- 1. “Saying that teaching a marine animal is wrong and giving it a safe home is just like saying teaching a dog to sit is wrong or keeping it in your house with you family is wrong.”
I get asked all the time why I am against captivity of orcas and dolphins, but not against the captivity of dogs. This analogy is illogical. Dogs are not cetaceans. Not even close.
If dogs were free ranging, migratory, ocean-dwelling animals, I would be against their captivity. If dogs were as large, as socially complex, and as difficult to care for, I would be against their captivity. If dogs were being made to perform several times a day for the profit of a Corporation until they died…well, I would be against their captivity.
Dogs are domestic animals, and have been for tens of thousands of years. Whales are wild animals, more intelligent, more difficult to care for, more sensitive and not hardy creatures. The whales act as performing exotic animals for a money driven industry. These are just a few differences between the two species. In addition, dolphins are one of the only species on the planet (aside from humans, primates, and elephants) to have spindle cells- cells responsible for morality and compassionate emotions.
To put this in perspective I always feel the need to mention: “We are not talking about keeping dogs in backyards. We are talking about keeping whales in swimming pools.” When you think about those words you might ask yourself who in their right mind would think it’s okay to put a whale in a swimming pool? Marine Parks, apparently.
- 2. “It seems like these animals don’t live in the fish-bowl sized tanks that extremists think.”
Once again, those who support captivity like to focus on Seaworld and fail to see the tanks that other whales and dolphins around the world live in. Shamu Stadium is the largest tank on the planet, which means that everything else is smaller, in most cases…much smaller. When I see Shamu Stadium, I admit, it is quite large to my own human eyes. But I’m also much smaller than a killer whale. In fact, most killer whales are at least 4 times bigger than I am. That means, the Seaworld tank is 4 times smaller to an orca than it is to me. And what’s worse is that the whales spend most of their time in small back pools where several of them are housed together, so the space allowed for each of them is minute. Dolphins are also smaller than orcas so it seems like it’s okay to put many of them in a single tank. At Seaworld most dolphins live in over crowded, stressful conditions in small tanks used for human-dolphin interactions, petting pools, etc. In other areas around the world dolphins are either kept in similar crowded conditions, or kept alone to live solitary lives.
The question isn’t just about the tank size either, but the features of the tank. The water is chemically treated, and the habitat is very barren and empty. There’s nothing to interact with. Even in my eyes it seems like a very boring place to live!
- 3. “Life in the wild isn’t all that great. Animals die out in the ocean too, you know!”
In captivity cetaceans are poked and prodded, given medicine and go through extensive routine exams conducted by world-class veterinarians. In spite of all this, dolphins and whales die much earlier in captivity than they do in the wild. In fact, in the past 50 years orcas have been in captivity, 198 have died 28 from failed pregnancies.
You may think that cetaceans are living like kings in captivity. They dont’ have to worry about the problems of the ocean, like pollution, lack of food, etc. But we have to remember that dolphins and whales are apex predators. It is their job to hunt for food. To put them in captivity may seem good to us, but by doing this we are asking the animals to live against their natures, and in our human idea of “paradise” (lazing around getting food handed to us like bums.) So, while the ocean may seem “harsh,” keep in mind that cetaceans were born and built to live there. Not only that, but they live longer, healthier lives in their natural habitat. To quote a lovely cetacean activist: “A cage with gold bars, is still a cage.”