– By Genevieve Wauchope
Social media can be flooded with calls to action for all sorts of things, but two weeks ago we were treated to a wonderful reminder of just how powerful it can be.
The Sydney Swans cancelled their planned trip to Dolphin Marine Magic because they were made aware of how the community viewed their actions. What we think, as a large group of people prepared to act, counts.
So far not much has changed for Bucky (the 45 year old dolphin forced to perform tricks even while in remission for cancer).
So far dolphins are still kept in pools that are so small they break welfare requirements, following an exemption granted by minister Katrina Hodgkinson (only two months after her children were given free dolphin rides at the park).
Yesterday, AFD lodged a complaint with ICAC, the Independent Commission Against Corruption. ICAC will now consider the complaint and decide whether to investigate Ms Hodgkinson. Those free swims for her children may have had nothing to do with her decision to exempt Dolphin Marine Magic from animal welfare requirements. But the minister showed a remarkable disregard for both community expectation and animal welfare.
Whether or not ICAC goes ahead with an investigation, it’s been made very clear that the community doesn’t take this type of behaviour lightly. When people know that basic welfare considerations aren’t being met, they don’t like it. This much was made clear this week when the revelations of animal abuse in greyhound racing prompted massive public outcry.
There is no comparably gruesome footage depicting the suffering of dolphins in captivity in Australia. No specific, documented examples we can point to, like an orca bleeding to death, or pregnant and stuck in a gate.
Just the cruelty of keeping a strong, intelligent animal in a small pool for the entirety of its life so that it can perform repetitive tricks for food. The deprivation of keeping a social animal, born to swim far and free, confined in a tank.
As people grow to realise that those big, trademark ‘smiles’ are born of hunger – a once powerful predator reduced to begging for food – things will surely change. They must.
And it seems they have started to…
When the Swans cancelled their trip to Dolphin Marine Magic due to community pressure, it became national news that the park is under investigation by the Department of Primary Industries (Katrina Hodgkinson’s own department).
That action stemmed from an AFD petition that demanded an inquiry in the park and its practices, signed by 12,000 of you.
Australian organisations such as Village Roadshow, who is planning to help SeaWorld expand its empire into Asia, would do well to remember that corporate partnerships that impact on the welfare of cetaceans can backfire. And to take into consideration that there is a community out there (that we are a part of!) who will act in the best interests of dolphins.
It is, now more than ever, a global world. What we do matters. Not just here, but in other places that can be influenced by our actions. It is our responsibility to educate people that may not yet realise that the lie of a dolphins’ smile is a genetic quirk that has brought them only misery.
So, when you sign a petition or engage in online activism, what are you really doing? You are starting a powerful sequence of events that will, hopefully, change the life an elderly dolphin who should be returned to the sea to live his remaining days in peace – instead of dragging footy players & ministers’ children around an undersized tank.