Animal Liberation's Christine Townsend marches up the broad steps of The Sun and into the offices of Sydney's busy daily tabloid. We ascend the elevator and parade down a long corridor to a small office where we find Sue Arnold, a friend of Christine, sitting behind a cluttered desk.
I like Sue at first sight. An attractive redhead with an aggressive, aware look about her eyes. She pays close attention, making precise notes on a yellow pad, as Christine introduces me and fills her in on the general story. Christine finishes with "And yesterday there was a meeting at the University of Sydney. It apparently did not go very well. Effectively, the Curator of Fishes at the Zoo said the facility at the Lion Park was perfectly adequate to hold 16 dolphins and Professor Hide backed him up. So the Parks and Wildlife people said there is nothing they can do."
"Ummm. Estelle. Not surprising they backed off. Wasn't she mixed up in the Australian Liberation Day fiasco?" Sue looks at me and smiles. "You didn't go to the meeting?"
"No, as an old Chinese friend of mine said, a stranger in a strange land shouldn't mess around in political affairs." I smile and she returns the smile with some warmth.
"Good advice. But then why are you here now?" She asks.
"Well, my old Chinese friend also said to wait and gather friends and then I would have great influence. Actually, the advice was to go Wooing. When Christine called and said she'd like me to meet a friend I thought it might be appropriate to come."
"Oh Really? Wooing?" now the smile was very feminine.
"Wooing. And I'm glad I came because you certainly do look like a friend." I notice Christine glance back and forth between us, not quite smiling, unsure as to what's going on. For that matter, I'm not sure what's going on. Just following the Oracle's advice and letting my divine spirit move me.
"Lets get on with the dolphins," Sue gets professional again. "You don't look too crazy, what do you think about all this?" Interview time, Doc. I shift into Professor Mode.
"There is something especially perverse in the image of a group of children laughing and applauding with delight as dolphins perform circus tricks while they are dying. To me, it is insane to imprison and kill dolphins because we feel they are special, adorable creatures - the very essence of the freedom and the majesty of the Sea." I pause for this imagery to be noted down on Sue's yellow pad.
"You can't expect a dolphin to be taken from the mystery of Sea and put into a small pool of artificial sea water and expect it to be happy."
"I've discovered many dolphins have died out there in their little cement hole in the ground. In December, a dolphin called Sally had a baby in the pool. Dolphins only get pregnant when they want to. And they rarely get pregnant or give birth in captivity. Bulley and company decided Sally's pregnancy was an excellent opportunity to show how happy the dolphins were in their little circus pool. But when Sally gave birth, she took the baby by its pectoral flipper, swam it around the tank a couple of times to show it to its human captors and pulled her baby to the bottom of the tank and drowned it." Sue scribbles madly on her notepad.
"Wild dolphins are extraordinarily devoted parents. I believe Sally's act was the ultimate sacrifice to show the depth of their feelings - their horror at being trapped in that little pool."
"In February the youngest dolphin in the pool, a male named Squeek, died. Genene, the dolphin trainer, claims it was from blood poisoning following a bite on the tail. Maybe so, maybe not. Previous autopsies of dolphins from the pool showed perforated ulcers and death by stress. This was listed as Squeek's cause of death, too. Even if Squeek died from being bitten, it demonstrates the highly stressful conditions in the pool. Dolphins in the wild quickly recover from such wounds. There is also the possibility Squeek simply drowned himself because he was locked up in solitary confinement for weeks on end." Sue looks up at this and nods, returns to writing.
"This isn't for publication, but Bulley has constructed a defensive circle around himself. It includes the Mirror and the Telegraph. Smarmington-Beaker, his PR man from the Park, is his front line buffer at the Lion Park. Dr. Hide is his first line of defense at the University of Sydney. Actually, Hide is a sheep vet who started working for Bulley when some of the Lions got sick. He learned about Dolphins by doing autopsies on the ones from the Lion Park and couldn't figure out what killed the first half-dozen or so. He lists their cause of death on the autopsy forms as "unknown."
"How do you know all this?" Sue asks.
"Sources close to the file cabinet. Check it out with Hide's secretary. Anyway, Hide is part of the academic scene and is backed up by Dr. Ted Smyth, the curator of fishes from the Taronga Zoo. Smyth has no expertise on dolphins either, but he is closely tied to the former Director of Parks and Wildlife who gave Bulley his license to hold the dolphins. It will be almost impossible to break into this circle on technical grounds. They insist the facility is technically adequate to hold 16 dolphins. It will be damned hard to shake their position if you define adequate as not polluted and able to float the dolphins."
"So what do you propose to do?" Sue nibbles at the eraser of her pencil.
"Simply point out the issue is not technical, not scientific. It's a moral issue. And moral issues are not decided by technocrats or bureaucrats or businessmen. Society decides moral issues. The Sun is one of the major links to Sydney society. We have to get the people of Sydney to express their feeling on the moral right of Mankind, to capture, hold, and kill another large-brained mammal for the sole pleasure of making money from them and watching them do circus tricks."
"A ballot?" Sue smiles.
"I knew you'd have the answer," I smile back, "Sure, that's a terrific idea. Put a questionnaire in the Sun along with a big article giving the evidence on why it's morally wrong to keep dolphins in a hole in the ground. Let Bulley defend himself however he wants, the public will decide and the politicians will respond."
Christine and Sue are in. We shake hands and plot a strategy right then and there. First, they call WGB Radio and arrange for me to tape a show about the dolphins. Next, they call the Willosy TV Talk show. Willosy is interested in the story and will send someone over in the morning to take me out to the Lion Park Safari to film a confrontation between Bulley and me and the Dolphins. This should work out fine because Estelle and crowd will be there to add some color and fire to the show.
"Let's get together again soon and work on this," Sue gives a playful lift to her eyebrows.
"Soon, real soon," I take her hand, give it a little extra squeeze."I'd like that. Thanks for helping."