Matthews’ complete letter below:
Buck Cooke, Executive Director
Dear Mr. Cooke:
As a longtime sponsor of Atlanta Pride, PETA is disappointed that the Pride committee hasn’t had the courtesy to reply to our concerns over the Georgia Aquarium party during the past year. As a result, we’ll bring these concerns directly to partygoers through a protest at this year’s pride kickoff event at the aquarium on October 12. That very day, the aquarium will come under fire at a Washington, D.C., hearing over its controversial plans to import 12 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia. Atlanta is the nightlife capital of the world — why insist on celebrating our freedom in a venue that celebrates captivity?
Since last year, out of concern for sound-sensitive marine mammals, the U.S. Navy altered ship routes, the Toronto aquarium announced it would feature no marine mammals, and gay icons Jane Lynch, Martina Navratilova, and Elvira have spoken out against the Georgia Aquarium’s loud events. Are you ignoring them because they’re women? Do we need to hire male strippers to deliver a singing telegram in order to get your attention?
I attended last year’s event and personally spoke to three exhibit guides who said that various animals get distressed and even “get to fighting” during the parties. Many of us in the gay community, especially Georgians, are perplexed by the Pride committee’s lack of professionalism on this issue and are examining ways to reach the board about your peculiar relationship with the aquarium. We remain ready to have a dialogue. In any case, we’ll see you on October 12.
Senior Vice President, PETA
The Atlanta Pride Committee’s board chair, Glen Paul Freedman, said today that the event will go on, regardless of the complaints laid out by PETA and added the APC will not be pressured into changing the event venue.
“If they want to protest the event, that’s their right,” Freedman said by phone. “We’re not canceling our event. We’re not changing our event. They [Georgia Aquarium] have been an excellent partner for the last three years.”
Freedman brushed off Matthews’ accusations of misogyny.
“We’re not going to be held hostage. We’re not going to respond. We’re not going to answer these types of letters. This has nothing to do with our event. They have a fight with the Georgia Aquarium. This is somebody that’s trying to start a fight with the gay and lesbian community and we’re not going to lower ourselves to that standard,” Freedman said.
Freedman also questioned if PETA should have any involvement in the yearly festival.
“If they don’t want to be a part of the Atlanta Pride Committee I suggest they pull out of the festival. This is dragging on way too long. We are having an event. It is sold out. We’re completely supportive of the Georgia Aquarium and that will not waiver. They [PETA] have a place in the market. It sounds like they don’t want to be a part of our event anymore. It sounds like they’re not interested in Atlanta Pride and they don’t want to be a part of the gay and lesbian community. If they don’t want to be, they should call and tell us that,” Freedman added.
GA Voice recently asked two experts, a psychologist and a biologist who have studied marine mammals in captivity, about the possible impact of the party. They had widely differing views on the party’s effect on the animals. Read our full analysis here.