasts and eat the same fish that we do.
“Our first mandate is to protect the dolphins, but the underlying bigger picture is if things are hurting these animals,” he said, “[they] could also be hurting people as well.”

While an outbreak of morbillivirus (related to measles) is known to be responsible for some of those dolphin deaths, it is important to be aware that there could be other causes as well, and not let the disease create a smokescreen. The scientists need our support. For more information, please visit the International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network.