Kay Johnson Smith, President and CEO at the Animal Agriculture Alliance, joins us this week to share her experience at Discovery Cove which is owned by Sea World.
When I was a child, the worst thing you could do in my home was lie. It was my parents’ most important rule, and we knew no matter what we did that would make my parents disappointed or mad, it would be even worse if we lied about it.
Unfortunately, that rule does not appear to apply to many of the activists we in agriculture and other animal-related businesses have to deal with every day. We find ourselves constantly responding to and defending against the lies and propaganda of those who feel humans and animals have no business working together or even interacting for the greater good of mankind. The activists throw out accusations, innuendo and flat out lies at times, hoping anything will stick in the minds of the public who has little or no experience with farm animals, wildlife or any animals beyond their pet dog or cat.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit Discovery Cove in Florida which is owned by Sea World. It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget. Being submerged in the midst of thousands of tropical fish and manatees was an experience you could only get otherwise by scuba diving – which I’ve never done and most people never do. I swam with dolphins and even got to kiss one. I fed an anteater, otter and birds you would only otherwise see (but never interact with) in a zoo and saw other species of animals that you could only otherwise see if you traveled to Brazil. But how many Americans will ever go to Brazil in their lifetime?
While there, I witnessed the behind-the-scenes work of some of their employees and their genuine passion for caring for these amazing animals was evident. When introducing people to the animals, there was such respect for them and their environments demonstrated by the employees and required of us as guests. I learned that Discovery Cove alone has nearly 200 employees in its zoological department! That doesn’t include employees such as lifeguards, food service, hospitality or administration. It was also impressive how many years many of the employees I met had worked there – some 10, some 15 and at least one for 30 years! I took that as a sign that this company takes care of its employees in addition to its animals.
This was truly an opportunity to interact with creatures I’d otherwise never get to experience in my lifetime. And that’s the whole point of parks like Discovery Cove and Sea World – to give the average person an opportunity to discover, experience and learn about wildlife which in turn creates respect and appreciation. It’s about education and conservation so that we can leave the world a better place for future generations.
This adventure was much like what I’ve experienced with farmers every time I have visited a farm during my nearly 30 year career in agriculture. The people who raise animals, whether for food or education and conservation, love what they do. They love their animals and respect their needs, and they expect others who enter those environments to do the same.
So the next time you see an “undercover” video about farming or a big budget movie like “Blackfish” disparaging companies like Sea World, don’t believe everything they say or show. From my experience, every one of these videos is edited and narrated in ways specifically to mislead you with their emotional charges, when really the incidents shown are either staged, taken out of context (showing you 30 seconds of a 30 hour video) or they’re edited in ways to completely misrepresent what’s really happening. One of our interns whose family owns cattle recently wrote a blog demonstrating that very point.
Do bad things happen at times? I’m sure – we’re talking about nature and living creatures interacting with one another. But these videos are edited to present a false impression about the people who grow our food or provide educational experiences about wildlife because they do not believe we should benefit in any way from animals. And the activists producing these videos know that the majority of the American public has never had the firsthand experience to know otherwise.
That’s why it’s important for everyone to discover the truth about farming and other businesses that involve animals for yourself. Talk to those who own and are responsible for the direct care of the animals in question. Don’t believe the propaganda of activists with an agenda whose only mission is to take away your opportunities to interact with and benefit from animals in our world.
Lying for a living may be profitable, but it certainly wouldn’t pass the test of my parents – or likely theirs either.