Friday, October 18, 2013

Spiegl to Dutch parliament: Morgan is “a child of the Netherlands”

The other day, Matthew Spiegl published an open letter* to the members of the Dutch parliament petitioning them (and the Dutch people) to revisit the case of the orca Morgan and to intervene to halt the inertia of the decisions that have led to her imprisonment and exploitation at Loro Parque.
On December 3, 2013 the High Court in Den Haag will once again review the case of Morgan the Orca, found off the Dutch coast and now housed in a Spanish amusement park. But why does this issue have to be resolved by the court at all?

The Dutch Parliament has it within its power to act in the best interest of Morgan, to undo the mistake of the previous Government, and direct that she be moved to a sea pen and held in public trust for the good of all, in the hope she can one day be returned to the sea.

…The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation is still the issuing CITES management authority and can - if it has the will to do so - recall Morgan from Loro Parque if the conditions there place Morgan at risk, which appears to be the case.

Morgan should not be confined to a concrete tank for the rest of her life, and the debate about her should not be confined to the pages of a legal brief or the formalities of a lengthy court proceeding or even the political procedural process of Parliament.

The debate about Morgan must be led by the people of the Netherlands - in the name of humanity - and on behalf of us all.
(It appears that Blackfish – to which Spiegl refers in his letter - will be premiering in the Netherlands in a couple of weeks, and could well have an effect on the course of events.)

To me, the most interesting aspect of the letter was Spiegl’s framing of his appeal not only in terms of national identity but in terms of an ethic of maternal care:
Morgan’s right to be free must be shouted out at the top of our voices and from the depth of our hearts, with the same passion and conviction as a mother protecting her child.

When Morgan was taken from the Wadden Sea, she became a child of the Netherlands, a ward of the Dutch people to be held in public trust by the Dutch Government until she could be released back to the sea, to rejoin her real mother.

All the world is watching, all the world is waiting, all the world knows that the fate of Morgan can change this world forever and make it a better place for all.
The maternal metaphor – with which I’m not entirely comfortable - is apt given orca social structure. But, although Spiegl is from the US, it’s almost unimaginable, in this land of anxious masculinity, that an appeal to legislators would ask them to imagine themselves and the country as the collective mother of any human or other animal. I would love to know if that’s more common or resonant in the Dutch context….

*I admit I’m a little confused about the SeaWorld documents Spiegl cites and links to and whether Morgan is among the subjects of the exchange, as he contends.

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