Larry, the harbour seal with “an amazing little personality” who arrived at Marineland about eight years ago is now a shadow of his former self. After repeated exposure to unhealthy water, he has gone blind.
An animal advocacy group expects a surge of new protesters at Saturday’s demonstration outside Marineland.
The group will meet at noon Saturday, pickets and water bottles in hand, on the grass near the park’s entrance. They’re scheduled to protest until 2 p.m.
He says the new protesters are joining after former Marineland employees told the Star of poor water conditions, chronic short-staffing and repeated instances of animal suffering at the park.
Extra pickets are being painted by the veteran demonstrators, who come from a variety of groups including Marineland Animal Defense, Ocean Voice London and Niagara Action for Animals.
Saturday’s protest is the sixth of 10 protests this summer organized by Marineland Animal Defense. On average, about 20 to 50 people join the demonstrations.
“I don’t want to close down the place, I want them to make it into an amusement park with no animals,” said Jill DiTillio, a protester for the past 20 years. “That way tourists don’t need to be concerned about the animals. Most of the locals are quite aware of what’s going on and are unwilling to go.”
But protesting at Marineland became more difficult in June.
Marineland signed a lease with Niagara Falls city council in June for about 400 metres of Portage Rd., a public space near the park’s entrance. The park’s lawyer told council that the land was meant for “beautification” through landscaping. The three-year lease was approved.
In reaction, protesters temporarily moved their campaign to a new spot: the doorstep of John Holer, Marineland’s owner.
“If you’re not going to let us protest on municipal property by doing something weird like that, we’re going to come protest at your house,” said DiTillio.
Protesters can still march on a plot of grass beside Marineland. A line of trees draws the border between the public property and Marineland’s leased land.
The group recently bought megaphones to shout their message to park patrons driving to buy admission.
Powell said copies of the Star’s investigation will be handed out to people entering the park
“We’ve got our hands on a bunch of copies, for anyone who wants to read about what’s going on inside the park,” he said.
The group is an eclectic mix of people of all ages from across Southern Ontario.
“What we have in common is that it’s a bunch of concerned citizens. We want to bring to light that these animals should not be in captivity in the conditions that they are in,” said Jeremy Larivee, an electrician who protests with Ocean Voice London.
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