Congressman Young’s (R-AK) point, during a hearing regarding marine mammal captivity, that whether the dolphin shows are educational or not educational is a matter of definition, might be a valid one. What specific kind of information any particular dolphin exhibit imparts can certainly be varied: one exhibit might focus on dolphin life span and intelligence while another addresses family structure and habitat range, while still another describes what we understand and do not understand about dolphin communication.
But saying it’s a matter of definition is a convenient cop-out, and not altogether true. Because one should look, that is, Congressman Young should look, at the actual content of shows that justify keeping marine mammals in captivity, before cavalierly speaking of something being a matter of definition. And so should we all. So, here, for your convenience, Congressman Young (and the minute numbers of you who are actually reading this), is an example:
I’m just wondering what you learned about dolphins in those videos, shot at a real dolphin show. That they can jump? I’m thinking, just thinking, that you already knew that.
I’m also thinking that you didn’t need to see a dolphin in captivity to know that it can jump, or that it can jump in perfect timing with other dolphins, or that it can jump in perfect timing with other dolphins 15 feet into the air. Or that it can be trained to tail walk. Or splash. Or make noises on command.
Here’s what I’m guessing you didn’t learn at the dolphin show: that the high-pitched noise, flashing lights, constant noise (encouraging the audience to be loud?!), explosion simulations – where to stop with this list – not to mention being deprived of legitimate natural behaviors – like catching it own prey, swimming in the natural rhythm of the ocean and its seasons, swimming fast, swimming far, and swimming deep – puts a constant stress on the dolphin that nature does not. And I know that you know what stress does to the health of a living being.
So, in the end, none, I repeat, none of the show is about education. Its sole imperative is to entertain. To entertain you so that you will come back, and you will tell your friends to go to the entertaining dolphin show. And your friends will tell their friends.
Here’s what I’m hoping. That you’ll recognize the moral bankruptcy of the dolphin show. And you won’t go. And you’ll tell your friends not to go. And your friends will tell their friends.
And just one short post-script: be on your guard against being lulled, fooled or warmed by current dolphin and whale movies into supporting captivity by going to a dolphin show. Here’s a dolphin and whale movie that you can watch on your computer that will allow the warm-and-fuzzies you get from those Hollywood movies not to send you straight to the Georgia Aquarium or SeaWorld to watch dolphins that were not saved, but enslaved.
Let the dolphins be free; watch a documentary, go to the beach, hug your dog.