May 1, 2017 Newsletter

On Sunday, Vancouver Aquarium CEO Dr John Nightingale spoke to our Vancouver group about the Aquarium's educational and scientific work with the whales and dolphins in their care (as well as those in nearby waterways).

You can listen to Dr Nightingale's presentation on our podcast. In it, he discusses the Vancouver Parks Board's recent decision to move toward a bylaw banning the keeping of cetaceans in Stanley Park. That draft of that bylaw is expected on May 15.

Despite the terminology, Humanists are concerned not only with the health and well-being of human beings but of all life and the environment as well. So the debate over the welfare of cetaceans in captivity is one on which reasonable Humanists have disagreed.

By hosting Dr Nightingale, I hope we were able to spark a dialogue on these issues. For those who feel motivated to write in support of the Aquarium, you can do so at For those looking to read the other side, you can read the Vancouver Humane Society's December 2016 report on the Aquarium here.

This talk, like most of our events, was not an endorsement but an effort to promote reasoned dialogue about current ethical issues.

Annual General Meeting

Our Annual General Meeting is coming up on Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 10:00 AM at Oakridge Seniors' Centre.

Let us know if you're interested in standing for the board. We'll also be voting on a new constitution and bylaws.

You must be a member to vote at the AGM - check or renew your membership now.

Full details are on our website.

Delta Police respond

Last month we wrote to Delta Police Chief Neil Dubbord about a recent Interfaith Symposium his Department took part in.

Chief Dubbord has now responded and you can read his reply on our website.

New on our website

Podcast: Dr John Nightingale - Vancouver Aquarium and Cetaceans

Dr Nightingale is CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium and talks about its educational and research mandates in light of the recent efforts to ban cetaceans in captivity at the Aquarium.

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, May 02, 2017 at 07:00 PM
Sunday, May 07, 2017 at 10:00 AM
Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 10:00 AM
Sunday, May 28, 2017 at 10:00 AM

See all upcoming events.

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  • commented 2017-05-02 00:09:30 -0700
    - Van Aqua is not exactly self-sustaining and not a non-profit in the way you think of a non-profit. They have received $1.5M in public funding since 2011, plus $10M in federal government money for expanding the facility. We won’t even get into the fact that their donors include mining and oil companies. They also aren’t a non-profit like the charities you envision. They have no requirement to spend any minimum amount on their stated mandate. They generally DECLARE about 15% of their expenditures on “research,” “education,” and “conservation” COMBINED. The top 10 employees are paid $2M annually. The top 2 make a total of $500k.

    - There is no sustainable seafood in practical terms. Ocean Wise is unenforceable, and maybe even theoretically untraceable. It’s a sticker that restaurants pay thousands of dollars for (and they are required to have only ONE Ocean Wise product on the menu) to make people feel better about contributing to the continued plundering of the ocean. If you are serious about making sure you are not part of the problem, just stop eating seafood. Stop eating animals (since by-catch often becomes animal feed). This isn’t difficult.

    - This is a bit of a cheap-shot, but if John Nightingale is so concerned about shipping traffic, maybe he shouldn’t be taking donations from Imperial Oil.

    - The upgrades to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre happened as a result of the public becoming aware of the state of the facilities there. Nevertheless, $0 out of the current $100M expansion money is slated to go to the MMRC. It should not be a surprise that the MMRC is unable to accomplish half of what similar facilities in Sausalito and Los Angeles do.

    - If Van Aqua’s first concern is the health and welfare of the animals, then why do they practically deny the existence of sea pens? Why does it spend $3.4M on marketing, and $7M on retail, and maybe $500k on the MMRC? Why is none of the expansion money going to the MMRC? Why are they planning on bringing belugas back when they say they don’t know what killed Qila and Aurora? …and -on a tangent (sorry)- why does John Nightingale keep implying that activists poisoned them, when there is zero evidence of it. On the other hand they have now discovered (and are removing) “problematic” plants on the site.

    - Van Aqua NEVER announced plans to phase out cetacean captivity. They had plans to phase out BELUGA captivity…by first bringing IN more (and not necessarily the ones they already “own” that are on breeding loan to Sea World and other facilities).

    - Though the public DOES support rescue, that’s not the same as saying that the public supports captivity and display.

    - The MMRC’s rescues are almost all seals (i.e. not cetaceans), and the MMRC is not on Park Board land. There are other temporary (or even permanent) homes for cetacean rescues around North America, and The Whale Sanctuary Project is moving forward with building Sea Pens. They could sure use some funding from wealthy facilities like Van Aqua. That is to say that it makes zero sense to say that the Park Board bylaw amendment will halt the rescue program.

    - The Park Board listened to experts from Van Aqua, as well others, including leading scientists locally and around the world. The difference between the sides was that Van Aqua did nothing but drone on about “inspiration” with NO regard for the arguments presented. This wasn’t a simple matter of politicians ignoring science. This was about politicians (who were mostly pro-captivity) embracing some science that lies outside of John Nightingale’s rhetoric.

    I’ll finish off by saying that I know that VA does good work. 90% of John’s presentation was just listing off the good that VA does. I support that. Education is good. Research is good (and notice that almost all of the good stuff VA does is IN THE WILD). The reason why he did that is because he wants to you to believe that this is about Activists (and Park Board) vs. The Aquarium AS A WHOLE.

    It’s not. As activists, we did push the Park Board to place the concerns for the animals FIRST (of course, we are focusing exclusively on cetaceans at the moment). No one is saying that we want the rescue and conservation programs to end.

    What Van Aqua is doing right now is extraordinarily dirty. They are reaching out to groups like you, listing off all of the great stuff they do, and they try to make it seem as if the ban on cetacean “importation and display” will lead to the end of all things.

    I ask that you support Van Aqua, but not in the way that they want. Support them by encouraging them to respect the ban, and to become the great institution that we know they can become.

    I had long ago written off humanists and human-supremacists, no better than any other supremacists I’ve had to deal with. Please prove me wrong.

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