Meet the Coffs Harbour High School student who failed a subject she was ranking first in, because she refused to visit a law-breaking marine park on principle.
A few weeks ago Australia for Dolphins travelled to Coffs Harbour to attend a protest at a controversial marine park called Dolphin Marine Magic. While we were there we met a lot of amazing and committed animal welfare advocates, including one incredible High-School student called Anna*, who was attending her first ever protest.
Anna is a high-achieving student with aspirations to work combating environmental, social, and animal welfare issues. She attended the protest at Dolphin marine Magic on her own –motivated by a strong moral conviction that keeping intelligent animals like dolphins in captivity for entertainment purposes is fundamentally wrong.
At the protest, Anna told us that she was ranking first in her biology class when her school set a practical component for the semester that involved visiting captive dolphins at Dolphin Marine Magic. Knowing that she would get a zero grade for the practical, remarkably Anna stood her ground.
“I refused to go to DMM for my Biology excursion as I completely oppose the notion of keeping animals in captivity for human entertainment,” she told AFD. “No living creature should have to live a life of slavery, and there was no way I was going to support a business that goes against so many of my values.”
Now Anna is engaged in negotiations with her school to cancel the annual visit to Dolphin Marine Magic all together. Nowhere in the syllabus does it suggest schools should visit marine parks, nor is it a requirement of the subject. She rightly points out that visiting Dolphin Marine Magic to learn how dolphins ‘adapt in their natural environment’ as part of a subject on evolution is inherently ‘ironic’, and counter-intuitive.
When asked what her ideal vision for the rehabilitation of marine life in Coffs Harbour would look like, Anna wants to see a system where the chain of captivity is broken, and animals can be rehabilitated in their natural environment instead of being used for entertainment. “I would love to see a sea sanctuary where dolphins, once treated, are able to live if they are unable to return to the wild,” she says.
Ideally, Anna’s vision is a model that Australia for Dolphins hopes to achieve. We are working with local marine rescue experts on the plan for a dedicated sanctuary for injured and stranded dolphins. A sea sanctuary would be a more humane home for the dolphins. Dolphin Marine Magic fails to meet NSW animal welfare standards, which is not ideal for the animals.
Anna’s fortitude in standing up against dolphin captivity, even when she knew it would adversely affect her grades, is inspiring. Taking it further and working with the school’s administration to end the visits and educate people about the cruelty of keeping dolphins in captivity shows true leadership skills.
If the next generation of dolphin welfare advocates are anywhere near as intelligent and committed as Anna, there is no doubt that cetacean captivity is on its way out.
*Note: the student’s real name has not been used in an effort to protect her identity.