This blog is taking a break for the next few months so that I can devote my energies to the Whale Sanctuary Project.
Back in the 1980s, I was part of a group of people who started a small sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals – mostly dogs and cats, but also horses, burros, pigs, sheep, goats and chickens. We wanted to create, as we put it, “a little bit of heaven” in a world that had become “a whole lot of hell” for other animals.
Our fledgling refuge would grow into Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which has played a key role in bringing an end to the mass killing of homeless pets in shelters nationwide.
While sanctuaries can’t save all the animals everywhere who need help, they are at the heart of every major effort to protect them. Just a few examples:
- PAWS (The Performing Animal Welfare Society) and the Elephant Sanctuary, which give new life to elephants from zoos and circuses.
- Save the Chimps and Chimp Haven, where chimpanzees find refuge when they’re freed from research labs.
- The Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa, which has saved lions and tigers from across the ocean in Peru and Colombia, helping to bring an end to the horror of traveling circuses there.
- Farm Sanctuary, which shows us who cows and chickens and pigs really are – meaning that they’re not just beef, bacon and McNuggets.
There are many, many more.
In the animal protection movement, sanctuaries and campaigns are two sides of the same coin. Campaigns work to change the world as it is, while sanctuaries create the world that could be. As campaigns fight the hell and horror that animals endure every day, sanctuaries give back to their residents something of what we humans have taken from them.
Tales of whales and dolphins befriending humans go back thousands of years. But today, that bond of trust is brutally exploited.They also offer a vision of a world where we relate to our fellow animals with respect and love.
There are sanctuaries for most kinds of animals, large and small. But there are none, so far, for whales and dolphins. And that means that while there are many ongoing campaigns to bring an end to keeping cetaceans as captive entertainers at marine parks, these efforts are hampered by the fact that there’s nowhere for the whales to go when they come out of their concrete tanks.
With that in mind, a group of people from diverse fields – animal protection, science, veterinary medicine, business, engineering, law and many more – came together last year to discuss what it would take to create the world’s first seaside sanctuary for cetaceans. Out of that meeting, the Whale Sanctuary Project was born.
Our mission is:
“To establish a model seaside sanctuary where cetaceans (whales and dolphins) can live in an environment that maximizes well-being and autonomy and is as close as possible to their natural habitat.”
Right now, we’re exploring possible locations for the sanctuary in Washington State, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. The search includes site visits and very detailed environmental studies for the top 20 locations, with the goal of selecting a site by the end of this year. Our plan calls for starting to create the sanctuary next year and to welcome the first animals by the end of 2019.
You can read more about the Whale Sanctuary Project here. And your donation, large or small, will be much appreciated. It will also be worth twice as much since our major sponsor, Munchkin, Inc., is matching every donation this year up to $300,000 so we can complete the site search by the end of the year.
Tales of whales and dolphins befriending humans, and often saving their lives, go back thousands of years. That’s part of what makes it so sad that the bond of trust between our two lineages is being so brutally exploited. It’s time to heal that breach and to do what we can to restore what’s been lost.
While the Earth in Transition blog takes a break over the next few months, I hope you’ll join us at the Whale Sanctuary Project. And if you’re a subscriber to the Earth in Transition newsletter, I’ll keep you posted on our progress in creating the new sanctuary.