Lake Worth Mayoral Candidate Rene Varela Responds to Dolphin Trafficking Allegations

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Dr. Rene Varela


Two days ago, we posted this story about how protesters in Lake Worth targeted mayoral candidate Rene Varela, shining light on his work with Ocean Embassy, an Orlando company (formed by ex-SeaWorld employees) that has plans to build a resort in Panama featuring marine animal attractions. The company has also been accused of involvement with capturing wild dolphins in the Solomon Islands and exporting them to Dubai for use in theme parks. Protesters called Varela a "dolphin trafficker," and the story set off a heated debate in the comments field.

I contacted both Varela's employer and campaign manager requesting a phone interview. Varela did not return my calls but instead sent this email, which I only just rescued from my spam filter. I've posted it after the jump.

Dear Ms. Funcheon,

I am disappointed that we could not communicate before the publishing of this piece. In an effort to clear up any confusion, I am sending you the following statement:

The bulk of my career has been spent caring for wild and zoological animals. I am passionate about conservation, the study of marine mammals and playing a continued role in the evolution of zoological parks as respected institutions for education, rescue, rehabilitation and enriching places for animals and people. If I thought the animals in my care were not ultimately comfortable, well cared for and living a life, perhaps different, but assuredly no more stressful than the wild, I wouldn't have chosen my profession.

As mayor, I intend to pursue the protection of our wildlife here in Florida and our city as passionately as I pursued veterinary medicine. I have been privileged to be part of an incredible team, Ocean Embassy, that is committed to advancing the marine mammal field, and in the process and we all have weathered unceasing attacks by those who have absolutely no knowledge of our ethics, standards and results. My title of partner does not allude to seniority in the company; it reflects a single name for every member and the talents he or she brings to the table. I am in no way hiding my affiliation with this company; however, I have no intention of subjecting them to the anticipated attacks from the detractors who will stop at nothing to raise their funds by emphasizing this association.

As a prospective mayor, I realize that it's tough to build bridges and get disparate groups to work together. But progress is dependent upon it. The same goes for marine conservation.

Respectfully, Rene' A. Varela, MS, VMD
Candidate for Mayor of Lake Worth
Political advertisement paid for and approved by Rene Varela for Lake Worth Mayor


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