As is often the case for folks who have chosen to work around animals, paychecks and benefits are ancillary to the job. But just as a love for animals is what inspired Philip Demers to work at Ontario's Marineland Park, it's also what's making him speak out against it.
Demers, a marine mammal trainer, made headlines in 2008 after the media caught wind of the remarkable relationship he had formed with one of the amusement park's walruses, named Smooshi, who had been plucked from the wild and sent to Marineland four years earlier.
"I had imprinted (as scientists, and Twilight fans alike would put it) on Smooshi the walrus. I prefer to say she came to see me as a trusted and loving family member," says Demers. "I had become a maternal figure, if you will (insert jokes here). She would follow me to the ends of the earth, without any coaxing of added stimulus or training."
But behind the scenes at Marineland, life for the beloved walrus, and all the other animals, wasn't how it should be, says Demers. After his superiors failed to address what he saw as animal mistreatment and improper management at the park, Demers decided to quit, leaving behind Smooshi.
It was not a decision that came lightly for Demers, but one that he hopes to leverage into making things better for her.
Demers has published an op-ed with the Huffington Post, bringing to light the problems Marineland had tried to keep in the dark:
Many failed efforts by myself, and other current and (consequently) former employees to enlist the help of authorities, and/or have the problems resolved properly in-house proved futile.
Many of the animals were aversely affected by the negligent use of chlorine added to the water, and Smooshi was no exception. I could no longer bear witness to the suffering, and could ill afford to waste any more time. I simply didn't have a choice anymore.
Read Philip Demers's full account on The Huffington Post.