Marine Parks: A Billion Dollar Industry Built on Misery

In the summer of 1969, I sat for an interview on a local Los Angeles TV talk show called “Let’s Talk About.” The host of the show was Keith Walker, a sometime actor and screenwriter who would go on to write the story and screenplay for “Free Willy,” a 1993 movie about an orca who escapes from a marine park with the help of a boy. In the movie, most of Willy’s scenes were played by an animatronic orca, but some were played by a real orca named Keiko. Keiko was found by movie scouts at a run-down park in Mexico, where he lived in a tank only one foot longer than he was. The publicity from Keiko’s role in the movie led to an effort to free him back into the wild. It took until 2002, but Keiko was finally released into his native waters off Iceland. Sadly, overweight and in ill health from his years in captivity, he died one year later.

Keiko was not alone in his suffering. Aquariums and marine mammal theme parks like SeaWorld in San Diego, Orlando, and San Antonio, and Miami’s Seaquarium have long been a part of a billion-dollar industry built on misery. For intelligent, social animals, captivity in a marine park is a life sentence of loneliness, boredom, forced labor, and anguish.

Tilikum, a star attraction at SeaWorld Orlando, died in a concrete prison 33 years after he was taken away from his family in the cold waters off Iceland. For Lolita, torn away from her family in Washington’s Puget Sound when she was just a baby, this summer will mark a half a century in the same tank at the Miami Seaquarium. An orca named Kiska, abducted from her family as a baby, has been swimming in endless circles in a cramped tank in Canada’s MarineLand in Niagara Falls for 40 years. The most famous orca of all, Shamu, was captured after her mother was harpooned and killed and she refused to leave her mother’s body. Shamu was only nine years old when she died of septicemia from unhealthy living conditions at SeaWorld San Diego.

Frequently housed with incompatible tankmates, dolphins, whales, and other marine mammals are often drugged in order to manage stress-induced aggressive behavior and relieve the monotony of swimming in endless circles. They break their teeth chewing on the metal bars and concrete sides of their tanks and are forced to perform ridiculous and unnatural tricks for tourists in exchange for food—all in the name of “entertainment.”

While wild female orcas can live to be more than 100 years old, orcas at SeaWorld often die by the time they reach their teens and rarely approach even the average life expectancy of wild orcas. More than 40 orcas have died at SeaWorld from causes such as bacterial infections and fractured skulls. More than 300 other dolphins and whales along with approximately 400 pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses) have also died at the parks.

“Touch tanks” as well as “swim with dolphins” and “paint with dolphins” programs allow the public to pet, kiss, paint with, or even ride these animals. Such programs invade the animals’ already diminished worlds and are intrusive, stressful, and even dangerous for them, as well as being risky for human participants.

Animals in “petting pools” are frequently exposed to foreign bacteria and other pathogens, and they can become anxious, frustrated, aggressive, and even neurotic as a result of being confined to shallow tanks and exposed to constant interaction with humans. Members of the public have been injured at SeaWorld’s dolphin-petting pools.

Even programs that enable people to swim with dolphins in nature can be invasive. Boats and swimmers may chase, harass, and scare them, interfering with their natural feeding, resting, migrating, and playing behavior. Dolphins may be smart and sociable animals, but they don’t want to swim with you any more than you want a strange family to show up at your house for supper and hang around all evening.

Captive marine mammals have some federal protections in the U.S., but enforcement is lax. There are simply too many animal exhibitors for the limited number of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors – as of February 2020, there were only 104 inspectors for 12,851 facilities. Even when exhibitors are cited for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, they are rarely assessed fines or meaningful penalties.

The world is moving away from keeping intelligent, sensitive cetaceans in captivity. In the U.S., the National Aquarium is building a seaside sanctuary – a safe ocean cove in which marine mammals can be released into a protected area of the sea to dive deep, feel the ocean currents, and finally live like they should, all while still receiving care, food, and veterinary support. Two whales have been moved from a marine park in China to a seaside sanctuary in Iceland, and The Whale Sanctuary Project just announced plans for a seaside sanctuary for rescued orcas and belugas in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Please don’t spend your money at marine parks and aquariums that keep ocean animals in captivity. Encourage them to create more space for rehabilitating (and releasing) injured wildlife by refusing to breed more animals. Pressure government officials not to subsidize these facilities with taxpayer money, and support legislation that prohibits the capture or restricts the display of marine mammals.

Please join me in urging SeaWorld and other marine parks to stop imprisoning animals and to relocate the orcas, bottlenose dolphins, and other animals to seaside sanctuaries, where they can thrive in the enrichment and diversity of the sea while still receiving the care that they require.

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet.

The Olympics Are Anything But Games to Abused Horses

The Olympic Games are allegedly about encouraging peace, mutual understanding, and respect through sporting competition. Sadly, this respect is not extended to the animal athletes. While humans like Simone Biles got lots of media coverage and sympathy for her emotional struggles, little attention was paid to horses being badly abused or, in one tragic instance, dying in competition.

Equestrian sport has a long history of callousness. Two years before the London 2012 Olympics, a video emerged of a training method – the rollkur technique – that even a leading dressage coach admitted was “vile” and “cruel.” It involves drawing the horse’s neck round in a deep curve so that its nose almost touches its chest. The video in question showed a rider warming up his horse for a sustained period of time in the position, with the horse’s tongue appearing to loll out and go blue. After debate about the issue at the time, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) condemned the practice.

In 2002, a report from the Daily Telegraph which detailed “frequent incidents of violence” against dressage horses at competitions, including attacks that left horses with “torn mouths and bloodied flanks”, plagued the industry for years, although issues on this scale haven’t been widely reported for some time. The attacks – which were unconnected to the Tokyo Olympics – included riders whipping, beating and kicking horses. Some used spurs to cut the skin of the horses or wrenched the bridle as punishment after the horse failed to trot in the way the rider wanted.

Equipment used in equestrian sport – such as nosebands, spurs and shock collars – are intended to cause horses pain and discomfort to horses and make them compliant. Training methods can also cause lameness and other long-term injury to their bodies and minds. Let’s be real: dressage is the equivalent of breaking a horse’s spirit to force it to perform unnatural tricks for humans.

When it comes to dressage in particular, people will tell you that horses cannot be forced to do things they don’t want to, that they’re too big and strong to be bullied. But circuses have shown us that even tigers, elephants and bears can be forced to do all sorts of things they hate or fear while appearing “happy” to audiences.

The world got a rare peek at the cruelty behind the equestrian competition at this year’s Olympic Games when German pentathlon team coach Kim Raisner was disqualified and sent home after she punched a frightened horse. The entire show jumping component of the women’s pentathlon was excruciating to watch. Terrified horses, nervous, emotional riders, and complete, utter disregard for animal welfare. Several riders fell, as horses refused jumps and bucked in protest.

It was the cross-country competition (part of the eventing discipline) that saw the most tragic outcome. A horse named Jet Set on the Swiss eventing team was killed after appearing lame at a fence in the middle of the course.

All riders know that of all the equestrian disciplines, eventing — in particular the cross-country component — is the most dangerous. Eventing has been labelled THE most dangerous sport in the Olympics, and that is not an exaggeration. In a short year and a half between 2007 and 2008, 12 riders died while competing in eventing. Between 1993 and 2019, 71 eventing riders died, 69 while competing, and 2 more while training or warming up for competition. Of the 69 riders that died competing, only three deaths were not at the jump. But riders choose to take these risks. Horses do not.

Jet Set, 2007-2021

Jet Set, the Swiss horse who was killed, is not the first competition fatality. In 2008, a 10-year-old mare Tsunami II died after she somersaulted over a hedge and broke her neck. Later that year, Olympic horse Call Again Cavalier broke his leg in competition and was killed. A year later, an American horse named Bailey Wick died after landing on his neck after a jump. In 2010, Porloe Alvin flipped over a jump and broke his back. He died, too. In 2012, a horse named Sugoi broke his neck and died.

The sport treats injuries and fatalities as a tragic but sometimes unavoidable outcome. Jet Set’s rider Robin Godel said on Instagram that the horse “passed while doing what he loved most: galloping and jumping obstacles.” Did he, or are humans just putting a sentimental spin on animal cruelty?

The latest Olympic Games had numerous lessons for those who care about animals. The biggest lesson of all is that it’s time for equestrian sports to be dropped from the Olympics.

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

To the Egg Industry, Billions of Lives Are “Worthless”

Vive le France! France has banned the mass slaughter of male chicks at egg farms and chick hatcheries. The barbaric practice of gassing, grinding, or suffocating day-old male chicks is business as usual in the egg industry. Male chicks don’t grow up to be egg-laying hens and are therefore considered “worthless.” France follows Germany in enacting the ban and is pushing for a similar ban across Europe.
Here in the U.S., however, politicians in the pocket of agribusiness refuse to consider a similar ban. According to Humane Facts, more than 260 million male chicks are killed each year in the U.S. by suffocation, gassing (carbon dioxide or argon), maceration (fully conscious chicks are dropped into high-speed grinders, or electrocution (a high-speed vacuum sucks chicks through a series of pipes to a kill plate). All mass producers of eggs in the U.S. cull (kill) male chicks or depend upon hatcheries that do so. Mass egg producers account for 95% of egg production, but the other 5% also tend to cull male chicks. Even organic or local farms have their individual practices of killing “worthless” male chicks or letting them die. Globally, some six billion newborn male chicks are killed every year.
United Egg Producers, representing 95% of the commercial egg producers in the U.S., agreed a few years ago to stop the practice by 2020, but seems to have changed their mind. Too expensive, they said, noting that adopting the technology that permits eggs to be sexed after being laid to separate male embryos from female would add two cents to the price of a dozen eggs. Americans, they believe, don’t care about animal cruelty and won’t pay two cents to stop it. Prove them wrong. Demand your legislators end the slaughter of living, breathing, feeling, male chicks now.
Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

Stop the Funding Increase to Animal Torture Labs

In 1997 I traveled to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, to participate in a demonstration against the sadistic torture of animals at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, a 25-acre compound on the Emory campus. More than 10,000 animals, mostly monkeys and small apes, are held captive there, and inflicted with some of the worst pain and abuse humans can dream up, including removing the top of living animals’ skulls to expose or extract the brain, and infecting them with diseases such as malaria, herpes, and AIDS. The motivation is not legitimate scientific research but simply morbid curiosity – how much pain can a monkey endure, for example, before he dies of stress and despair? To hide this chamber of horrors from the public, the Yerkes Research Center is built like a fortress; visitors are definitely not welcome.

As my husband and I and 200 others marched along a road behind the Yerkes Center, we were tracked by a police helicopter while dozens of policemen in full riot gear set up a barricade. When the marchers reached the barricade, the police began spraying them with mace and launching tear gas cannisters. As a clinging, searing cloud of gas spread across the road, demonstrators pushed aside the barricade to escape. That was the signal for the gas-masked police to wade into the crowd, swinging clubs and making arrests. Going into nurse mode, I did what I could to help the fallen until I, too, was blinded by the burning gas and fell along the roadside. A woman came to my aid, pouring her water bottle out over my eyes. Once I was able to see, I searched the chaos and confusion for my husband. I found him lying blinded in the road and, borrowing a bottle of water from someone, flushed his eyes. Fighting for justice comes with risks and free speech often comes at a price. Still, our temporary suffering that day was no match for the horrors inflicted every day on the animal prisoners at Yerkes.

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center and six other taxpayer-funded centers just like it are still up and running, blazing a trail of agony, torment, and death for the animals imprisoned in their laboratories. The trail they haven’t blazed is the one toward marketable vaccines, treatments, or cures for the illnesses that plague humans. The FDA admits that 96% of new medications and vaccines developed in animals fail in human studies (Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, October 2015). Decades of experiments on monkeys at these institutions have also failed to produce promised vaccines for HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and the Zika virus.

Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, the companies that developed the COVID-19 vaccines, have publicly acknowledged that animals are not useful models for vaccines, that mRNA vaccines work very differently in animals compared to humans, and that not a single monkey bred at any of the NPRCs was used to bring those vaccines to the public. Think about it: American taxpayers have been funding the torture, mutilation, and killing of animals at these NPRCs for 60 years, yet when a vaccine was desperately needed to protect the public from a deadly pandemic, not one animal or scrap of data from the NPRCs was used in its development. from the NPRCs was used in its development.

Congress is considering a proposal right now to boost funding of the NPRCs by 27% for fiscal year 2022, an increase of nearly $30 million. Suffering animals need your help immediately. Please urge your representative in Congress to vote against this disastrous proposal. It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, red or blue, is this how you want your tax dollars spent?

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

Prepare Your Animal Companions for Natural Disasters

Out west, wildfire season has come early, and in the eastern and Gulf states it’s already hurricane season. In many places, people will be evacuated, often with little or no advance notice. Now is the time to prepare your animal companions for natural disasters.

In a major disaster, local emergency workers may be stretched to the limit, and it can take days for additional help to arrive from outside your area. The bottom line is that you are the best—maybe even the only—chance your animal has for rescue. It’s really important that you have a plan.

Your plan should cover the different kinds of disasters likely to occur where you live. Do you have hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods? What about wildfires? Earthquakes? You’ll need a plan to evacuate if a fire or flood is headed your way.

Evacuating Your Home

Take your animals. If it’s not safe for you to stay, it isn’t safe for your animals either.

Have an animal disaster kit ready. Your kit should include carriers, leashes, a litter box, and bowls, as well as a three— to five-day supply of pet food, water, and litter. Don’t forget your animal companions’ medical records and medications. Include current photos of each animal, in case they get separated from you during the evacuation. A plastic storage bin is a great way to keep your kit portable and dry. Make sure you can get to your disaster kit quickly.

Prepare your animals early. It can be very hard to load a frightened cat into a carrier or to quickly find a dog who doesn’t always come when called. You may want to confine your animals in the house (or in their carriers) before the actual evacuation order comes. It’s also a good idea to practice evacuating the house with all your animals, in preparation for the day when a firefighter knocks on your door and says you have to be out in five minutes. Of course, your animals should be microchipped and wearing ID tags with your name and cell phone number.

Know where to go. Do you have friends or family nearby who can host you and your animals? Do you know which hotels take animals?  Consider including a list of hotels in your disaster kit.

Have an arrangement with a friend. What if you’re not home when your neighborhood is evacuated? A mutual aid agreement with a neighbor or friend will ensure that your animals get out in time.

Have rescue alert stickers in place. A sticker in windows on all four sides of your residence will alert fire or rescue workers to the fact that your animals may be trapped inside.

Sheltering at Home

Make sure you have plenty of supplies. Have a minimum of 10 days of food and supplies at home. It’s much less stressful for animals to stay in a familiar environment, but if you run out of supplies, you may have to evacuate with your animals to a shelter.

Have a battery-operated radio. If you are sheltering at home to avoid exposure to a toxic spill or a flu epidemic, you’ll need to know when the danger is over. Cell phones lose power and cell phone towers can be put out of commission. A radio (with lots of extra batteries!) will enable you to find out when the coast is clear.

Consider taking a dog and cat first-aid class. In an emergency, a veterinarian may not be immediately available. You might save your dog’s or cat’s life in a disaster by knowing how to stop bleeding or treat for shock. Even without a disaster, your knowledge of how to treat heat stroke or choking may save an animal’s life. To find an animal first-aid class, contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross, or check with your nearest animal shelter.

If you don’t already have an animal disaster kit, take a few minutes today to put a basic one together. Here’s some more information on disaster planning for your animals.

Be prepared, stay safe, and please take a moment to watch this video from an old friend of mine! 

Peace to ALL the animal with whom we share this planet.

Delicious, Cruelty-Free Vegan Pancakes

Who can resist a stack of hot, light, fluffy pancakes? Not me. Being vegan doesn’t stop me from enjoying pancakes, because the ones I make contain no eggs or dairy, meaning no animals are harmed or abused for what I put on my plate.

I don’t do a lot of cooking and I’m no world-class chef, but I can make pancakes and you can, too. So how do you make vegan pancakes without eggs or dairy? It’s simple; the process is pretty much the same as the traditional recipe. You’ll use flour, salt, baking powder, a little sugar, some canola or coconut oil, and your favorite non-dairy milk. I use almond milk, but if you like soy, oat, or any other kind of vegan milk, feel free to use it. You can substitute applesauce for the oil, if you wish, for a little added sweetness.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder (sounds like a lot, but the baking powder is what makes them fluffy)

1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk

3 Tablespoons organic cane sugar

3 Tablespoons canola oil or coconut oil (or applesauce)

1/8 teaspoon salt

vegan buttery spread for griddle or skillet


Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Add wet ingredients and let rise for about five minutes.

Melt a tablespoon of vegan buttery spread in a griddle or large skillet over medium heat.

Pour the batter onto the griddle into as many pancakes as you wish (this recipe makes about eight) and cook until you see the edges start to turn golden brown (about 5 minutes or so).

Flip the pancakes and continue to cook until done, about 3 more minutes.

Serve with vegan buttery spread and syrup, or your favorite fruit topping.

Enjoy these pancakes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are a delicious, cruelty-free way to start or end any day!

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!



It’s Rabbit Awareness Week

In this scene from “Space Academy,” Ric Carrott and I are getting to know a tiny rabbit. I remember that scene very well. When the rabbit was brought onto the set, he was shaking badly, and I refused to shoot the scene with a frightened animal. While everyone waited, I picked up the rabbit and held him, stroking him and talking to him until he grew calm and relaxed. Only then could we get back to work and film that scene.

Did you know that July 15 – July 21 is Rabbit Awareness Week? Did you also know that, because of their gentle temperament and ease of confinement and breeding, more than 170,000 rabbits are killed or mutilated every year in U.S. product testing labs?

Despite the availability of more modern, humane, and effective alternatives, rabbits are still tormented in the notorious Draize eye irritancy test, in which cosmetics, dishwashing liquid, drain cleaner, and other substances are dripped into the animals’ eyes, often causing redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, hemorrhaging, cloudiness, or blindness. After the experiments are over the rabbits are killed. In addition, even though internationally-accepted non-animal methods exist, rabbits’ backs are shaved and corrosive chemicals are applied to their raw skin in skin corrosion tests and left there for up to two weeks. These chemicals often burn the skin, leading to tissue damage. The victims of these tests are given no pain relief during this excruciatingly painful experience and, again, after the test is finished, they are killed.

Horrific experiments like those above are also being done to cats, dogs, mice, rats, primates, and other animals in laboratories around the world. Please say NO to vivisection and boycott any products that have been tested on animals. Shop instead for products packaged with the symbol that says, “NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS.”

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!


Keep Summer Safe for Your Animal Companions

Happy Independence Day! The Fourth of July is considered by many to be the official kickoff to summer fun and recreation. Pet lovers enjoy spending time outside with their animal companions, but here are a few things to remember to keep them safe.

Dogs, cats, and many other animals are less heat tolerant than humans. They don’t sweat to cool down the way humans do and generally have an insulating coat of fur. Panting is one of the main ways dogs and cats expel heat and excessive panting could be a sign of overheating. As a general rule, don’t take your pets for long walks when the temperatures start to rise above 80 degrees. When you do go for walks, make sure to provide plenty of fresh water and avoid black top which can burn the pads on their feet.

Make sure to talk with your veterinarian about flea and tick protection for your pet. Ticks can carry many diseases including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Tick season varies by location and your veterinarian is the best person to ask about the treatment period in your area and which specific preventative they recommend for your pet. Fleas are also a major vector for tape worms and can cause severe dermatitis and allergic problems in many pets. Flea and tick preventatives are generally very safe.

Make sure to keep your pet on year-round heartworm preventative. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and is fatal if left untreated. The treatment for heartworm disease is expensive and dangerous. Even some treated dogs won’t make it, so it is important to take prevention seriously. Heartworm preventatives also prevent intestinal parasites during the winter.

Watch out for summer-specific toxins. These include fireworks, tiki torch fluid, and some species of toads, snakes, and spiders. Research any plants you buy for the yard to ensure that they aren’t toxic. Keep dogs out of warm ponds as they may contain the highly toxic blue green algae. If your pet has exposure to something and you aren’t sure if it is toxic, please contact your veterinarian at once.

Be vigilant at the beach or around the pool. Not all dogs are swimmers. Most dogs will naturally “dog paddle” in water, but that doesn’t mean that they can keep it up for a long time. Many dogs become anxious in the water and could drown because they are scared or grow exhausted. Remember that even strong swimmers can drown if the current is strong. If you intend to do a lot of swimming you may want to consider investing in a life jacket for your dog as a precaution.

Finally, please, please never leave your animal companion in a parked car in the hot sun. If you absolutely must leave your pet alone for a moment, please remember to leave a window rolled down enough to allow fresh air in but not far enough for him or her to climb out and get lost or hurt.

Have a safe summer.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

Sound Advice for Noisy Holidays

Next weekend is the Fourth of July, a day many pet owners, myself included, dread, because we know that holiday fireworks frighten and kill pets and wild animals. I know firsthand from my time as Director of Public Relations for New York City’s Center for Animal Care and Control that more dogs go missing on July 4 than any other day of the year. Some turn up at shelters while many more never make it home alive. Elsewhere, wild birds become disoriented and abandon their nests, leaving little ones to die, and other animals are poisoned by eating firework residue.
 Please don’t “celebrate” this holiday or any other by causing pain, fear, confusion, and death, and protect your companion animals from being frightened by the thoughtless “celebrations” of others. If fireworks are inevitable in your neighborhood, follow these six tips to make your dog feel safe:
 1. Keep your dog on a leash when in or out of the house to prevent bolting from unexpected noises or flashes of light.
2. Be sure your dog is wearing a visible, up-to-date ID tag on the collar. Be sure you have a current photo of your dog.
3. Take a long walk and make sure your dog’s bladder and bowels are empty before festivities begin.
4. Keep your dog in a crate or small room during festivities. Make sure favorite toys and foods are available. Swaddle with an anxiety wrap or thunder jacket, if needed.
5. To mask noises, play soft, gentle music in the room where your dog is staying. Close doors, windows, and shades to dampen loud noises and bright lights.
6. Stay calm yourself, and spray the room or crate pillow with a calming mist.
 Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!