Not everyone has taken the time to consider whether marine parks that house captive whales and dolphins are inhumane or not. But every parent on the face of the earth has a staunch opinion on parenting techniques and their child’s school system. So if yet another Marlineland controversy wasn’t enough to get people talking this week, simply adding parenting and public schools into the mix has certainly spurred debate.
In a recent Hamilton Spectator opinion piece by Lydia Lovric, the journalist wrote about Jennifer Jamieson, a Stoney Creek, ON, mom who had her son’s school trip to Marineland cancelled. Lovric—the same writer who has publicly admitted her disdain for the word “feminism” and who wrote that “a lot of couples today are purely selfish in their desire not to have kids” back in 2007—thought the right course of action for a vegetarian and animal advocate like Jamieson would be to keep her nine-year-old home from school for the day rather than be the catalyst to sending his entire class to the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), instead.
Similarly, in an interview with the Spectator, Teresa Blum, president of the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations, insinuated that Jamieson is missing the point. “Sometimes parents need to let their children experience the world as it is. Children should be allowed to have as many life experiences as possible,” she said.
There have been many arguments made denouncing Jamieson’s actions. Those who highlight the history of RBG—land stolen from First Nations and the nearby buried soldiers who “were forced to fight in wars for political greed”—are perhaps the ones missing the point, though: Our history is riddled with injustice and the mistakes man has made; there’s nothing we can do to change the past. What we can do is change our future and prevent acts of injustice and inhumanity from happening here and now, and years from now. What better way to do that than by teaching future generations that captivity and animal abuse are wrong?
As a fellow vegetarian and as someone concerned with animal rights, I agree with Blum. Kids should see the world for what it really is. But I don’t think many parents would be too thrilled if school organizers brought their children to a slaughterhouse or factory farm on a class trip, however educational the experience would be. That’s the “world as it is,” isn’t it? Unless the trip to Marineland was followed by a Blackfish or The Cove viewing, I don’t see how the kids would leave Marineland seeing it for what it really is, either.
For the record, this wasn’t a premeditated “lobbying effort” as the Spectatormaintains. “I just wanted the school to be more informed and consider my suggestions,” Jamieson told the paper. Education systems should be expected to make informed decisions when it comes to exposing students to the world outside of the classroom.
A trip to RBG might not include roller-coasters and live performances. But there are alternative theme parks that don’t promote animal cruelty, and there are alternative venues that allow kids to see wild animals up close—some might even teach kids compassion in the process, like a sanctuary perhaps.
To those who don’t understand Jamieson’s intent, I simply say this: Love for animals is inherent in practically every child. But they can’t see the pain and suffering happening behind the aquarium glass. Children aren’t pawns in a game being played by “parents like Jamieson.” It’s up to us—parents, educators and society—to teach our future generations that captivity is wrong, and that supporting animal abuse shouldn’t be tolerated. Greater compassion will benefit us all in the long run.
(Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures)