Imagine yourself as a bottlenose dolphin. You are enjoying a beautiful day in the ocean, playing with your family. Just when you think it could not get any better, you hear a boat coming. After chasing you, the humans throw a net on you. As you see your family drifting away, your mom lets out a mournful cry. The people then put you in a concrete tank and force you to perform pointless tricks for food. You are impressed (forced to serve against your will) for the rest of your life, just for a few peaces of green paper. Dolphins nowadays are born and bred in captivity, but many are still taken out of the wild today. Those dolphins born in captivity never get to taste their true home or truly know what it is like being a dolphin. The saddest part is that because we want to see captive dolphins, we sentence thousands of innocent lives to die an excruciating death each year. Dolphin captivity is wrong for many reasons; it promotes dolphin slaughter and is unethical.
Captivity supports dolphin slaughter both indirectly and directly. All dolphinariums indirectly support dolphin slaughter by keeping the demand for captive dolphins alive. This demand ends up taking the lives of approximately 23,000 dolphins per year. Sea World Orlando and San Diego have purchased dolphins (Pilot Whales are dolphins) from Taiji last year:
Notice is hereby given that Sea World, Inc., 9205 South Park Circle, Suite 400, Orlando, FL 32819, has applied in due form for a permit to import one pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). The applicant requests authorization to import one male non releasable stranded pilot whale from Kamogawa SeaWorld 1404-18 Higashi-cho, Kamogawa, Chiba, Japan to Sea World of California. (Federal Registry-January 4th, 2010) These Pilot Whales were captured in Taiji (according to Capt. Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd), and were imprisoned in SeaWorld, Chiba, Japan. This makes every person who purchases a ticket to Sea World complicit in the horrifically cruel slaughter of pilot whales and other dolphins. These dolphins, so cute and so intelligent that spectators applaud and cheer as they perform tricks at marine aquariums around the world, are literally dying a slow death of agony for the amusement of a jaded public that simply does not care what the price of their entertainment costs in suffering and death. Every time a dolphin jumps through a hoop at Sea World or any other facility that enslaves dolphins, there is a history of horror that brought that dolphin to perform for their amusement. Not much different really than the animals that died in the coliseum for the amusement of Romans two thousand years ago.In addition, “trainers from all over the world come to Taiji to select young, unblemished dolphins” (Zach Affolter’s Blog-How Captivity Relates to Dolphin Slaughter). Dolphins have been imprisoned while watching their family members slowly dying an excruciating death. Can anyone possibly imagine watching their family being stabbed with a spear, screaming in agony? Dolphins are aware of what goes on around them. They know that their family is being slaughtered and imprisoned for a quick buck. It’s the equivalent of murder. We may as well dice up ourselves and sell our meat on the market, since dolphins are as intelligent, if not smarter, than us. Dolphins are just dying to amuse us. They have died because of our greed, ignorance, and the desire to watch them jump through flaming hoops.
Holding dolphins in captivity is unethical. In captivity, the dolphins imprisoned suffer from boredom, inadequate exercise, insufficient food variety, and bad food, especially when the facilities are poor. For example:
Lolita, who was captured on August 8th, 1970, is imprisoned in the Miami Seaquarium. She is a 21 foot Orca, yet the tank is merely one-and-a-half-times her size, has garnered numerous safety violations, and does not meet US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Regulations. Now a young adult at about 43 years old, Lolita has been a “captive” entertainer for 40 years. Only Corky at Sea World in San Diego, captured in 1969, has been in captivity longer. (The Orca Network) This is highly unacceptable. Orcas, like other dolphins, are extremely social animals. Lolita hasn’t seen another Orca since 1980, since one of her family members who was with her killed himself by banging his head on the gate. In addition, dolphins are, if not smarter, as intelligent as us:
Dolphins have passed, showing self-awareness and self-recognition. They have been seen looking at themselves on TV and have been able to repeat previous behaviors. Furthermore, dolphins have developed names, through unique whistles for each dolphin. Dolphins have larger brains for millions of years longer than man. We may not be the most intelligent after all. (Lemieux-289) According to this information, we may as well keep forcing our species to do these tasks for us. We did before, and you’ve heard the story. Many African Americans were separated from their families, babies were left behind with no mother. They then lived at sea in inadequate ship conditions for years on the way back to the U.S. They were then forced to work the whole day, with no care from the owners. Sound familiar? This is exactly what is happening to dolphins right now. Are we that selfish? Do we have to ruin other’s families and force them to work for us every day? Apparently so. In fact, we can’t get enough of it, as humans and dolphins aren’t the only ones, but the whole animal kingdom has been enslaved by man. We are interfering with beings smarter than us. We can’t go about saying that dolphins do or don’t belong in captivity. The best solution is to not even take them out of the wild in the first place. By enslaving dolphins, we are enslaving animals that understand what is happening and what will happen, and by doing so, we are breaking apart family bonds that are stronger than ours.
One may argue that dolphins in captivity provide an educational experience; however, when kids go to Sea World, for example, they see a man-made impression of dolphins. The reality is man can never make a complete facsimile of what dolphins are capable of in the wild. Deeper than that, they pick up the false image that it’s adequate to take dolphins away from their homeland and have them perform for us. They postulate that they’re learning from the real deal, how dolphins really are. Furthermore:
Most dolphinariums have made little or no contribution to education about dolphins. Jacques Cousteau believed that captive dolphins are conditioned and deformed and bear little resemblance to dolphins living in freedom in the sea. It’s like studying human psychology only in prisons, which leads, obviously, to misinterpretations and absurd generalizations. As people learn more about the wild cetaceans, they pity more the captive ones. As TV, computers, and virtual reality become greater educational tools, the justification for keeping captives on display disappears. (Facts about Dolphin Captivity Website) One big misconception about dolphins is that they are always happy and gentle. That is not always true. Dolphins have mixed emotions, similar to those of you and I. They can be angry, sad, happy, any emotion really. In the wild, they play, fight, and hunt. When placed in prisons that are in the ocean, but closed off from complete escape, dolphins continue these behaviors. For example, a pod of four dolphins captured and placed into an environment like this started fighting over mates:
Unior was too swift. The two males tore around the lake, their ferocious battle broken by leaps and explosions of white froth, while harsh, dissonant buzzing and shrill whistles rang through the water. Unior was merciless. I watched as Juan and Unior twisted and tore at each other, lunging and pivoting powerfully. Fighting to exhaustion, there were short periods of armistice while Unior recovered his strength. Juan, ragged and bleeding, surrendered. (Lemieux, 99-100) This shows that dolphins are not how most of our species depict them. That fighting was caused because Juan got into a relationship with Unior’s mate, Choney, Unior did not approve. In the wild, Juan would have been able to seek shelter from his family or could have fled, but in captivity those efforts are futile. Holding dolphins in captivity is not educational; it implies a false image of dolphins.