How Does Captivity Benefit the Animals?

(NEW! Video on my Youtube channel showcasing the differences between captive and wild orcas. Don’t miss it!)       I’m going to start this post by addressing an observation of mine regarding the cetacean captivity rumor mill. One great journalist who tends to keep a close eye on the marine mammal industry is Tim Zimmermann. Awhile back he reported that Kohana at Loro Parque was pregnant, and even showed pictures of her “baby bump.” Immediately, captivity supporters began to pass it off as being simply a rumor. They claimed that SeaWorld would never breed her so irresponsibly. They said that the pictures were no indication of pregnancy, that in fact, Kohana has always been a little pudgy. And Tim Zimmermann was condemned as being an

Kohana (on the far right) is pregnant and due later this year.

unreliable source. But in the past couple of weeks, Loro Parque has confirmed Kohana’s pregnancy and announced that she is due at the end of this year. For the longest time, SeaWorld supporters didn’t want to believe Kohana was pregnant and so denied it as long as possible.

     The same thing happened with Keet’s transfer. Once again, Tim Zimmermann wrote an article claiming that Keet was going to be transferred from Texas to California…it would be his 5th transfer! Once again, captivity supporters responded by passing it off as a rumor, saying that Mr. Zimmermann is unreliable – even claiming that the trainers had publically denied the transfer would happen. But today, Keet was indeed transferred. For what purpose? According to SeaWorld it was: “…to enhance the groupings of the killer whale family.” Almost everyone knows that orcas have very tight family bonds. How is dropping Keet into a strange social situation supposed to “enhance” groupings between the whales? Does SeaWorld truly expect to fool people in this way?

Alright, and now to the purpose of this post:

How does captivity benefit the animals? If you were to ask this question to captivity supporters, you would likely get at least one of 3 various answers:


     Are people truly more educated when they leave places like SeaWorld? There is no evidence out there to indicate that this is the case. Seeing cetaceans in captivity is not a prerequisite for appreciating or understanding their species. In fact, picking up a dolphins and whalesbook in the children’s section of the library is probably more educational than


going to a marine park show. To quote a great statement from a Smithsonian Handbook to Whales and Dolphins I recently read:

“If there is any educational element [to marine parks] it merely pays lip service to the concept of an ‘informative commentary.’ Choreographed shows are contentious and perpetuate our domineering and manipulative attitude toward nature.”

     If there is aneducational aspect of marine parks, it may be found in a commentary usually at the beginning of the shows. The trainers may tell the audience how large the animals are, how much they eat, how fast they can swim, etc. Nothing that cannot be

It is more educational to read a book about dolphins and whales. Plus, it's better for the animals.

found elsewhere. In fact, the other places that one may become educated about cetaceans, in documentaries, books, online research, etc. will give much more information than can be found in one of these “informative commentaries.” (For more on this point read my blog post: “The Message Behind the Dolphin Show.” )


Do marine parks conserve the species that they are holding captive? Obviously simply keeping cetaceans in captivity doesn’t do a thing for conservation. The question is: how much is this organization doing to urge people to conserve the planet, or to directly aid in conservation efforts? The answer in regards to marine parks is usually, nothing. While there are many parks around the world that pay top dollar to care for the animals – they are a minority. Most facilities in the industry are not the SeaWorlds and the Loro Parques that we are so used to seeing. Most of them are not like these other parks that push the conservation facade. The fact of the matter is that people leave places like SeaWorld wanting to be dolphin trainers – not wanting a career that seeks to learn how to conserve the species. SeaWorld may encourage people to recycle, or tell the audience about global warming…but this is of no practical benefit for the animals. (For more information check out my blog post “SeaWorld and Conservation”)

It’s a Trade-Off

There are a few captivity supporters who may argue that captivity is a simple trade off. Basically, the animals give up their freedom and any control over their own lives to live in the lap of luxury – being hand fed dead fish and gaining protection from predators. A good way to view this argument is to consider an analogy like human imprisonment. People who

Marine Parks do more to harm orcas and dolphins than to help them. The Southern Residents are endangered because of marine parks. They are protected because of activists.

are in prison give up their freedom and in turn they don’t have to worry about bills, work, buying food, etc. Obviously as we know, that’s not a very fair trade-off for humans, nor for cetaceans.

Now that I’ve tackled a few arguments regarding the benefits of captivity…can any of you determine anything regarding captivity that benefits the animals? Anything at all?

If you have any further thoughts on the matter, let me know in the comments, or let me know if you liked this article by voting or following me. If you have an article that you would like to see in the future, be sure to give me feedback. Thanks for reading!


8 thoughts on “How Does Captivity Benefit the Animals?

  1. Pingback: How Does Captivity “Benefit” the Dolphins? « thedabitchycode

  2. Pingback: How Does Captivity “Benefit” the Dolphins? « savedolphinsph

  3. Pingback: How Does Captivity Benefit the Dolphins? « Kirsten Writes

  4. March 7, 2012

    Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco
    50 Fremont Street, Suite 2300
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Tel: (415)777-3533
    FAX: (415) 974-3660

    Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Thank you. There are many people around the world who are very concerned and disappointed in how the Dolphins and Whales are being treated in Taiji, Japan, and around the world.

    Like humans, Dolphins and Whales suffer when abused, treated inhumane, and held captive. Dolphins and Whales have post traumatic stress disorder in captivity and die a slow death to entertain humans, how sad and selfish.

    It is in the best interest for and of the Dolphins and Whales to be let back into the vast oceans where they are meant to be…free.

    There is enough research and data for all the reasons why humans should stop intervening and stop interfering with our worlds precious sea life and wild life.

    Please consider ceasing and stopping the unnecessary slaughter, destruction, and captivity of Dolphins, Whales, and other sea life, and wild life.

    Kindness and Respect,

    Christine Harris
    San Francisco, CA
    415-235-6466 cell

    cc: Earth Island Institute
    Defenders of Wildlife

    Dolphin Base Japan ; Dolphin Resort Japan ;;;;;; Ric O’Barry ; Mary Jo Rice ; Defenders of Wildlife Rodger Schlickeisen ; PETA ; GreenPeace ;

  5. This post was really…. informative, like all of your posts! Your blog is really good and I am always interested in new articles 😀

    I had been pro-cap for some years, but after I saw Morgan in her tiny tank, I compared it to SeaWorld. If you put 4 or more Orcas in tanks like SeaWorld, it’s just like one Orca in the tank of the Dolphinarium Harderwijck!
    And yes, I also always used those arguments! But right now, I know that this is nonsense. Animals NEVER give up their freedom, like humans would NEVER do it just for protection…. Someone said:” If you put an Orca to the decision: Family or humans? He will always decide for his family. Always.” And this is true. I also would decide for my family if I would have this decision…

  6. and… please make another ve3rsion of the video attached in youtube cause I get the following message
    ”Unfortunately, this UMG music-content is not available in Germany, because GEMA has not granted the respective music publishing rights”, but I want to watchit ;/

  7. Late April 2012, please show up for a protest against the prison ‘Loro Parque’ in Tenerife. They are SeaWorld’s allies in Europe. Message me if you are interested to speak up for those who have no voice, the animals in Loro Parque. Anna

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