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Steve Huxter

The Distorted Truths of John Stossel’s… “Green Tyranny”

Many of you may not be familiar with John Stossel, that’s probably because he works for Fox News (sic) and you prefer to get your facts from journalistic news sources.

This coming Sunday, June 14th, Fox is airing a made for TV special called: Green Tyranny, the premise being that animal welfare activists and specifically the film Blackfish, have distorted the truth about Sea world and its practices.

Mr. Stossel says: “I don’t presume to know if it’s moral to keep animals in captivity. But I do know that the activists distort the truth.”

I came across this article written by John Stossel that advertises his upcoming TV special. The same distortion of truths that he vilifies in Blackfish is, ironically, replete throughout his writing.

I can’t decide if John Stossel is:

A. Gullible
B. An owner of deflated Sea World stock.
C. Sensationalizing a controversial topic to gain viewers.
D. All of the above.

Here are a few examples:

Stossel: “I asked SeaWorld why they separate whales from their mothers.” “We haven’t done that in 35 years,” says Kelly Flaherty Clark, SeaWorld head trainer. “We have no plans to do it again, and the film (Blackfish) implies that we’re doing it yesterday.

SeaWorld’s curator of zoological operations, Chuck Tompkins had stated to Fresh Air, NPR:

We’ve never moved a calf from a mom. … A calf is an animal young enough who is still dependent on the mom, still nursing with the mom, and still requires the mom’s leadership … We think they’re probably dependent [at] 4 to 5 years. After that, they start to gain their independence.

Given that males remain with their mothers for life; a fact that Sea World doesn’t acknowledge on their website; though, they do admit that the calves are born in the water , There are six instances in the list below that clearly contradict Tompkins statement.

Here are some of the early separations of children from their mothers at Sea World, within the last 25 years, not Flaherty Clarks: “We haven’t done that in 35 years.”

CAPTIVE BORN (still alive)

F – Kayla- SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 5 months in 1992 (23 years ago)
M – Keet – SW -separated from mother at 1 year, 8 months in 1994 (21 years ago)
M – Trua – SW -separated from mother when he was 3 years, 2 months in 2009 (6 years ago)
M – Tuar – SW -separated from mother at 4 years, 10 months in 2004 (11 years ago)
F – Unna – SW -separated from mother at 6 years in 2002 (13 years ago)

CAPTIVE BORN (deceased)

F – Halyn – SW -separated from mother immediately due to mother’s rejection (Oct. 2005)
F – Kalina – SW -separated from mother at 4 years, 4 mos in 1990. (25 years ago)
F – Katerina – SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 5 months in 1991. (24 years ago)
M – Splash (Katak) – SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 6 months in 1992. (23 years ago)
M – Sumar – SW -separated from mother at 10 months old in 1999. (16 years ago)

(Statistics from

Another glaring example of distortion told by Stossel is: “Blackfish also claims captive whales’ droopy dorsal fins indicate that the whales are miserable. But whale expert Ingrid Visser says killer whales in the wild have collapsed dorsal fins, too.”

What Blackfish says is that it’s miserable to see killer whales with a dorsal fin in such an unnatural, pathetic looking state. It’s a visible statement on the physical impact that captivity has on their body.

While Stossel is correct when he writes that Dr. Visser knows of killer whales in the wild with drooped dorsal fins, known as dorsal collapse, Dr. Ingrid Visser’s research was focused on a specific population of killer whales in the waters off New Zealand. This population group that showed an unusually high percentage (~23%) of damaged/collapsed dorsal fins. In all other populations that have been studied, the percentage of killer whales with dorsal collapse ranges from: .57% observed in Norway, to 4.7% for the Southern Resident killer whales, though the total  rate of collapse among the killer whales observed in British Columbia, Canada averages at 1%.

At Sea World, 100% of their males have dorsal collapse.

But this fact doesn’t serve Stossel’s purpose and he prefers to promote Sea Worlds half-truths and distortions of fact.

Another glaring distortion from Stossel is: “Finally, Blackfish claims that captive whales die young. But Dold (SW Vet. Chris Dold) points out, “We have a 50-year-old whale living at SeaWorld… Our whales’ life parameters are the same as whales in the wild. Government research confirms this.”

Sea Worlds web site describes killer whale longevity as being: “When factored in at birth, the average life expectancy of southern and northern resident killer whales is about 29 years for females and 17 years for males.”

A quick reference to the NOAA Fisheries “government” web site and page on killer whale lifespans reads:

Lifespan: Up to 50-100 years:

– males typically live for about 30 years, but can live as long as 50-60 years.
– females typically live about 50 years, but can live as long as 100 years.

“J2”,also known as “Granny”, is a well-known female member of J pod; of the Southern Resident killer whales in the Pacific Northwest, , Granny is estimated to be 104 years of age. More than double what Sea Worlds claim as the average lifespan of a female of the southern resident killer whales”.

It’s obvious that John Stossel had no intention of making an objective verification of the facts as presented by Sea World. From the very start his intent was to make a controversial television presentation that took an opposite opinion from what is now mainstream thinking; that killer whales should not be in captivity.

You may be curious to view Stossel’s “Green Tyranny” on Sunday night but if I can offer some advice… don’t bother.

All you will be seeing is a TV personality, desperate for ratings and eagerly lip-syncing whatever Sea World hucksters as its truth.

So, unless you have a strong stomach and the firm self-control not to throw something at your TV…

The less viewers of Stossel’s Green Tyranny… all the better.

money dolphin

A begrudging acceptance and the Taiji cultural tradition of dolphin ranching?

There’s been some well deserved cheers following the announcement that the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) have voted to comply with a demand from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) that Japanese facilities stop buying dolphins from drive hunts, or face expulsion.

While I happily join in the chorus, my good cheer is tempered by the knowledge that JAZA member facilities begrudgingly ceded to WAZA’s demands, and the fishers of Taiji have no intention of giving up on the Japanese industry of providing live dolphins to whoever will buy.

JAZA chairman, Kazutoshi Arai, was quoted as saying: “We do not think it is cruel to take wild dolphins…but as we have reached this kind of conclusion in relation to WAZA, we need to steer (our policy) toward breeding,”

An abundance of markets still exist for the dolphins captured in Taiji.  Australia for Dolphins, states that approximately 40% of the dolphins caught for the live dolphin market are slated for Japanese facilities, leaving a majority going to overseas zoos and aquariums.

Dolphins captured in Taiji have been exported to  China, Korea, Ukraine, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

Buyers of wild caught dolphins still exist among the WAZA membership and the executive of the world body have enforcement work to do. WAZA cannot selectively enforce its mandate that requires all 50 member countries and territories to “adhere to policies that prohibit participating in cruel and non-selective methods of taking animals from the wild.”

Australia for Dolphins chief executive Sarah Lucas was quoted in The Guardian as saying that Australia For Dolphins “would continue its legal action against WAZA because other members of the organization continue to buy dolphins from Taiji and other inhumane hunts.”

Captive breeding takes place in a small number of Japanese zoos and aquariums, representing an estimated 12 to 13 percent of the captive dolphin population in Japan. Many of the facilities lack separate breeding pools to accommodate nursing females; a clear indication that those facilities are substandard and inappropriate for the ongoing care of dolphins.

The Taiji cultural tradition of dolphin ranching?

In an article from the New Straits Times (Reuters, 21 May, 2015), Taiji mayor Kazutaka Sangen told reporters that consideration was being given to set up a dolphin breeding centre in a partitioned area of the notorious cove. Sangen was quoted as saying: “We plan to protect our fishermen, who have authority from both the nation and the local government.”  “We believe it can become the world’s main provider. I believe in 10 years our town will have changed its role in all this.”

Sangen added. “My justification is that the government recognizes the catches and so does the prefecture, there’s absolutely nothing wrong.”

The majority of the Japanese people, and most assuredly- their protectionist government, do not believe that dolphins and other cetaceans are suffering in captivity and there is little chance that they will suddenly develop an empathy for the dolphins and the meagre existence that captivity affords them.

We can’t shame the Japanese people into changing how they feel about dolphins and whales. They’ll resent the insult and it will push them away. We can pressure their government but… historically, when pushed, they look for a lessor path of resistance to do whatever they want.

We need to patiently and politely help the the citizenry of Japan to understand the depth of emotion that dolphins possess, that they enjoy their freedom and can only truly thrive as they should, in their natural home.

I suspect that as time goes on and other nations acknowledge the injustice that is being done and change their laws to reflect the recognition that as intelligent and emotional beings, dolphins and whales deserve to live as they should; the people of those nations who’ve lagged behind in that understanding… will shame themselves.



I’ll be the first to admit that being an active advocate takes patience, dedication and perseverance. After many petitions with limited success, debates with no apparent win and countless facebook shares, without change; you might be discouraged and start ignoring the latest petition, scroll past yet another “please share”, and tuck your resolve into your back pocket, while saying to yourself: “I’m only one person, no one will miss my efforts.

Which is, of course, what marine parks such as Sea World, are counting on.

As we roll into the second summer after the release of Blackfish, marine parks that hold whales and dolphins are counting on the “Blackfish effect” to be running its course and the number of protestors to dwindle down to a staunch few.

Sea Worlds stock prices will gain value, attendance will rise and the Sea World PR machine will kick into action saying:  We told you so. It was nothing more than a small number of extremist activists tilting at the Sea World windmill, without just cause. Our whales are happy and thriving.

Sea Worlds 1stQ financial report did show a small increase in attendance; likely to have been the result of discounted tickets. And their overall revenue did increase slightly; primarily due to an almost 5% reduction in operating costs. Some market analysts are suggesting that this might me the summer of a turnaround for Sea World.

It’s time for us to redouble our efforts and prove that we are resolute and unwavering in our determination.

An opportunity has presented itself for you to express your support for captive killer whales and dolphins by telling representatives from travel organizations throughout the United States, that Sea World is not an appropriate travel destination as long as they keep killer whales and dolphins in captivity.

On May 29 – June 4, the U.S. Travel Association’s, 2015 IPW, (International Pow Wow… yes, that’s actually what the acronym stands for.) is taking place in Orlando, Florida.

The US Travel Associations- 2015 IPW, is a travel industry trade show with more than 1,000 travel organizations from across the US, and will attract over 1,300 domestic and international buyers from 70 countries, resulting in an estimated $4.7 billion generated for US markets… including Sea World.

Over 380 travel writers and journalists from around the world will be covering the event, including writers from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and China; countries that already hold killer whales captive, or countries which are markets that Sea World has targeted for expansion.

This is an opportunity for advocates that cannot be missed.

Sea World is an exhibitor and sponsor at the IPW and is represented by:

SeaWorld San Diego, SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Orlando FL.

The focus of our efforts should be aimed at the Sea World hosted event that is taking place on Monday, June 1st- as described on the US Travel Associations, IPW website:

IPW 2015 Lunches and Evening Events

“One Ocean, One World” | SeaWorld Orlando
7:00-10:30 p.m.
“Tonight, set sail to SeaWorld Orlando’s “One Ocean, One World” celebration—an evening of thrills, delicious food and dazzling entertainment inspired by the wonders of the sea.
We invite you to embark on a voyage through the seven ports of SeaWorld Orlando, each a harbor of vibrant, live entertainment and delicious globally inspired cuisine, plus world-class attractions. Meet SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Ambassadors and hear their amazing rescue stories. Relax over cold drinks or let your imagination take flight on one of SeaWorld Orlando’s thrilling attractions.”
Sponsor: SeaWorld Orlando

Our call to action:

Make your voice heard and encourage the US Travel Association to relocate the evening event away from Sea World.

At the very least, we can create a high profile controversy and gain the attention of 380 travel writers.

NOTE: Please! Be polite, respectful and intelligent in your communications and prove that we are not the imbalanced extremists that Sea World claims us to be.
Address your email comments to:

Roger Dow, President & CEO, US Travel Assoc. –

Jonathan Grella, Exec. V.P., Public Affairs, US Travel Assoc. –

On Twitter:

US Travel on Twitter – @ustravelipw
Their hashtag – #ipw15

On Facebook:


US Travel Assoc. –

As said by fellow advocate Kimberly Ventre:

“Time to tell travel professionals that they need to eliminate animal cruelty from their supply chain!”

Effective Communications in Online Advocacy.

“The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.”

I’m a relative newcomer to the animal advocacy movement and will admit that I’m a social media neophyte as well. However, I’m not naïve about human behaviour and given the anonymity of a keyboard and screen, I recognize that people will say almost anything to support their opinion or belief. Far too often, it is vitriolic, and ugly.

For example: When it was discovered that dolphin trainer, Jose Luis Barbero; who was accused of mistreating the dolphins in his care, had committed suicide; I read through some of the comments made by animal welfare advocates and was disappointed to read comments such as:

I’m glad he killed himself… good!!”, and: “Good… burn in hell.

Can you imagine the pain and horror that a member of his family would feel if they read those comments? Can you imagine what hateful thoughts they might have toward you?

If your reply to me is: “I don’t give a damn what they think of me!

Well… you should.

By crowing in delight that a person committed suicide; a person who is sure to be loved by friends and family, you’re telling the online world that you are without sensitivity or empathy… none! What does that level of insensitivity and cruelty tell the world about animal welfare advocates?

We are supposed to be the sensitive and empathic ones; able to see clearly the suffering of another animal. We have the empathy to imagine how it feels to live the boring, frustrating and constraining lifetime of captivity suffered by animals.

A common remark I’ve read from pro-captivity proponents, is that we should be more focused on human suffering and when they see an anti-captivity advocate expressing pleasure that someone is dead, they are vindicated in their belief that we’re all insensitive extremists.

If you don’t display the same empathy and compassion toward our own species, whether it’s Jose Luis Barbero, or an anonymous someone who disagrees with you on Facebook, you call into question your credibility, and your motivation for being an advocate.

As I became more involved with efforts to end the holding of cetaceans and whales in captivity, I grew frustrated with the aggressive “us against them” mentality that pervades, on both sides of the captivity issue. I realize it’s inevitable but I don’t see any advantage in widening the gap.

It’s bad enough that those who favour captivity resort to insults and name calling, but when my fellow advocates resort to the same tactics, I cringe at the damage they do. When you make an aggressive comment, aimed at someone who disagrees or holds a different opinion, there’s only one outcome; they fight back and as the saying goes: “In a pissin’ war, everyone gets wet.”

One sarcastic comment or a single insult, and you aren’t being listened to any longer and will probably get blocked from the conversation. The short term satisfaction of what you feel is a clever put-down of your “opponent” is, in actuality, a lost opportunity.


If it talks like an extremist, acts like an extremist and attacks like an extremist… it’s an extremist.


There should be no pride in being labelled an extremist. An extremist is on the fringe, whereas we want our opinions to be understood and adopted by the mainstream of society. Those who support having animals in captivity want, and need, to label you as an extremist.

When engaging in online conversations, every insult you spew, every derogatory statement you hurl; no matter how clever you think it is, reflects on your character and credibility, it quashes any likelihood that those reading what you’ve said, will understand your perspective or believe anything of what you have to say.

In effect… you’re doing more harm than good, and probably delaying the success of our efforts. You are simply disengaging people from the conversation and proving the contention that you are indeed an aggressive extremist.

Those who are opposed to ending captivity will say just about anything to defend their beliefs. Eric M. Davis, editor of Awesome Ocean, has labelled Dr. Naomi Rose as an extremist. Anyone familiar with Dr. Rose knows her to be one of the most rational, fact based and balanced thinkers in advocacy; and I’m sure that Mr. Davis knows it. Ironically, by labelling Dr. Rose as an extremist, Eric Davis is making an extremist claim.

The more extreme the statements you make; the more you are exactly what you are accused of being.

Trying to share our understanding with the uninformed, misinformed or the contrarians, can be challenging and frustrating. However, I can tell you with absolute certainty that no one is going to be listening, once you’ve insulted them, or their opinion.

The people you are talking with will have expectations that you are going to say just about anything to advance your cause and given what I’ve read from some of the anti-captivity proponents, they have good reason to expect so.
Educate, don’t berate.

My advice to you is this: Be a model of intelligent, fact based, rational behaviour.

Rather than shaking your fist in the air with righteous indignation and a: “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, you f*#&@#g idiot!!”, instead… be reasonable, rational and factual.

By communicating in an intelligent and respectful manner, it demonstrates that you are thoughtful, carefully consider what you say and therefore, more likely to be seen as credible and believable.

It’s wise to remember that there may be someone reading through the online conversation that is undecided on the issue; someone who is not sure which side of the debate they are on. They will hear your reasonable and rational comments, compare them with the aggressive ranting of a pro-captivity supporter, and it might make the choice of the undecided… a little clearer.


Road-blocks to communication.


Insults and name calling: This should be self-explanatory.

Extreme statements: E.g. “Shut down SeaWorld!” or “Free the whales.” This is unrealistic and will only result in defensive responses. Such statements are simply a call to arms for SeaWorld supporters, and Sea World employees will fear the loss of their jobs; to say nothing of the thousands of jobs from those businesses that support and supply SeaWorld.

As well, if SeaWorld were to shut down, who would acclimatize the animals back into the wild or provide long term care for those animals that can’t return to their natural environment? Many of the animals currently in captivity were born in captivity and cannot be set free.

Judging, criticizing:You are not thinking maturely…” or “The trouble with you is….” On hearing a statement like this, whoever you are talking with, will stop listening or go on the defensive. In either case, you’ve lost an opportunity to have a positive influence.

Sarcasm: This is nothing more than a sneaky means of insulting someone. The moment a sarcastic statement comes off of your fingertips, you can be assured that you’ve lost credibility.

Character assassination: For example: This comment was excerpted from a pro-captivity Facebook page. “This man is truly a pathetic, despicable, cowardice scum. How dare he have the ability to get in front of a camera and talk like he has some sense of moral values and intelligence. He is total filth. EFF him. Period.” Never make comments like this!

Perpetuating the “Us vs Them”: Making statements like: “We’re going to defeat all you pathetic pro-caps. Soon you’ll have nowhere to watch your abusive shows. Anti-caps rule!!” This only stimulates a defensive-aggressive response and in reality, bonds the pro-captivity side of the debate.


Effective communication


Be polite and respectful: This is rule No. 1

Be non-judgemental: This includes refraining from subtle insults, such as: “Perhaps you labour under the limitations of an inadequate education, so… let me put it in simple words for you.”

Have facts and references at your finger-tips: Very few people are going to right out accept what you say. Back up your statements with a link to factual and credible sources.

Facilitate understanding: They are not your enemy… they’re your students.

Be an active listener: Let the other person know that you’ve heard what they had to say: “You’re quite right, Sea World does have an effective rescue program that has rescued many manatees and turtles. All the same, holding killer whales in captivity is not related to their rescue program and is a separate issue altogether.”

Aside from being respectful, letting the other person know that you are listening, may open them to being more receptive to what you have to say.

Active listening is the first of 5 steps to having someone see your point of view and hopefully change their behaviour, and what they believe.

1. Active Listening: Listen to their side and make them aware you’re listening.

2. Empathy: You get an understanding of where they’re coming from and how they feel.

3. Rapport: Empathy is what you feel. Rapport is when they feel it back. They start to trust you.

4. Influence: Now that they trust you, you’ve earned the right to present your knowledge and, hopefully, influence their understanding.

5. Behavioral Change: They act and re-evaluate their thinking.


Use the power of the paraphrase: When the person you are talking with doesn’t understand the point you are making, take a moment to think and re-phrase what you are saying. It doesn’t always work but it’s a better course to take then calling them stupid for not understanding the point you make.

Apologize: You are trying to be patient and calm but a comment just rubs you the wrong way, you lose your composure and fire off a nasty at the other person. A few moments later, you cringe, knowing that it’s too late to delete.

Your only recourse is to come clean and do damage control. It’s time to get all Canadian on them and … say you’re sorry.

There’s been three occasions over the past couple of years when I’ve had to apologize after I lost my self-control. In each case I swallowed my pride and made an apology. In two of those cases I could tell that the other person was taken off- guard. They accepted my apology and the conversation continued with the other person reflecting what I was saying and perhaps, learned from my perspective.


What if you’re wrong?

It is incredibly important that you take great care to ensure the information you are offering is factual. Even if it means taking a moment to leave the conversation to double check your facts. If you are in doubt, say nothing at all.

If you say something or make a claim that proves to be wrong… admit it… always… no matter how painful.

If you don’t, and you’re caught defending an obvious error, it weakens the validity of everything you’ve said, and ever will say. As well, all anti-captivity advocates will all be painted with the same brush that you’ve charged with the wrong colour of paint.


You’re under attack.

You’ve been polite, rational and factual but you’ve come up against someone who is intent of insulting you and raising your ire. There are only two steps to follow in this circumstance.

1. Set limits: Clarify your concern. E.g. “Calling me names and insulting me isn’t helping this conversation, I am simply trying to share my perspective. I’ve been polite and respectful. Could you please do the same?

2. Bow out with grace and dignity: When it becomes obvious that the person you are talking with is entrenched in their opinion, blind in their faith and unwilling to explore or hear your viewpoint and the facts you present, it’s time to bow out gracefully. It’s very important to end your part of the conversation as respectful as you entered.

A terse: “You’re a f*#@$&g idiot. I’m done with you.” will reflect on your character, not the other persons.

It’s frustrating when we present documented facts or widely accepted opinion and whoever we are talking with refuses to explore the possibility that they are labouring under a misunderstanding.

There’s the possibility that they enjoy being an online bully and are spoiling for an opportunity to exchange insults. There are those who thrive on acrimony and by denying them the chance to do what they enjoy… you win!

When you encounter someone who is spoiling for an argument or is an online bully, take the high ground; be polite, respectful and state the reason why you are leaving the discussion.

• “I can’t be a part of this conversation any longer, your insults are unacceptable.

• “I can see that you aren’t able to hear my side of this issue. Please, take the time to read this.” (Provide a link to reputable information that supports your discussion point.)

Like you, I shake my head in dismay at times. It’s difficult to fathom why pro-captivity supporters can’t relate to, or understand, the injustice that is done to animals. Perhaps it’s due to brand loyalty, objectification, or perhaps they lack empathy because they have an AA gene variant on their oxytocin receptor.

Whatever the reason, the chances are slim to none that you are going to change the thinking of someone who supports Awesome Ocean, Stand With SeaWorld or Anti-Blackfish Movement, and in my opinion, it’s simply not worth the effort to hover over those pages and attempt to sway opinion.

Even so, I do take the opportunity to visit their pages every so often, if only to gauge the strength of their following and what conversations are current. At times, when I see an obvious piece of misinformation or a badly skewed perspective, I will make a polite comment or post a link offering a different perspective on what’s being said. I’m able to do so because in the past, I’ve been polite and careful not to offend.

To my way of thinking, being banned from a pro-captivity page is not a “badge of honour”. Instead, I see it as a lost opportunity to observe, teach and share information.

For the most part, I feel that spending any significant amount of time on pro-captivity pages will not make any converts.

Your time can be better spent by putting your energy, compassion and knowledge to more valuable use by educating the unaware, the undecided and those people who care but haven’t yet raised their voice for the animals.

In the end, it’s not how loud you yell… it’s the multitude of voices, in concert, that wins the day.


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