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PETA VP Dan Mathews Blasts Atlanta Pride for Circuit Party at Aquarium

Out PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews was in Atlanta during the recent Pride celebrations and was troubled by a circuit party he heard about planned for the Georgia Aquarium:

I had never been inside an aquarium before--just outside as a demonstrator. I only learned of this gala when I arrived from Virginia to work PETA's booth at the gay pride festival in Piedmont Park. I found it ironic that my seemingly sophisticated subculture would celebrate freedom in a building that celebrates captivity.

MathewsMathews decided to investigate the party rather than protest it from outside, and was particularly concerned about the effect of ear-splitting dance music on the aquarium's beluga whales (particularly a 16-year-old named Beethoven, below):

Like gays, belugas are very social beings who in nature hang out in large, often exclusively same-sex groups called "pods." They are Arctic animals who travel thousands of miles each year in the wild, guided by an intricate sonar system centered in what looks like a bump on their forehead. They make high-pitched squeaks and whistles that bounce off the ocean floor, the polar ice caps and the coast to help them migrate, forage, breed and socialize.

This sonar system, which combines all their key senses, is thwarted in the relatively tiny aquarium tanks, and the trend in recent years of loud parties designed not for education but for extra profit has further devastated the lives and psyches of these uniquely gifted animals. The UN may have banned the torture of prisoners with music, but it is routinely practiced at the Georgia Aquarium.

BeethovenThe aquarium's guide, who was stationed at the tank to answer questions, said that loud music is especially bothersome to the whales:

"Especially the males―as soon as the music starts pounding, they go nuts and start attacking the harbor seals in the tanks. We had Jazz Fridays this summer, and I can't say many of the animals in any of the exhibits were fans. When the music starts, they get to fighting."

Mathews says he hopes the organizers will choose a more humane venue next year.

I wonder if Beluga whales have a tolerance for more mellow types of music? Mathews' post made me think of the video I featured several weeks ago of the Beluga whale in Mystic, Connecticut being serenaded by a Mexican mariachi band. That particular whale seemed more fascinated than upset.

A video of Beethoven the Beluga whale, AFTER THE JUMP...

Party Out of Bounds [huff post]

(image justin bieber with beethoven, the beluga whale referenced in mathews' post)

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  1. love meat and wear leather BUT this 1 time...I/m going to have to agree with PETA

    The aquarium shouldn't allow any venues with music whether a circuit party or some jazz festival shindig

    Posted by: say what | Oct 12, 2011 2:06:48 PM

  2. Every time I read anything about PETA I get hungry for KFC. I think I'll have some for lunch today.

    Posted by: Chip | Oct 12, 2011 2:11:54 PM

  3. I'm with Peta on this one all the way. If humans are going to hold animals in captivity at the very least we should treat the animals with as much sensitivity and care as possible. Subjecting them to loud noise and flashing lights if it upsets them is nothing but cruel.

    Posted by: bicurious | Oct 12, 2011 2:14:57 PM

  4. yeah, I don't LOVE PETA but I think they're right this time. We shouldn't be subjecting caged/tanked wild animals to inhumane treatment. We don't eat Beluga whale. That's pretty $hitty.

    Posted by: wtf | Oct 12, 2011 2:22:00 PM

  5. Doesn't our community have bigger fish to fry?

    Posted by: gaylib | Oct 12, 2011 2:28:09 PM

  6. Ha - people are still going to circuit parties??

    Posted by: TyN | Oct 12, 2011 2:28:28 PM

  7. It's hard for sounds to be transmitted from air to water (and the other way too), so while this could be investigated with underwater microphones, it seems like PETA hyperbole again. It might be that they attack because the sounds will hide their sneaking up on the seals.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 12, 2011 2:33:16 PM

  8. There's so much wrong with this story, so I'll just focus on this: wow, Mathews is not aging well at all.

    Posted by: ohplease | Oct 12, 2011 2:34:16 PM

  9. Uh, I was there. The article makes it seem as though the party was some kind of sweaty, bump and grind, music-blasted affair.

    It wasn't. In fact, it was one of the tamer things I had experienced. The dancing was only in the main area, where there are no direct exhibits or tanks. The only access to tanks was through corridors into the exhibits.

    The Ocean Ballroom had some music playing after a drag show, which was about 30 minutes long and none of the music was blaring or "ear-splitting" during that time or afterward. It was essentially a gala event, not some sort of all night clubber.

    I stayed by the beluga tank for the majority of the night at the Ocean Ballroom and never once saw any of the belugas "attacking" the seals in the tank. Instead, all they did was swim around in slow, lazy circles, like they do on any other day at the aquarium when I visit.

    I will agree that I was shocked that the aquarium would host music venues in the ballroom given the obvious sound transfer to the tanks (or that it was even built that way), but I never considered the music to be loud in the way Mathews claims. Most of the time, I never even noticed the music, and if anything, the sound of people talking was much louder.

    So really, the picture Mathews is painting--ear-splitting music at some sort of imaginary bump and grind circuit party/club scene that caused beluga whales to start attacking seals? Never happened. I really want to know what party Dan Mathews went to, because clearly, we weren't at the same one.

    Posted by: luminum | Oct 12, 2011 2:34:16 PM

  10. Holding animals captivity? Does anyone ever ponder the great amount of conservation and research that goes into aquariums? There is plenty to debate and uncover about the treatment of animals at these aquariums, but really?

    Why do we still give PETA credibility when they have been shown time and again to be full of hypocritical crackpots that espouse half-truths and utilize oppressive measures to further their message? There are plenty of other groups that have a more level-headed approach to these topics and have a lot more credibility.

    Posted by: Jesus | Oct 12, 2011 2:34:36 PM

  11. Gotta agree with PETA on this. Why would the aquarium permit this? The captivity of these creatures aside, they should certainly be concerned with the welfare of their bread and butter.

    Posted by: Laura | Oct 12, 2011 2:35:25 PM

  12. "The aquarium's guide, who was stationed at the tank to answer questions, said that loud music is especially bothersome to the whales" - End of story. If the people that work there think it's a bad idea, it should never have been hosted there. ESPECIALLY after seeing "The Cove." I never knew these animals were so sensative to sound, and I hate that they're being held captive.

    Aquariums and Zoos should only house animals that don't need a lot of space, and will not be harmed by their surroundings. :(

    Posted by: Hollywood, Ca | Oct 12, 2011 2:43:26 PM

  13. HEADLINE: Pissy Queen Gets Pissed!

    Who cares?

    Posted by: txstevo | Oct 12, 2011 2:47:30 PM

  14. That trainer in the photo with the whale is a cutie. And, yeah, PETA's totally right this time.

    Posted by: Darrell | Oct 12, 2011 3:11:11 PM

  15. "Why do we still give PETA credibility when they have been shown time and again to be full of hypocritical crackpots that espouse half-truths and utilize oppressive measures to further their message? There are plenty of other groups that have a more level-headed approach to these topics and have a lot more credibility."

    Not really sure why this is such a popular opinion, since PETA clearly does a tremendous amount of good work that no other groups are willing to take the risks to do (see: Especially regarding the way animal use and abuse is regulated, addressed, investigated and resolved, I'd say that PETA leads the pack.

    In this instance, if you'll not look at any other example, PETA seems to have blown the aquarium out of the water, so to speak.

    Posted by: JK | Oct 12, 2011 3:17:00 PM

  16. I live in Atlanta and was at that party. First of all, it's misleading to call it a circuit party. It was not a circuit party, it was a cocktail party (much more low key and restrained than is implied in the term "circuit party") with the majority of the music confined to a central atrium, away from most of the animals. The beluga tank did adjoin the ballroom, where the VIP reception was held, but I have previously been involved in event production and briefly worked with the GA Aquarium about potentially hosting an event there, and they have pretty strict noise level restrictions in that area for that reason.

    As far as the majority of the other animals in the aquarium, their habitats were located farther away from the music, which you couldn't hear when you went back to see them. If the music is indeed harmful to the animals, the party should be relocated. But I think a deeper look than the sensationalistic claims of PETA and an aquarium employee grouchy about having to work on a Friday night is necessary before calling foul on Atlanta Pride or the GA Aquarium.

    Posted by: Rob | Oct 12, 2011 3:17:00 PM

  17. Sorry, I'm for animal rights, but not for PETA. They've made themselves a laughing stock over the years and proved to be nothing but immature bullies, that I just can't take them seriously anymore.

    Posted by: Bryan | Oct 12, 2011 3:33:20 PM

  18. First of all, I actually used to sympathize with PETA, but after the pride festival, I definitely do not, and after reading this, I am pretty angry.

    Let's be clear Dan Matthews, is a scumbag liar. And who does he think he is fooling other than his own credibility? Its his word against 4,000 other peoples word. This is the largest aquarium in the world. The place is HUGE. The meeting spaces are very much separated from the exhibit spaces.

    I go to this party EVERY YEAR and it is my favorite party of the year. Every active member of the gay community in Atlanta comes to this event, and that is part of the reason it is so great. Its a one-time gathering of everyone to celebrate ourselves and our city - in a space that exemplifies the greatness of our city as host to the worlds largest aquarium whose own directors reached out to us to host the event every year.

    This is a COCKTAIL PARTY!! How old and audio-sensitive is this guy?? Ear-splitting?? And what on earth made him think this is a circuit party? There is only 20-30 people out of the 4000 dancing at the whole party and its in this small circular space far away from any animals. This guy is as bad to me as a gay republican hanging out with Ann Coulter. What a LIAR!!

    Secondly, I was annoyed with PETA's presence at the park being all confrontational telling us to spay and neuter our pets. REALLY? You are at a GAY festival telling me that my pet should not enjoy his/her sexuality?? These people stand for nothing except their Kardashian-Palin Famewhoredom.

    Also, might I add, that the Beluga whale exhibit was one of the most quietest places in the entire event space - whereas the music was mostly ambient soft background noise. The tunnels and corridors are designed as such that the sound from the main event spaces do not affect the learning spaces in the exhibits! Everyone was conversing in regular-pitches voices with no interference. I toured the whole aquarium as I always do, and never once saw any animals behaving aggressively.

    This piece by LIAR Dan Matthrews is a complete alternative reality that DIDNT happen!! SHAME ON THIS LIAR!!

    Posted by: Drew | Oct 12, 2011 4:23:04 PM

  19. I live in ATL, and I've been to all three of the Pride aquarium parties. The story mischaracterizes them. They are not circuit parties. They are cocktail parties. The music is not ear spitting, it's not even loud. Most of the tanks are well way from the music. Rob's comments above are dead on.

    Posted by: Also Rob | Oct 12, 2011 4:26:07 PM

  20. Gays as sophisticated? Please, gays would hold their circuit party in Anita Bryant's back-yard if it were made available at a discount price. Sophisticated we ain't.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 12, 2011 5:01:46 PM

  21. @JK, I'm glad you get your facts about PETA from PETA, because clearly they would be unbiased, right?

    All the "good" they do? Like degrading women to further their message?

    Or how they kill most of their adoptable animals?

    Or how they fund what would otherwise be labeled terrorism?

    Please, enlighten me why I should still give them any credibility because I'm running out of reasons to.

    Posted by: Jesus | Oct 12, 2011 5:21:05 PM

  22. The only quote from an aquarium staffer is from Matthews' own article. The staffer is never identified other than by her gender. Would love to know if any of the women working that night remember having this conversation.

    Posted by: CPT_Doom | Oct 12, 2011 5:37:19 PM

  23. The poor whale was tortured by horrible music.

    Posted by: jaragon | Oct 12, 2011 5:39:21 PM

  24. Dan Mathews is close friends with Pamela Anderson. Doesn't that say enough about his intellect?

    I'd like to hang out and travel exclusively with that trainer. Hot damn.

    Posted by: Paul R | Oct 12, 2011 6:47:32 PM


    Posted by: John | Oct 12, 2011 6:47:46 PM

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