Woman goes on hunger strike to save orcas

Lanni Johnson sitting in front of the capitol building steps where she has been on a hunger strike for the last 9 days to save the Southern Resident Orcas. Johnson is joined by supporter, Phil Myers, who can be seen in an orca onesie.
Emma Epperly
WNPA News Bureau

Lanni Johnson has been sitting in front of the Capitol Building for the past 9 days on a hunger strike.
Johnson, 71, of Snohomish, says the government is taking too long to solve the problem of declining food supply for southern resident orcas.
“I’m here because I believe that while we twiddle our fingers and push a lot of paper around and have many many meetings, we are going to watch the southern resident orca go extinct,” Johnson said.
She sits outside from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day with a sign that reads, “Solidarity with starving Southern Resident Orcas. Breach the Dams! Now!”
Johnson cited scientists who say the southern resident orcas need an increased food supply over the next four years or they will go extinct.
“I mean the things that the orca task force wants to do, they’re very important, and they’re very good, and we need to do them all, but they’ll be too late,” Johnson said.
She plans to continue her strike for the next 8 days, bringing the total up to 17 days, which is the same amount of time that Tahlequah, a mother orca, carried her dead calf in July 2018.
“I don’t know how much she was able to eat while she had that baby on her nose,” Johnson said. “So, I thought if she could do that, then I could do this.”
The calf was the first to be born alive since 2015 and lived for less than an hour. National media outlets picked up the story and followed Tahlequah as she carried her calf around the Puget Sound region.
With all of this attention on the southern resident orcas, the Legislature created the Orca Task Force in March 2018.
Johnson is tired of the issue being ignored, which she says is one of the reasons she decided to start her hunger strike. 

“Maybe if I could manifest hunger where people could see it and appreciate what it does to a person,” Johnson said. “I mean we’re all mammals, right? They’re experiencing what I’m experiencing — right now, I’m very weak.”
After not eating for nine days, Johnson is said she is having trouble remembering what she’s doing or why she went somewhere.
This is the first major thing Johnson has done when it comes to political activism, she said.
“I was so motivated to do this. Once I got the idea it wasn’t anything that I could ignore anymore, I thought about it for months actually,” Johnson said. “I went to my doctor and I thought about what it meant to take 17 days out of my life, I mean I can’t do anything else.”