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|'Party Out of Bounds' way out of bounds of reality|
|by Scott Higley|
|October 14, 2011 00:00|
An opinion piece by Dan Mathews, published this week in the Huffington Post, 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 animal rights extremist organization PETA, 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. As we sometimes say in such situations: You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to manufacture your own facts.
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. These proceeds help us provide exceptional care for our animals, maintain our facility as a center for learning, and contribute millions to support conservation efforts and research projects around the world. These projects help us better understand and protect both the species in our care and aquatic animals in general.
It is important to note that zoos and aquariums are subject to strict regulations by the USDA; accredited zoos and aquariums are also typically members of regulating alliances – non-governmental organizations (NGOs) - which bestow coveted accreditation upon deserving members and which regulate members even more firmly and at a higher level than the federal government. Georgia Aquarium, as an accredited zoological facility, is no exception. We strongly, willingly and proudly adhere to all regulations.
Mr. Mathews states in his opinion piece that he had never been inside an Aquarium before, so he could not possibly be familiar with our emphasis on education and our focus on conservation. He couldn’t know that the animals are well loved and receive the finest veterinary care, benefitting from state-of- the-art medical technologies developed for human health care. He doesn’t understand that they enjoy extensive social enrichment programs and high quality food. He certainly couldn’t comprehend the joy we feel when we hear from families who tell us how their visit to the Aquarium created a special bond with the animals. It’s clear to us that through these important bonds we open the hearts and minds of our guests to learn about and protect the animals in the world around them.
Animal rights extremists will use any means to publicly attack zoos and aquariums. But the results of a Harris poll reveal the fact that the vast majority of Americans strongly support the kind of quality care the Georgia Aquarium team gives to the animals here, and to the conservation of marine life in their native habitats. Georgia Aquarium is an international educational attraction dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our guests and aquatic animals. The few extremists who have used the media to get free publicity for their distorted agendas are dramatically outweighed by the 15 million people, special event guests included, who have shown their support by embracing the gift of Georgia Aquarium.
Now there’s something to celebrate.
Scott Higley is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Georgia Aquarium. He can be reached via this publication.
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