Jennifer Jamieson’s kids won’t be making school trips to Marineland in Niagara Falls anytime soon — and neither will any other students from their class.
The Stoney Creek mother has successfully petitioned Mountain View Elementary School not to go ahead with a field trip to the beleaguered amusement park — and she’s hoping to convince the public school board to follow suit and ban trips there altogether.
“This is not some hippie bandwagon stunt. I am a mother [who is] truly concerned for and dedicated towards the welfare of animals,” Jamieson told CBC Hamilton. “I want my children to live a compassionate lifestyle and for society to stop viewing captivity as just another social norm.
“There's nothing educational about using animals for our entertainment.”
Jamieson first heard about her nine-year-old son’s field trip just before March break, and immediately sent an email to his teacher, hoping to change her mind about the destination. Jamieson and her children are no strangers to protesting for animal rights: her family has picketed at Marineland, African Lion Safari and at Copps Coliseum, when the circus comes to town.
The self-proclaimed “animal liberation activist” said she was “delighted” when her son’s teacher responded saying she had decided to scrap the outing and find an alternative. Planning was in its early stages and hadn’t been announced to students in the class, Mountain View principal Jenny Seto-Vanderlip told CBC Hamilton.
Instead of Marineland, students will be going to the Royal Botanical Gardens.
"We certainly listen to our parents," Seto-Vanderlip said. "It's important to hear the community out."
The school itself won't be making any decisions about banning future trips to Marineland, Seto-Vanderlip said. "That is totally up to the board."
The board said in an email that it didn't approve any trips to Marineland last year due to "concerns," but didn't elaborate on what those concerns were.
"Field trips must meet criteria, including connections to the curriculum, venue safety, learning opportunities, etc.," spokesperson Rob Faulkner said. "If concerns are raised, the board considers them in the context of its policy and makes decisions appropriately."
Marineland has been under siege in recent years by animal rights activists who have accused the park of mistreating its animals. Former employees of Marineland — one of Ontario's top tourist attractions — have spoken out publicly alleging animals are not well cared for.
Park officials have denied those claims, and say Mountain View students will be missing out on “an unforgettable educational experience.”
“Marineland is proud to have hosted, educated and entertained literally millions of students since we first opened,” officials said in a statement. “We have heard from many marine biologists, veterinarians and oceanographers that it was their childhood experience at Marineland that first inspired them to learn more about the wonders of the ocean and its amazing creatures.
“It's a shame those students will lose that opportunity.”
Marineland said experts from the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have conducted joint inspections of their animals and facilities, and found “no major issues.”
The park — which is home to beluga whales, dolphins and orcas — has launched a $7-million libel suit against the Toronto Star over a series of stories published about the conditions at Marineland.
Jamieson said she now plans to issue an information package to school board officials in the hopes that they’ll place trips to Marineland on a “not approved” for field trips list.
She said she is grateful to the school for hearing her out and making a choice that reflects "school-wide values" like compassion and respect.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this school right now,” she said.