speaking out: an exclusive interview with students Susan F. and Ashlyn D.

You may have seen our new PSA Video on YouTube Starring Susan F., Ashlyn D., and Christina S.

We’re thrilled to have been able to interview them about their thoughts on captivity, protecting marine mammals in the wild, and also about their involvement in our new documentary Voiceless which will be released in 2013.

Be sure to check out their PSA video at the end of the interview!

Blue Freedom: Thank you both so much for sharing with us today. How did you did find out about the captive cetacean entertainment industry and what made you realize it was wrong?

Susan: I found out through the Blue Freedom founders. I’ve always loved animals, so when I found out about this industry I started learning more about marine mammals. They are much smarter than us, yet humans seem to think we can still control them and take them out of their natural habitats with no questions. Plus to kill these gorgeous creatures inhumanely with no solid reason is even worse. Animals were not put on this earth so we could kill and control them.
Ashlyn: I found out about the captivity industry through a blog called Dream Sailor. There was a post about giving back to others and making a change in the world. In that post, there was a section over whale and dolphin captivity. At first, I didn’t really react. I didn’t see how it was connected to me at all. I live in a landlocked state, nowhere near the ocean or even a marine park. But the idea stayed in the back of my mind for weeks afterward until I finally broke down and began researching the topic. The more I read, the angrier I got. As I continued to read and educate myself, I realized exactly how intelligent and self aware these creatures are and how wrong it was to reduce them down to doing circus tricks. I couldn’t see how this industry could take these creatures and casually use them for profit and entertainment. It made me sick to think that we as humans could be so blind as to not see how cruel and pointless a life in a tank must be for a cetacean.

Blue Freedom: What inspired you to do something to help end captivity and protect whales and dolphins in the wild?

Ashlyn: I saw people who had banded together for this cause, groups who had sacrificed so much just so that they could speak up for the animals. It was inspiring to see someone who was actually doing something and not just sitting by. It struck me that I could do the same. I didn’t have to be silent. I was capable of raising my voice and changing something. It made me take initiative and open my eyes to the fact that if we don’t stand up for what’s right, then nobody will.

Susan: I was simply tired of staying quiet, even when I knew something was wrong. I had seen how certain things could get done, if lots of people banded together. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to protect these animals before they were extinct and future generations could only hear about them. I just wanted to make a difference in my world. Another thing that really inspired to speak up was the movie Dolphin Tail. I was completely amazed that a boy, much younger than me, had saved Winter the dolphin. It made me realize no matter how young or old, you can do anything.

Blue Freedom: What are some of the things that shocked you the most about the captivity industry?

Ashlyn: Two of the main things that shocked me were the decreased lifespans and the food deprivation. I was surprised to learn that most cetaceans can live up to 100 years in the wild, but were lucky to make it to their teens in captivity. 100 years is a long time. Most humans don’t even live that long. For these animals to be able to spend that many years with their families in a limitless ocean is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever heard of. It’s sad to think that cetaceans in captivity don’t get that kind of opportunity; that they are stuck in a sad existence, getting half of the life that they deserve.
Food deprivation was another shocker. It’s really disgusting to think that marine parks have somehow justified withholding food in order to ensure that the whale or dolphin will perform. It’s like locking somebody in a room and starving them unless they do something entertaining. It’s a completely ridiculous concept.

Susan:  Definitely the fact that trainers withhold the animal’s food before shows so they’ll be “sharp.” That’s like only feeding a human the bare essentials they need. It’s cruel and horrible.

Blue Freedom: Can you tell our readers about some of the projects you are currently working on to help end captivity?

Susan:   I am helping with Blue Freedom’s documentary. I’ve also made posters for protests against aquariums. As of this moment, I’m not working on any specific projects (other than the documentary), but I’m always keeping an eye out for ideas!

Ashlyn: I’m sort of in between projects at the moment, other than what I have been able to do for the documentary. The most recent project that I was a part of was a virtual protest against Miami Seaquarium where you were supposed to snap pictures of a poster that you had made, with statements like, “Retire Lolita”, etc, and post them to places like Facebook or Instagram. I believe it’s still going on, actually. It’s being hosted by a Facebook page called Freedom For Whales, in case anyone is interested. It’s a fun and cheap way to get involved! Hopefully I will stumble across another project soon!

Blue Freedom: You are involved in our documentary Voiceless- what are your thoughts and hopes for the documentary?

Ashlyn: I feel that the documentary is going to be a huge success. I know how inspiring it can be to see others stand up for what they believe in. I hope that it’s message will rest in the hearts of its viewers and educate them on the truth behind the captive cetacean industry. It’s been said that the truth will set you free and I am truly hoping that the truth will indeed be the thing that sets these creatures free.

Susan: I truly think the documentary will be a big success. Besides The Cove, I don’t know of any other films that give these creatures a voice. It’s about time we did. I’m hoping that many students and adults will watch it and vote not to buy the ticket to SeaWorld or any other aquarium.

Blue Freedom: Fighting to save the oceans is something that few teenagers are involved in- how do you share your story with people your age, and what kinds of responses have you gotten from them?

Susan: I did write a poem about the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan entitled, “It Must End.” I also wrote an essay about the same topic. This year, being greatly involved in my competitive speech team, I plan to mention the dolphin slaughter in my speech. As for the responses I’ve gotten when I mention I’m involved in this cause . . . Students tend to react all the same–a nodding head, smile, and saying, “That’s great!” or “That’s really cool!” Then in a second, they seem to think it doesn’t affect them. I’m really hoping to change that.

Ashlyn: Being a teenager myself, I am constantly attached to some form of social networking; Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. I’m always posting links to articles, videos, and stories in order to try to educate others further on this subject. It has gotten the attention of some, the scorn of others. It seems that the reactions I get are always one of these: They either become patronizing about it, saying things like, “Oh, that’s nice that you feel so strongly about something.” or they will be casual about it, with replies such as, “But…marine parks are fun!” One rare reaction I get is anger; anger that humans have dared treat these animals like this. It’s the best feeling to see someone’s heart be kindled with fire, lit with a desire to do something about this injustice. If I can get one person to realize how wrong this industry is, my day is made.

Blue Freedom: How do you think we, as teenagers, can end the captive cetacean industry?

Ashlyn: By not supporting the industry. If we don’t give our money to the industry, we take away it’s very backbone and the only thing that is keeping it going. Also, spreading the word so that other people are inspired to get involved and not go to marine parks is extremely important. We must encourage an end to the support these marine parks have been shown. I know that most of us don’t have the means to join the Cove Guardians in Taiji or directly join other conservation groups, but it’s important to get involved where we can.

Susan: Just by getting involved and getting the word out! I understand that teenagers can’t hop on a plane, head out to Taiji, and become members of Sea Shepherd. We’ll leave that to the more experienced adults, but that doesn’t mean we can just sit on our couch and do nothing! While Sea Shepherd and the Cove Guardians are in the ocean, teenagers (even adults) can bring awareness to others! The only reason this madness hasn’t stopped yet is because many people don’t know about it. Teenagers are always on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any other social networking sites. That is the easiest way to get the word out–through the Internet!

Blue Freedom: What advice would you give to a teenager who is considering buying a ticket to a marine park?

Susan:  Don’t do it. I usually try to put people in the marine mammal’s “shoes” by saying, “How would you feel, if you were suddenly taken from your home and dumped in a completely different area? A place so small you can see the other side of it, and you’re starving and you’re scared because your parents and friends were taken somewhere else? What if you knew you were going to die and never see your home again?” Maybe they should start putting those questions on marine tickets.

Ashlyn: Please take the time to educate yourself before you buy a ticket. Do the research and consider it in a non-biased manner. After you have read the truth, pause for a moment and ask yourself if it’s something that you truly want to be supporting.

Blue Freedom: Would you both like to share some of your thoughts on how teenagers and young adults can help end the horrific annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji?

Susan wrote this poem which she read to her class and published on her blog:

Ashlyn:  I think almost all of us who love whales and dolphins are pretty familiar with the town of Taiji and what happens there.
Every year from September through March, hundreds of dolphins are herded into a cove where they are netted off from the ocean and from freedom.
They are kept there until a select few are chosen to be taken into captivity, provided that they are attractive enough.
Once chosen, they are ripped from their families, with whom they have spent their entire lives with, creating an incredibly strong bond that only can be broken by us humans.
Those not singled out for a life in captivity are left in the cove for what could easily be compared to mass murder.
The creatures in the cove are brutally killed until the water is no longer a pristine blue. It is bright crimson with the innocent blood that has been shed.
Gone are the glistening, gliding creatures that were swimming with their families the morning before. In their place are mutilated bodies that are quickly sent to a slaughter house to be prepared for human consumption.
For me, the slaughter is like something out of a nightmare.
This kind of cruelty is just not something I can wrap my head around.
Many times this horrific killing is justified by the excuse of tradition. Personally, I don’t understand how this could ever be considered a ‘tradition’ that is sacred. I certainly don’t see how this is a ‘tradition’ that should be allowed to continue. A practice that is surrounded by merciless, bloody killing is not one that deserves to be titled a tradition at all.
The honest truth is that this slaughter is not done out of tradition. It is not done out of necessity. I will go as far to say that it’s not even done out of something as stupid as sport. It is done for one purpose-money. Money that is exchanged in hands that are covered in the blood of the thousands of dolphins that have died in Taiji and will continue to die as long as this murder continues. Teenagers today who have become aware of this cruel practice need to come to a realization.
Greed is what fuels this slaughter. That greed starts at marine parks who want more dolphins for their shows and who are willing to take the survivors of a bloodbath if it means that their programs can continue.
One dolphin can be sold for 100,000 dollars. The fishermen can make a pretty penny as long as they continue to drive the dolphins into the cove. It doesn’t take much deductive thinking to realize how intimately connected the captivity industry is with the dolphin slaughter in Taiji.
So, young people ask yourselves this: Do you really want to go to a marine park now, knowing that you’re supporting the murder of these benign, innocent creatures? By buying a ticket to a dolphin show, you’re also buying these dolphins a ticket to death.
The only way for these deaths to end is for we, as teenagers with a capability to make our own decision, to choose not to go to marine parks and spread the word about what really goes on behind the smiling dolphins we are all so fond of.

Blue Freedom: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Ashlyn: Never be silent. You don’t have to get involved in every cause that comes your way, but pick something. There are so many hurting people and animals in the world that need someone to give them a voice and fight for their rights. Human trafficking, world hunger, the need for clean water, animal testing-there are so many causes that need people just like you to help them! So, please, for their sakes and the sake of our world, stand up and make your voice heard.

Susan: Just get involved, even if it’s not with the marine mammal captive industry. I end up saying this all the time, and I probably will for a long time. We only have one world. We need to protect it and make it better for future generations and for us right now. We need to–and should–care about our world and what goes on around it.

Check out the video Susan, Ashlyn and Christina S. made to help spread the word about captivity; we applaud them for their awesome effort!

It’s up! Be sure to check out our now LIVE website: www.bluefreedom.org