NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO - A popular Niagara Falls tourist attraction was the scene of a large protest Saturday, as demonstrators gathered outside the gates of Marineland.
Marineland Animal Defense (MAD) organized the event after recent stories in a Toronto newspaper quoted former trainers at the park who claimed animals at Marineland suffer from neglect and unhealthy conditions.
The group typically stages a dozen demonstrations here annually and while those demonstrations usually attract a few dozen or more protestors, the number of participants jumped to roughly 200 this weekend with many holding placards and others using bullhorns to urge visitors not to enter the park.
"Any time you are holding animals in a situation that they are captive and someone is profiting, profits will come first and the animals will always come second," said MAD co-founder Dylan Powell.
"I'm against all of captivity in general," said fellow protestor Jeremy Larivee. "It's a terrible thing and there's no educational value in it in my eyes, especially here at Marineland."
On its web site Marineland posted the following statement:
"Our animals receive loving care from our trainers and our veterinary staff and enjoy well-maintained facilities, high quality diets and exemplary veterinary care. As a testament to the quality of our care, our animals live much longer than they would in the wild."
"Animal care issues are systemic to every single marine park in the entire world, so we are against all captivity and using animals for profit," Powell told WGRZ-TV.
The Toronto Sun recently reported that Suzie McNeil, the artist who sings the well known Marineland jingle in its advertisements, is now distancing herself from the place. And Larivee, who helped co-found Ocean Voice of London claims Ric O'Barry, who captured and trained the dolphins for the TV series Flipper before making a radical transition to combating the captivity industry, will join them here in October.
"He's one of the biggest activists out there right now, he's got a lot of pull, and he can help us in changing the regulations with the federal and provincial governments," Larivee said.
Powell said he hoped the increased attention would close what he described as a "loophole" in laws which foster the captivity of animals for the amusement of humans.
"Currently it's illegal to wild capture in Canadian waters and then put that animal in captivity. But you can import and export from Russia and Japan. If we close that loophole we will effectively grandfather this industry out, because captive breeding stocks can't maintain or sustain these parks," Powell said. "The end goal is removal of all animals from the site, to sanctuaries or nonprofit environments which care."
Two On Your Side could not confirm on Saturday with Ric O'Barry whether or not he indeed plans to join protestors in Niagara Falls in October, and while we did not observe it while we were watching, the protestors claim they dissuaded several families from entering Marineland and that some of those families, instead of going into the park, joined in with them at the demonstration instead.
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