Victory for the Walrus Whisperer; Local animal abuse whistleblower finally ends decade-long battle with Marineland

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

“Harming the innocent is gutless; and that’s why I’m bringing my fight to the bullies,” said Phil Demers, animal cruelty whistlebower.

Marineland Canada is a marine life theme park in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They have everything from amusement rides and zoos to an aquarium. The aquarium keeps dolphins, sea lions, orcas and other marine animals in captivity for entertainment purposes. 

The park depicts an image of fun, care and love for their animals. Although the park claims that the animals are kept for entertainment and educational purposes, a former employee of the corporation has called out Marineland on grounds of animal cruelty. He’s been fighting against the big entertainment company for the last decade with the hope to stop animal cruelty and let some animals free, and recently, he won.

Demers, a former marine mammal trainer turned Marineland animal abuse whistleblower, was set to go on trial on Oct. 3, 2022 against the company. Marineland Canada has sued Demers on accusations of him plotting to steal one of their animals, as well as other allegations. 

However, on Sept. 20, 2022, Phil Demers tweeted that after a decade-long lawsuit against him, Marineland Canada has settled matters without any costs. Demers had fulfilled his decade-long goal and won the war against Marineland. There will be no trial in October.

Demers has been given lots of names through the years, however he prefers the title: “whistleblower.”

“I would prefer to call myself a whistleblower first as someone who has evidence, testimony and experience of wrongdoings that contradicts Marineland’s image,” said Demers.

Prior to Marineland resolving issues with Demers, he had countersued the company, as he claimed that Marineland had abused him for years. He said the trial that was supposed to take place lacked genuinity. 

“Marineland would have to prove everything they have accused me of, which they can’t, they have no experts, no witnesses, no evidence, they have nothing, it’s an entirely fictitious lawsuit,” said Demers. 

Phil had predicted his victory.

“I’m so confident, I guarantee you there won’t be a trial,” said Demers, prior to Sept. 20.

He had been fighting Marineland Canada on claims of animal abuse since 2012. Phil was one of Marineland’s marine mammal trainers starting from the year 2000 when he began working there. After 12 years, he left Marineland because he wanted to speak against the animal cruelty he claims he saw while on the job. 

Demers has gone on popular programs such as the Joe Rogan podcast and even has his own film, called The Walrus and the Whistleblower on which he has talked and depicted his claims of animal abuse from his former employer. Him and other like-minded people have organized protests that take place just outside of Marineland’s corridor most summers since he’s left the organization. Phil has also testified his claims to members of the government.

Demers has always loved animals, not in any supernatural sense, but just as much as the next person.

“My love for animals would have started when I was young, with love, respect, curiosity for animals–I wasn’t very fearful of animals, in situations where I should otherwise have been scared, I was often excited for animals, that may make me stand out more as opposed to others, but aside from that, I never had a particular affinity towards animals beyond that of anyone else,” said Demers.

Demers didn’t start his employment at Marineland to ultimately oppose them. He was simply looking for a job. Marineland Canada first hired him based on his character and his minimal experience with animals. 

“Here you’ve got a person educated in music, music software, which has some value in terms of creating a show with animals and they saw that I loved scuba and had an iguana and they were like ‘yep’ you can work here,” said Demers.

He got hired in March 2000, about 10 days before his 20th birthday. 

Demers has often been regarded as the “Walrus Whisperer,” however, the name wasn’t of his volition.

“The idea of being the “Walrus Whisperer” isn’t something I ever aspired to or wanted” said Demers.

Demers had applied for a reality show called “Wipeout Canada” on the basis of being a “Walrus mom,” as someone who had experience in training and taking care of marine animals, especially walruses. He knew his application would be appealing for a reality show. He later got on the show, and that was when a director deemed him the “walrus whisperer.”

“When I got on the show, they said to me, ‘you’re going to be the Walrus Whisperer,’ this is going to be your character name,” said Demers.

The reality show encouraged Demers and the rest of the cast to start social media accounts for the purpose of sharing the content of the show. Demers created his Twitter and other social media accounts under the username “Walrus Whisperer” and it has stuck since. 

Of course, there would be no “Walrus Whisperer” if it wasn’t for Marineland taking in baby walruses. According to Demers, Marineland started buying many of baby walruses back in the early 2000s, but unfortunately, it allegedly quickly turned into animal cruelty.  

“Marineland started bringing in wild-caught baby walruses…the buying of walruses just didn’t stop; despite the fact that they were outgrowing the facilities. Issues were starting to come up with space management–it became a challenge. Marineland just kept buying more and more baby walruses, and some would die of course” said Demers. 

Smooshi, one of the walruses Marineland had bought, resonated deeper with Demers more than the other walruses. The reason that Smooshi took a particular liking to Demers happened during a medical procedure they had to do on her when she came in. Demers calmed her down while she was in a state of panic.

“She got very nervous and frantic and entered a heightened state of emotion and I tried to calm her down and in just in that moment, I imprinted on her–calming down a baby walrus while blood was extracted from her takes skill and a special connection between the person and the animal, not just anyone could have done that; it’s anomalous, it’s rare, it almost never happens. Especially between humans and walruses, it’s just not known,” said Demers.

“The fact that something like this could happen would require a situation so unique and strange,” said Demers.

The walrus got the name “Smooshi” as she would always “smoosh” against Demers’s body, hence the name “Smooshi”.

“I became her mom..” Said Demers, in his documentary, The Walrus and the Whistleblower.

Smooshi is still alive today and she will be re-homed according to Demers:

“Smooshi the walrus and her offspring Koyuk will be re-homed ASAP,” said Demers in  a tweet announcing his victory.

Prior to Marineland dropping their lawsuit, Demers talked about how he would get her out of Marineland:

“I spare them of the embarrassment of court; I tell them we could end the trial right now; just remove the walruses, that’s all i ever wanted, I don’t want the money they owe me; which is hundreds of thousands of dollars; that’s what it’s gonna cost them if we go to trial” Said Demers.

One of Demers’s main goals was getting Smooshi out. During the decade-long battle, he never let himself ponder the possibility of not seeing Smooshi ever again. Prior to his victory he talked about his perseverance in getting her out:

“I’m not going to know what it feels like if it doesn’t happen because so long as she is alive, I will continue to pound down every single door of where she lives until it does happen–if she dies, that would be an awful feeling, but at least I’d live the rest of my life sleeping easy knowing that I fought with everything I could to get to her,” said Demers.

While Demers has lost a lot of energy, time and money in his fight against Marineland, Smooshi’s freedom has meant everything to him.

“The entirety of everything negative that I ever endured will be wiped out if I can get her out of there,” said Demers, prior to Sept. 20.

Demers’s criticism of Marineland, of course, may not have fit everyone’s views. Whenever the public visits Marineland, they get a show of the animals being happy doing tricks and entertaining the people. To many, there are no signs of animal cruelty. However, Demers alleges that it doesn’t happen during public shows, it’s more of what the public doesn’t see. 

“What people don’t take in account is that the animal abuse starts from day 1, the second those animals are torn away from their families, you’ve compromised those animals–those are animals that have stayed with their families for the entirety of their lives, and you take them into a tank where they’re banned by walls,” said Demers.

Two examples of abuse are the pool water the animals get placed in, and how trainers judge the animals’ food portions based on their performance and obedience.

“The water chemistry itself in pools, especially that of Marineland, compromises growth; it has a lot of chemicals in it; such as chlorine. There’s also a limit on its depth–much of what they are fed is based on performance; if you’re not waving fast and high or jumping high enough, then I as a trainer am going to demand you jump higher by feeding you less, and when I do feed you, the food is filled with drugs to numb you from your mental illness which all the animals suffer from as you can imagine, as well as stimulating appetites so that you (the animal), just stay dumb enough to keep eating animals and go in circles,” said Demers.

Amidst all this, Demers is reasonable in terms of what captivity could really mean to an animal. While some animals are naturally not made to be held captive, some may actually benefit from human supervision or captivity. 

“I wouldn’t outright blank it across the board and say that it’s vehemently cruel to have any of these animals in captivity because it depends on the animals. A walrus which might otherwise live in the arctic performing on a hot stage for food, leads to the immoral side of the spectrum. However, it’s a different case for a seal; which would otherwise lay on a rock for 20 hours a day in the wild–the captivity of walruses and seals are different because their needs and environments are different,” said Demers.

“Dolphins and porpoises are animals that should never have their natural environment replicated in a pool; that is just outright “no”, blank it, cross the broad. That’s cruel–It’s like taking a pigeon off the street and putting it in a cage; within five minutes, you’re going to want to take it out because you’re thinking of how cruel that would be,” said Demers.

Around 2012, Demers Demers was the whistleblower to the alleged animal cruelty at Marineland. Many of his co-workers who worked alongside him did not support his cause and denied any wrongdoing of the animals. Demers claims every on of his other co-workers knew of just as much of the animal cruelty that was going on that he knew, however, his love for Smooshi was a main factor in why he decided to speak out against the animal cruelty he saw. 

“When I was working there, every other worker could’ve told you stories about animal abuse in the exact same demeanor and detail, the difference is I elected to be the whistleblower because I was more personally invested with my walrus daughter [Smooshi] there,” said Demers.

“The employees were calling me a liar, these employees who had the same experiences and hold the same opinions as me would turn around and defend marineland–I understand it, they have mortgages, they have professions, family, they also have what’s called a ‘cowardice’,” said Demers.

Demers says his claims of animal cruelty was popular with every employee that worked there, however, when he decided to speak out, the same employees who agreed with him turned their backs against him.

“I spoke out the same way that every single one of them would have loved to but couldn’t–I speak for every employee, including the ones that are defending marineland, looking at me from the other side of the fence,” said Demers.

“When I came out and spoke out, the same veterinarians who were looking forward to me speaking out against abuse were also the ones going “There’s no abuse here!, there’s no abuse here!,” they didn’t know how big the news was gonna get for them–It was just too much, I don’t think they anticipated how big the reaction was going to be, however they were most certainly encouraging of me speaking out,” said Demers.

Prior to Marineland dropping charges, the ultimate goal for Phil Demers was to set the captive animals under Marineland’s wing free. He wanted them to be taken care of, which he realized would be a challenge.

“An optimal, lofty and sensationalized, near impossible, but perfect goal would be to ultimately give all those animals a chance at a severance to freedom; maybe have them retire to a seaside sanctuary; somewhere where they are in there in their natural environment but still under human care; not being forced to perform in any way, shape or form, choosing their own for the most part, and alive within whatever best interest they are able to afford themselves in an otherwise captive environment, near perfect of the replica of their natural environment; the issue it we’re twenty years and 100 million dollars away from that,” said Demers, prior to Marineland dropping charges.

He wanted Marineland to change and he hoped that they could, although he said that would’ve taken a miracle–and this time, a miracle has happened. 

“I would’ve liked to see Marineland evolve on their own accord; I would’ve liked to see them stay in business and focus on rides and entertainment; perhaps even education–Marineland is too irresponsible, they’ve proven themselves too abusive to have any animals. They need to have them either removed or simply move them to better places than where they are dying as of right now; then that would be a significant victory,” said Demers, prior to Marineland dropping their charges against him.  

Demers also talks about how on his account, marine animals that are being held captive at Marineland barely ever make it out. 

“The number of animals that have ever left Marineland alive, having been thousands of them over the year, the list of animals that have survived Marineland, came out of marineland alive can be counted on a single hand–out of thousands and thousands and thousands of animals, it’s about five, to my recollection. For me, the thought of adding five, ten, 30, 40 or 50 animals to that list would mean a legacy–that would be trying to win the lottery and actually winning it,” Said Demers.

“Friends don’t let friends go to Marineland” – Phil Demers.

Demers has had some very big accomplishments against Marineland. In a 2018 instagram post, Phil figures his revelations about Marineland have cost them over 100 million dollars of business through the years. He has also had a big part to play in Marineland’s decreasing customers.

“There is no traffic at Marineland, they are finished,” said Demers.

It was only inevitable that Demers would face opposition throughout the years. Marineland has accused Demers of trespass, blocked him from all their social media accounts. He had also been sued for various things including being sued for 1.5 million dollars. 

Demers never backed down from any opposition. In fact, he thrived from it. 

“Everytime Marineland has done anything to me, I’ve came back at them, ten fold–it’s almost like I benefited from this karmic energy where with every attack they’ve done and every compromise I’ve endured, they’ve had to endure ten fold, I’ve always managed to reciprocate,” said Demers, prior to Marineland dropping charges. 

One of the accusations Marineland made against Phil, as aforementioned, was that they accused him of stealing a walrus.

“They accused me of stealing a walrus, or plotting to steal one, they sued for millions of dollars, it was absurd…when they sued me in 2012 they threw everything against the wall, they just wanted to defame me and make me look like a crazy person to discredit me, they called me “this crazy guy who thinks the walrus loves him”…but I survived…and so did my walrus, you can’t put a price on what that’s worth to me,” said Demers, prior to Sept. 20. 

The fight against Marineland negatively affected Demers over the years however, 

It had been a double edged sword; personally he had lost a lot due to the time he had dedicated over years, however, he made lifetime connections with some very influential people. 

“The human experience as provided by society today is go to school, get a job, get a house, get a family, get a car–I speak from the advantage point of what most people aspire to do, I know from my generation that it was the blueprint of how to live,” said Demers.

“I find myself rounding 50 without a home, I’m set back in a lot of ways, I try not to think about it as lost time because to be fair, as much as my life and mental health was compromised,” said Demers.

“My life has been a blessing, I’ve had experiences I couldn’t even imagine dreaming of; to be friends with the likes of Joe Rogan, sharing a podcast with Mike Tyson, and become friends with the likes of a list celebrities and UFC fighters–I invited the opportunity to take on what many people call “the good fight”–and i wouldn’t change a thing of it,” said Demers.

Everything must come to an end–and the end has finally come for Demers. Prior to Sept. 20th, when his Oct. 3 trial was supposed to take place, he looked to move away from the Marineland drama, he said he was going to miss it:

“Finally, I’m starting to look forward to it, you wouldn’t have heard that from me two years ago–the last year and a half have been me coming to terms with the fact that there is a finale to all this for me, whereas in the first seven, eight years, you fight so desperately in the hopes of fathoming surviving or outlasting a level of finality to it all, now I’m having to come to terms with the fact that there is one coming very quickly whether I like it or not, and that’s a strange dynamic change in a mission where you are running so aggressively towards a target that when you finally see it, you almost want to slow it down a bit,” said Demers prior to Sept. 20.

“You so blindly pursued everything to the point where you didn’t have a chance to slow down time and absorb it–I’m looking at the end thinking damn, I’m gonna miss this fight… strangely enough,” said Demers.

Phil Demers has since gotten lots of congratulations on his social media accounts after he announced he had settled matters with Marineland. His hard work and sacrifice has finally paid off. 
More statements and general updates about the resolution with Marineland are likely to be found on Demers’ Instagram or Twitter platforms.

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