Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
Transcript of Ric O’Barry’s ARZone Guest Chat
5 February 2011
5pm US Eastern Time
10pm UK Time and:
6 February 2011
8am Brisbane Time
ARZone would like to welcome Richard O’Barry as today’s Live Guest Chat.
Marine mammal specialist, Ric O'Barry has worked with dolphins for the vast majority of his life. He spent the first 10 years of his career in the dolphin captivity industry and the past 38 years fighting against it. Most recently, Ric's biopic, THE COVE, won an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2010.
Working for Miami Seaquarium in the 1960s, Ric was responsible for capturing and training dolphins, including five dolphins who played the role of Flipper in the popular television series of the same name. When one of the famed dolphins, Cathy, died suddenly in his arms, Ric decided that taking dolphins out of their natural habitat and training them to perform tricks was wrong.
From that moment on, Ric knew he must rededicate himself to a new cause.
On the first Earth Day in1970, Ric founded the Dolphin Project, an organization that aims to free captive dolphins and to educate people throughout the world about the plight of dolphins in captivity. Ric believes that this campaign exposes the public to what really goes on at dolphin shows and urges people not to support such forms of entertainment.
With more than 45 years of experience, his firsthand knowledge about the methods used to capture and train dolphins has taken him all over the world to participate in lectures and conferences about the controversial dolphin captivity issue.
To recognize his contribution, in 1991 Ric received the Environmental Achievement Award presented by the United States Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program (US/UNEP). Ric received the ASPCA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Ric authored Behind the Dolphin Smile, which was published in 1989.
Ric authored Behind the Dolphin Smile, which was published in 1989. As well as a second book, To Free A Dolphin, which was published in September 2000. A third book is in the works.
Ric is the Marine Mammal Specialist for Earth Island Institute and Director of the Save Japan Dolphins coalition.
Ric welcomes the opportunity today to engage with ARZone members on a broad range of topics. Would you please join with me in welcoming Ric to ARZone.
Welcome Ric,so great to have you here
Hello Ric!! Welcome!
Miriam K deVore:
Good Seeing You Ric.
Welcome Ric, you are a true hero
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
Ric, are you currently working in a new project?
Camilla Hedegaard Andersen:
Welcome, Mr. O'Barry :-) Greetings from Denmark!
welcome here richard and ric. great day to have you here
Judit Balañá Pocurull:
Hello Ric :-)
Hi Ric, thanks for being here!
Hi Ric, thanks for being here
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
yes thanks you
Hello everyone! Nice to be with like-minded people
Hello Ric! :-)
Ric will be replying to 8 pre-registered questions in this first session, and then we will be opening the chat up to other members who wish to speak directly with Ric.
We ask that you please refrain from interrupting Ric during this first session, and hold any questions or comments you may have until the open session begins. Please send a private chat message to one of the admin staff, to indicate your intention to address Ric, in order that we keep the chat running smoothly and utilise our time with Ric as best we can.
I’d now like to call on Brooke Cameron to ask Ric his first question, thanks, Brooke.
Hi Ric, and welcome to ARZone! The dolphin hunters in Taiji have described their actions as being necessary as a form of “pest control”. The Japanese Govt. seem to believe the world’s oceans are an infinite resource for their self gratification. How do we use education as a tool to turn this around?
They are wrong. They need to look at themselves and realize the problem is over-fishing. Not the dolphins.
I think the best tool I’ve seen so far is the movie THE COVE. It’s not just about The Cove and dolphins; the oceans, over fishing and mercury contamination are all factors.
There are 127 million people in Japan, most of who have yet to see THE COVE. Part of our work is trying to ensure that happens.
We are also trying to get it on the internet for free download.
It’s not really my movie, I am just in the movie. The filmmakers have moved on to their next film project, I’m still working at the cove in Taiji, Japan trying to stop the dolphin slaughter and the related captures for zoos and aquariums.
So, I think that’s the best tool, films like THE COVE, which are both educational and entertaining.
Thanks Ric - there is no follow-up from Brooke so the second Q comes from Tim Gier - Tim...
Ric, ARZone is dedicated to educating people about the obligations we all share towards all other living beings. It can be difficult to explain to others why every creature deserves to live. Most people don’t think much about mice and garden snakes! Some animal advocates claim that people who focus their advocacy on one species do so because the “cute” or “intelligent” animals are somehow easier to save, for example, that people relate easier to “smiling” dolphins or “cuddly” arctic foxes. In your experience, is advocating for marine animals easy, and are people readily accepting of what you are trying to do?
First, let me say I focus on dolphins because you can spread yourself so thin that you never accomplish anything. I am staying focused on the plight of dolphins like a laser beam. I see dolphins as a reference point in nature. But you’re right, the dolphin is no more or less important than any other living being. They are all equally important. Thanks for your question, Tim.
Tim has a follow-up
It’s often heard within the animal advocacy movement that when people campaign to “save the whales” and only the whales, that the implicit message is sent that all other creatures matter less, or not at all. Have you heard this sort of criticism of your work, and if so, would you like to respond to it now?
That’s much the same question. I do focus specifically on dolphins. But I’m also as concerned about homelessness and other issues. Unfortunately, I can’t do very much about homelessness, and other equally important issues.
I helped create this dolphin amusement park industry, which is one reason why I focus on the dolphin captivity industry. Not because I believe they’re more important. It’s about being effective, and this is how I am as effective as I can be.
How old were you when you got your dolphin tattoo?
Thank you Ric, for your answers, Carolyn Bailey has the next question but we are having technical difficulties, so Roger Yates will ask her question, Roger?
Humans have been doing “research” on dolphins since 1938 when the industry first started in Marine Studios in St Augustine. Why have we not learnt that this “research” is merely... a guise for the commodification of another species, and why do you think this is still allowed to continue after 80 years?
Thanks Roger, Tim and Carolyn.
I was about 20 when I got my dolphin tattoo.
I have learned that research creates grant money. So a lot of “researchers” have repeated the same research over and over again, for this reason. It’s all about grant money. But we have done enough research with dolphins to know they are sonic creatures in a concrete box. We’ve done enough research to know that the captivity of dolphins and other whales is a failed experiment.
Why are the words “research” and “education” being used? This is a major problem. When using these words, humans can get away with murder. That’s why they continue to use those two words.
Gotta go.. Love Ric O' Barry~ TRUE HERO!!!
Actually, I'm no hero. Just doing my day job. But thank you all the same.
Thanks again, Ric, Barbara DeGrande is up next with a question, Please go ahead Barbara..
You are the manifestation of someone having a change of heart based on new awareness. As such, your work to educate the public about dolphin slaughter has achieved success.
But since the same thing is happening to nearly every type of animal on the face of the earth, does it motivate you to take more global action by advocating for a new relationship between human and nonhuman animals? To promote veganism?
I thought I was already doing that. I have been around the globe three times this year.
I have the utmost respect for anyone who’s vegan. I’m not, although I have tried, and continue to try to be vegan. That’s one of the things that will save this planet, I understand and agree with that.
I don’t eat meat, but when I leave here I’ll be living in the jungle helping with the rescue and rehabilitation of dolphins. There are no vegetables, no restaurants.
I will be surviving as the dolphins survive. I have to catch my own fish for the dolphins and for myself. If I don’t eat what the dolphins are eating, I don’t eat.
That’s not an excuse, veganism is the way to go, there’s no question about it. I respect anyone who can do it. Both my wife and my 6 yr old daughter are vegan.
How long is that going on for?
Thank you for being so honest , Ric
Follow up please?
This project will be for about 3 months in a very remote 3rd world jungle
Go ahead Barb...
I know you must feel a tremendous debt towards dolphins, but veganism is about a philosophy of respect to all life forms, not about transitioning to a plant-based diet. If you respect those values, does that leave you feeling horribly conflicted about not making that decision to stop harming other animals, and live according to your own stated values? If you show preference to one species - dolphins - Isn’t that exactly what we should be fighting against?
I live with this conflict constantly because I recognise that the fish has just as much right to life as the dolphin. But I put the dolphin in this sea pen and the dolphin has no ability to catch the fish himself. If I don't catch the fish for the dolphin and eat the same food myself, we all starve in the jungle together.
Once they're rehabilitated and released, they can hunt on their own. The reality is those dolphins will hunt for fish.
Thank you for your question.
Next question comes from Ben Hornby... Ben?
Ric, there are groups such as “Boycott Japan, Save the Dolphins”, which seem to conclude that all Japanese citizens should be held accountable for the actions of less than 100 people. This attitude could be seen as a form of racism, what are your thoughts on groups such as these?
good question ben
I agree, it is a form of racism. You can’t blame all the Japanese people for this.
Almost 127 million people don’t even know this is happening. Most of the Japanese citizens have no connection to whaling and shouldn’t be blamed for a small minority of people.
You have a situation in Queensland, or the US west coast, Washington, Oregon, California, etc, where there are a lot of Asian American children. Some kids can be very cruel in the playground. I know of cases where kids have been beaten up and called “Jap whale killers.” We have to find a way to work with the Japanese people, not against them.
Thanks for the question, Ben.
OK - next question comes from Tim Gier - Tim...
Its mentioned on the website “Save Japan Dolphins” that you have personally rescued at least 25 dolphins from captivity. In all those rescues, and any others that you may have been a part of or have personal knowledge of, are you aware of any violence against any person or other living being that was a direct result of those rescues and rescue attempts?
Direct violence? No, but in every one of the releases, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Colombia, and others, there is always a degree of conflict and stress.
Confiscating animals from circus owners makes them become very angry. We have armed guards in places like this.
Actually, there was one man in the Solomon Islands, from the Earth Island Institute who was abducted and beaten to close to death.
On another occasion, two associates were murdered, not during a rescue, but for speaking out against captivity. They were trying to stop a dolphinarium, one in St Kitts, and the other in Tel Aviv.
So yes, there have been occasions we’ve experienced violence, but never have we been the aggressors. Our work must be done in a peaceful, non-violent way.
I have several pending death threats in Taiji, Japan. Thanks for your question
You have our thoughts with you always, Ric. I pray nothing happens to you
Thankyou, I have to wear disguises in Taiji now, as the fishermen are very angry
Thanks again, Ric. This concludes the pre-registered questions for today, and we'd like to thank you for some excellent responses to some great questions.
I'd like to ask Sierra Gabrielson to begin the open session of questions now, and if other members would like to address Ric, please feel free to PM myself or Roger with your intent. Go ahead, Sierra.
Thank you Tim. Ric, what are your next plans for the Taiji dolphins, and how could I, being only 17, help? What do volunteers do when they travel to Japan?
That's a very difficult question, I hear that question often. I would need to find out more details in order to answer it comprehensively.
The website www.dolphinproject.org is a great way to contact us, so I encourage you to check it out
The problem is in Taiji, but the solution is in Tokyo. We are working with LOM - Leading Opinion Makers.
We're trying to get them to ask the same question "What can I do", because this problem can only be solved by the Japanese people. It's starting to happen because I was there last week with Sting, and he said all the right things, and began to get through with the media and the Government and so, the Japanese Govt. are about the same age as Sting and all grew up on Western Rock and Roll and they all love Sting, who said all the right things at the interviews.
This is how the problem will be solved, by the Japanese people taking ownership of this issue. Our hope is to gradually step down as they step up
Thats great that he's involved
thank you for the question
Thank you. I just ordered your book, behind the dolphin smile, its amazing, you are truly my inspiration in life
Thanks Ric - next open session question comes from Fina...
Hi Ric, has anybody thought of repelling dolphins from the area, so the fishermen could not find them and come back empty-handed? Some techniques have been used to prevent bycatch in nets, like pingers.
Hi Fina .. Yes, we're working on that but it's extremely difficult as these dolphins are transient dolphins, not resident. They're travelling many many miles to get there.
that is good to hear, maybe in the future all cetaceans will avoid the area!
Next up is Dawn Groth - Dawn....
Thank you Roger.. Hi Ric, You mentioned earlier you felt the issue in Taiji was getting worse, why do you think this.
Also, do you feel that the activists being in Taiji are making problems worse, as well as the onslaught of emails being sent
It's become much more cruel because they're trying to hide the blood, and so they're inserting wooden pegs into the dolphins to keep the blood out of the water
As far as activists being in Taiji, it's very helpful if you can conduct yourself in a respectful manner, you might win the hearts and minds of the Japanese people
Only they can make the changes, they must be the ones to change. If we turn up with a big stick and the "Screw the Japs" attitude, you're not going to win the hearts and minds of the Japanese people. Japanese media pick up on this attitude and dismiss us as being "all the same" ~ It plays into the hands of the fishermen.
That's exactly what they WANT to see. They can get that out on national television and therefore make us all look bad and the way it translates to the Japanese public is, see I told you, they're all racists, and we are all dismissed. So all the activists are all dismissed as racist
hate & racism have no place in activism !!
so they are hurting?
There are many groups there and some are just doing fundraising, some are talking past the Japanese people and directly to their website.
Dawn, we have to identify who "they" are. The groups I send there are compassionate and try to get the Japanese people to take ownership of this issue. Some others go there and insult the Japanese citizens, but their media group us all together.
so there's too much interference by too many groups.
Here's the thing, there are 3444 people living in Taiji, there's only 26 men who are killing the dolphins plus another 50 who work in the slaughterhouse, so we can't blame all of the innocent people in Taiji for the very bad deeds of this small minority. We want to isolate that small group from the rest of the population.
Next Q comes from Jane Gorman – Jane
Ric, I would like to thank you on raising this awareness from my mum and dad also who knows what you have been fighting for years.. i will keep following your updates.
Thank you, Jane
You can sign up for blogs at our website and keep up to speed on what we're doing.
Next is Juergen Ortmueller...
Hi Ric, what's your programme next time? We will go together with Andy to Turkey (in April 3rd to 11th) to visit all dolphinarium and to have a protest in front of them. We have to shut them all. I hope we will be till to 1.000 people as T.media wrote.
Hi Juergan. Everyone should know that Andy and Juergan are two of the most effective campaigners in Germany!
I agree! :-)
Thanks for the flowers, Ric:-)
I can't reveal what my next project is, I have to keep it secret as if I announce what I'm doing there will be people there to sabotage my efforts. We have a lot of detractors, so I can't broadcast my plans.
Turkey is a huge problem, but I have to finish what I've started in the jungle.
Yes, this is true. We will be more and more - and that is a part of our power.
Next up is Robert James - Rob??
Just like to say thank you, Ric for your time and effort today. Are you involved much with Sea Shepherds cove guardians such as Elora West and Nicole McLachlan and do you think that these girls are very brave, considering their age, to be there fighting to spread the word of what is happening in Taiji ? If so how do you rate their efforts?
I'm not involved with SS in Japan as we have a different strategy. I'm opposed to “Boycott Japan, Save the Dolphins.” I respectfully disagree with that.
Paul Watson and I have agreed to disagree on this. The Japanese people are not guilty, to boycott them is a blanket indictment on all Japanese people and I don't support that.
I have a 6 yr old daughter from China who was confronted on the playground and called a whale killer, and she is not guilty.
That's the by product of this, innocent people are targetted.
I agree that the Japanese citizens are not the problem, it is the Fisheries but i have spoken to these members and they interact with Taiji residents
I’m sorry to hear that Ric, it is terrible
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
Sorry to hear that
Thanks Ric, Sea Shepherd Pirate has a question for you next, go ahead SSP!
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
Ric, do you think the oceans will be fished out by 2048 as it is rumoured
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
We all know why.
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
i don't worry for myself but my children and grand children
Not only will it be fished out but it will also be heavily toxic, actually, we're already there
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
can we stop it??
I don't know, I honestly don't know.
Perhaps if we switch to solar, wind power, other alternatives besides coal.
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
thank you for you honesty. I wish we would!
Thanks Ric, Maria Heidemann has the next question, Maria, please go ahead when you are ready.
Yes, here we go
Ric, thank you for being here. I am an artist and a performer – stiltwalker. I went to anti whaling day in Dusseldorf, I know Juergen Ortmuller as well. I make a movie/documentary of my trip and dancing on stilts for saving the whales. I only want to know if you would be so kind that at the time when my movie, educational and entertaining, is ready, when you have some time or some of your experts. I would like to show it to you and give your opinion and tips? It is a peaceful approach to touch peoples’ hearts and awareness. I am for rising awareness. At the same time I realize that you will not have the time to watch it.
I agree with your strategy, Maria. It's easier to attract bees with honey than vinegar
I’d really love to show it to you but i am sure you will not have much time but tell me can I try to contact you by the time I am so far ?
I will watch it, Maria
I know you will like it. My heart is in it thank you, Ric. Thanks from the depth of my heart
Ric, you've been generous with your time, and we still have a few more questions for you, Mark Jordan has the next one!! Mark, go ahead.
I hear you say the problem is with the people in Japan that are doing the capture/killing and with Tokyo (government/masses of people to make gov. act).
Granted, if no one would do it or the gov. banned it, the capture and killing would stop, but aren’t the people and the government supplying to meet a demand?
Isn’t the basis of the problem people paying to go to aquariums, dolphinariums, etc. all around the world? [i.e. the support of these businesses generates the $ that fuels the capture, and subsequent killing. If there is a demand ($), people and governments will show up to supply.]
Govt.s protect corporations, not people and other animals The solution to this problem is with consumers. Consumers must stop buying tickets to dolphin shows. It's all about supply and demand.
So, our work is about connecting up with consumers, and asking them not to buy tickets. That's the only solution I can see ... supply and demand.
Thanks Ric, Laura U has a question.
Hi Ric! As you've been fighting to save dolphins for so many years, where do you find your strength to carry on? How do you fight against losing hope and be optimistic? And if I may, a 2nd question: any encouraging words to my mum (who has just seen The Cove and was very much appalled by the atrocities shown in it) to take action for animals? :-)
This will have to be the last question, as I have an appointment across town.
I've been doing this for 40 years, I'm now 71 yrs old, and I just keep doing it. I don't think about it any more, it's all about just showing up.
It was very refreshing to be surrounded by like minded people today. I'm usually surrounded by people who hate me!
I appreciate you all coming to spend time with me today!
Sea Shepherd Pirate:
Thanks Ric be well
thanks for all you do
God bless you, Ric
thank you so much
Thanks so much Ric,God Speed
By, by Ric - see you!
Thank you, Ric.
Ric, you are wonderful, thank you.
Thank you so much for your time Ric
Was my pleasure
Our pleasure, thank you!
Thank you Ric for a great evening tonight you have been a fantastic person
througout your life you are an inspiration
Thank you, Ric, for all the work you do and have done!
Thanks for your turn around, Ric. You are such an incredible human being to spend 38 years fighting for our dolphin friends. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.
I’d like to thank you, Ric, for sharing your experiences and insight with us today. ARZone sincerely appreciate you being willing to give up your time to share with us today. Thanks!
yes thank you very much
Sadia V madie:
Thank you Ric :-) A delight, a pleasure indeed.
Thank you Mr. O'Barry
Thank you for your time.
Thanks so much for the chat, I appreciate everything you do.
Thanks everyone for being here, and thanks to ARZone for hosting this event. Have a great weekend everyone.
Safe travels, Ric!
Another good chat. thanks Ric!
Camilla Hedegaard Andersen:
HA Thank you for taking the time to be here.
Please check out the recently-launched ARZone Q&A site, Words to Inspire, which features the thoughts of our various guests:
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I have to say that I was sceptical about Ric's views on other animals and believed that he would be heavily influenced by species biases. But I was impressed reading this transcript.
I think the thing is, yes, he could be out in the world promoting veganism as the [only] solution to a broad range of issues, be it on television, in books or on a street corner. But for Ric, it seems, it is primrarily about dolphins - not because of social values that place more worth on the lives of dolphins than cows, but because of his own history and personal relationships with them.
I think, as Carolyn points out - and red dog follows up on-, the issue is with Ric killing fish for himself to eat. But again, I haven't ever been in that kind of a situation and would struggle with a decision that either forced me to abandon helping individual dolphins because I could not remain totally vegan if I didn't, or conversely to help the dolphins but at the expense of the animals whose rights I would have to violate in the process.
As far as the issue of killing fish to feed to the dolphins being helped is concerned, I think this is essentially very similar to the issue of rescued companion animals who need to eat animal products - it's a very difficult choice, but personally I find it excusable as we are taking a certain ' collective responsibillity' for righting the wrongs committed against domestic animals by our fellow humans. It is through human interference that they are in the position they are in, so don't we have an obligation to care for them?
At the same time though, is it justifiable to engage in the exploitation of other animals in order to fulfill this obligation?
If Ric is able to survive in the jungle for such a long time, I assume he brings either a supply of clean water or chemicals to disinfect the water that's available. Instant soups, instant cereals, dried seaweeds and meal replacement powders might enable him to survive without killing fish for his own consumption. Ric, have you checked the food section at veganessentials.com to see what non-perishable products they have available, and have you considered packing any of these for your trip?
IMO, the most we can ask Ric to do under the circumstances is to do his best to veganize his own diet--that's apparently something he wants to do too. Obviously it wouldn't resolve the dilemma of whether it's right to rehabilitate carnivorous wild animals if the alternative is letting them suffer in captivity. I agree that's not easy to justify under AR theory, but I think he explained his choice to focus on dolphins and that his explanation was reasonable.
If Ric were not in the jungle rescuing these 5 dolphins, these 5 dolphins would still be eating the same amount of fishes. I don't think the issue here, for me anyway, is about the dolphins eating the fishes, or about Ric catching those fishes for the dolphins to eat. Dolphins eat fishes, end of story.
I believe the issue, for many people, is that Ric will also be eating the fishes. Some of the comments made after Ric's chat indicated that he should be packing up 3 months worth of vegan food to take into the jungle with him, instead.
I've never spent 3 months in a remote jungle in a developing country myself, but I imagine if I did so, I might find it difficult to transport 3 months (at least) worth of vegan food into that jungle with me.
I don't know the details of Ric's rescue operation, and I too would love for Ric to be vegan, but I don't see that logistically it would be possible to expect him to live vegan under these conditions for this amount of time.
Ric's family already live vegan, so one would assume he lives vegan when at home with his family too. Ric clearly articulated that he rescues and rehabilitates dolphins because he feels responsible for an industry which he helped in it's early stages.
I applaud Ric for the work he does, and has done for 40 years. I encourage Ric to live vegan too, but I also understand this may not always be possible in a remote jungle. It's a difficult situation.
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