From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1993

DENVER, Colo.––An astute
media campaign including extensive
advertising in local newspapers and the
April back cover ad in ANIMAL PEO-
PLE paid off big for Animal Rights
Mobilization! on May 13 when the pro-
moters of the proposed Colorado’s Ocean
Journey aquarium dropped plans to
include captive dolphins. It was appar-
ently the first time any major aquarium in
planning anywhere cancelled a marine
mammal exhibit under pressure from an
animal rights group.

Apparently pushed by both
politicians and corporate backers to avoid
further high-profile confrontation, after a
six-month war of words, project co-
founders Bill and Judy Fleming declared,
“The dolphin mission is not essential to
the success of this project.” Literature
promoting Colorado’s Ocean Journey had
indicated at various times that it might
include not only a conventional dolphin
show, but also a swim-with-dolphins
concession that was later described as a
therapeutic program for autistic children,
and perhaps an exhibit of highly endan-
gered South American river dolphins.
Because the descriptive litera-
ture and public statements of the
Flemings kept changing as the dolphin
issue heated up, ARM! national director
Robin Duxbury had to aim her ads at a
moving target, but she still scored a
series of damaging hits, most notably in
January when she revealed that the
Colorado’s Ocean Journey volunteer vet-
erinary advisors, Dr. Jay Sweeney and
Dr. Gregory Brossart, had been profes-
sionally disciplined for their work with
dolphins in connection with other aquari-
ums. Sweeney ran into trouble with the
state of Florida in 1990 for his role in
capturing two dolphins near Tampa Bay,
to supply the Baltimore Aquarium, while
Brossart was veterinarian of record at
Ocean World in Fort Lauderdale, Florida,
1987-1991, during which time the USDA charged the park
with a number of violations of federal dolphin holding stan-
Duxbury scored another hit when the Flemings
insisted Colorado’s Ocean Journey would include only
“third-generation captive-born dolphins,” only to learn
through the media that there are no third-generation cap-
tive-born dolphins anywhere in the world.
The Flemings denied that the ARM! campaign
was the reason they decided not to build a dolphin facility,
but gave no other specific reasons for the surprise
announcement. Several corporations that had provided seed
money, however, had become visibly jittery––and the
Flemings have raised less than 10% of the $50 million esti-
mated cost of building the park.
“When we initially sponsored this,” Pepsi-Cola
Denver marketing manager told Westward, a local weekly
newspaper, “we didn’t know there were issues at all over
dolphins.” The Coors Brewing Company meanwhile
backed away as well. Coors director of corporate commu-
nications David Taylor told everyone who inquired that,
“Coors isn’t involved on one side or the other.”
Two rival groups are also in the race to establish
an aquarium in the Denver area, and both have already
pledged to exclude marine mammals. Colorado Aquarium
Inc., established by the 45-year-old Colorado Aquarium
Society, is dickering with the suburb of Westminster over a
bond issue to finance a similar $50 million facility, and has
a comparable list of initial sponsors. The much more
recently formed Rocky Mountain Aquarium Foundation has
received $20,000 from the David and Lucille Packard
Foundation to research building an aquarium in Estes Park,
to feature native North American species only.
Big win for struggling group
The “no dolphins in Denver” campaign was an
impressive national debut for Duxbury, a former laboratory
technician whose on-the-job experience preparing dogs for
experiments convinced her to change directions in life.
Duxbury spent about $20,000 on the dolphin campaign
over a six-month period, about a fifth of the budget for
similar campaigns waged by bigger groups with less suc-
cess––and was able to spend that much, about $1.00 for
every person on the ARM! mailing list, only by often going
without her already minimal wages.
Duxbury succeeded ARM! founders George Cave
and Dana Stuchell as head of the organization just last year.
A leading voice of the animal rights movement under the
name Trans Species Unlimited during the 1980s, the group
went into steep decline in 1989-1990, as revenues fell 70%.
The name change, coming in mid-collapse, apparently did-
n’t help. A New York office was closed and the Chicago
office became an independent organization before Duxbury
took over, at which point ARM! relocated from
Pennsylvania to Littleton, Colorado. In order to devote her
effort to reviving ARM!, Duxbury folded her own six-year-
old Rocky Mountain Humane Society, which did no shel-
tering but won a strong reputation for regional advocacy.
Three of her regional campaigns drew national attention: a
successful boycott of Mary Kay Cosmetics, begun in 1988
to persuade the firm to quit testing products on animals; the
1991 prosecution of Denver TV reporter Wendy Bergen for
staging a dogfight, ostensibly to expose dogfighting; and
an unsuccessful attempt to halt an annual prairie dog killing
contest held near Nucla, Colorado.
The “no dolphins in Denver” campaign was initi-
ated last fall by another local advocacy group, the Society
for Earth Ethics, but quickly gained a national profile when
ARM! took the leading role. Finding other animal rights
groups uninterested and uncooperative, Duxbury formed
strong alliances with marine mammal protection groups
instead, including the Dolphin Alliance, the Dolphin
Project, Earth Island Institute, and Orcalab. Dolphin
experts providing significant help included Ric Trout, a
former dolphin trainer for the U.S. Navy whose revelations
about military use of marine mammals drew Congressional
attention to the subject in 1989, and Ken Levasseur, who
helped release two dolphins from captivity in mid-experi-
ment at the University of Hawaii’s Kawala Basin Marine
Research Facility in 1977, after spending two years as one
of their live-in caretakers. (He was assisted by Steve
Sipman, another live-in caretaker.)
But Duxbury’s most influential backer was David
Brower, founder of both Earth Island Institute and Friends
of the Earth. Brower persuaded Aspen Center for
Environmental Studies director Thomas Cardamone to
resign from the Colorado’s Ocean Journey advisory board
in March, a month after Thorne Ecological Institute direc-
tor Susan Q. Foster quit, citing unease with the proposed
dolphin exhibit. The resignations undercut the Flemings’
claim that Colorado’s Ocean Journey would serve an eco-
logical purpose as well as being an entertainment center.
“All in all, I’m happy,” Duxbury told ANIMAL
PEOPLE. “I think I’ll take a break for a few days––do
some hiking and enjoy the mountains.” Upon her return,
she pledged, she would take a careful look at another
attraction promised by Colorado’s Ocean Journey, “swim-
ming tigers” trained by Bill Fleming himself. Tigers,
unlike most other felines, are often enthusiastic swimmers,
but whether they like performing is unclear.
There was one disappointment for Duxbury. “A
few people,” she said, “who shall remain nameless, were
less than enthusiastic over the news. I’m hurt and appalled
over their reactions, and these people are part of the animal
rights movement! It’s as though they didn’t want to see a
victory on this. I guess I’m naive, but I thought the goal of
the animal rights movement, as a whole, is to put itself out
of business as a result of achieving animal
liberation––somewhere down the road in about 100 years.”
––Article and photo by Merritt Clifton
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