Written by PETA
While U.S. residents watch and worry about the oil spill, a different kind of oceanic nightmare is brewing, one that will cause immense suffering and death for countless whales for many years to come.
On June 20, the International Whaling Commission will meet in Morocco to vote on a proposal to lift a 24-year international ban on commercial whaling for Japan, Norway, and Iceland—the three countries that have pretty much thumbed their noses at the ban. The Obama administration backs the lifting of the ban. Anyone who knows anything about the history of the ban—which has slashed the killing from somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 whales a year to between 1,200 and 1,700—is outraged that the president is going back on his election pledge to strengthen a ban and instead throwing the country's might behind lifting it.
We know some fascinating things about whales: Humpbacks create "bubble-netting" by blowing a stream of bubbles to surround their prey, and females form long-lasting friendships with each other. Many people know that sperm whales have the biggest brains of any living being, but did you know that they're able to dive more than a mile? Or that they communicate by clicking? Or that some scientists believe that sperm whales "are so self-aware that they might have begun to evolve a concept of religion."
We also know that if the whaling ban is lifted, whale families will be torn apart as more are slaughtered. Act now to help animals: Politely tell President Obama that you oppose the cruel slaughter of sentient beings. Then prove it by going vegan if you haven't already.
Written by Karin Bennett
The Orange County Sheriff's Office has just released a 43-page investigative report into the death of Dawn Brancheau and is declaring her death an accident.
Dawn's death was no accident, and the Orange County Sheriff's report is entirely unsupportable on its face. Consider that a SeaWorld trainer who was acting as a "spotter" for Brancheau told investigators that Tilikum "has been deemed to have tendencies that make him unsafe," and yet Brancheau was allowed to "[lie] on her stomach, face to face with Tilikum … in three to four inches of water" at the side of the pool on a concrete slab, from which she was pulled into the water by the huge 12,000-pound orca.
The trainer also admitted that "no one ever goes in the pool with Tilikum because of his past history," yet video footage of Brancheau that was posted on the Web site of the NBC affiliate in Orlando and shot by a visitor to the park just minutes before her death clearly shows Brancheau in the water with Tilikum.
SeaWorld executives have long known that these animals pose a risk of death and injury, but they go for the money, exactly as mine owners who won’t risk a drop in profits by stopping to fix massive problems that put humans in harm's way do.
Another spotter confirmed that on the day of Brancheau’s death, Tilikum was "possessive," and the assistant curator of animal training admitted to investigators that "Tilikum's past history is that when he obtains a person, he does not let them go."
Despite knowing about the extreme danger posed by Tilikum and the fact that he had killed twice before, SeaWorld goes beyond ignoring the problem, understating the risks and paying money to trainers to risk their lives.
Faster than you can say Frau von Hammersmark, actor-director Eli Roth took to Twitter following last month's death of a SeaWorld trainer to speak out against keeping marine mammals in captivity.
The Inglourious Basterds star knows that if SeaWorld continues to exploit and abuse animals, then a sequel to the fatal horror show will inevitably surface. So Roth has written to Hamilton James—the CEO of Blackstone, SeaWorld's parent company—asking that the theme park immediately move its imprisoned animals to coastal sanctuaries and replace them with state-of-the-art virtual reality exhibits.
Having helmed groundbreaking horror films such as Cabin Fever and Hostel, Roth is an expert on humane alternatives to live animals in entertainment—from CGI technology to animatronics. In his letter, he suggests these technologies and lets James know that "showing visitors a more realistic version of what life is like for real marine mammals rather than displaying the captive animals' unnatural and repetitive behavior patterns—which are linked to their oppressive environment—is actually more educational, with no risk to human life."
Join Roth and the many other stars who have spoken out against SeaWorld by urging James to release these jailed animals to sanctuaries before another animal or human dies.
Written by Logan Scherer
Today, we're breaking out the bubbly to celebrate a victory. The Oscar-winning filmmakers behind The Cove recently went undercover inside The Hump—a Los Angeles sushi joint—to gather evidence that the restaurant was selling whale sushi. Yesterday, Typhoon Restaurant Inc.—the company that owns The Hump—was charged with illegally selling whale meat. According to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, those charged with possession or sale of marine mammals may face up to a year in prison or a $20,000 fine.
Whales are intelligent, social, and sensitive animals, but so are fish sea kittens, who have been deemed smarter than 5-year-old humans. Fish have central nervous systems that closely resemble those of humans, and fish who are caught in the commercial fishing industry suffer immeasurable pain as they are pulled up from the depths of their ocean homes. They thrash on the decks of fishing boats, and many of them vomit up their own guts as a result of the quick pressure change. So while we're stoked that the whale sushi has been removed from The Hump's menu, here's a question for anyone who continues to eat flesh: If you wouldn't eat a whale, then why would you eat a sea kitten?
Picture it: a dark sushi restaurant on a Los Angeles street, secret agents sitting inside, and a lone car waiting outside. Real-life undercover investigation or Hollywood moviemaking gold? Well, considering that the brave brains behind this very real, very covert operation are also the Oscar-winning filmmaking team behind The Cove, the answer is both!
Back in October, Charles Hambleton—The Cove's associate producer—got word that the Hump, a trendy L.A. sushi restaurant, was serving whale meat, which is illegal in the U.S. Hambleton's informants sent samples of the sushi to Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, who confirmed that the sample was meat from an endangered Sei whale.
While the consumption of whale meat is practically unheard of in the U.S., it's sold in marketplaces across Japan and is even served in school lunches. All the whale meat consumed by the Japanese comes from the hundreds of whales the Japanese claim to be slaughtering for scientific purposes.
Fast-forward to the week before the Oscars, when Louie Psihoyos—director of The Cove—and the other crewmembers from the film went undercover at the Hump, where they confirmed that the restaurant is still serving whale.
Psihoyos and his team made another visit to the Hump, this time accompanied by federal agents, and were, once again, served whale meat, giving the government officials the evidence they needed to get a warrant to search the restaurant's premises on Friday.
There's been no word yet on what the feds found, but according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, those charged with possession or sale of marine mammals may face up to a year in prison or a $20,000 fine. In the meantime, is anyone else hoping that all this means that the intrepid moviemaking, sushi-spying heroes will team up for another film to save animals?
Written by Logan Scherer
Eyebrows are shooting up in the animal protection world, as SeaWorld has hired professional animal entertainer Jack Hanna to sing its praises in public. Given his own record of responsibility for numerous animal attacks (including an incident in which a chimpanzee he was using in a public display bit off a 5-year-old girl’s finger) and his history of using underage animals who should be with their mothers instead of in noisy crowds and under bright lights, Hanna seems a good fit for SeaWorld. Despite its heavy public relations efforts, the marine park has a long history of getting away with murder while turning a fast buck. For example, the statements from SeaWorld about what a surprise, shock, and accident it was that the orca Tilly had drowned and pounded a seasoned trainer to death in Orlando deserve careful scrutiny. It was the third time that that particular orca had killed a human being (Tilly’s son also killed a trainer last year in Spain), both other deaths having also been dismissed by the amusement park as "accidental" when they were likely anything but. The marine amusement park environment is rife with deaths, close calls, and injuries.
As Jason Hribal writes in his soon-to-be-released book, Fear of the Animal Planet: The Hidden History of Animal Resistance, Tilly and two of the other orcas came from Sealand of the Pacific in Canada, a facility that closed shortly after all three whales were involved in a fatal attack on a trainer. That attack, "carried out by Nootka, Haida, and Tilikum left the park in a public relations freefall. Administrators promised changes. New safety procedures would be initiated. Physical contact between the trainers and whales will no longer be allowed. Guardrails will be installed along the poolside to prevent slips or bites." All the same things that SeaWorld is saying as it hopes for the story of the trainer’s death to go away. But in Canada, back then, public pressure did not let up. As Hribal writes, "Between the daily protests at the park's front gates, national demands that the orcas be released back to the ocean, and the city council's entrance into the debate, Sealand’s will crumbled. In August of 1991, the park reached a startling decision. 'After a lot of thought and discussion,' the director clarified, 'it was decided killer whales should be phased out.' … The twenty-nine year old institution had closed permanently."
When I hear "Christmas spectacular," I think snow, lights, and a tree—really, it doesn't take much to make me happy. For the twisted folks at Loro Parque in Spain, however, it's apparently not Christmas without some animal exploitation. Wholesome and heartwarming? Yeah, right.
There was nothing festive about the death of a captive orca's trainer during the rehearsal for the zoo's Christmas performance. The whale hit the trainer, who drowned after being underwater for several minutes.
Freedom must've been first on this orca's Christmas wish list. Orcas swim up to 100 miles a day in the open ocean, so confining them to tanks in theme parks is like confining a person to a bathtub. Captured from their ocean homes by boats that chase orca pods to shallow waters so that the animals can be surrounded with nets that are gradually closed and lifted onto the boats, some orcas die from shock or stress. Others slowly succumb to pneumonia when water enters their lungs through their blowholes. After they are torn away from their homes and families, these animals are then forced to learn circus-style tricks from trainers who withhold food and isolate animals who refuse to perform.
At the top of my New Year's wish list? A PETA theme park in which the only "animals" forced to perform are the animatronic kind.
A beluga whale named Nico died this week at SeaWorld San Antonio, where he was being temporarily housed while the Georgia Aquarium underwent renovations. This marks the third time in the last three years that a beluga whale from the Georgia Aquarium has died.
The cause of Nico's death has not yet been determined, but according to aquarium officials, he was already ailing when he was obtained from a Mexican aquarium along with another beluga whale, Gasper, who died in January 2007. The aquarium's two surviving whales, Maris and Natasha, are on loan from the New York Aquarium. A third beluga whale from New York, Marina, also died in 2007.
In a chirpy news release announcing the arrival of Maris, Natasha, and Marina in 2005, the aquarium expressed the hope that "we soon [will] have baby beluga whales."
In the same news release, the aquarium announced the arrival of Ralph and Norton, two whale sharks who—you guessed it—are now dead. Seeing a trend here?
Instead of swimming freely in the sea, animals at aquariums are relegated to a world that's measured in feet instead of fathoms. Beluga whales are extremely social animals who—when left to their own devices—play, chase each other, and interact in extended pods. They have been called "sea canaries" because of their complex vocalizations, which they use to communicate with each other.
In captivity, these whales have little room for exercise and are cut off from their natural social groups. While they might not have to face natural enemies, the stress of captivity is apparently the scariest "predator" of all.
Written by Alisa Mullins
Oh, South Park. So irreverent, yet poignant! Consider last night's Whale Wars parody, in which Stan takes Captain Paul Watson's place in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and steps up the conservationists' campaign in a way only possible through cartoon violence. (Yes, there were explosions.)
Amidst the world's rightful outcry at the injustice of whaling, Stan fights the good fight—protecting whales from senseless slaughter—and along the way finds out the real reason why the Japanese government thinks it's A-OK to attack beloved marine life.
More commentary—with spoilers—after the jump.
For most of us, summer is fading fast, but for residents of Jacksonville, Florida, bikini season lasts all year. What does the Sunshine State's endless summer mean for PETA? Our phone lines ring off the hook with reports of "beached whale sightings." Good one, guys.
Luckily, we know the secret to getting—and maintaining—a killer beach bod. Did you know that vegetarians are 20 to 30 percent leaner than meat-eaters? So, to help residents and tourists "lose the blubber"—and hopefully to deter prank callers—we're launching a brand-new billboard urging people to go vegetarian:
Written by Liz Graffeo
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.