I have included this article by Dr Horace Dobbs in my autobiography because as an expert witness he sat during the whole of the trial. After sending me his draft not long after the trial, I suggested only two minor changes, I think it a very good account by him of what happened. It was first published in his book Journey into the Dolphin Dream Time. I added the quote, the quote that heads the chapter is what Horace wrote in reply to an angry person who stated what they would like to do to me, if they could lay their hands on me.
"Freddy could not have a better human friend than Alan."
The ten-minute feature made by Sky Television News centred on Bill Bowell and how dolphins had brought happiness into his world after more than a decade of severe depression. The irrepressible Estelle Myers also appeared in the ﬁlm, talking exuberantly about the dolphin's penis. In the circumstances, she said, using such a sensitive part of the body as a hook to tow people along must be seen as a gesture of trust on Freddie's part. Exposing it in this way, under voluntary control, for social manipulation was only to be applauded. Her eloquent observations reﬂected something I had seen and spoken about many times before - even as long ago as in my Yorkshire Television ﬁlm, Ride a Wild Dolphin, in 1976. I assumed by now it was fairly common knowledge, just one aspect of the normal behaviour of solitary male dolphins when they interact with swimmers.
What happened next revealed the danger of making any such assumption about what people understood of dolphins. From an impromptu straw poll I discovered that many of the older generation still thought of dolphins as fish and not air-breathing mammals. To these people, the idea of a dolphin employing its penis as an auxiliary arm was quite absurd. In contrast young people, reared in an age in which condoms were freely discussed, seemed to see nothing odd in a dolphin using its penis for manual dexterity.
For the majority between these two extremes, the subject served only to focus their own prejudices and inhibitions. Most sought escape from further emotional entanglement by turning it into a joke; others, more openly embarrassed, quickly diverted discussion to less contentious issues.
Some wanted to be open-minded. After all, sexual symbols were used everywhere in our consumer society for selling everything from newspapers to underarm deodorants. They tried to rise above their conditioning and were prepared to see the dolphin as an alternative species, uninhibited and not subject to the codes of human society. With a brain as large and complex as ours, at least the dolphins were not obsessed - as were we - with creating and acquiring possessions.
One person I knew who gave a lot of time and energy to considering the feelings and rights of all living things, especially animals, was Alan Cooper. As a professional gardener he was more familiar than most with the forces of nature. He wanted to put right what he saw as the wrongs his fellow humans inﬂicted upon innocent animals and deplored their use in research experiments and for testing cosmetics. Alan Cooper involved himself in animal welfare projects and lived by his principles. He was well-built, physically strong, a ﬁne example of the fact that consumption of meat is not essential to maintaining a high level of athletic activity. He cycled from Flamingo Land in Yorkshire to Windsor - a distance of 286 miles - in less than a day, on a sponsored ride to raise funds to bring about the abolition of the dolphinariums at the beginning and end of his journey.
I ﬁrst met Alan in Morecambe in March 1990 after a talk and ﬁlm show I had given at a rally to free Rocky, a dolphin held there in solitary conﬁnement in a grubby pool a stone's throw from the open sea. After my presentation he told me that he intended to go to Amble to see Freddie. He said he had seen my film about the dolphin Donald and the exposure of his penis.
'What do I do if Freddie does the same thing to me?' he inquired.
'Just treat it as normal behaviour,' I replied, 'He can ﬂick it out and retract like the blade of a penknife. He may even tow you with it.' With that I turned my attention to one of the people who were crowding round to speak to me.
Alan Cooper subsequently became a frequent commuter to Amble, taking the train from Manchester to Alnmouth and camping out near Amble. He spent many hours in the water with the dolphin, usually going in to swim with Freddie from the end of the South Pier. Bad weather and cold water were no deterrents: the two of them swam together in all conditions.
Alan got to know Freddie in all his moods and usually adapted his behaviour to suit that of the dolphin. There were times when they just swam quietly side by side, or rolled over and over one another. At other times, if Freddie was in one of his explosive moods, he would leap back and forth over Alan who did his best to respond. Sometimes Freddie would hook his penis into the crook of Alan's arm, or behind his knee, and tow the delighted man through the water. Occasionally Alan held on to Freddie's dorsal fin and was pulled along. He had read enough to know that the bones in the dolphin's flippers correspond to those of the human hand and that careless handling can cause them to be dislocated, so he was careful not to hold the pectoral fins if he felt the game was becoming too strenuous.
Estelle Myers happened to witness one of their swims when she ﬁrst arrived in Amble. Later she told me she had never before seen such a tender and loving relationship. Of course Alan preferred to be on his own with Freddie, or with his friend Andrew and others who genuinely had an interest in dolphins. Although he liked people to see Freddie, in the hope it would raise their awareness to the plight of dolphins in captivity, Alan tended to keep clear when tourists were crowding into the sea. He understood full well that such was the bond between himself and Freddie that the dolphin was unlikely to pay much attention to anyone else while he was in the water. So when he saw a boat loaded with passengers in wetsuits approaching Alan would sometimes leave or return to the pier so that others could enjoy Freddie's company.
In keeping with this generous spirit, Alan was prepared to abandon his swim on 28 September 1990 when the G. Jennifer came chugging down towards the harbour mouth. Upon recognising one of those in the boat, however, he changed his mind. That person was Peter Bloom, the curator of the Flamingo Land dolphinarium, whom he had seen ﬁve days earlier when he and a colleague visited Flamingo Land as paying customers. They had sat through two performances and had videoed the pool and parts of the show to illustrate the conditions in which dolphins were kept. Afterwards they had discussed with the trainer and Peter Bloom - not acrimoniously - the rights and wrongs of keeping dolphins in captivity.
It was clearly a difﬁcult situation for skipper Gordon Easton who wanted to please those who had paid to go out in his boat to see the dolphin. He was aware that Alan Cooper and Peter Bloom took different points of view each had produced leaﬂets on how to behave with Freddie, which they had distributed in Amble.
The Bloom leaﬂet contained common-sense advice, but also warned that continued physical contact could lead to over-excitement, frustration and even aggression. To some, this appeared to be a thinly disguised publicity stunt to deter the public from swimming with Freddie and direct them instead towards Flamingo Land.
Cooper's leaﬂet, boldly entitled PLEASE HELP TO KEEP FREDDIE SAFE, was more comprehensive and based upon a similar pamphlet which International Dolphin Watch had produced to help safeguard Simo, the friendly wild dolphin which lived off the coast of Wales. Among his points was the following:
One aspect of swimming with Freddie is at some stage he may rub against you exposing his penis. Do not be alarmed, this is normal social behaviour amongst dolphins. However, if this makes you nervous or uncomfortable, then consider leaving the water.
In bold lettering, the Cooper leaﬂet ended with: 'You have seen performing dolphin "clowns" in dolphinariums. These dolphins were like Freddie, living free until they were kidnapped from the sea.'
FREDDIE IS A COMPLETELY WILD DOLPHIN WHO HAS DECIDED TO ALLOW HUMAN FRIENDSHIP AND CONTACT, HE DESERVES OUR RESPECT AND PROTECTION.
Bloom was ﬁghting a battle to safeguard his livelihood in an industry that was heading for extinction in Britain. The number of static and mobile display tanks had decreased from thirty-six when the ﬁrst shows based at Flamingo Land went on tour in 1966 to three in 1990. In the sinter of 1966 dolphins were made to perform in a tiny circular plastic tank in the old tram sheds in Leeds. During the intervening years our knowledge and understanding of all animals, especially dolphins, has increased immensely. To many people, the removal of individual dolphins from complex social groups in the ocean, and their subsequent imprisonment as circus entertainers in tiny pools, was morally wrong. Some measure of this change in public attitudes can be gauged from the fact that a few weeks after a campaign entitled Into The Blue, initiated by Zoo Check, was launched by a major newspaper in 1990 enough money was raised to return Rocky, the dolphin incarcerated at Morecambe, to the open sea.
Many saw Peter Bloom's predicament as not unlike that of a slave trader desperately trying to stave off the collapse of his business enterprise. Among those actively pressing for its demise was Alan Cooper.
It would not be unreasonable to assume that the dolphinarium curator would be less than pleased to see Alan Cooper. He knew there was a group in the boat who had come to do their own story for a newspaper. If Alan remained in the water the journalist and his photographer were unlikely to get what they wanted. So he told everyone this, saying that the reason why Alan retained Freddie's attention was because he was masturbating the dolphin. The actual words used, and later given to the police by the reporter in a signed statement, were: 'You won't get near. He is wanking off the dolphin.'
In his statement to the police, made about one month later, Peter Bloom admitted that he did not personally see the act of which he accused Alan Cooper. Nor did anyone else at the time, although two people claimed they saw Alan manipulating the dolphin's penis after Bloom had left the boat.
Three days after the incident was alleged to have taken place the police were notiﬁed - a time lapse which provided ample opportunity for all in the boat to communicate with one another and discuss what action to take.
The police questioned the boatman Gordon Easton on October 1990. He told them that he had seen Alan swimming with the dolphin on the day in question. Part of his signed statement read:
The behaviour of the dolphin with Alan Cooper was no different to the way it behaved with other swimmers or divers in that he can often be seen with an erection even when there are no persons in the water. I could see nothing unusual in the way either the dolphin or Alan Cooper was behaving.
We were in sight of Alan Cooper and the dolphin for most of the time we were out which I estimate as about 2 hours.
Alan Cooper meanwhile was blissfully unaware of what was said in the boat or what happened subsequently. For Alan it was typical of the swims he had had with Freddie many times before. The dolphin had exposed his penis - but that was not at all unusual. He gave the incident little more thought until Wednesday 3 October, just when he was about to return to Manchester, when Gordon told him he had been questioned by the Sunderland police.
It is easy to see how the situation arose. Those in the boat would have been emotionally wound up. They had travelled all the way to Amble for a dolphin encounter, full of eager anticipation. They had set off down river in the company of Peter Bloom, who seemed a personable man and self-proclaimed dolphin expert. Then, just as the dolphin came into view, their hopes were dashed because someone (according to Bloom) was out there masturbating the creature. They did not see what he said was happening. Freddie certainly stayed with the man in question, and sometimes the dolphin's penis was exposed. Why should they disbelieve what they told? It would have been unnatural if they had not been incensed and outraged.
After Bloom and others had given their statements to the police someone informed the press and most of the daily newspapers in Britain carried the story at the beginning of December. The Sun featured it on the front page under the huge headline POLICE PROBE DOLPHIN SEX ATTACK. Several people contacted the police who conﬁrmed the complaint but would not reveal the name of the assailant because the matter was sub-judice. Both Bloom and I were quoted in The Independent by Alex Ranton who reported me as saying about the use of Freddie's penis, 'He can use it voluntarily, like a human's arm. It sticks out at an angle and he will deliberately manoeuvre it into the crook of your arm and his penis will pull you along.' Bloom’s response to this was, 'That's a load of rubbish. To pretend there is nothing sexual involved is deluding oneself.' Earlier in the same article Bloom was reported as saying: 'There are several people involved: it's an increasing problem with tame dolphins in the wild. In Dingle Bay a few weeks ago I saw a stark naked woman running into the sea shouting, "Come on Funghie, I love you." Dolphins bring out the best and the worst in people.'
When he read the reports in the newspapers Alan was distraught.
On 20 December Alan Cooper was arrested at his home by a policeman who informed him that a complaint had been made to the Northumbria Police about an indecent act with a dolphin in Amble on 28 September. He was taken to Longsight Police Station in Manchester, where he was questioned in the presence of his solicitor, Guy Otten. When he heard that Bloom had told those in the boat that he was 'wanking' the dolphin, Alan protested strongly. 'It's lies, pure lies.'
The cross-examination continued for an hour and a half. Alan became progressively more convinced that, because of his anti-dolphinarium campaign Bloom had initiated a 'dirt campaign' against him. The police said it was alleged that Alan had been masturbating the dolphin to make it more aggressive and thereby deter other people from swimming with it.
Alan replied, 'Bullshit!'
He stated emphatically that he had never attempted to masturbate Freddie, nor even thought of doing so. He made it quite clear that he thought the business in which Bloom was engaged, namely the capture and commercial exploitation of dolphins, was immoral and that the situation in which he now found himself had been contrived by Bloom in retaliation for his efforts to get the Flamingo Land dolphinarium closed down.
At the end of the interrogation a sergeant told Alan that, While he was in his cell, police had searched his house and removed certain documents, including a poem called Freddie and two albums of photographs.
Alan told me later that this upset more than the interrogation, and that is stressful enough in any circumstances. I could understand why he felt this way. I had dedicated my book, Dance to a Dolphin's Song, to Peter Worswick, a very sensitive man who took his own life when his collection of dolphin photographs was accidentally ruined. I new that Alan was paying a high emotional price for the stance he had taken against injustice. He viewed dolphinariums as prisons in which dolphins, innocent of any crimes, were incarcerated for life. It was ironic that if the court found Alan guilty, he could be sent to prison.
A very distressing aspect of the affair for me was that as the Honorary Director of International Dolphin Watch I received mail from some of our members who, after reading the newspaper reports, expressed their disgust for the pervert who was abusing Freddie. They had already decided that Alan Cooper was guilty. In no uncertain terms, they let me know what they would do if they got their hands on the person who could perpetrate such an evil act against a dolphin.
Before the trial Alan's name and address were not mentioned in the press, but with a bit of detective work any person could have found them out. Some did. Alan received death threats, frequent silent and abusive phone calls, and a large amount of unsolicited mail.
On appearing at Alnwick Magistrates Court on 15 May 1991, Alan Cooper was committed for trial. The case was subsequently heard at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Crown Court in December. As an expert witness I sat through the entire proceedings.
I had seen trials innumerable times performed by actors, but it was the ﬁrst time I had seen a court in action in real life. Apart from my personal interest in the subject, I was fascinated by the ponderous process whereby the court attempted to ﬁnd out what really happened. It was like panning for gold. A muddy slurry of outright lies, half-truths, dimly remembered facts, clearly recalled events, imagined happenings sheer fantasy were sieved and sifted in the hope that the nuggets of truth, gold and shiny, would emerge. It took more than four days to isolate and clarify what actually took place during a couple of hours off the coast at Amble over one year earlier.
The process began with a reading of the statement of offence: 'Committing an act outraging public decency.' The so-dialled particulars of the offence were then read out. They Were: 'That Alan Cooper, on 28th day of September 1990, committed an act of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature and outraged public decency by behaving in an indecent manner with a Bottlenose dolphin to the great disgust and annoyance of divers of Her Majesty's subjects within whose purview such an act was committed.'
The judge addressed the jury of twelve. He explained that, after listening to all the evidence, and having identiﬁed what they considered to be the truth, it was then up to them to decide individually if the behaviour of the accused amounted to an act that would outrage public decency.
The case began with Prosecuting Counsel calling in a series of witnesses, including Peter Bloom, each of whom gave their own version of what took place. They were followed by witnesses for the defence, and ﬁnally by the defendant himself, although he was not obliged to do so.
The hearing was not without its lighter moments. In opening for the Defence. Anthony Jennings QC told the jury they should not apply human concepts of sexual behaviour to dolphins. Human beings - apart from at rugby club dinners did not use their penises to greet each other. Also, humans, unlike dolphins, do not use their penises for domestic purposes, such as pushing the supermarket trolley. Referring to me in his summing up, Jennings commented on the number of books I had written and described me as 'The Ruth Rendell of Dolphins'. I took it as a compliment.
The court burst into laughter when Defence Counsel introduced a video showing Freddie, penis exposed, playing with swimmers. 'This is the closest we can get to calling the dolphin as a witness,' he said. 'He doesn't speak English.' He requested that the video be entered in evidence, together with statements from experts such as Dr Peter Evans, who were called upon to conﬁrm my pronouncement that cetaceans used their penises in a social as well as a sexual context.
Anthony Jennings, who was assisted by Mary McKeone QC, conducted his questioning brilliantly, identifying and highlighting one ﬂaw after another in statements made by the witnesses for the prosecution. Some discrepancies were obvious; such as the colour of Alan's wetsuit. One of those who was most outraged by what she saw, and who identified Cooper as the culprit, said he was wearing a red wetsuit. In reality Alan wore a pale blue wetsuit with yellow arms.
Other discrepancies only came to light as a result of detailed questioning. Two of the witnesses, who claimed that they barely knew Bloom and would not therefore have colluded with him, were revealed to be close acquaintances, one of them even going on holiday with him.
It appeared to me that most of those involved had unwittingly been drawn into a situation from which they could not escape. Having decided on their version of what they thought took place, they were not prepared to deviate from it, despite the contradictory evidence that Defence Counsel presented to them.
Among the witnesses called for the Defence was Doug Cartlidge, an ex-dolphin trainer who had access the inside world of the dolphinarium industry. He revealed that Peter Bloom had attended a conference where the subject of counteracting those opposed to dolphinariums was discussed. Among the counter-attack recommendations were targeting the leader, getting those involved labelled as 'animal activists', and initiating expensive litigation - which was precisely what had happened in Alan's case.
The gowns, wigs and setting added to the theatrical nature of the event. There were certainly moments of high drama. For instance, no one knew what would happen when Defence Counsel took the gamble of calling two witnesses who had made statements for the Prosecution. They were a husband and wife who had gone out on the G. Jennifer in order to swim with Freddie. The wife's signed statement to the police (28 October 1990 concluded: 'Mr Bloom, the dolphin expert, explained to the people on the boat the act that was taking place. I was totally disgusted at the actions of the man when I was informed that he was masturbating the dolphin. The husband's statement was similar.
The gamble paid off.
Under cross-examination they both agreed that they were indeed totally disgusted by what they were told was happening. Yes, they did see Alan, and they could clearly see that the dolphin's penis was exposed for some of the time, but neither of them saw Alan committing the act of which he was accused, despite the fact that they had ample opportunity to do so.
On the ﬁfth day the barristers put their respective cases before the judge ﬁnally summarised all that had happened. The atmosphere was tense when the four men and eight women of the jury retired to come to their decision. Was Alan Cooper guilty or not guilty?
The jury was out for about an hour which is an unusually short time for such hearings. When they returned, their spokesman told the silent court in a very powerful and clear voice that the verdict of the jury was unanimous.
They found the accused 'NOT GUILTY'.
A roar of cheering went up in the public gallery. Outside Alan was besieged by reporters. He was ﬁlmed and photographed surrounded by supporters who bore banners and placards proclaiming the verdict a victory in the ﬁght for the freedom of dolphins in captivity.
Doug Cartlidge made a statement to the press in which he said the case exposed a sinister plot by the dolphinarium industry to intimidate and discredit a man of sensitivity and integrity who was campaigning against keeping dolphins in prison.
I made the point that a great deal of public money (£37,500 according to one later estimate) had been spent on a lesson in dolphin behaviour. I also raised the subject of the validity of observations on captive dolphins, upon which some of Bloom's statements were based. I proposed that all future research should be carried out with the voluntary cooperation of free dolphins in the open sea.
For his part, Alan thought he was completely vindicated, and he would continue his mission to see that the captive dolphins at Flamingo Land and at Windsor were returned to their natural home in the open sea.
What did not come out in the trial was that Alan had taken his mother to see Freddie before he was accused. His mother was deeply distressed at what happened and died shortly before the trial. Her death added to the deep anguish Alan felt at being accused of what he regarded as an abusive act and a betrayal of trust. Knowing his innocence, he was sad that his mother never saw the day when her son was exonerated.
Most reporters agreed that the case should never have gone to court. None the less it was a small milestone in British legal history. Cynics said it would have been even more sensational if Alan had been found guilty.
Friday 13 December 1991 was a good day for Alan. It ended a year of heartache and uncertainty. He celebrated his victory the best way he knew. He Went to Amble for a swim with Freddie.