Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Can Marineland Survive Much Longer?

Former Marineland employee
Phil Demers
On October 24, Marineland launched a $21 million lawsuit against the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), saying the OSPCA has threatened the park's, "extinction". It is the tenth lawsuit Marineland has filed in less than five years, the other targets being former employees such as trainer Phil Demers (who has since filed a counter suit), a 19 year old student making a documentary, and media outlets including the Toronto Star.

Blue and Thor were shot and killed by Marineland
owner John Holer, according to multiple witnesses.
Photo taken from The Toronto Star.
Unfortunately for Marineland, every time the business files a new lawsuit, the public are reminded of the charges of animal abuse against both the park and its owner, John Holer. Among the most disturbing are reports of bear cubs being killed by adult males as a result of cramped conditions, an injured fawn being butchered with a knife while it was still alive, and the accusation that John Holer shot his neighbour's two dogs. Holer has denied every accusation against him and his business. One can only imagine the millions Holer has spent to fight these allegations in the courts and the media, millions that could have been spent to better the living conditions and overall health of the animals at the park.

Holer can, and no doubt will, continue to threaten and file lawsuits against individuals who continue to speak out about the conditions at Marineland and its animals, but no amount of lawsuits will change the public's increasingly poor perception of Marineland, and all other aquatic parks for that matter. The "Blackfish Effect" resulted in SeaWorld's profits dropping a staggering 84% over the course of just one year and four years since the documentary's release, attendance and earnings continue to drop each year. While Marineland does not release attendance figures, it is not beyond speculation that the business is seeing a similar pattern. A quick glance at TripAdvisor shows more than half of visitors rate the park as average, poor, or terrible. As animal welfare issues continue to gain global mainstream media attention, from larger issues such as the Taiji dolphin drive and the Yulin dog meat festival to smaller ones, such as Cecil the lion's murder, they are taking centre stage more than ever before. The conditions at Holer's business are no exception and the slogan, "Everyone Loves Marineland" no longer seems applicable, even to the artist who recorded the jingle, who no longer wishes to be associated with it.

From Phil Demers, a recent aerial view showing
poor attendance at Marineland

As activists speak out, governments finally seem to be listening. In 2015 the Ontario government banned the possession and breeding of Orcas in the province and just last month, a bill to ban the captivity of orcas and dolphins in Canada had its third reading and is now awaiting a committee report. Such bills would have been unfathomable just five years ago.

So the question remains : Just how long can Marineland survive? One thing is for sure, it will not close as a result of the OSPCA, rather it is the continuous accusations of animal abuse, former employees and activists who refuse to be silent, and a government who finally seems ready to open its ears to the public that will result in Marineland's inevitable extinction.