Thursday, April 5, 2012

SeaWorld and their famous "Killer Whales"!

"Loved sitting and watching the dolphins in the underwater cave (so peaceful) and being able to feed and touch them above the water. Think it’s a good idea that it’s only certain times of day now at an extra price because before it was too overcrowded and could get close. Best part of the day!!" -AMY 

This is a quote taken directly from SeaWorld Orlando's website. To me this screams ignorance, to others perhaps a fun outing. For years SeaWorld has been a destination for many to watch the famous "Killer Whale" shows. The public are mesmerized by these beautiful mammals performing tricks and splashing the hundreds watching with water. The impression given by the "trainers" to the visitors of these parks are always positive and happy. "The Orcas are happy. The Orca's enjoy doing trick's to a packed audience. The Orca's belong here." These are among the many quotes I found while digging up old articles from an Orca attack last year (if you are not familiar with this attack I suggest searching for it - very interesting indeed). Upon further research I was, yet again, appalled with mankind. I have spent two very long weeks researching the Orca's kept specifically at SeaWorld. Some of the things I discovered were not only heartbreaking but also mind blowing. 

The collapsed dorsal fin is the first indication as to the many problems captivity can cause on such a powerful and large mammal. A theory from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) claims that life in captivity lowers an Orca's blood pressure due to little or no activity compared to their extremely active lives in Open Ocean. They also report that due to poor diet, lack of space and overheating of the fin itself can also be a reason for the collapse. Whatever the reason, something clearly is not right here. This is not a normal thing in the wild. In fact, it is reported to be extremely rare and unheard of.

Another health problem I stumbled upon was the extreme amount of dental work performed on these "happy" creatures. One ex-trainer has come out of the wood-work to explain to the public about some of the things she had experienced behind-the-scenes at SeaWorld. You can find the interview I am referring to here. According to Samantha Berg, the Orca's grind their teeth on the metal barriers in their enclosures. Don't be fooled though, this is not out of boredom, but purely out of frustration and anger. Thus causing their teeth to break or become much damaged. This requires many hours of painful dental surgeries on the teeth of these magnificent creatures. This would be completely unnecessary if they were just left in the wild where they belong. There is no scientific evidence to prove that Orca's do this in the wild.

The frustration of being kept in captivity often causes the Orca's to become angry and annoyed with their trainers. Often Orca's will "defy" authority and decide not to do the tricks they have been commanded to do. This sadly leads to brutal attacks on SeaWorld trainers that have even resulted in death. Yet another indication, to me, that Orcas are too smart and also too dangerous to be kept in captivity. Why would SeaWorld put their employees at risk? The fatal attack on Dawn last year from an Orca who had previously killed TWO other SeaWorld trainers should be enough indication to the company to stop artificially inseminating their Killer Whales. Let's end this cycle now before more innocent people get injured by innocent animals that are clearly just angry for being imprisoned in a concrete cell.

Artificial insemination is another hot topic I'd like to discuss. Apparently SeaWorld are culprits of altering a natural and time-consuming process. It has been reported by ex-trainers that many of the female Orcas are inseminated well before they are naturally ready to have babies. One female was inseminated at two years old. This is extremely young for an Orca to give birth and raise a calf. In the wild a female typically becomes sexually mature between the ages of six to ten. SeaWorld has been criticized for this matter but continues to force young female Orca's to give birth at a young age - often resulting in still-births and many miscarriages. Most of these are left unreported to the media, leaving the public to think that it doesn't happen. A female Orca is way too young to care for her calf at that young of age (should the calf survive) and it is usually separated from her care shortly after its birth. So not only are they treating their females like baby factories, but they are taking these beautiful creatures babies away from them. I can't even imagine how awful that must feel for the mother. Upon further research I was shocked to learn that SeaWorld breeds their most dangerous male Orca, who has a history of attacking trainers. I don't understand the logic of breeding an animal with such a violent history.

Orcas do not belong in a cement cage. They are highly intelligent, sophisticated beings that need to be out in the open ocean. I cannot stress enough to rethink a family vacation to SeaWorld or any other aquarium that holds ocean mammals. You will most definitely feel better about yourself and your decision to help the Orca's in the long run. I would rather spend a lifetime trying to save money to see these magnificent creatures in the wild than see them jumping around in a pool doing stupid tricks. Just imagine how awful YOU would feel if you were forced to live in a small area, had your food rationed and then forced to perform the same tricks over and over again to a massive audience? I know that I would hate it. I don't like being forced to do things I don't want to. Therefore we shouldn't get the Orca's to do it either. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm bloody sick of all this plastic...!

Recently Jeff and I watched a documentary called "Bag It!" (very good, you should certainly check it out). We were both ashamed to admit we had no idea how terrible plastic is for the earth and your body. I was also appalled to learn about the many ways that plastic bottles and plastic bags have an immense impact on our environment. It really got us thinking about the types of things we buy and how we take the earth for granted.

We really want to protect the earth for our children's children and many generations to come. I am disgusted with myself for not further researching the consequences of plastic on our surroundings. This has led us to try and "de-plastic" our existence. It is merely impossible for us to irradiate plastic 100% but there are a few things we have done to make our lives a little less...cluttered with plastic!

The first major change we made was investing in reusable material grocery bags. We have finally said "good-bye" to plastic grocery bags forever. We have learned that most plastic grocery bags are not recyclable at all. This means that even though we have been throwing countless bags in our recycle bin, it still ends up in the landfill. The bags are just sitting around with other non bio-degradable items. This means that we are directly polluting our earth without a care in the world. Our abandoned plastic bags get picked up by the wind and end up floating around in the air until they hit a river or the woods. Animals get trapped in plastic bags daily. Don't believe me? Google images contains thousands of images of every-day animals (including cats and dogs) trapped in plastic bags that have been picked up by the wind and dropped in the areas they live. The re-usable bags cost us $1. Upon further research I was excited to learn that one cloth bag equals the same amount of energy to produce as about 28 grocery shopping or eight paper bags! I also found this quote online somewhere (and I don't have a link so please don't bite my head off for this) "An unpublished report from the UK's Environment Agency found that when compared to a traditional plastic bad, a canvas or cotton reusable bag would have to be reused a total of 171 times to offset the higher carbon emissions". Sounds like a lot, but 171 times isn't much. Especially if you use it for clothes shopping, book shopping, picnics and grocery shopping.

The next major change we made is ridding our lives of plastic bottles (soda and water)forever. Plastic bottles are a huge culprit in pollution to the ocean. I had no idea that many dead sea creatures, including my beloved whales, dolphins and sharks, have stomachs loaded with pieces of broken plastic. We bought some aluminium water bottles that we can re-fill at water fountains should we need more water. My heart breaks thinking about dolphins that may confuse a piece of broken plastic as a fish. Not yummy, and not good for him at all. Some of the plastic that ends up in the oceans is recyclable. I'd like to encourage you all to learn about the many ways you can use, re-use and recycle plastic. Don't be one of those people that assumes that trash just "goes away" and you never have to deal with it again. At some point, whether it be in your future or your children's lifetime, someone you are related to will indeed have to address the issue of mountains of plastic that had been carelessly thrown to the wind.

Here is a picture of the contents of a whales stomach. After the majority of the krill had decomposed this is what was left - tons of tiny pieces of plastic!

The last major change may be the hardest for us. We are going to try our hardest not to buy any food in a single-serving plastic bag. What a waste of plastic and a waste of energy to create said plastic. We have decided that it is impossible to stick to this 100%, but we are going to try and invest in food that isn't just for one use etc. It is quite hard to distinguish between what a "single-serving plastic container/bag" could be. For example the only organic iceberg lettuce our Walmart has is in a plastic wrapping. Would you consider this to be a single-serving bag? Let me know what you think, because quite honestly I have no idea. One would think that it's not, mainly because you can use the lettuce for several different meals throughout the week. The reason I am torn with this particular item is that it ends up in a ziplock bag in the fridge! Regardless, we are going to try harder to make smarter choices with food packaging.

It's nice to know that we are doing our part, even if it's not the biggest step we could take. As a family on a budget with very little money to spend, we are trying to make it work the best we can. Every day we take steps towards a healthier, greener and natural lifestyle. I am so proud of how far we've come in the last four years. Things we used to take for granted previously are now being respectfully addressed. This earth is not just for us, it's for our children and our children's children and for the hundreds of thousands of animals who's species were here long before humans. I refuse to sit back and carelessly pollute our Environment all because we were too inconsiderate to fully think about the impact our lifestyle would have?! No thanks, I'd rather create a good habit now, so our children will understand and will teach generations of our family how to respect the earth we live on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why I decided to stop eating seafood!

I suspect in the next five years I will fully make the transition to vegan-living. At the moment that is just not possible living on such a small and tight budget. I refuse to spend so much money on food only for myself when we have two very cute and hungry little ones that are more important. I recently decided, around Christmas time, to stop eating fish. Why, you ask? Because of my love for the creatures in the ocean. Not so much shrimp, or crab or even fish, just mainly the dolphins, whales and sharks. You may be wondering what that has to do with eating shellfish? Well, my dear friend, I feel that I am contradicting myself when I explain about the dolphin slaughtering in Taiji and also the whaling in Antarctica by the Japanese to people who ask me about my love for the ocean.

I don't get to explain my passion for Dolphins, whales and sea creatures very often, but when I do I have been asked, on several occasions, "well, do you eat seafood?". I always feel ashamed when I answer "yes, I love it". And it's true, I love seafood, nearly all kinds. Thinking about it now has my mouth watering. Although I love to eat it, the Japanese love to eat whale and dolphin too. To them, that is their "culture" (even though whaling is a thing of the past - which I find a country so "advanced" with their technology to be practicing such a dated past-time is astounding). They like to eat these creatures and consider them "sea-food" the same way you and I consider shrimp, crab and salmon as normal. I decided that it would be more realistic for me to show people my true passion for these creatures. I don't eat any seafood at all, big or small, shellfish or not. I have a true reason to be angry at the Japanese and also people in general for making such a large impact on the largest Eco-system on our planet.

So far I feel great about my decision. I no longer feel like I'm contradicting myself. How can I tell people the Japanese are wrong for eating whale and dolphin (and shark too) when I am eating shrimp and fish weekly? One could argue that I am just as bad as them. My decision has made me feel better about supporting the initial cause I hope to dedicate my life to. It has also made me heavily consider a vegan lifestyle (just for myself, I would never make my family do something they didn't want too. Plus Jeff is a meat man and I could never pry him away from a juicy steak!). This being said, I am not asking you, or anyone else for that matter, to stop eating fish. I am just asking that more people become aware of what is really going on in this world. This needs to stop and it needs to stop now. I can't put enough emphasis on the fact that most of the world is walking around with no idea just how awful the slaughtering of hopeless wild creatures actually is.

Take the time to educate yourself. I strongly suggest watching "The Cove". It's a great starting point. If you are a little hesitant to watch this, then perhaps "Whale Wars" is more up your ally. Either way, research, read. Even if you watch the cove and feel nothing at all (how can you not?) at least you know. Knowledge is power. If this doesn't stop the Ocean will most probably collapse in the next 15 years or so. Every animal in the ocean needs another animal to continue the "circle of life". If you eradicate the Whales and Dolphins there will be a huge problem on our hands. I urge you to get involved or to at least enlighten yourself on the situation in Japan.

If that doesn't change your mind then what would?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why I love the Dolphins so much!

About three and a half years ago I took a trip to the Florida keys with my family and best friend from England, Jenni. We spent the majority of the trip taking care of Autumn and my little sister, Ellie, by the fabulous pool. On one of our last days my mum and dad treated Jenni and I to a trip to the Dolphin research Center in Marathon, Florida. To make a long story short we got to swim with a beautiful and intelligent young dolphin named Jax. The thing that got me was the way Jax would look me right in the eye, looking deep into my soul. He could sense any anxiety, pain or unhappiness I may have had at that point in my life. He could see through my fake-smile and he just knew. I am convinced to this day that all dolphins are far more intelligent that scientists ever give them credit for. It was a beautiful moment that I shared with this mammal and my love for this creature will never die.

I have felt tremendous guilt since my visit to the research center. I feel that the research center may have bought their dolphins from Taiji, Japan, an awful town that captures wild dolphins and sells them to aquariums, research-centers and zoo's across the world. Not only this, but, they also kill hundreds and thousands of defenseless dolphins every single year and sell the meat to the Japanese people, who often have no idea they are consuming Dolphin. It is even sold to schools and children eat this high-mercury containing mammal without a second thought. Not only is this harmful to their health, it's also wrong. Plain wrong. How many people are buying dolphin-meat that is labeled as something else? How many people are walking around not even thinking about how much mercury they could have coursing through their veins? The guilt I carry on my shoulders from this breaks my heart on a daily basis. To think that little Jax could have been captured from the wild, against his will, and transported across the world for my enjoyment purpose-only just kills me.

Every day animals are exploited and used for humans sick pleasure. I wish I could save them all. The fact of the matter is that I had a deep-connection (or I'd like to think I did) with Jax. His little helpless face continues to haunt me to this day. I try not to think about him being captured, wrongfully, and being taken away from all he knows. It's easier to remain ignorant but I refuse to do so. I cannot sit back and let the fisherman of Taiji continue to hurt the dolphins in such a cruel and unjust ways. I know that I wouldn't like it if I was kidnapped from my surroundings and forced into a life that I didn't agree with. I try to take this stance with Dolphins. It's unrealistic to think that I can save them all on my own. It is, however, realistic to think that I can educate as many people as possible about the fisherman in Taiji, Japan!

I'm not asking anyone to donate money (if you'd like to help the cause to STOP the dolphin slaughter in Taiji contribute money to the good volunteers here ) I'm asking people to think about the dolphins. When visiting an aquarium, zoo or research-center that contain Dolphins re-think if it's worth it? Do you want to give the establishment your money so they can wrongfully capture more dolphins for your own entertainment? Do you think it's right that an intelligent, kind and good-natured creature is being kidnapped from the wild so you can watch it jump out of the water for 20 minutes of your life? That's pretty sick in my personal opinion. My advice to you, should you take it, is to see dolphins in their natural habitat. Not only are they even more spectacular than at sea-world, they are also happier. I truly hope in the years to come, the water in the cove in Japan remains the normal blue that it is when dolphins aren't being slaughtered. Until then I will continue to educate and talk about this awful thing happening right before our eyes. Boycott aquariums, raise awareness and share the love. Well at least that is my personal goal.