I’ve never been a fan of One Direction – I have to put that out there. Sure, some of their songs are catchy, but I’ve never enjoyed having them stuck in my head.
No matter if you love or hate One Direction, one thing you can’t deny is the influence the group has. Particularly, its iconic member: Harry Styles. On twitter he has over 25 million (yes, MILLION) followers, on Instagram 11.8 million, and on Facebook One Direction has garnered over 37 million likes. When Zayn Malik left the group, I had no choice but to see articles and comments on it covering every social media possible. Even a small comment during a concert can create massive internet buzz, such as the recent time Styles called out an audience member who had stolen his middle school girlfriend. On July 9th, 2015 Styles made a different sort of shoutout during a concert in San Diego, about a 15min drive from SeaWorld San Diego.
A video of him stating: “Does anybody like dolphins? Don’t go to SeaWorld.” can be found all over the internet. Maisie Williams, from Game of Thrones, shared the video on her Instagram:
SeaWorld has many locations across the USA and has a history of being highly criticized for animal abuse and negative environmental impacts. Two particular documentaries have shined more public light on the realities of aquariums in the recent past: The Cove in 2009, and Blackfish in 2013. In the article ‘Ten Things You Didn’t Know About SeaWorld’ you can learn about facts such as how orcas are kidnapped from their natural habitats and kept in extremely small and inhumane tanks for the rest of their lives. As a small example of abuse, many orcas develop severe sunburns due to lack of shelter in their often 40FT deep tanks. Black zinc oxide is then applied to the orcas to cover this up from spectators. Dolphins also suffer similar abuse. In the wild, a dolphin often swims around 100miles per day, and being confined to a small tank could be compared to placing them in a bathtub.
On Project Aware’s website, a movement of “scuba divers protecting the ocean planet”, there’s another article which speaks to ‘What IS so bad about SeaWorld?” The narrator speaks about his own experiences watching The Cove and Blackfish after visiting SeaWorld as a child. “Learning that wild dolphins were being herded into a cove in Japan, the handsomest stolen for marine parks and then the rest murdered (and it really is nothing but cold blooded murder) was shocking.”
‘Blackfish’ takes on SeaWorld specifically. The movie tells the story of Tilikum the orca, who was originally captured in 1983 from around the Victoria, BC area, where I also am from. Tilikum went on to be inhumanly kept and trained within SeaWorld and acted out due to physical and mental abuse on a number of occasions. In 2010 he killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, which created a massive uproar. The film speaks about the intelligence and emotional capabilities of orcas. Many traits of an orca can be closely compared to that of a human’s. They live in close-knit “family pods” in the wild and their offspring will stay close to their mothers their entire lives. When orcas are captured for aquariums such as SeaWorld, they are separated from their pod, and often their mothers, at an extremely young age. MRI’s have even been taken of orcas’ brains and shown “highly elaborated emotional lives”. Since 2005, the population of orcas which populates BC and Washington has been placed on the US Endangered Species List. Various types of dolphins are also endangered, or have already gone extinct.
When I first watched Blackfish I was beyond appalled and disturbed by the treatment of captured orca whales, especially with the knowledge of their intellectual ability. I highly recommend you take an evening to watch Blackfish, and it’s on Netflix so there’s really no reason not to. But what can we do to help other than not attend or support these establishments?
Back to Harry Styles and Maisie Williams. Both have been seen in the past showing their support for The Dolphin Project in a number of ways, including wearing T-Shirts with the organization’s logo (talk about wearable activism!) The Dolphin Project was founded by Ric O’Barry with “the aim to stop dolphin slaughter and exploitation around the world”. Its work was the content featured in ‘The Cove’. On their website there are a multitude of ways to get involved, from providing a Step-by-Step Guide to Dolphin Activism to becoming a Dolphin Cove Monitor in Japan. You can also check out and share this YouTube PSA made to support awareness created through ‘The Cove’. The video also encourages you to buy wristbands with funds going directly to The Dolphin Project.
PETA, ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’, is another organization which has supported Styles in his actions and fights for animals rights. You’ve most likely heard of PETA before, as many of their campaigns and initiatives have been extremely visual in a global and online way. They have organized many boycotts and protests again SeaWorld in the past as well. On their website, they have lists of ways to get involved with animal rights from ‘5 Ways to Sink SeaWorld Online’ to ‘What to Do if You Find a Stray Dog or Cat’.
From never stepping foot in a SeaWorld, to protesting, to wearing your support, there are many ways to get involved in the movement for animal rights within aquariums. One of the most important ones being learning more on the topic and encouraging others to do the same. Whether it be through watching documentaries or Googling, education is always the first and most important step to activism.
I still can’t see myself singing along to ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’ anytime soon, but I have to admit Styles’ action has shined some much needed light on a very important issue. Maybe next he’ll write a full song on activism, I would definitely stay tuned to that.
Remember, poppers, to see change, share change, be change. Much love xo.