Article by Damien Lee Thorr
For many years I have witnessed animal rights protestors villainize zoos and aquatic attractions that feature dolphins and orcas. Knowing many people in the zoo and aquatic industries, I took notice of how these protesters depend on misrepresenting the facts in order to appeal to the public, pulling on their heartstrings.
As an example of falsehoods by animal rights activists from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), they have falsely made claims of physical abuse such as trainers grabbing on to dolphins’ dorsal fins when swimming with them, standing on their snouts, and standing on their backs to surf. If any of those claims were true, we would have seen behavior from the animals to demonstrate some form of distress and/or injury but we have not. Not one marine veterinarian or ethologist has stated such claims of harm or injuries to dolphins or orcas during these aforementioned activities. These claims are no different from their other false claims that horseback riding harms horses.
Another blatant falsehood from these animal rights activists is their claim that the dolphins and orcas at these aquatic attractions (SeaWorld, Miami Seaquarium, Marine Land, Loro Parque) are disciplined with beatings. This is an outrageous claim and not at all true. I have frequented several zoos and aquatic parks and I have never witnessed any physical abuse upon any animal. If this were true, we would all see consequential behavior and physical evidence among the animals as a result.
PETA and other animal rights activists have been at it for many years and profit from their actions. All their executives and employees take a salary and even sell merchandise. They also recruit people for their protests as volunteers in order to avoid compensating them, under the guise of (and very often false) claims of animal cruelty. They also depend on donations (and they’re quite aggressive about it) for “their help” towards animals but it is very curious that when I called PETA’s offices on the telephone, their recorded message states that if the caller is calling to report an animal in distress, they refer you to contact law enforcement. That immediately questions their motives for their requests for donations. Is it for their salaries or for the animals? If they’re referring callers to contact law enforcement to assist injured animals, clearly the money is not for them to assist at all.
My questions to animal rights activists were: Do any of your representatives have any credentials in zoology, ethology or veterinary medicine? Are your representatives all there as volunteers or are you taking salaries? Why are you villainizing zoos and aquatic attractions by making unfounded claims of physical abuse upon the animals in their care?
When I called to speak to PETA representatives regarding their credentials and concerns of false animal cruelty claims, they rudely hung up on me.
This reaction to my questions generates the conclusion that these animal rights activists are a front for monetary interests based on deceptions and they generate anger as they appeal to animal lovers for donations.
One of the many other claims from animal rights activists of misdeeds against animals is captivity. This is a very misleading claim on their behalf because they are appealing to people’s heartstrings as if animals in human care have the capacity to reason as humans do. Upon observations of ethologists, animal psychologists, trainers, zoologists, and veterinarians, animals do not possess the capacity to rationalize a state of confinement and are generally known to be opportunistic eaters. In other words, animals will always attempt to grab an easy meal rather than go through the extensive efforts of hunting. Dolphins, Orcas, Pilot Whales, and many other species of marine mammals have been observed interfering with fishermen while fishing, attempting to grab a free easy meal, providing scientists with clear evidence of opportunistic feeding behavior. In many cases, the fishermen attack the animals with firearms and explosives, harming the animals with no way for them to receive any medical assistance. (Why aren’t any of these animal rights activists involved in this treatment which threatens these wild populations?)
Although as humans, we possess the ability to rationalize and suffer during confinement, this is clearly not the case among animals. As aforementioned, animals are opportunistic feeders and only seem to care about feeding whether they are out in the wild or in human care and are not affected by confinement. This is not abuse nor cruelty. Not to mention, animals in human care have around-the-clock medical care that most humans do not have access to.
Animal rights activists have also made the false claims that orcas and dolphins do not “do tricks” out in the wild when in fact, their claims repudiate scientists’ observations of orcas, all species of dolphins, humpback whales, sperm whales and many other marine mammals breaching the water in the wild. Again, they are making false statements in order to make claims of cruelty and abuse upon animals.
Upon speaking with caretakers at some of these aquatic attractions, the conclusion is that the animals are under great care, are fed well, and don’t suffer any harm from living in human care. Animal rights activists disagree but have no credentials in the fields of animal care, veterinary medicine, animal behavior, or zoology in order to support their claims. Animal rights activists are simply appealing to animal lovers by pretending to “know” more than the animal experts in place that care for animals in human care.
Organizations such as PETA and other organizations continue to interfere with zoos and aquatic attractions, demanding the release of the animals, claiming animal cruelty. As an example of releasing animals into the wild, I’d like to mention the case of Keiko, the orca used in the popular film, Free Willy. Keiko was released gradually into the wild at great expense that would have been better utilized by helping homeless and poor people. Keiko was subsequently released into open waters and did not live well. He was constantly rejected and attacked by all pods of wild orcas. He was injured by ice glaciers and without any veterinary care, he subsequently died of pneumonia. Keiko would still be alive today if he had remained in human care where he was fed properly and received medical care. What I find to be most abhorrent is how animal rights activists have villainized the Miami Seaquarium by making the false claim that Miami Seaquarium applied for a permit to have Keiko recaptured after his release for exhibition and performances at Miami Seaquarium. This is a blatant lie and there are no documents or any evidence to support this obtuse claim. They depend on animal lovers who don’t fact-check and respond with outrage.
It is very safe to assume that releasing any dolphin, orca or any marine mammal into the wild after living in human care (and being born in human care) would have fatal results for the animals but the animal rights activists disagree and would not participate physically or monetarily to aid any of the animals.
To make the claim that keeping animals in zoos is a form of cruelty is clearly a falsehood. To villainize and interfere with a zoo’s ability to conduct business can be legally defined as tortious interference.
My observation as a journalist is that these animal rights activists have initiated an industry that appeals to people with a genuine love for animals and influences them to donate money under false pretenses.
Copyright © 2021 Damien Lee Thorr
Damien Lee Thorr is the composer and lead guitarist for the popular, classically influenced and openly atheist/political activist metal band Predator, has authored many essays and editorials for Asphyxium Zine and written he horror-erotica novel “The Vampire Journals”. Check out Predator’s 2011 full length "Born in Blood" at Youtube and visit their official site at http://www.predatortheband.com/.