PETA: The Georgia Aquarium Interview
Yesterday, Dan Matthews, Senior Vice President of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post about his experience at the Georgia Aquarium’s recent Pride Kickoff Party.
He is upset that the Atlanta Pride Committee chooses to hold parties that celebrate freedom in a venue of captivity.
He also takes issue with the loud music, that according to him, three aquarium guides said bothered the animals.
We spoke with Matthews to find out more…
How did you hear about the party?
I came to Atlanta from Virginia to work the PETA booth at Pride at Piedmont Park. PETA sponsors Pride festivals all across the country. We have tons of gay members and are one of the gayest non-gay charities. We have spokespeople ranging from Ellen DeGeneres to Erasure to Lady Bunny.
I got to town late Thursday night, and started hearing about this aquarium party. I was immediately disheartened that the Pride committee would choose to celebrate freedom in a place of captivity.
Gay people respond to the animals rights community because we understand abuse – whether it’s bullying, gay rights, etc. We recognize the ignorant attitude that a lot of people have toward animal suffering.
“Gay people respond to the animal rights
community because we understand abuse.”
The party was sold out, so how did you get in?
I told everyone there’s no way I’m going. Those of us who oppose aquariums are usually outside protesting. We don’t go inside, especially for a party. But a friend had an extra ticket and said come, you’ll do more good inside talking to people.
I thought about protesting outside with a sign, but didn’t want to be a party pooper! I’m gay and was in Atlanta to celebrate Pride also. Protesting is not a good way to captivate people when they’re in the partying mood.
What was your experience like?
As soon as I got to the entrance of the aquarium, I heard loud music. For some reason, I thought the music and dance floor would be in a separate facility away from the large mammals. But there were the Beluga whales, right in the middle of two dance floors!
I went to the different exhibits and spoke to several guides as well as the DJs. I didn’t introduce myself as PETA because that always raises a red flag and people get defensive.
I spoke with three guides, and all said that the music bothers the animals at parties. They said they start fighting, and especially don’t like Jazz Fridays.
“I spoke with three guides, and all said
that music bothers the animals at parties.”
The Georgia Aquarium is a money making business. They claim to be all about conservation and education, but it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with bringing money to downtown Atlanta and to the venue, which means hiring out the aquarium for weddings and parties, etc.
My problem isn’t so much with this one Pride party. It’s that from what I understand, the aquarium has loud parties all the time in the Oceans Ballroom.
How do loud sounds bother the whales exactly?
Beluga whales are so sensitive to sound. They have a sonar device that has developed in their heads.
When sound bounces off an ice cap above or an ocean floor below or a coastline on the side, that tells them where to go and what to avoid. That’s how they avoid ships, because sound bounces off of them. But it’s not loud thumping and bass!
When you add the element of loud music, it really becomes water torture. It’s a known psychological fact that uncomfortable music can be torture. It’s been used on prisoners.
“It’s a known psychological fact that
uncomfortable music can be torture.”
It would be one thing if the music didn’t add stress to the animals, who are already stressed because of the confinement. Classical or ambient music may even be soothing to them. But not loud thumping techno music. Every sound pounds into their skull. All of their senses are in their sonar. It’s an unacceptable cruelty.
What did the DJs have to say?
One said he knew there were decibel levels, but they were controlled by the management. The other DJ said he had no idea about decibel levels. The aquarium workers rolled their eyes when I asked about it because they knew the music still bothered the animals. The decibel levels don’t really matter.
Music and parties are a recent trend as a way to make money. On the Georgia Aquarium’s site, they advertise the Oceans Ballroom as being available for events. They have a big Halloween party coming up.
It is interesting that the guides say you can’t tap on the glass, but they host loud parties all the time.
Exactly. That’s a great way of putting it. It doesn’t make sense. They like to speak out of both sides of their mouth.
Who are you upset with, the Pride committee or the aquarium?
My problem is not with Pride so much. I spoke with a lot of people at the party, and the music was not something that crossed their minds until we spoke about it. We all live and learn, and I hope that the Pride committee opens their minds.
“We all live and learn, and I hope that
the Pride committee opens their minds.”
What are your suggestions for next year’s party?
No loud music. I grew up in the punk rock scene. Believe me, I love loud music. The louder the better. But that’s not everyone’s taste, and it’s certainly not the Beluga whales’.
We need to recognize that they are so sound sensitive. Beluga’s always look like they’re smiling because of the way their mouth is formed, but they’re not. It doesn’t mean they’re happy.
The GA Voice spoke with James Parker Sheffield, executive director of the Atlanta Pride Committee. He said, ‘I find it bothersome that an organization with a direct line to us chose to say nothing.’
What have been the point? The damage was done. I’m filing a formal complaint against the aquarium, not the Pride committee, and dealing with lawyers. We feel the parties violate Georgia’s Cruelty Against Animals act. I’m more concerned with the Halloween party and lots of other parties coming up there right now than next year’s Pride.
He also said he would ‘absolutely not’ move the Pride party next year.
I think he was just being defensive, and I can’t blame him. He was probably caught off guard. But I hope the Pride committee is intelligent enough to know that they don’t know everything about every issue, and will open their minds.
“This is not how I wanted to spend my weekend.
There are plenty of ways PETA is already in the news.”
What is your response to people who say PETA just wants to be in the news?
I expected to have a great time in Atlanta for Pride. We had a great response at our booth. The last thing I wanted to do was spend my weekend digesting this issue about how my own community was being so thoughtless and cruel to animals.
This is not how I wanted to spend my weekend. There are plenty of ways that PETA is already in the news.
Is PETA planning a boycott of the Georgia Aquarium?
We already have a boycott in place. We’ve protested the Georgia Aquarium and other aquariums before. This has long been a campaign of ours. I’ve never been more uncomfortable going to a gay party! But I thought more good would come from me being there.
Comment on this Atlanta story...
Powered by Facebook Comments
Comment on this Atlanta story...
- Wanna See Wendy Williams Naked? (PHOTOS)
- PETA to Protest Aquarium Pride Party
- Jane Lynch Protests Georgia Aquarium
- Waka Flocka Flame Partners With PETA to Prevent Animal Abuse… [PHOTOS + VIDEO]
- Waka Flocka Flame Says Be a “Protector Not a Bully”… [PHOTOS + VIDEO]
- Elvira NOT Happy with Georgia Aquarium!
- Martina Navratilova Comments on Georgia Aquarium Pride Party Controversy
- PETA Pissed @ Aquarium Pride Party
- What Really Happened to Wynter Gordon?
- Deborah Cox Wants Her Dress Back