It’s been a real long time since I’ve posted a blog, yet I don’t ordinarily post one on here, on my Straight Fire blog, about my activist opinions. I just didn’t see any other way to get this out there.
As an anti-captivity animal activist, I haven’t exactly been doing all that much as of late. The crew whom I normally run with has had some changes in the past year. Mike Garrett who always ran amazing and family friendly demos outside of Marineland’s property in Niagara Falls, had to step down, and for me, who trusts and respects him immensely found that I could no longer take part in the demos. Also, life gets in the way when one has a toddler and a husband who need me. I still post, and I still do my best to educate people about the perils of life in captivity for animals. Especially marine mammals. I still do my best to bring support to former Marineland Trainer, Phil Demers, to help his lawsuit against Marineland, who is suing him for plotting to steal a walrus. But this is not what this blog is currently about.
For years, Marineland has been in a shroud of controversy. From a 2012 Toronto Star article bringing light to some abusive and questionable practices of the Niagara park. Also, the owner, John Holer, as well has been in a shroud of controversy. Making threats to Garrett, stalking Demers, and suing anyone who speaks negatively of the park and of himself.
But I am not here to talk about John Holer, the parks owner. I am here to say a few things that I believe are important to talk in the light of his recent passing.
As an activist, sometimes the drama of it all can trump logical thoughts. A quick reaction, maybe of the heart, beats the brain to thinking of the short of things and not seeing the long picture. I have some very close friends who are amazing women and men. We are not blinded that Holer wasn’t a saint. But he was a man, a husband, father, and grandfather. He was a business man who literally started with barely enough money to accomplish much. Times have changed immensely since he started Marineland 56 years ago. And I think a lot of activist have forgotten that. I’m not the only one. The night before, when everything was just a rumour, I was ready to throw a party. Call it a quick reaction, but in all honesty, it was just a rumour before I went to bed. I would never wish death on anyone or anything. Karma has a funny way. I woke up to confirmation to that rumour and my first thought wasn’t about what a bad man he was to the animals, nope. My first thought was, what’s next. What is next for the animals who are in that park? I also thought about how his wife must be feeling, and his children and grandchildren. Losing a family member is a difficult thing to deal with. What about losing a high profile family member who wasn’t necessarily liked in the public? The dread of the reaction. The heartless comments. Comments that no family should ever have to endure. As animal activists, we are suppose to be compassionate, and educated, logical, and full of love for animals and living things. However, some of the comments that I read on people’s posts, even after they asked for respectful comments as the animals are the priority at this time, people still were saying awful and negative things about Holer. I am so lucky that my friends at Ontario Captive Animal Watch, Mike Garrett and Phil Demers, all took the time to send sincere condolences to the Holer family despite being involved in legal battles, and trespassing battles. They showed compassion to the family, who must be having a difficult time right now. This what makes these people so amazing. So thank-you.
With John Holer’s passing, comes a new round of questions. What’s going to happen to Marineland? What will happen to the animals? Will his family keep the business going? Will it be sold? If it’s sold, are the new owners going to keep the animals or sell them? What about the sea pen? There are just so many questions and no one has these answers at this time. What we don’t want is the sale of these animals. The only place that would likely take an aging, lone orca, and 52-plus beluga whales is China. And currently that is the worst thing to happen. There are little to no animal welfare laws in China, and not only that, all the hard work that OCAW, Garrett, Demers and some of Canada’s amazing Senators work to pass Bill S-203 might mean nothing and not pass if there are no animals here to govern. The end goal has been and will still be, seeing Kiska, and those beluga’s in a seaside sanctuary in sea pens. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Whale Sanctuary Project is at least 3 years away from being ready. I just hope settling Holer’s estate doesn’t go faster than that. Holer’s death isn’t a win for Activists. We haven’t won nothing until 1) Bill S-203 has passed and made law in all of Canada; 2) Kiska and those beluga’s are in a sanctuary.
John Holer started Marineland on $2,000 fifty-six years ago, with just sea lions, and has turned that $2,000 into a multi-million dollar company. At the time, bringing in orcas and dolphins and beluga’s so the public could see such amazing creatures was something of an accomplishment. Marineland was the place where I first saw these animals back in the 1980’s. I can’t hate him for that. He was once a smart and savvy business man. Times have changed, and his vision did not. He wasn’t the first person not to change their views or ways, and he certainly won’t be the last. The fight isn’t over. A whole new one just started.
With the utmost sincerity, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the Holer Family, Friends, and Employees at this difficult time. To the people who are thinking so negatively about John Holer, remember your compassion, and remember that he was important to some people, and right now, they are hurting.
Rest In Peace John!