interviewInterview with Craig McCaw

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COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE ROLE AS YOU SAW IT THAT YOU GUYS HAD COMING INTO THE PROCESS.

We viewed it as very much a personal moral issue, that is, that we could take a role in righting a wrong, but we had no political role, we had no financial role in it and I think that makes us much more unbiased in trying to see that the right thing happens.

DO YOU MEAN A STAKE IN IT?

We, our stake in it is merely our own self-honour, our own honour, that is to say that if we were aware that we could make a difference, and we didn't step up, that it would be wrong. That we felt strongly that Keiko should go frepossible, and we wanted to take him to as high a level as he could get. If that meant he was going to live in a sea pen rather than be completely free, whatever that was, he had the right to get as far as he could along the path to freedom that as it were so many of us believed had transpired, and was compellingly argued for.

And so began with that process in mind. With the further process that once you were going to go to that effort it wasn't worth, for one whale, the expenditure of so many millions of dollars if you weren't going to do the research and establish a facility and make it possible for others to follow and enjoy the benefits of his good fortune, in that he had become so famous. And but for that fact, he would still be in Mexico or dead. And yet we probably would have trouble justifying this much money being spent on one whale, if it were not for all the other benefits, research and as it were, the facility to make this happen again.

IN NEWPORT, OREGON, THE TOWNSPEOPLE WERE TELLING ME THIS WHALE IS SO MUCH A PART OF THIS TOWN, THERE'S NO WAY WE'RE GOING TO LET HIM LEAVE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THAT?

I understand the financial draw of Keiko to Newport, Oregon, and I think we're very sympathetic to the issue of people's livelihood. But we also think he's suffered enough. And I don't think Newport, Oregon wants to stand in the way of the dream of several billion children would think he went free. And so as difficult as it will be, it's like seeing a child grow up and in the care of Newport Oregon, Keiko has gotten well and like any parent, the town can justifiably be proudof that. But I think it's also necessary to recognize that you can't force the child to stay home, it's time for as it were, to go home and find his own life. And so, we hope they'll understand and yet it is, of course, difficult for anyone when they have a financial stake in it. But the people in Mexico who have the most long-term relationship were willing to give him up. And you know, you saw the pictures of thousands if not tens of thousands of crying children saying goodbye to Keiko, and so I think knowing that they gave so much of their hearts to see this come along I know that Newport will want to do the right thing.

IN NEWPORT, HAVE YOU FELT THERE HAVE BEEN DIFFICULTIES IN THIS LAST YEAR OR YEAR AND A HALF THAT HE'S BEEN THERE?

Our basic difficulty is I think a lot of people regard Keiko as he was when he arrived: sick, indolent, non-responsive. And therefore began to get the idea that he would never have the killer instinct as it were, to eat salmon, to hunt for seals, to do the natural things in his life, he'd never make it. And of course, that starts a whole mindset and we've had to work hard to overcome the inertia of people beginning to get comfortable with the fact that this financial prize might hang around and that our sole purpose in this was not that, and obviously we have--we and Warner have many millions of dollars behind it, to do the right thing. And if anyone's loss will be greater, though, it still is the children that lose, the children that want to believe that adults will do the right thing, that the story they're told could be true. And I suppose there's nothing that's better to make true than a dream.

WELL, THAT'S BACK TO - WHAT'S AT STAKE?

Right, that's what's at stake is the dream of all of us, that the right thing can happen without a lot of self-interested people stepping in the way and providing their immoral impediment to the process. Clearly, people can lose from this, whether it's the captive industry, the town of Newport, whomever. But I don't think that's the right thing and I don't think that when people look in their souls they want to stand in the way of this. I don't think they want to go to their grave thinking they had disappointed billions of children. And billions to come who will see this movie and believe in the story.

YOUR STYLE HAS BEEN REPORTED AS BEING A RISK- TAKER. THAT YOU LOOK AT A SITUATION LIKE TECHNOLOGY VERY HARD, FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE, SYNTHESIZE SOME NEW IDEAS, LOOK INTO THE FUTURE AND GO FOR IT. HOW DOES THAT RELATE TO THIS PROCESS ?

I've just always believed that the right thing will happen and if you try to make it happen and you take legitimate risks that it will happen. But I don't know that it directly equates to something like this, where you have a life in your hands and you're trying to carefully handle it from near death to as it were biased form it can take. So I don't think anything really prepares you properly for the custodial responsibilities as we have now sort of undertaken it, that we want to do that.

But I believe in taking risks to make the right thing come true. I have a wonderful moment in the TV show Star Trek where Captain Kirk says, risk is our business and makes a compelling case for why the purpose of all of this is to explore and as it were find what is possible. ? deal in what's completely possible now, life is pretty boring, and as it were we don't make much of a contribution.

AND IN AS MUCH AS YOU'RE LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE AND YOU'RE LOOKING AT THAT CONTRIBUTION, WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS? REGARDING KEIKO?

Well, in the simplest sense, all we'd like to do is create a legitimate pipeline for creatures that society judges should go free, to go free, to establish the research, the way to make it happen, all of the scientific information to do it right. And if these creatures are as intelligent as we believe they are, and I think there's no question that they're that intelligent, it is at least a small step for mankind. We started in slavery, we made a moral judgment.

We still enslave people in different ways, but we try to rise to a higher level in the belief that we should not take from others to establish our own pleasure or rewards.

THROUGHOUT OUR CONVERSATION YOU'RE MAKING A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN HUMAN LIFE AND CETACEOUS LIFE.

Well of course all living creatures have a nexus to us. The closest nexus to us is clearly the cetacean. They are the ones with brains as big or bigger than ours and there's no question that all humans have a special relationship with dolphins, killer whales, etc. And they with us, for they have rescued a lot of people in trouble in the sea, and the question is: what is our return to them? And what should it be? In the end, I equate it to something we don't know quite how to deal with this because we've never quite taken the next step to say, what is the appropriate role with each element of animal and plant life,[01:46:00] and what will it be with aliens, when we come to that moment.

But we're very much a reflection of how we treat other people, other things in the earth in general. But, again, this is the clearest point, that we can establish making the moral question a reasonable one. It's not a polarizing issue, it's just people agreeing that there is a right and wrong and we have to come to that point and make that judgment.

FOR SOMEONE LIKE YOU WHO DOES SOME DARING BUSINESS DEALS,CAN YOU GIVE ME A SENSE OF HOW THIS COMPARES?

This is different from business in that you're dealing with a lot of people who do and don't have an unbiased opinion, and the emotional relationship here is different that you usually have in business. I mean, in business it may be a competition with someone else or as it were competition with what's possible, but it's a bit more impersonal. And people tend to have much stronger feelings about the rights of cetaceans. And so on both sides of the issue, the financial side and the moral side, there are people who are highly charged who as it were are so different from each other in their viewpoint, that very little progress can be made. We would like to be a little bit of a movement for progress on a rational basis toward the right thing, such as we all decide is right.

HOW DOES THE PROJECT FIT OR NOT WITH YOUR OTHER CHARITABLE PROJECTS ?

There's no pattern in my mind to any project. We don't start with a strategic plan for charitable giving and in terms of my personal involvement it's very eclectic, as much as I am. It's something that we thought was the right thing to do and so we decided to do it and there wasn't much more good sense to it than that.

We believe that by understanding the orca really well, well enough to as it were decide whether they are healthy and what they need to return to their natural environment, we are essentially forced to go through a process of knowing them well enough to know what their limits are, how to relate to them, how intelligent they really are, and as it were provide a little catalyst to the debate. But we don't view we're making the decision. We're making the decision in this case to try to do what we believe is the right thing.

But that's a debate that is a broader, global debate that we cannot individually make for all the societies of the world. But we can provide some data, some information, an example of what can be done for people to as it were make up their own minds as to what's right.

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT ANIMALS BELONG IN CAPTIVITY?

I personally believe that animals have a role in education. But that we should not imprison them unduly in that process, perhaps not imprison them in that sense at all. Clearly there is a role for us to play in exchanging information with people who are denied access and maybe less invasive in some ways to have some information than ask everyone to go to the Sahara to see a zebra in the real life.

But there's no question that there has been exploitation of cetaceans at various times in various places. But we're not trying to make that debate specifically with respect to any particular circumstance. But again I think we've seen an example with the recent Japanese capture of killer whales and several dying, that this is not the right thing to do and this is clearly morally wrong to mishandle the animals to do the things that have been doing and to exploit them in the way that they have been. So we know that is a wrong and how far back from that is the right, I think we all have to decide.

I don't think that society today would call for closing Sea World down overnight. And I don't think that's the outcome that's going to happen here. And there are all kinds of questions to be dealt with. If an orca's born in captivity, how is that different from one born in the wild? Is that okay or not okay?

Are they just as intelligent but was it different becuae they never knew freedom and purity? Those are all questions we're gonna have to ask. And it may be there's a point to which they can provide a sufficiently educational process in an appropriate number of locations, whether that's one, none or 50, worldwide or domestically, that we establish an appropriate pattern for display, education, whatever. And just with exploiting human beings and our rights are very.. and totally are very complicated and every country has their own idea as to what's right and wrong. But I think we've managed to establish reasonable freedoms and reasonable standards. And again, it's a debate that I think we all wanna have.

SO IT'S AN OUTGROWTH OR EXTENSION OF THE DEBATE OVER HUMAN RIGHTS?

Whenever you deal with any set of rights, I think whether they're human rights, animal rights, alien rights, whatever we may come across, you have to establish reasonable boundaries. And so I don't think you can be moral if you're merely moral to human beings. And we have established a lot of rules as a so.. as a society to protect animals. And I think this is part of a continuing process of establishing right and wrong. At a point in time, people thought nothing of killing animals by working them to death, and now of course that's against the law in this country and in most countries, and people don't want to see that. Needless death, destruction, suffering are not favoured in the global society of today.

THIS IS A DELICATE OPERATION . WHAT IS YOUR SENSE OF THE POLITICS INVOLVED?

We know people are going to try to stop this, in many ways. They'll claim we don't know enough, not enough information is available. They'll try to stop us politically here or abroad. And we want to establish a reasonably non partisan role in this. We're not taking sides in this, we're trying to do the right thing. And you know, there will be many subtle attempts to stop this. And we're going to battle through them, whether they try to prevent this through financial means, political means, whatever. Or just different disinformation. And disinformation is a very powerful tool. And we believe that no one wants to stand in the way of the dream - the dream of children.

And so we think people will reasonably get out of the way as long as we don't try to hurt them.

And again, we're not here to hurt anyone, we're here to help this whale and to do research.

I'VE HEARD THAT SEA WORLD DOES FEEL THAT THE EFFORT IS A THREAT, AND THAT IT WOULD BE A THREAT TO THEIR BUSINESS.

There's no question that any business, and there are many forms of business, whether you said coffee is bad for you, therefore I want to establish a halfway house for people who like coffee too much. Starbucks might be angry with me. But reasonably I think we all have to deal as adults with issues that are bigger than us. And this issue is bigger than me or Sea World or anyone else.

And so, we just wanna do the right thing. We don't wanna hurt them, but we want the right things to occur, and again, I don't think that in the long term Sea World will be disadvantaged, I think Keiko has made the orca, the killer whale into a tremendous star. And then we just have to establish the right level of display of those who are in captivity and whether others should be.

But we're not trying to make it so that they have to release whales tomorrow, go out of business tomorrow, and so we don't want them to be afraid, but naturally, anyone who has a business with this .....going on alongside will be nervous, particularly if we take too strident a position.

THERE'S SOME ACCUSATIONS THAT THIS YEAR THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF POLITICS AT THE AQUARIUM, A LOT OF ....MANAGEMENT ISSUES ...AND FOR KEIKO, EVERYTHING HAS GOTTEN SLOWED DOWN. WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Clearly, the aquarium has a conflict of interest, which they try to deal with as best they can. But it is not in the aquarium's interest for Keiko to be free. We have a massive rise in visitors to the aquarium because of Keiko. We understand that, they understand that, and there's a lot of money at stake. And we have felt that perhaps the aquarium is not doing everything it could to possibly bring about the release of Keiko to his highest level. Again, maybe he belongs in a sea pen in Iceland if he can't really be free.

But we've taken a more active role because we as believers want

Keiko to do the very best, and we have felt that more could be done. But that is not to say that we felt the aquarium was knowingly maliciously doing the wrong thing, but the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a large political body representing diverse interests in Oregon, and some of them will naturally look at the financial aspects of this for Oregon, for Newport, and not want Keiko to be free, and we just try to help them overcome their conflict of interest in a nice way. And again, we think they're nice people, we want the very best for them. And if we work together, we'll continue this as a facility with the next stars.

And we see Newport as the beneficiary of the pipeline, and so if we establish the pipeline for disadvantaged creatures to make their way back to the sea and to be temporarily stars in Newport, and Newport as it were to be a moral star around the world - we think we've done a great thing for them and we can do it together. And we wanna work with the people in the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

WHAT'S NEXT?

What's next for us is assembling the sophisticated, scientific research we're doing with Woods Hole and others. We're gonna do acoustic research, we're gonna

transmit signals, do all kinds of fun things, as it were, to establish Keiko's bond and to know more about Keiko and what's possible here. And when we're through that, then we're going to take Keiko down the road toward his highest and best future as we can make.

PERSONALLY, DO YOU GET ON THE PHONE AND TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT IT?

I have had the necessity to do very little direct fundraising so far because we're not in desperate need of money today, 'til we see exactly how we're going to free him. But we will clearly, and I will personally step up, after we've seen what level of support people naturally make. But if we're.. we fall short, I'm sure I'll be able to find the money to make it happen. This will not be stopped for lack of money.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?

Success for us in this specific project is getting Willie, Keiko to be as free as he can be, to have as free a life as he can have. To find out scientific knowledge about orcas and cetaceans and to make sure that we establish a mechanism for others to be freed - as appropriate.

SEA WORLD SAYS THEY'RE IN CAPTIVITY BECAUSE THEY ARE EDUCATIONAL. THAT'S WHY THEY SHOULD KEEP THEM.

I know Sea World does not want to exploit animals. And I think they provide some legitimate educational purpose in what they do. I think there is a question that some displays and exhibits may be exhibitions more than educational - for entertainment rather than education. And I think it's important that they look at those so that society does not stand up and say you're exploiting these animals and they're intelligent and don't do it. I don't think that society today would call for closing Sea World down overnight. And I don't think that's the outcome that's going to happen here. And there are all kinds of questions to be dealt with. If an orca's born in captivity, how is that different from one born in the wild? Is that okay or not okay?

Are they just as intelligent but was it different becuae they never knew freedom and purity? Those are all questions we're gonna have to ask. And it may be there's a point to which they can provide a sufficiently educational process in an appropriate number of locations, whether that's one, none or 50, worldwide or domestically, that we establish an appropriate pattern for display, education, whatever. And just with exploiting human beings and our rights are very.. and totally are very complicated and every country has their own idea as to what's right and wrong. But I think we've managed to establish reasonable freedoms and reasonable standards. And again, it's a debate that I think we all wanna have.




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