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Animal Rights Verses Animal Welfare – A New Era of Activists

July 18, 2015

This is an older blog from our archives recently republished

Let’s make this the “century of global compassion, the era of empathy” and get rid of negativity once and for all-

Marc Bekoff

non-human animals are not things

Times are changing and so are the animal right activists.  

“We live in a troubled and wounded world that is in dire need of healing. We all should be troubled and terrified by what we have done and continue to do. Humans are an arrogant lot and we have made huge and horrific global messes that need to be repaired now. The overriding sense of turmoil is apparent to anyone who takes the time to pay attention. Researchers and non-researchers alike are extremely concerned about unprecedented global losses of biodiversity and how humans suffer because of our destructive ways. We are animals and we should be proud and aware of our membership in the animal kingdom. However, our unique contribution to the wanton decimation of the planet and its many life forms is an insult to other animal beings and demeans us.” – Marc Bekoff

There is a new generation of activists emerging. The older generations of animal activist mainly focused on shutting an indusrtry down or establishing laws to protect animals in captivity rather these animals were to be used for scientific research or entertainment. The newer generations of activist see that many animals are still suffering needlessly and maybe it is time to start supporting creating better living conditions for the captive animals when they can not leave the faciltiy they are housed at. There is an old way of thinking that is still lingering around today which is bridging a gap between  the animal rights communities as this older way of thinking is in direct confliction between the new generations of activist.

The newer generations of activist wish to see many changes with regards to captivity yet at the same time they know that by not standing up for an animal in captivty it is the animal suffering. They also understand the animal may need help immediatly so the course of action is how to improve the conditions right now. These era of activist seem to have a different type of compassion for animals in captivity.

We do not see that helping improve the conditions of an animal in captivity is helping the owner of that animal as the old timers see it. This act would be directly affecting the animal.

We must all try as hard as we can to keep thinking positively and proactively. Never say never, ever. Perhaps a good resolution is that we will all try to do better for animals – both non-human and human – and earth and work for more peace and justice for all. We can and must keep our hopes and dreams alive and putting compassion and empathy on the front-burner is a must, and we must do it now.  Marc Bekoff

Our experience with regards to these matters were encountered when a 19 year old captive orca named Shouka was found to be living alone at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo California. The act of keeping Shouka completly alone was a direct violation of the law. Orcas are extremly social and must have companionship to be kept in America in captivity. Our passion to help expose the truth behind orcas in captivity had by this time allowed us to meet individuals with great knowledge of wild orcas as well as captive orcas. We thought this will be simple there is a law clearyl being violated and this will get corrected with the help of a any major animal rights organization. Boy were we ever so wrong. What we experienced over the last 2 years has changed the way we view major animal rights groups and vice versa.

We reached out to any agency we thought could help us clear this matter for Shouka. To our surprise we were meet with complete resistance. No major organization would help us or Shouka. Every avenue we went down was a dead end. We never gave up though we continued to document Shouka, writing complains to the USDA and blogging about her situation.

Eventually we started an online petition asking that the violation be correct.

Shouka’s story made the news and it spread fast across the United States. Suddenly we were getting emails from people in the anticaptivity community stating that this attention was bad and we were treading on thin ice. Here was the problem wild orcas are not captured any longer or imported into America.  A captive breeding program exists to help stop the taking of orcas from the wild. In America only three companies own/owned orcas, Miamia Seaqariun (Lolita), Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Shouka, moved to SeaWorld San Diego 2012) and three SeaWorld parks (all the Shamu’s).  This lead to the question of how would Six Flags correct the violation to find Shouka a companion? We were told they could take one from the wild, they would bring another orca from SeaWorld and that would mean Six Flags would have two orcas. We stood firm and continued our fight for Shouka this time taking it to the public and our collegues. We were contacted by an individual named Alex Lewis who is a writer for Alex came across Shouka’s story and wanted to help us. Alex felt the compassion for Shouka we had been feeling. Alex jumped right in calling organizations reaching out to international activist to see if they would campaign with us all to get Shouka home to France. This move also placed Alex in a postion where she was under attack for not demanding Shouka be placed in a seapen. Daily now Alex was defending Shouka, she stood firm as well.

Holise a writer for who works with Alex wrote a great article about Shouka’s situation.

We also began to reach out to a few other younger anticaptivity activist that we know explaining what was occurring and how we were frustrated we could not get help for Shouka, they all jumped in to share blogs along with her petition assuring us we were doing the right thing for Shouka no matter what others were saying. We reached out to Naomi Rose  and Howard from Orca Network  for solutions for Shouka and if a seapen be best and how could we help Shouka right now. It was concluded that a seapen would not benefit Shouka right now and that her agression towards her trainers may escolate.

In the end a handful of younger activist along with Orca Conservacy, Samantha Berg  a former seaworld trainer and David Kirby arthur of Death At SeaWorld helped us get over 7,000 signatures on Shouka’s petition. These individuals went against everything the anticaptivity is about these days – advocating for a seapen for captive orcas. David Kirby was kind enough to share Shouka’s story at his book signings. David also wrote a blog about Shouka calling her the “The World’s Loneliest Whale”.

Shouka has been relocated to Six Flags San Diego where for the first time in 10 years she is with another orca.

Corky & Shouka photo courtesy of SeaWorld

The major census is that once an individual animal is deemed owned and in captivity many animal rights groups would/will not touch complaints to improve the individual animals living conditions as it will only benefit the park for the animal to have a slightly better living condition. This makes no sense to us, the corporation is already benefiting and makeing money while the animal is suffering.  What people do not understand about this stratedgy is applying pressure on facilties that house these animals there comes two options

  1.  Improve the living conditions
  2. Get rid of the animals

Other benefits of this strategy is you can get the public to become interested in the industry including that individual animal. When people connect to an animal especially a captive animal on a personal level they tend to fight for that animal. The public pressure in numbers can begin to break down the comfortability of the industry which are keeping the animals in poor conditions.

“If we make the choice for peace, not only for humanity but for all beings everywhere, then the first example indicates a new direction toward a new world. But if we continue to choose conflict, then the second example will strengthen the terrible momentum toward global catastrophe”- Thomas

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