August 8, 2012 8:17 am

Pamela Anderson speaks out about Canada’s treatment of animals and activist Paul Watson

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Pamela Anderson was drawn to water on the TV series Baywatch but don’t expect her to pay a visit to the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada when it opens next year at the base of the CN Tower.

“It’s clear to me that marine parks, including the Toronto aquarium, are in no way educational,” Anderson told GlobalToronto.com in an exclusive interview.

“Confining marine animals to tanks and separating them from their families and their natural surroundings, just so people can watch them swim in endless circles, teaches us far more about humans than it does about animals – and the lesson is not a flattering one.”

Anderson is pleased, however, that Toronto councilors voted last year to outlaw shark fin products – a ban that takes effect Sept. 1 – following similar moves by municipalities across Canada. In her native British Columbia, cities like Richmond and Langley continue to debate whether to ban shark fins, which are used to make a soup that is considered a delicacy in Chinese restaurants.

“Hooking sharks, pulling them from the water, cutting off their fins while they are still alive, then dumping them back into the ocean to suffer and die is appalling,” Anderson says. “To do so for a bowl of soup is indefensible.”

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Earlier this year Anderson dove headfirst into the legal woes of Canadian activist Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who was arrested in Germany on a warrant from Costa Rica. He is accused of obstructing a Costa Rican vessel in 2002 – a ship Watson alleges was involved in shark-finning. Anderson appealed publicly to Germany’s minister of justice to deny an extradition request.

“He is innocent and can prove that,” Anderson explains. “We were mostly concerned about his safety. [Costa Rica] wouldn’t set a trial date and if he were to be held in prison he would’ve been killed.”

Last month, while out on bail awaiting a ruling on extradition, Watson fled Germany. On Tuesday, Interpol issued a Red Notice — a request for member countries to determine whether they can detain or arrest an individual.

Anderson says she hasn’t spoken to Watson in awhile and doesn’t know where he is but calls him a hero. “I am happier with this outcome than what could’ve been,” says Anderson, who adds Canada could do more to support the Toronto-born activist. “He is a national treasure.”

The 45-year-old Canadian star and longtime supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is also delighted that the Toronto Zoo is sending its three African elephants to a California sanctuary next month. “Their lives will dramatically improve when they have many acres of natural habitat to explore and ponds to play in, fresh vegetation, warmer weather, and the friendships and company of an extended elephant community.”

Anderson also has a beef with Calgary. After learning of the deaths of three horses during the chuckwagon races at this year’s Calgary Stampede, she wrote an open letter to Alberta Premier Alison Redford urging her to lobby for an end to the event.

Anderson says she recognizes the century-long history of the Stampede and its economic benefits but stands firmly against it. “Tradition does not justify cruelty,” she says. “Because of the Calgary Stampede countless animals suffer broken bones, punctured lungs, torn ligaments and muscles, snapped necks, and agonizing deaths.

“Rodeos teach gratuitous violence, and it’s just unacceptable to abuse animals for entertainment,” continues Anderson. “I hope people will join me and Bob Barker and countless other caring people in boycotting this cruel event.”

She isn’t giving up the fight against her native country’s annual East Coast seal hunt either. “Nothing shocks me any more than that we still have the seal hunt and awful government officials not protecting the way they should,” says Anderson, who led an international appeal on behalf of PETA that convinced Russian president Vladimir Putin to ban the import of Canadian harp seal pelts. “It’s really time for politicians to face the facts and end this thing for good.”

Anderson knows her image as a Hollywood bombshell may cause some people to dismiss her views on Canadian affairs.

“We are joined at the hip and Canadian issues are my soul. I think that will always be,” she explains. “We need to be the example. Canada more and more is such a respected country so I feel very strongly that we set the stage for humanity and the rights of all living things.”

Born on Canada Day in Ladysmith, B.C. – about 90 km north of Victoria – Anderson says she and her sons (with ex-husband Tommy Lee) Brandon, 16, and Dylan, 14, divide their time between homes in Malibu and Vancouver Island. “It’s important my children have the great Canadian perspective,” insists the star, who maintains dual citizenship. “Growing up in Malibu – it’s a bit of a bubble – and Canadians are such wonderful, polite and caring people. I would never have survived Hollywood without my roots.”

Anderson describes her native country as her “sanctuary” and says she follows Canadian current events closely. “My mom fills me in, believe me. I get an earful,” she explains. “I’m not impressed with [Stephen] Harper. I don’t feel comfortable with mixing too much religion in politics.”

Anderson is almost as famous for her activism as she is for her acting. Her last TV series, Stacked, went off the air in 2006 after two seasons.

She’s currently the face of Victoria-based BamPoker.com. Anderson says she agreed to get involved with the online venture because founders Elton Pereira and Jeremy Nichele are “good Canadian boys I can trust” and because she loves poker. “It’s just fun. We all need a little fun and it’s a good skill to have.”

Anderson is also the only Canadian on the upcoming All-Star season of Dancing With the Stars. “Please vote for me,” says Anderson, who placed sixth in season 10 of the U.S. competition show. “I appreciate the support. I’m doing this for my mom and Great Auntie Vie – it’s their favorite show – and of course to raise awareness for animal rights. Whatever it takes!”

 

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