Aquarium Contests Cruelty Charge
To the Editor:
An opinion piece by Dan Mathews [senior VP of PETA, in the Nov.-Dec. 2013 issue]gave a distorted and inaccurate portrayal of a recent event at Georgia Aquarium and made inappropriate accusations based more on his detractor opinion than fact. In the article, “Party Out of Bounds,” Mr. Mathews, a staffer for the animal rights extremist organization PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals], accused Georgia Aquarium of subjecting the animals in our care to the “torture” of “earsplitting” and “pounding” music at the kickoff party for Atlanta’s Gay Pride weekend. He also mischaracterized the event itself, insulting our courteous and thoughtful guests by referring to them as “sweaty” revelers and implying that it was nearly impossible to talk with others due to the volume of the music.
The underlying accusation is that Georgia Aquarium—one of the world’s leading aquariums, boasting a staff of dedicated and accomplished marine biologists, scientists and experts in the care of animals—regularly subjects its residents to intolerable noise levels in the name of profit. Nothing could be further from the truth. We at the Aquarium respect all opinions, and seldom engage with extremist groups with biased, misguided agendas. Sometimes, however, their claims are so preposterous, their agenda so transparent, that we simply have to respond.
The fact is that Georgia Aquarium has a set limit on sound levels based on the most current research available regarding hearing thresholds in certain marine animals. The Aquarium aggressively protects animals from any sound that exceeds these limits. Volume is monitored by professional sound engineers throughout every large event, as it was for the Pride party. As the experts in animal care, with hundreds of years of collective experience in caring for these extraordinary beings, we would never knowingly place the animals in our collection in harm’s way. It’s simply outrageous to suggest otherwise. Georgia Aquarium is a state-of-the-art, technologically advanced facility, having just opened in 2005, and was recently named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest aquarium. The building was designed and built with special events in mind. We proudly welcome groups of diverse guests to celebrate special occasions. Revenues from all special events and ticket sales generated from non-event related visits support the Aquarium’s not-for-profit mission of conservation, education and research of aquatic animals.
John Walker, Senior Manager at the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta
Dan Mathews Replies:
In response to John Walker, accreditation by the USDA is mandatory for the aquarium to be open for business. The USDA has the bare minimum requirements for animal care and there are huge enforcement problems.
If the aquarium were committed to conservation instead of profit, they would not market themselves as a venue for parties where the animals are used for decorations exclusively. Their disregard for conservation and the best interest of animals is what led NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] to deny their permit request to import eighteen wild-caught beluga whales from Russia to boost aquarium displays. In NOAA’s official report, they cited that these types of captures actually contribute to their species decline.
Dan Mathews, PETA Senior VP, Norfolk, VA