Start a Conversation, Not a Fight

Monday mornings eh? As if they aren’t hard enough. Waking up to social media (mine at least) going guns blazing and seeing the Today Breakfast Show was at SeaWorld on the Gold Coast definitely wasn’t a positive start to another week.

Now I’m not a regular viewer, in fact I actively avoid the show because of the format of lazy journalism and the materialistic, privileged view of the world they project. It does nothing but promote affluence and consumerism, and feeds the insecurities many people face on a daily basis. But I did, in my early years of living in Australia, start every day with a bit of Karl, Lisa and Dicky. Because of this previous experience of the show, it didn’t surprise me to see them starting the week promoting SeaWorld GC. Yet I am still shocked, in the face of such a public and sudden plummet in popularity that they decided to align themselves with the organisation. However, it wasn’t the show itself that annoyed me, I didn’t give it any time, it was the online fallout I allowed myself to get drawn into.

Firstly, as I see it, SeaWorld GC does little for ocean conservation. All token efforts are outweighed by the fact that they promote the idea that it is OK to have these animals* who, when free, will travel mile after mile on a daily basis, locked up in tiny swimming pools; an environment that can literally send them crazy. They encourage a further demand for these places and although they might not source their dolphins directly from Taiji (if you haven’t seen it, you must watch “The Cove“) they promote the demand for these practices to supply similar set-ups around the world, some who will buy their dolphins from hunters.

SeaWorld GC breed a lot of their animals in captivity, so therefore any claims that they are separate and more morally righteous than their American cousins is questionable. Whilst they may rescue some, they purposely (I almost said porpoisly) bring these amazing and intelligent beings into the planet to live out a cruel, imprisoned life in the name of profit. There is no denying that. Any justification that it raises money for conservation is rubbish too as you just have to look at Sea Shepherd to see that people will get behind a group without having to have some sort of payout in return.

To the online debates – I have slight issue with the well-intentioned critics of SeaWorld GC who went about calling people idiots, told them to go educate themselves and declared how they should be ashamed. I have friends and family who, as recently as this year, visited similar places. They are not bad people – in fact one of them is one of the nicest people you could meet – they are very socially conscious, family-orientated and loving. For one, I don’t believe they would support this type of organisation if the truth of the conditions and impact to wild animals were brought to their attention. I’m going to try to offer some insight by offering the suggestion of the documentaries “The Cove” and “Blackfish” as conversation starters. I know for sure though that if anyone were to say that they are selfish and heartless to support a place like this then they would immediately be on the defensive and look for a reason why this anonymous person was saying these things. I don’t think that would lead to a train of thought that would result in enlightenment, but instead, as most humans do, look to the persecutor as the problem and come to the conclusion they were being abused by an extremist and dismiss it.

Any animal activist, in fact any activist or advocate needs to be smart when discussing these topics. It is our duty to the voiceless animals in need of our help to do what is best to change the world’s use of animals, even if sometimes that means one person at a time. When talking to a meat eater, SeaWorld punter, zoo lover and so on, just try and think of the closest person in your life who is still aligned with that mindset and discuss the issues with the same respect you would extend to that loved one or peer. If it turns out the person you are talking to isn’t particularly nice or interested in conversation, move on – your time is better spent elsewhere.

The promotion on The Today Show this week reminds me that we must make sure that all our principles in life are aligned with our vegan beliefs. Being vegan isn’t just about the dietary choices or consumer products derived from animal use. It should also be about the other aspects of life we may all buy into. Valuing status items and buying into corporate machines, I believe, goes against a vegan lifestyle. It is that money driven attitude that has led us to a world where animals are so cruelly used and abused in their millions. Now I am far from perfect and miles from beyond criticism, but I am changing all aspects on the outside as I go, which is in turn helping shift the prescribed world view I had in my mind set for the first 30 years of being here. I am doing that, relatively quickly, I think, by surrounding myself with the right people, new people who are tolerant of people’s imperfections whilst vocalizing their own beliefs and influencing a change – in me anyway. If you are vegan you must have equal respect for the right of all animals on the planet, including humans.

I’m going to use the SeaWorld GC promotion to positively start some discussions about the animal abuse associated with such places. I also got to thinking whether their direct competitor, Channel Seven’s ‘Sunrise’ program, could be encouraged to promote a more animal welfare friendly (I say welfare because I’m a realist) approach to their own stories by applauding them for featuring the amazing work done by Monika’s Doggie Shelter in Sydney on the same day The Today Show were promoting SeaWorld GC. Sunrise was also the show that featured James Aspey and the completion of his 365 days of silence to raise awareness of the plight of the voiceless. Maybe there is someone in the hierarchy who is on our side and just needs help with motivating others to keep promoting animal issues.

*Please excuse some of my language when referring to dolphins, whales and other non-human beings in this article and other posts. I’m just trying to get my head around non-possessive language and such and am not overly happy with phrases like ‘non-human animals’. Not for the intended audience of this blog anyway. Now there’s a debate starter I’m not ready for!

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