The Toronto Star’s Graham Slaughter ran a story yesterday on the wild capture process underway to fill the proposed Ripley’s Toronto Aquarium. The story details the process, getting opinions from those who will run the operation, and concludes with no counter to captivity, nor any mention of money - the fundamental drive of this project.
This project has been underway for some time now and has the full backing of the City of Toronto, along with public funds behind it (municipal and provincial). The project is large and has many implications for the captive marine mammal industry in Ontario and beyond.
First off, this project lays to rest any doubts about the future of the proposed shark exhibit at Marineland. In the “development” stage since 2005, this project will most certainly be forever shelved as there is no way it could compete with this larger project and it makes little sense to spend millions of dollars to create an smaller exhibit an hour away from this one. As Marineland also relies heavily on traffic from the GTA and beyond (Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal) this new project will also cut into their market power - pulling people away from a decrepit park to a brand new aquarium setting. Down to one orca, Kiska, facing seriously doubts about ALL of it’s animal care program and allegedly scraping Topple Tower - Marineland is in a very tough position with the development of this new aquarium. Although Mr. Holer has a wide reach and a lot of political pull in the Niagara Region - that influence is tiny compared to what he is now up against in the captive marine mammal market in Southern Ontario.
We expect a continued erosion of market control, as this new Aquarium will pull from Marineland’s market share and seriously shake the foundation of it’s long term viability. This is cause for celebration, however, also should be a cause for reflection. Many who oppose pressure campaigning note that market demand will merely shift from one targeted business to another. However, demand is created as much as it is satiated and many complex factors weigh on that process. In this case, displacement comes at the cost of millions of dollars and comes with more checks and balances than a park run under the complete control of one man. As the market shifts, so must we and as new challenges arrive, we must respond in kind.
The lone shark handed over from Big Al’s Restaurant (notorious for it’s obscene death rates) is a prime example of this. The shark will now be in the spotlight. Ripley’s, as well as the City and Province, will be on the hook for his health and well being. He will get a larger tank, better care and his health and death (whenever it is, for whatever cause) will be under much more scrutiny. A much larger force than Big Al’s controls his destiny, but there are also more leverage points now available.
Way back, since the announcement of the proposed aquarium, Marineland Animal Defense has signaled that it will support any campaign built to oppose the aquarium - even to the point of extending our own reach and resources if needed and creating a Toronto campaign under the name Marine Animal Defense. That offer still stands, however, this needs to be fought by advocates in Toronto, not by advocates in the Niagara Region. The best way to fight market shifts in pressure campaigning is to establish grassroots networks that can respond in each community - applying pressure across the full spectrum of that industry (in this case the captive marine mammal industry). It has been, and will forever be, a goal of Marineland Animal Defense to grow and participate in that network. The captive marine mammal industry is global, our response should be as well.
Aside from that, this proposed project also highlights the lack of foresight in the “shark fin” advocacy movement. By focusing solely upon fins, advocates have left the door open for all other uses of shark species and as the article above highlights, created space for the captive marine mammal industry to wedge the issue. They now claim they are against shark fining and their captive industry will actually help educate people away from the practice. ALL shark bans should be fought on the same ground - ALL sharks belong in the ocean. They do not belong in pills, tanks or in soups. We hope that this will give advocates pause to reflect on the success of that movement and hopefully redouble their efforts along these lines.
These are dark days for advocates in Toronto who have fought so hard to pass a shark fin ban in Canada’s largest city, and who have been fighting on so many fronts. However, we strongly believe that the answer lies within grassroots structures that are already effective within the City. Campaigns like Toronto Pig Save have re-invegorated the Toronto animal activist community, opened up space and brought in many new advocates, while also leveraging some of the best mainstream media coverage animal advocates have ever received in Canada. TPS has played a large role in moving advocates in Southern Ontario back away from one-off symbolic demonstrations and petitions to actual on the ground, committed and dedicated campaigning capable of growing capacity and results. We are inspired by groups like TPS and hope they inspire a similar movement against the Toronto Aquarium. The aquarium has one more year until it’s launch date - that’s a solid year of groundwork that can be done.
Until all are free,
Marineland Animal Defense
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