Philip Demers, a former marine mammal trainer at the Niagara Falls theme park in Ontario, Canada, has announced that Marineland lawsuit against him has been dropped, ending a decade-long lawsuit between the aquarium and its former employee over the welfare of Smooshi the walrus. He says Smooshi will be relocated as soon as possible, as well as Koyuk, her calf born in June 2021.
Demers was a Marineland trainer for 12 years before becoming a whistle-blower and animal rights activist, shedding light on the poor conditions the animals were living in at the facility, and as a consequence Marineland sued him for millions of dollars in 2012 on claims of trespassing and threats to employees. He then countersued in 2014 citing defamation and abuse of process and raised $226,000 via a GoFundMe account to help him pay for his legal costs. In a Tweet posted on 20th September 2022, Demers said, “BREAKING: MarineLand Canada has dropped their decade-long lawsuit against me. We have resolved our issues and settled matters without costs. Smooshi the walrus and her offspring Koyuk will be re-homed ASAP. Details and statement to come. #SavedSmooshi.” Later, in a statement to CBC Canada, Dermers said, “I’m incredibly pleased. I’m ecstatic…The contrast of where she’s going now, and the fact she will no longer perform and she won’t be under the blazing hot sun and she won’t be separated from her baby anymore, which to me is probably the greatest piece of justice that that animal deserves.” In a separate legal case, the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals (LCA) filed complaints against Marineland in 2021, saying videos showed dolphin and whale shows, which they claim is illegal. Miranda Desa, a lawyer for LCA, said they had evidence of “dolphins performing tricks to music for an audience…beluga whales being instructed to perform tricks for food in front of on-watchers.” Under the Canadian Criminal Code, captive cetaceans cannot be used “for performance for entertainment purposes.”