Posts tagged georgia aquarium
9/9/12 Update: The New York Times reports: ‘A proposal to import 18 beluga whales for popular interactive park attractions in the United States (including the Georgia Aquarium) is drawing fierce opposition from animal rights advocates and others who object to their removal from the wild.’ (Read story..)
9/8/12 Update: GA Voice reports: ‘Atlanta Pride Committee’s board chair, Glen Paul Freedman, said today that the event will go on, regardless of the complaints laid out by PETA and added the APC will not be pressured into changing the event venue.’ (Read story…)
Original Story: Animal rights group PETA informed the Atlanta Pride Committee today that the controversial Pride Kickoff Party at the Georgia Aquarium this Friday, October 12th, will be the target of a protest…
“Since last year, out of concern for sound-sensitive marine mammals, the U.S. Navy altered ship routes, the Toronto aquarium announced it would feature no marine mammals, and gay icons (see letter) Martina Navratilova (see comment) and Elvira (see letter) have spoken out against the Georgia Aquarium’s loud events,” said PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews. “Why insist on celebrating our freedom in a venue that celebrates captivity?”
Read the letter PETA sent to the Georgia Aquarium below and see our Interview with PETA Senior Vice President Dan Lax.
Buck Cooke, Executive Director
Dear Mr. Cooke:
As a longtime sponsor of Atlanta Pride, PETA is disappointed that the Pride committee hasn’t had the courtesy to reply to our concerns over the Georgia Aquarium party during the past year. As a result, we’ll bring these concerns directly to partygoers through a protest at this year’s Pride kickoff event at the Georgia Aquarium on October 12.
That very day, the aquarium will come under fire at a Washington, D.C., hearing over its controversial plans to import 12 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia. Atlanta is the nightlife capital of the world – why insist on celebrating our freedom in a venue that celebrates captivity?
Since last year, out of concern for sound-sensitive marine mammals, the U.S. Navy altered ship routes, the Toronto aquarium announced it would feature no marine mammals, and gay icons Jane Lynch, Martina Navratilova, and Elvira have spoken out against the Georgia Aquarium’s loud events. Are you ignoring them because they’re women? Do we need to hire male strippers to deliver a singing telegram in order to get your attention?
I attended last year’s event and personally spoke to three exhibit guides who said that various animals get distressed and even “get to fighting” during the parties. Many of us in the gay community, especially Georgians, are perplexed by the Pride committee’s lack of professionalism on this issue and are examining ways to reach the board about your peculiar relationship with the aquarium. We remain ready to have a dialogue. In any case, we’ll see you on October 12.
Senior Vice President, PETA
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All have protested the Georgia Aquarium’s Annual Pride Party. Last year Elvira and Martina spoke out. Now, star Jane Lynch has sent a letter protesting the Georgia Aquarium’s Pride party coming up on Friday, October 12th.
Lynch, a PETA supporter, doesn’t approve of the loud music from thumping gay Pride DJs being blasted so close to the beluga whales, which are considered mammals:
“Greetings! I hope you are well. I know that you are probably swamped because Pride is coming up in October, but I hope you’ll spare a few moments to consider a suggestion for the opening-night party.
I heard from my friends at PETA, a longtime local Pride sponsor, that Atlanta throws one of the best Pride celebrations but that the kickoff party is at the Georgia Aquarium again this year. I’m hoping that you can choose an alternative venue. These parties are supposed to be loud and boisterous—it’s a celebration! However, animals shouldn’t have to suffer for the sake of a party.
Many of the marine mammals at the aquarium are extremely sensitive to sound, and large parties create an even more stressful environment than they already endure in captivity. Animals such as beluga whales and dolphins communicate with one another by means of an intricate sonar system.
The excess noise disorients them, thwarts their ability to communicate, and sometimes causes them to attack one another—as employees of the Georgia Aquarium have revealed. Given the animals’ extreme sensitivity to noise, the aquarium does not seem like an appropriate venue for such a large and festive gathering.
Since the kickoff party sets the tone for all of Pride, will you please consider moving it to one of the many alternative venues that Atlanta has to offer? Thank you so much for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.”
Interestingly, since this case broke last year,banned Sea World from using Mötley Crüe music in its Shamu Rocks shows because of the issue of using loud music near marine mammals, and the U.S. Navy even changed routings of San Francisco-bound ships in order to stop interfering with whale migration as a result of this same sound issue.
“The public should see the aquarium
for the House of Horrors that it is.”
Now this is really spooky…
We have obtained the letter Elvira sent to David Kimmel, President and CEO of the Georgia Aquarium on October 27th, 2011, and have reprinted it below…
“What are you attempting to run – an
educational facility or a Studio 54 knock-off?”
Dear Mr. Kimmel:
In the wake of the recent controversy over loud party music that distresses the aquarium’s animals, I was surprised to learn about this weekend’s ‘Georgia A-Scary-Um’ bash in which Halloween music will play throughout the aquarium.
What are you attempting to run – an educational facility or a Studio 54 knock-off?
You have stated that caring for the 120,000 wild animals confined in downtown Atlanta is your top priority, but looking at your website, it appears that the aquarium is pimping the critters to lure people to a party, get married, have a bar mitzvah, or liven up a dull corporate meeting.
You’re turning this place into an amusement park, but unlike at Disneyland, the performers are not animatronic, cannot be switched off, and don’t care to live in a haunted mansion 24/7.
Anyone who has even thrown a party knows that loud music and strangers frighten many domestic animals, and caring guardians often put the in a safe room away from the noise.
PETA’s formal complaint states that three separate aquarium employees said that many of the confined wild animals become aggravated and even fight when the music gets pumping – and they have no safe room to escape to.
This disturbs me more than ‘Freddy vs. Jason.’ Perhaps you should consider having Halloween-themed events year-round – at least the public would see the aquarium for the House of Horrors that it is.’
Cassandra Peterson, aka ‘Elvira’
Elvira, whose Movie Macabre airs in Atlanta on WATL (always a Halloween favorite), was one of PETA’s first spokespeople. She’s lead several Fur Is A Drag club shows, appeared in ads, and hosted other PETA events.
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.
‘I find it ironic that the Pride committee would choose
to celebrate freedom in a building that celebrates captivity.’
Everyone was happy at Friday night’s Pride Kickoff Party at the Georgia Aquarium, dancing to the pulsating music of DJ Jay McCracken and DJ Corey Craig. But little did everyone know that the Senior Vice President of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was in the crowd, and he was not so happy…
When Dan Matthews, senior vice president of PETA, arrived at Pride to set up PETA’s booth, he had no idea that the Georgia Aquarium was holding a Pride party that night. He decided to check it out, and was shocked at what he saw (and heard).
‘As a veteran clubber, I’m used to big loud parties, but the music at the aquarium was so earsplitting that even before we entered,’ Matthews writes for the Huffington Post.
‘I could only wonder how it sounded to the most notable of the facility’s 120,000 inmates – the beluga whales. These marine mammals are so sensitive to pounding noises that the aquarium shipped them away during construction of the dolphin exhibit. Yet the thumping techno remix of ‘Firework’ was as audible outside as a jackhammer.’ ‘s
Matthews then asked an Aquarium worker if the music bothered the Beluga whales:
‘Well, yes, especially the males – as soon as the music starts pounding, they go nuts and start attacking the harbor seals in the tanks. We had Jazz Fridays this summer, and I can’t say many of the animals in any of the exhibits were fans. When the music starts, they get to fighting.’
UPDATE: We spoke with PETA’s Senior Vice President Dan Matthews.
Read our PETA: The Georgia Aquarium Interview