Children raise their voices and stand witness for dolphins in Japan

Photo courtesy of Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project
Photo courtesy of Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project

“The dolphins who had survived the ordeal were all young, comprised of babies and juveniles. They appeared lethargic and their breathing, uneven. Yet, they hovered close to the area where their family members were killed, refusing to leave. They took turns spyhopping as skiff after skiff of dead pod members passed them.” Cara Sands,
Children question why people do the cruel, thoughtless, and destructive things people do…and grownups tell them that the problems are too big to solve, or that they will understand when they are older. But the kids aren’t buying that anymore – access to the internet has made them a bit savvy and world-wise, and what they don’t see at home they hear from their friends.
Then they take action in any way they can, and leave us inspired.

These annual Japan dolphin drives exist because of the small fortune the hunters make  by selling the dolphins to amusement parks and aquariums, and while the captive industry both denies past involvement and bemoans the annual butchery, they do little to stop it.

Traveling into these villages where the dolphins are killed is always a heart-wrenching thing. But some good news came out of our trip — there is not the slightest doubt that the explosion of protest around the world against the brutality of dolphin hunting in Japan has had enormous impact on the Japanese government and the fishermen who conduct it. At both Futo and Taiji we were told the same thing — that foreign reaction is the main obstacle to the continued dolphin killing and that the fishermen fear the government will shut them down to avoid further international protest. We learned that the government suggested Futo suspend dolphin hunting operations until the public loses track of this issue. We will make sure this does not happen.
Again I stress, that from the fishermen’s own mouths we heard without any equivocation that foreign pressure may ultimately shut down the dolphin capture and slaughter operations.
The bad news is that at Taiji there is a firm intention to continue the catch of dolphins and small whales. At Futo there is some dissent among the fishermen as to whether to continue hunting dolphins, but there is a government quota for several species and the head of the fishing cooperative told us they expect to begin hunting again. We must be on hand with cameras.
Additional bad news is that the dolphin capture and export business in Japan has expanded into an assembly line process. There are two dolphin bases in Taiji and a new one at Iki. Dolphins are literally “packaged” for export – i.e. they are captured, trained and exported, accompanied by a trainer who introduces the dolphin into the new facility. A formidable dolphin packaging infrastructure has developed at Taiji, which contributes to the continuation of the slaughter of hundreds of dolphins in that village alone.

While SeaWorld tries to hide their earlier participation in these drives, they and other facilities that profit from dolphin captivity have a duty to help put an end to the dolphin drives instead of circling the wagons in denial.

“In addition to empathizing deeply with the suffering of the cetaceans, we also feel the reverberation through history…we know how humanity must look back on the endurance in this age of such cruel and needless practices…its stains all our humanity.” Leah Lemieux,  author of Rekindling the Waters.
What you can do: go to any of the organizations that are actively engaged in this issue and find ways to contribute your ideas, time, energy, and talents. Of course non-profits are always in need of financial donations too.
Find a variety of Tweets here:

#Tweet4Dolphins  #1Voice4Dolphins
Share on Facebook:
“London is key, the pressure in London is working” – Richard O Barry has said. It is at tipping point and so now the pressure needs to be higher than ever. Ask your friends in London to share and tweet this event.

SeaWorld’s new plan is genius…except for one big thing

Seaworld, what are we to make of you now?
The company has pledged to reinvent itself from the inside out, and to refocus into helping the public find ways to make a difference to the environment. The plan is well thought out and genius. And, it would appear, keeping killer whales doesn’t figure prominently in the long term game plan in the U.S. parks, or at least reliance on the iconic whales was underplayed in their presentation to stockholders. They want to broaden the park’s theme considerably by encouraging passion for the environment through their rides and education outreach.
From that point of view, then, the company appears to have taken the only road open to them. Phase out the killer whales and the glitz without admitting it was wrong in the first place. Ignite passion in a broader cause. Tie together theme park excitement with that theme, as exemplified here:

The presentation for investors was interesting and almost inspiring right up until someone trotted out the same old tired and bitter arguments against animal welfare claims; it cast a shadow on the believability of the entire presentation.  They went from speaking their truth to speaking their truthiness.
That is a big problem.
Can they overcome this and convince the public that they are changing? Not until they can stand up and admit that they were wrong to take whales from the wild, and that the reason they haven’t taken any in 35 years is that no one would let them – SeaWorld tried. They need to admit that the conditions and treatment they have to do to keep the orcas alive are brutal. End captive breeding. SeaWorld Fact Check is an excellent resource for accurate information on these issues.

Their claim that they are ending the killer whale shows at their San Diego park seems disingenuous, but if we take a step back and ask ourselves what Seaworld can do right now for the killer whales in their tanks it becomes clear that they don’t have a lot of options. They can continue business as usual with the circus shows. They can try to build a bigger tank and make life better for the whales. They can ship them off to foreign countries. They can build sea pens and move the whales there.
It doesn’t look like they can’t really do any of those in the short term, even if they wanted to. They could ship the whales off but the problems they have now are nothing compared to what would rain down on them if they tried. Sea pens are a huge undertaking and SeaWorld is short on capital – although a caring company, Munchkins, has offered to help them out with that, as the video below shows (it is not an ad, but an inspirational message):

After running into public opinion and a thoughtful ruling by the California Coastal Commission, building a larger tank isn’t feasible and Seaworld is considering using money that they set aside for that project in order to build a resort.
So that just leaves the decision they did make: keep the orcas for now, but end the circus shows. However, they can’t just let the whales log around 24/7 like ocean couch potatoes, the orcas need to be engaged and stimulated. The plan to change the style and content of the shows will let Seaworld recoup on the cost of keeping the whales engaged and fed, which Seaworld will have to do anyway.
There is a lot of content in the presentation besides orca issues, and it is worth taking the time to listen. Examples are: they are planning to concentrate on people who live withing a 300 mile radius of the park, focus on millennials and moms, target schools, use a different price structure, make navigating the parks easier, and they hinted at using ideas from their wildly successful Discovery Cove theme park (which includes a swim-with-dolphins facility…good luck with that in California, although Las Vegas was mentioned.).
Can a company that has persisted in showing indifference to both the quality of life it offers whales and dolphins in its care and which also denies accountability for damage it wrought to wild dolphins and whales in the past be the one uniquely poised to bring true environmental awareness to the public?
If that company is Seaworld, they have a lot of work to do, and they say they are ready to do it. They make no bones about being in it for the money – at one point CEO Joel Manby sounds very gleeful about getting everyone to donate 50 cents – the question is can they really become the Whole Foods of theme parks as Manby mentioned, or just the Whole Rest of the Paycheck?
We’ll see.

Rapper Action Bronson defends eating whale meat and blubber

1028-action-bronson-instagram-4 rapper ate blubber then went to hospital Action Bronson
Rapper Action Bronson feasted on whale blubber and meat while filming a segment for his reality show in Alaska – a fact that might have escaped public attention had he not wound up in the hospital for an unrelated condition. At the time Bronson’s understandable desire for privacy just fed the speculation by his fans, and early reports linked his hospital stay to his having indulged in whale blubber, whale meat, seal, and raw caribou.

…the Vice/Warner Bros. Records artist and host of “F*ck, That’s Delicious” called into HOT 97’s Ebro In The Morning show to clarify reports. “I did eat whale blubber—several types,” Bronson told Ebro, Peter Rosenberg and Laura Stylez. “I had all types of indigenous Alaskan native [food], man. [But] it wasn’t what put me in the hospital. This was [caused by] an old power-lifting injury from when I was a young man,” said the 31 year-old. (AFH)

Bronson seems to have imagined himself able to eat like an indigenous Alaskan and didn’t hesitate to eat the meat from endangered bowhead whales as well as ‘several types’ of blubber – yet he lacks any cultural ties to the region. He tweeted:

Don’t ever knock someone else’s heritage and what they eat just because it’s not familiar to you. Native people live off the land, try it.

Actually…no, don’t try it.
There are several problems with Bronson’s actions, no matter how sincere he may be, and there are ethical problems with encouraging people to consume endangered species under any guise. The highly regulated take of bowhead whales is intended to allow people who have a spiritual and cultural dependence on marine mammals to continue to live as they did in the past.
Most of us just don’t have the biology to absorb large quantities of some fats and nutritional distress is a likely result of eating blubber.  In contrast, at least some indigenous people do have physiological adaptations that allow them to process the  fats present in marine mammals:
The indigenous people of Greenland, the Inuit, have lived for a long time in the extreme conditions of the Arctic, including low annual temperatures, and with a specialized diet rich in protein and fatty acids, particularly omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). A scan of Inuit genomes for signatures of adaptation revealed signals at several loci, with the strongest signal located in a cluster of fatty acid desaturases that determine PUFA levels. The selected alleles are associated with multiple metabolic and anthropometric phenotypes and have large effect sizes for weight and height, with the effect on height replicated in Europeans. By analyzing membrane lipids, we found that the selected alleles modulate fatty acid composition, which may affect the regulation of growth hormones. Thus, the Inuit have genetic and physiological adaptations to a diet rich in PUFAs.

1028-sub-action-bronson-instagram-4 Action Bronson ate blubber sick
Bronson also consumed a variety of toxins in his smorgasbord that consisted of bowhead whale, beluga whale blubber, frozen raw caribou meat and stew, baked whitefish with rendered seal oil – and no one is immune to the consequences of those contaminants:
According to the Humane Society International, whale blubber can contain polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dioxin—and heavy metals such as methylmercury.

PCBs can cause nerve damage, reproductive and developmental disorders, immune system suppression, liver damage, skin irritation, and endocrine disruption. DDT exposure is associated with certain cancer risks and neurological and reproductive disorders. Dioxins can cause cancer, metabolic dysfunction, and immune system disorders. Methylmercury consumption can cause neurological and developmental problems. The contaminants are often highly concentrated in blubber because they are lipophilic, meaning they bond easily and even preferentially to fat.
One study of Faroe Islanders detected developmental disorders in children whose mothers consumed pilot whale meat and blubber regularly during pregnancy. In addition, some Inuit communities in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic—where mothers regularly consume beluga whale meat and blubber (as well as meat from bowhead whales, seals, and polar bears)—have detected health problems in children who were exposed to contaminants in utero and through breast milk.

Indigenous Faroese
Indigenous Faroese

Indigenous people of the Faroes, who believe the slaughter and consumption of whales is their cultural right.

Even people who wish to preserve their indigenous cultures should be wary of consuming products from marine mammals, and for the rest of us it is senseless to experiment with our health by eating the flesh and blubber from the animals we have polluted.

New! Lawmakers introduce legislation to end the captivity of killer whales everywhere in the U.S.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced proposed legislation that will eventually end the captivity of orcas in the U.S..
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced proposed legislation that will eventually end the captivity of orcas in the U.S..

Media Release 11/6/15:
Los Angeles, CA – At a press conference on Friday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that he will introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act. This landmark legislation would phase out the captivity of orcas so that their display ends with this generation.
Specifically, it would prohibit the breeding, the taking (wild capture), and the import or export of orcas for the purposes of public display. This legislation will also allow for the orderly phasing out of the display of this species, giving orca-holding facilities time to transition to a more humane future. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), though unable to attend the press conference, is an original co-sponsor of the legislation.
Representative Schiff
Representative  Adam Schiff (D-CA)

“The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display,” said Rep. Adam Schiff. “We cannot be responsible stewards of our natural environment and propagate messages about the importance of animal welfare when our behaviors do not reflect our principles. The ORCA Act ensures that this will be the last generation of orcas who live in captivity, and we will appreciate these incredible creatures where they belong – in the wild.”
During the press conference, several experts and State Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), the sponsor of previous legislation to ban the use of orcas for performance purposes at California aquatic theme parks, spoke in support of Schiff’s bill.
“The growing body of scientific evidence is compelling for orcas,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute. “They are simply too large, too wide-ranging, too socially complex, and too intelligent to thrive in any-sized concrete enclosure. Orcas do not belong in captivity.”
12000 pound Tilikum, no tank is big enough.
12000 pound Tilikum, no tank is big enough.

“As a former Marine Mammal Trainer at SeaWorld, I saw firsthand how orcas suffer in captivity,” said former marine mammal trainer Samantha Berg. “No amount of toys, larger tanks, better veterinary care or love and attention from their trainers will ever come close to simulating the richness of their lives in the ocean. We cannot meet their needs in captivity.”
“There is no justification for the continued captive display and breeding of orcas for entertainment purposes,” Assemblyman Richard Bloom said. “They belong in their natural habitat where they can travel long distances and feed as predators do. These magnificent creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement.”
Co-sponsor Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Co-sponsor Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA)

“The failure of our government to adequately protect captive Orcas based on modern science is shameful, and it’s time to phase out the public display of these intelligent, social animals,” Rep. Jared Huffman said. “Orcas belong in the wild.”
The current global population of captive orcas has two sources – wild capture and captive breeding programs. Under current federal law, the federal government can issue permits for the capture or import of orcas for the purposes of public display. This is how, in the past, U.S. display facilities legally acquired orcas from the wild. While a wild capture of an orca has not occurred in U.S. waters since 1976, and wild-caught orcas from other parts of the world have not been imported since 2001, permits can still be issued legally. All other captive orcas have been bred in captivity. These practices would be prohibited under the ORCA Act.
Kshamenk is not a SeaWorld whale, but his circumstance shows what ca
Kshamenk is not a U.S. whale, but  SeaWorld has used his sperm in their breeding program.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently considering updating decades-old federal regulations for captive marine mammals. However, while updated standards may improve the welfare of smaller, more adaptable marine mammals, no amount of regulation can ensure that orcas thrive while in captivity. Unlike other intelligent animals, there is no indication that the population of captive orcas will see any relief. Recently, Ringling Bros. Circus announced that it will retire its performing elephants, and the National Aquarium announced that it will be retiring its dolphins. No such announcements have been made for the population of captive orcas in the U.S., and in fact, holders of captive orcas are doubling-down on their belief that captivity is not detrimental to the health and well-being of orcas.
Other organizations also came out in support of the ORCA Act, including the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Lolita, 45 years in a tiny pool. Miami Seaquarium.
Lolita, 45 years in a tiny pool. Miami Seaquarium.

“PETA applauds Rep. Schiff for introducing a bill that reflects public opinion in favor of ending the archaic and cruel practice of keeping orcas in captivity,” said Jared Goodman, Director of Animal Law for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “Everyone from children to members of Congress now recognizes that in SeaWorld’s tanks, orcas suffer both physically and psychologically, are drugged, die prematurely, and lash out as a result of extreme frustration. The passage of this bill would mark the beginning of the end of that kind of marine prison in the U.S.”
The proposed legislation can be viewed online here, and a fact sheet about the ORCA Act can be viewed online here.