Protests at Aquarium Pride Party as Beluga Whale Permit Sought
(APN) ATLANTA — On Friday, October 11, 2013 animal rights activists held another protest outside the Georgia Aquarium to express outrage at Atlanta Pride, Atlanta’s gay pride festival, holding their annual kick-off party once again at the Aquarium.
Meanwhile, activists are fighting in the courts to prevent eighteen beluga whales from becoming the next victims or casualties of the Aquarium.
“We are very upset that the gay pride Board would not move the event to another location. When I went to the event several years ago, several staff members said that the whales and other mammals were extremely agitated at the noise and would routinely attack one another. The staff members also said they would cower in corners and that the noise seemed very upsetting to the whales. Any organization that cares about animal rights or the environment and people that care about animal captivity should not visit the aquarium, and certainly not hold parties with loud music, Dan Mathews, the Senior Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), told Atlanta Progressive News.
“The noise is magnified because the area is enclosed,” Mathews said.
In an article by Mathews regarding the event, he wrote, “One of the Aquarium guides said, ‘Yes, it really does bother them, especially the males. When the music starts pounding the docile whale sharks go nuts and start attacking the harbor seals.’”
“As I left the aquarium party two years ago, I wandered through a dark corridor boasting tropical river animals. Asian small-clawed otters huddled with their faces in the wall away from a fluorescent light, quivering to Katy Perry. Electric eels were piled on top of each other in a tank the size of a bath tub. An albino alligator had squished himself into the corner of a small display case with his right claw curled oddly against the glass,” he continued.
In a letter to Atlanta Pride Committee, Mathews wrote that the Committee had failed to respond to numerous requests for over a year for the event to be moved somewhere else.
“[G]ay icons Jane Lynch, Martina Navratilova, and Elvira have spoken out against the Georgia Aquarium’s loud events. vAre 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?” PETA asked.
Glen Paul Freedman, Board Chair of Atlanta Pride Committee, was dismissive and antipathetic towards the activists in comments made to Georgia Voice magazine.
“If they want to protest the event, that’s their right. We’re not canceling our event. We’re not changing our event. They [Georgia Aquarium] have been an excellent partner for the last three years,” Freedman told Georgia Voice.
“We’re not going to be held hostage. We’re not going to respond. We’re not going to answer these types of letters. This has nothing to do with our event. They have a fight with the Georgia Aquarium. This is somebody that’s trying to start a fight with the gay and lesbian community and we’re not going to lower ourselves to that standard,” Freedman said.
“If they don’t want to be a part of the Atlanta Pride Committee I suggest they pull out of the festival. This is dragging on way too long. We are having an event. It is sold out. We’re completely supportive of the Georgia Aquarium and that will not waiver. They [PETA] have a place in the market. It sounds like they don’t want to be a part of our event anymore. It sounds like they’re not interested in Atlanta Pride and they don’t want to be a part of the gay and lesbian community. If they don’t want to be, they should call and tell us that,” Freedman added.
As previously reported by APN, in 2011 Freedman presided over a closed-door secret meeting between the APD LGBT Advisory Board and the Mayor; and another between the Board and APD, in the aftermath of the Atlanta Eagle Raid. In 2012, Freedman also ran the failed campaign of Ken Britt, who ran for the State House seat currently held by State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta).
The Atlanta Pride annual gala is just one of the events being held at the Aquarium. Captain Planet, one of Atlanta’s most popular environmental organizations, is also holding their gala there in December 2013.
Meanwhile, according to Georgia Animal Rights and Protection (GARP), “On Sept. 30,  the Georgia Aquarium filed a complaint in federal court, asking the court to overturn the decision by NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] to deny their permit application to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales into the United States for captive display.”
“Four of the GA Aquarium’s beluga whales have died in five years, and yet they want more,” GARP wrote.
In a APN interview with Jared Goodman, counsel for PETA, the Georgia Aquarium filed suit against NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service in the US District Court, Northern District of Georgia.
“The lawsuit was filed because the Georgia Aquarium was denied a permit to import eighteen beluga whales from Russia to the United States for the purpose of public display. Over nine thousand objections by the public were made and one of the reasons that the permits were denied was that some of the whales were still nursing at time of capture. “
“Unlike fish, the beluga whales suffer when put in confined areas. They become aggressive and one of the mammals in another aquarium killed three people. Although there may be thousands of gallons of water in aquariums, that pales in comparison to the ocean. The whales that are bred in captivity do not live as long,” Goodman said.
Those that are interested in more information can watch a documentary that will air on CNN as part of CNN Films on October 24 at 9 pm EST.