This was how my first call of the day started. I had no idea just what the guest in question was referring to, but I’d heard the statement before; everyone in Niagara Falls has.
Bear with me, this one is different, but I should have written it years ago. But I stayed the course and wrote about crazy travelers when I should have been a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, at least not in a language we can understand, that is. Most people will tell you they “love animals”, but how many of us have the courage to stand behind those words when it counts?
This week, in my hometown of Niagara Falls, there is only one topic of conversation that is “trending” at the grassroots level; the horrific allegations of abuse leveled against local amusement and animal exhibition park Marineland. For decades, locals like myself have heard countless stories from current and former Marineland employees concerning the horrible operating conditions at one of the city’s most popular attractions. The stories always followed the same trend:
- All of the animals have been underfed to the point of malnutrition.
- The sea creatures’ habitats and tanks haven’t been properly maintained.
- The décor and the general “feel” of the park hasn’t changed or been updated for decades. Seriously, its sad.
- Staff members feel they have been treated like something the owner found on the bottom of his shoes.
And that’s where Marineland owner John Holer, appears to have made his greatest tactical error; for decades he has treated his staff worse than the animals they care for and they have had enough. They are now speaking out and the mainstream media is finally ready to listen. In short, there is blood in the water and the sharks are circling.
And their numbers are growing by the day.
The Toronto Star was the first news outlet to turn their attention to Marineland – despite the best efforts of animal activists, no one has ever truly shone a bright enough light on Marineland to warrant the full attention of the world – but they will most certainly not be the last.
At this point it is important to stress one fact: THESE ARE UNVERIFIED ALLEGATIONS. No one has proven anything. However, these allegations have been floating around the city of decades and NO ONE HAS EVER CARED ENOUGH ABOUT THESE HELPLESS SEA CREATURES TO EVEN INVESTIGATE THEM SERIOUSLY.
I deal with dozens of tourists every day who tell me of their plans to visit Marineland and even though I’ve heard the “major-league rip-off” comment before – and experienced it first-hand as a dad accompanying his child on school trips – I ignored them and eagerly recommended Marineland to hundreds of guest over the years. I was just doing my job.
So why do I feel like a complete and total fool?