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Big Protest at Marineland Sends Visitors Home

marineland-protest-082012A week of shocking revelations about conditions at Canada’s busiest marine park culminated in the largest-ever protest outside the gates of this zoo/circus.

About 500 people paraded with signs, t-shirts, buttons and literature, asking visitors not to go in.

Organized by Marineland Animal Defense (M.A.D.), the two-hour event was peaceful but loud, with the protesters chanting “Their blood is on your hands” and “Stop and think about where your money goes.”

“This is the biggest protest in the history of Marineland,” said organizer Dylan Powell. “We’ve had about a dozen families turn away. One tore up their season’s pass.”

Also present was Phil Demers, the senior trainer who blew the whistle on Marineland, telling the Toronto Star about the shocking conditions at the facility. He was treated like a celebrity when he showed up at the protest.

“In making the decision, I was alone,” he told the crowd. “I wondered if I was just going to be made invisible quietly, or if I was going to have the support,” he said. “The fear is gone now. As a group, we’ve never felt more empowered. This momentum is building, it’s not stopping.” “I don’t believe in animals being kept in captivity,” he told reporters. And protesters cheered as he turned around.

Marineland issued a statement saying that all the animals “receive loving care from our trainers and our veterinary staff. We understand that not everyone agrees whether animals should be kept in captivity. What everyone does agree with is that all animals in our care deserve to be treated humanely and with respect.”

But that, of course, was exactly what Demers and other trainers came forward to say wasn’t happening.

Among the visitors who turned around was Jamie Bianco, a Chilean swimming coach who had brought a team to the Niagara Open Water Festival and decided to make a side trip to Marineland.

“I don’t believe in animals being kept in captivity,” he told reporters. And then protesters cheered as he turned around.