Hippies and Bogans

We spent yesterday in Coffs Harbour for the fourth annual “empty the tanks” protest. This is a global protest, and the third that has been staged outside Coffs Harbour’s Dolphin Marine Magic.

I admit that I was apprehensive about attending because I knew there was going to be a counter-protest, and there’d already been a fair bit of “trolling” on the FaceBook event page.  I hate confrontation, and had no idea what to expect in terms of how our two groups might clash.  I think most people are advocates for peaceful protests, but when a person is supporting or opposing something they feel strongly about, passions can run high.

Both in the lead up to and on the day of the event, I was shocked at how much hate was aimed in our direction.  It seems so clear to me that keeping dolphins in tiny concrete pools and forcing them to perform tricks is cruel, I just can’t understand how anyone can feel so strongly in support of it.  But apparently they do, and a large group of Dolphin Marine Magic supporters turned up to rally against our protest.  We were kept apart, and there were certainly no physical altercations, but there was a lot of animosity.

We faced off against each other like two tribes about to go to war.  We held banners promoting the freedom of dolphins, they held banners with “I love DMM”.  We chanted slogans, they screamed at us to shut up.  We travelled 6 hours from Sydney, they told us to go home.  It was relentless.

We were accused of being pot-smoking, unemployed hippies.  That was one my first encounters with someone from “the other side.”  I was confused and frustrated by the insinuation that we somehow had nothing better to do than hang outside Dolphin Marine Magic and upset the locals.  Firstly, I’m not sure if any of us would be considered pot-smoking hippies, but even if we were, so what?  And secondly, the majority of activists are hard-working people with full time jobs who give up their spare time to campaign for things they strongly believe in.  It made me angry.  And then, as I looked at their group with children screaming, cars purposefully driving past to give us the finger, and listened to the nonsensical drivel that was being spouted, I realised I was judging them in much the same way.  I wasn’t labelling them as pot-smoking, unemployed hippies, but small-minded, uneducated bogans.  I was labelling them as selfish, unworldly people who can’t think past their own entertainment.

But if they’re wrong about us, then maybe I’m wrong about them.  I don’t know who it is that supports this kind of animal cruelty.  Maybe it’s people who are worried about their jobs or the local economy.  Maybe it’s people who feel we’re attacking a local treasure.  Maybe it’s people who really don’t understand why it’s not right to keep dolphins holed up in tiny enclosures.

I don’t want to fight with anyone, but I do want to fight for those who are voiceless.  We’re not trying to attack locals or force people out of jobs, we’re just trying to stop cruelty towards dolphins.  Coffs Harbour is a beautiful area of the country, and Dolphin Marine Magic could be adapted into a great tourist attraction that doesn’t involve dolphins performing tricks.

I think it’s inevitable that Dolphin Marine Magic will have to close down in its current guise.  Animal rights is becoming a more prominent topic within society, and over 92,000 people have signed a petition calling for the dolphins at Dolphin Marine Magic to be released into sea pens where they can safely live out their retirement.  I suppose that must be 92,000 pot-smoking, unemployed hippies.  There sure are a lot of us out there.

We live in a stunning country where it’s easy to see dolphins happily frolicking in their natural environment.  We have no right to confine these intelligent creatures in concrete pools and have them perform tricks just so that the kids have got somewhere to have their birthday party.  It’s not our right to swim with dolphins.  It’s not our right to be photographed with dolphins.  It’s not our right to use wild animals for financial gain.

The majority of Australians don’t want to see these magnificent creatures kept in captivity, and we have a far better understanding of why it’s cruel to keep dolphins and whales in tanks.  Dolphinariums are outdated, cruel forms of entertainment that belong in the past.  We need to step into the future and see these archaic places relegated to the scrapheap of history.  I think it’s only a matter of time.





  1. I’m surprised there are so many supporters for DMM.


  2. Kylie · · Reply

    There is a lot of support for DMM in Coffs Harbour.
    I think the tank people had good motives, however, their attitude before they even arrived was disrespectful and condescending.
    When asked why they opposed a Centre that does so much good I was referred to a dreadful practice of hunting/capturing Dolphins in Japan, references to cruelty and neglect were made….. None of this is relevant to DMM. It’s a rescue Centre
    If the tank people want to help the Dolphins in Japan. Go there, Rally there, not in Coffs Harbour. If you want to improve conditions in Coffs Harbour donate and help DMM not run at it with ridiculous accusations.
    I asked what agenda this group had to be told that they had none. I’ve since heard that within this group there is another group wanting to take over the park. Yet another group wants to move the operation to Whyalla SA….
    I’m wondering how many signatories are aware of the real agenda here and the reality of DMM or just believe the propaganda?
    DMM provide rescue, treatment, rehabilitation, and support to our wildlife and community…. Leave them to do their job….


    1. The references to practices in Japan were relevant to the day’s protest because it was all part of an international empty the tanks event.

      You talk about working with one another, well that goes both ways. Dolphins don’t belong in tanks; it’s just not a healthy environment. If the motivation at the park was still to rehabilitate and educate then perhaps they should be listening to the founder, and discussing alternative housing in the form of sea pens.

      I’m afraid there is no faith that the park is heading in a direction that best suits the dolphin’s needs. Many of those who protested at the park HAVE in fact been to Japan and are involved in many campaigns to improve the treatment of dolphins. They have a wealth of experience and are backed by marine biologists around the world, some whom were present on Saturday too. It blows my mind that an organisation just ignores all this and tries to turn it into a local issue, making out we are against the people and economy of Coffs Harbour.

      You talk about awareness of all the issues at play here, but I have my doubts about the awareness of the pro-DMM protesters. We were repeatedly told to go home and just shouted at “WHAAAT?” when we tried to put some points across. I think they were there because they felt it was an attack on their local community from a bunch of out of towners. I can assure them, and you, that was not the case.


  3. John · · Reply

    Dolphin Marine Magic spends around $100,000 a year on animal rescues, Remember the dolphin calf in Yamba that was monitored captured and released back to it’s mum and the one sick and unwell they fixed up and released back into the Nambucca water way and the Dolphin released south of the harbour?
    do you remember the young seal they rescued and released that hung around for a few days, or the many floating turtles, and also the Bellingen river turtles that caught a virus, Dmm was there.

    How much has Australia for dolphins spent on Looking after any marine creatures? I Believe Nothing.

    They raised about $400,000 dollars in donations last year, paid themselves their salaries, Plus the charity pays for their expenses.
    They paid over $100,000 for a court case so the Ceo Sarah Lucas could visit a dolphin in the Taiji Whale Museum in Japan.
    Money well spent ? Angel the dolphin is still there.

    Ric O’Barry has said “Dolphin Project’s position has always remained the same: Nobody should be asking for donations for a dolphin that is not in their legal possession. Having possession is the first, crucial step in any dolphin rescue and release process. Without possession, it would be unethical to raise money.

    I keep hearing that Dmm is all about money …… they are looking after their dolphins and showing them, and using some of the money raised to rescue and rehabilitate wild animals.

    Who is really all about the money ?

    The folks whom rehabilitate or the folks whom raise money for themselves and talk about it ?


    1. Spending $100,000 on good work does not justify the continued mistreatment of dolphins by keeping them in unsuitable enclosures. As a business that seems to have rescue and rehabilitation at its heart, at least that is certainly how in was started, I find the reluctance to discuss sea pen sanctuaries strange.

      I am not directly affiliated with Australia for Dolphins, so do not speak for them, but they are strongly focused on legislative change and public awareness as that seems to be where the real action is going to come from. I’m not too interested in the old dirty tactic of questioning where a charity’s money is going – not because I think it shouldn’t be under scrutiny, it most certainly should – but because I don’t see any issue here. Australia for Dolphins are very open about their work not being just in Australia, and again are open about the particular attention paid to the situation in Japan.

      I am not aware of the context of the quote from Ric O’Barry, so I can’t comment. Maybe there is a difference of opinion there, however one view both Dolphin Project and Australia for Dolphins are very much aligned with is the ‘Empty the Tanks’ campaign that occurred over the weekend.

      I guess any criticism that may be aimed at DMM about being driven by money is that it certainly appears from the outside that profits, or rather fall in revenue, seems to be holding them back from moving forward to a potential sea pen sanctuary.


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