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The following was originally posted on Unsinn Image’s Instant Chaos blog on Tumblr and is reprinted with his permission.  I very, very, very rarely post other people’s writing on my blog; in fact, this may be a first.  But it’s an important subject, and one I felt he summed up much better than I could have.  Please check out the rest of his blog!

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UnsinnImageNakedlyObvious

This image was created for my social justice passion project “Nakedly Obvious.”  The model is the incomparable Playboy model Stephy C.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments for and against gay marriage.

One of the Court’s considerations is whether we should upset a heterosexual tradition of marriage which has persisted for thousands of years.

But, how has that tradition been perpetuated?  Through religion.

Religion…which has no place in a secular debate about civil rights.

Remove the illogical, archaic, religious doctrine from the debate and there is absolutely no justification to deny adults of sound mind the right to be legally bound by their love.

Define a group in any other way, then try and make the argument they shouldn’t marry.  You would sound ridiculous.

BANK TELLERS shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

FARMERS shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

LEFT-HANDED PEOPLE shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

CHRISTIANS shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

Would anyone in their right mind go all the way to the Supreme Court to defend the position that Christians shouldn’t be allowed to marry?  You’d be laughed out the front door.  And that is exactly what should happen to those who oppose gay marriage.

This question is, and has always been, a matter of equal protection and civil rights.  And when history reflects on this era in our social evolution — as it has over past judicial missteps involving segregation and slavery — it will judge us most harshly if we fail to insure equal protection and civil rights to all of our citizens.

And rightfully so.

Two people in love committing to each other is not harmful to marriage.  That is what marriage IS…or at least, what it should be.  Defending the right of one person to marry and denying the same right to a similarly-situated person is unlawful discrimination.  Period.  And if the Justices can keep clear eyes and heads and not be blinded by religious fervor, defending the rights of EVERYONE to marry who they love will be an inevitable outcome.

A New York Times article on the deliberations can be read here.

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AN OPEN LETTER TO JACK HANNA

Dear Mr. Hanna,

The great empathy I have toward animals today I owe, in part, to you.

I grew up watching your animal shows.  They delighted and educated me, giving me insights into wondrous creatures I would not have access to otherwise.  I believe you deeply and sincerely care about all wildlife and would never knowingly support animal cruelty in any form.

So, seeing you in interview after interview defending SeaWorld in light of the revelations in CNN’s recent documentary BLACKFISH both boggles my mind and breaks my heart.

You have done so much in support of conservation and animal rights…advocating for humane conditions for factory animals, championing the idea that wild animals should be left wild and just generally bringing people a better understanding of the animal world…so I am at an utter loss to explain how you can justify and defend SeaWorld’s tactics and practices.

The orca Tilikum languishes alone every day and night in a tank equivalent to the size of a bathtub to you.  The victim of terrible abuse, he bobs motionless, having retreated as far back into his mind as he can, as that is the only option he has.

Tilikum Languishing, photo by  Colleen Gorman, via The Orca Project .  Click on the photo to read about her documentation of Tilikum’s miserable existence.

You know enough about animals — and humans, for that matter — to read this body language.  He is miserable.  And his actions which forced his solitary confinement are not only understandable, they are the direct result of the unconscionable practices of SeaWorld.

How can you defend SeaWorld when you know it began its collection of orcas by physically ripping calves away from their screaming mothers?  Mothers who could only watch the nightmare unfold before them, powerless to stop it.

How do you justify this kidnapping and cruelty for the sole purpose of building an amusement park?  Especially when you KNOW orca whale pods are matriarchal and that, in the wild, the males never leave their mothers.

These are such emotionally complex animals.  Study after study shows they demonstrate not only the use of language, but actual sentience.  You cannot reasonably expect such an intelligent, social animal to thrive in forced captivity away from its natural family structure.  And why should he have to?  For profit?

Any human enduring decades of similar physical and emotional torture would not be well-adjusted.  So it is no surprise Tilikum reacted as he did to his repeated abuse.  Given his complete isolation now, unenriched without so much as one other companion, human interaction or even a single toy, his life can only be one endless, meaningless misery.

You said in a recent interview with CNN that your motto is “touch the heart to teach the mind.”  And you said that is what SeaWorld does.  But that isn’t true.  Organizations like Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherds do a huge amount of touching hearts and teaching minds without kidnapping a single wild animal and forcing it to perform for our amusement.

You also mentioned that animals which are “out of sight are out of mind.”  That is true.  And that is where animal sanctuaries come in.  True sanctuaries — places for animals too injured to live in the wild, born in captivity, or otherwise unsuited for life in the wild — are invaluable, and indeed do “touch the heart to teach the mind,” while allowing animals to maintain their dignity and their sanity.

I recently visited a wolf sanctuary where all the wolves had been born in captivity.  They were given huge enclosures, always paired with several other wolves they got along with and lived very happy, enriched lives.  I have adored wolves since I was a young child.  Yet seeing them in person in this environment not only taught me new things about them, it gave me an even deeper appreciation for them… accomplished entirely without capturing any wild animals, destroying any families or forcing the animals to perform in any way.

In another part of your interview, you seemed unsure of what “happy” means in regards to whales at SeaWorld…as if “happy” is a mystical, unknowable state.  Well, if you cannot define “happy,” I can define “unhappy.”

Whales covered in scars from being attacked after they have been forced into cramped enclosures with strange whales from outside their families…they are unhappy.

Whales with flopping dorsal fins from an unbalanced diet…they are unhappy.

Whales who have their teeth drilled out by hand without any anesthetic…they are unhappy.

Whales forced to perform just to survive…they are unhappy.

“Whatever happy is,” you said.  If these whales were your children or grandchildren, would you be satisfied with your failure to define “happy?”

Perhaps the only happiness in this situation is that death finds SeaWorld’s whales much earlier than their wild counterparts.  Wild orcas can live for a hundred years.  SeaWorld’s whales die many, many decades sooner.  And given the conditions they must endure, I do not doubt they are glad to receive that early release.

Mr. Hanna, you know these whales are intelligent and emotional.  You know they are mistreated and miserable.  You know that they have never harmed a human in the wild.  And you know this is not conservation…it is capitalism.

Please restore my faith in you and all that you have taught me through the years.

Please do the right thing and stop defending this blatant, horrific abuse.

Sincerely,
Sarah Allegra

Orca

Orca – an old photo of mine, but one which suited this blog perfectly.

 

If you, dear reader, are as enraged and sorrowful as I am, here are some things you can do to help:

Watch Blackfish and spread the word about the atrocities being covered up by Sea World.

Sign the following petitions:

Ban Imprisonment of Orca Whales at SeaWorld

Release Tilikum To A Seapen

End the SeaWorld Captive Breeding Program

Urge Macy’s To Cancel SeaWorld Float In Thanksgiving Day Parade

Free Lolita, the Captive Whale

Marine Mammals Don’t Belong In Tanks

Dolphins Don’t Belong In Dolphinariums

Support the following organizations:

Life Force Foundation

Orca Network

Whale and Dolphin Conservation

World Society for the Protection of Animals

Voice of the Orcas

Blue Voice

Born Free

Thank you all for your help in righting these wrongs!

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