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Activists to Stage Nationwide Protests Against Company Holding Lolita Captive

May 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

On May 9th and May 23rd, animal rights activists will stage protests in nine states at theme parks owned by Palace Entertainment, the company that operates the Miami Seaquarium, where the orca Lolita has been held captive for 45 years in the nation’s smallest killer whale tank. Palace, which owns 32 amusement and waterparks nationwide, purchased the Miami Seaquarium in 2014.


Lolita has lived in the nation’s smallest killer whale pool since 1970

Lolita was kidnapped from her pod off the coast of Washington state in 1970. For the first 10 years, she had a killer whale companion, Hugo, who reportedly committed suicide by pounding his head against the side of the tank. Since 1980, she has been alone, unable to interact with members of her own species or engage in any natural behaviors, such as hunting, diving and swimming in the open water. Her tank is just 20 feet deep.

"Please take me home. I don't belong in a pool."

Lolita is 20′ long. Her tank is 20′ deep.

Lolita’s captivity is not just cruel; it is illegal. In fact, Palace Entertainment is violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in three ways. Lolita’s tank doesn’t meet minimum size requirements; she has no shade to protect her from Florida’s searing sun; and she does not have a killer whale companion.

In February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated Lolita as endangered because she was taken from the protected Southern Resident Killer Whale population. This historic decision has provided legal ammunition to the groups that are suing the USDA for renewing Palace’s license in spite of its AWA violations.

photo: Matthew Hoelscher

Animal exploitation (photo: Matthew Hoelscher)

Palace Entertainment has been steadfast in its opposition to releasing Lolita to a seaside pen. In an effort to keep their biggest money maker, Seaquarium spokesperson Robert Rose tells the press that Lolita will die if she is released into the ocean. Advocates, on the other hand, assert that a coastal sanctuary would finally give her the opportunity to live — providing her with space to swim, communicate with her pod; receive rehabilitation; and be released if she is deemed capable of surviving in the wild.

The May 9th protests, organized by the group Shut Down Palace, will take place at Palace’s theme parks in Florida, Georgia, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh & Lancaster) and California.  On May 23rd, a second wave of protests will take place at Palace parks in New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

For Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium is a prison, not a palace (photo: Shut Down Palace)

For Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium is a prison, not a palace (photo: Shut Down Palace)

The #ShutDownPalace protests are not the first major effort to liberate Lolita. In January, over 1,500 activists from around the world descended upon Miami to participate in the “Miracle March for Lolita.” In a rousing speech after the march, Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained told the crowd to “get the police tape” because the Miami Sequarium is a “crime scene.”

Miracle March for Lolita at Miami Seaquarium

Miracle March for Lolita on January 17, 2015 (photo: Christina Estrada)

Filed under: Entertainment, WIldlife
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SeaWorld’s Attempt to Silence “Radical” Professor Backfires

March 12, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

Those who exploit animals for profit – and their publicists – routinely describe animal rights activists as extremists, radicals and terrorists in an effort to discredit, marginalize and disempower them. Through campaign contributions, they also recruit elected officials, who have the public’s ear, to use the same incendiary language. Sadly, it’s an approach that works, with members of the public often embracing those terms when referring to animal rights activists.

Those who exploit animals for profit often characterize activists as "extremists" to discredit them

Exploiters often characterize activists as “extremists” to discredit them

But what happens when an exploitive company uses this tactic to discredit and silence an authority figure, who is not perceived by the public to be a “radical extremist?”

In November, The American Cetacean Society invited Dr. Thomas White – a reputed university professor; the author of In Defense of Dolphins, and a critic of cetacean captivity – to participate in a panel discussion on orca captivity at its annual conference. Before the session, SeaWorld, which was also represented on the panel, successfully requested that it not be recorded – a move that is highly unusual and unethical at a scientific conference where presentations are made available to the public.

Dr. Thomas White silenced by SeaWorld at a scientific conference

Dr. Thomas White silenced by SeaWorld at a scientific conference

In a video he made about the incident, Dr. White said that SeaWorld’s request was based on the company’s desire to  silence a presenter who they could not portray as a “radical” once his remarks were made available publicly: “They characterize us as radicals, not serious researchers. And, it’s easier to maintain that picture of their critics if there’s no evidence to the contrary.”

In addition to making a public statement about SeaWorld’s effort to marginalize and silence him, Dr. White posted his presentation from the conference on YouTube video, which will likely reach more people than it would have if SeaWorld didn’t muzzle him in the first place.

This is not SeaWorld’s first attempt to tamper with science. In 2014, an Orca Research Trust investigation of SeaWorld’s 52 scientific papers demonstrated, among other things, that the company was using vitamin supplement and artificial insemination studies to justify captivity even though these studies are “unlikely to be useful to wild populations.”

Photo: CTV News

SeaWorld uses research irrelevant to wild orcas to justify captivity (Photo: CTV News)

SeaWorld’s attempts to silence scientists, misrepresent research and spin cruelty into conservation will only motivate “radicals” and “non-radicals” to continue waging a war against the company until it empties the tanks. It will also motivate activists to ensure that public knows that the real extremists and radicals are those who terrorize animals for profit.

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In Spain and Egypt, Animal Abusers Become Victims

February 18, 2015 by Leave a Comment

News & Opinion

In the first half of February, two animals used for entertainment attacked their abusers – a bull used in Spanish bullfight and a lion used in an Egyptian circus. Given that many videos of similar attacks have gone viral, why do people still participate in bullfights, circus acts and other exploitive events? Do the thrills and profits really outweigh the grave risks? And is the public supposed to sympathize with the animal abusers when they become the victims?

BULL GORES MAN: On February 14th, a 20-year old man from Georgia was severely gored during a running of the bulls and bullfight festival in a small town near Salamanca, Spain. The 16 inch gash to his thigh was the worst the local doctor had ever seen.

American man gored during a running of the bulls event in Spain

American man gored during a running of the bulls event in Spain

During these festivals, which take place in villages across Spain, bulls run through the streets until they arrive at the local arena, where they are killed in bullfights. The fact that event organizers have medical units on hand to treat injured (human) participants should be reason alone to outlaw these medieval competitions.

LION POUNCES TRAINER: On February 6th, a lion pounced on his trainer during a circus performance in Egypt. The victims’s late husband, who was also a trainer, was killed by a lion in 2004.

How many more people have to be gored, pounced, maimed and killed by captive animals before government regulators and elected officials ban these barbaric events?

In the United States, three high profile animal attacks involving an elephant, tiger and orca have shined an international spotlight on the use of captive wild animals in entertainment.

1. In 1994, a 20 year old circus elephant named Tyke killed his trainer during a performance and injured 13 others as he bolted out of the arena and through the streets of Honolulu, Hawaii. Tyke was shot almost 100 times before dying. The tragic incident was caught on video – from start to finish.

2. Siegfried & Roy, performers who used white lions and tigers in their Las Vegas show, had the most popular act in town from 1990 to 2003, when a white tiger bit Roy on the neck, severely injuring him and permanently shutting down their show.

Siegfried & Roy (photo: Las Vegas Sun)

Siegfried & Roy (photo: Las Vegas Sun)

3. Tilikum, the world’s largest captive killer whale, has killed three people, including Dawn Brancheau, a senior trainer at SeaWorld. Blackfish, a film that documents the Brancheau attack and its aftermath, has made Tilikum an international symbol of animals held captive for entertainment.

The late Dawn Brancheau stands on Tilkum's face during a performance

The late Dawn Brancheau stands on Tilkum’s face during a performance

Your Turn

To learn more about captive animals in entertainment and find out how you can help, please visit Born Free in the U.S. or Captive Animals Protection Society in Europe.

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America’s Captive Tiger Crisis

November 4, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Recent attacks on humans by captive tigers in India, China, Australia and Singapore have shined an international spotlight on the danger and cruelty of keeping one of the planet’s top predators in captivity. In the United States, captive tigers and other big cats have, in the past twenty-four years, killed four children and eight adults.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately 5,000 tigers are being held captive in the United States. Six percent of them reside in zoos and similar accredited facilities. The remainder are warehoused in squalid cages in backyards, unaccredited zoos, sideshows, circuses, private breeding facilities, and even a roadside truck stop.

Tiger in NYC apartment

Tiger in NYC apartment

Thirty-two states have banned private ownership of tigers; 10 require a license; and eight states have no regulation. What little regulation does exist to prohibit and protect big cats in captivity is often unenforced. A federal bill to ban the private possession and breeding of big cats – The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act – has 114 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

Of the 5,000 captive tigers in the U.S., only a lucky few will be rescued and relocated to sanctuaries where their needs take priority. In October, four tigers hit the feline lottery with the opening of a new habitat at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas. Ben Callison, director of the Ranch, speaks to Jane Velez Mitchell about the new sanctuary and big cat captivity:

Anastasia & Natalia at Black Beauty Ranch. (Photo: Brandon Wade/HSUS)

Anastasia & Natalia at Black Beauty Ranch. (Photo: Brandon Wade/HSUS)

Even the best of sanctuaries, however, cannot meet the needs of nature’s top predators. In the wild, tigers carve out large territories based on the availability of prey animals and mating partners. They hunt and, in spite of the fact that they are solitary animals, they sometimes share their kill with other tigers. The run 30 – 40 mph, and they can swim up to 18 miles a day.

Tiger on the hunt

Tiger stalking her prey

Your Turn

Contact your U.S. representative and Senators to ask them to support The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.

Please learn more about why holding wild animals captive is cruel; boycott zoos and circuses; and speak out.

Please visit Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch’s website to learn more about the tiger sanctuary and support their efforts to provide sanctuary to animals rescued from captivity.

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Circus Tiger Kills Girl

November 3, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

A tiger at a Chinese amusement park dragged an eight-year-old girl into his enclosure and mauled her to death. The amusement park owners withheld the information from the press, but rumors forced them to admit that the event occurred.

Tiger show at Leheledu Amusement Park in China

Tiger show at Leheledu Amusement Park in China

The tragedy took place just one month after a tiger killed zoo visitor in India in an incident that was captured on camera. That victim was 20 years old.

Tiger at India zoo kills patron

Tiger at New Delhi Zoo kills man who fell into his enclosure

Your Turn

Both tragedies were entirely preventable, as the victims – the tigers and their human prey – should never have been in a zoo or circus in the first place.

In their natural habitat, tigers hunt for prey, raise their cubs, swim long distances, establish territories and forge relationships. In circuses and zoos, they pace back and forth, unable to perform any of the activities that make their lives worth living.  Zoos and circuses are cruel and exploitive, and they teach children that kidnapping and putting animals behind bars for entertainment are acceptable behaviors.

Please learn more about why holding wild animals captive is cruel; boycott zoos and circuses; and speak out.

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