For years, Ric O’Barry and Hardy Jones have spoken out against marine mammal captivity. They have pointed out in movies, such as The Cove and A Fall from Freedom, that whales and dolphins do not belong in captivity. Recently a group of former Sea World trainers have created an interactive website, where they speak out about the life of captivity for marine mammals.
Mr. O’Barry, as a former and probably the world’s most famous dolphin trainer, learned from being with them on an ongoing basis, that training them to perform and keeping them in captivity was not an ethical undertaking. He learned that dolphins in those settings can become dispirited and depressed. He learned what Jacques Cousteau admonished, that
No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal. – Jacques Yves Cousteau
In response to that realization, Mr. O’Barry and others have devoted their lives toward securing the release of dolphins and orcas from a captive, for-human-entertainment life.
Rehabilitate the captives. Mr. O’Barry has suggested an ethical alternative for the trainers and the captive facilities, like SeaWorld and the Georgia Aquarium. That alternative is to provide real education about whales and dolphins by rehabilitating for a life in the wild the cetaceans whom the aquarium industry has captured or bred for captivity. And making that the show. There are over 50 cetaceans at Sea World Orlando alone, and hundreds in the United States. The international situation mirrors the United States one, with worse conditions than the meager protections afforded by U.S. laws.
Wouldn’t rehabilitation of former “performers” be a fine undertaking and a show that you’d be proud to attend? And a wonderful memory for your children? Of having been part of and been there on the front row of finding freedom for the world’s dolphins and whales.
You have, perhaps, seen the videos of dogs who had spent their entire lives chained to a post and then become free from that chain. While dogs and dolphins are not an apt special comparison because dolphins are actually wild, undomesticated animals, watching even a dog experience freedom from a chain, unsuitable for its normal activity and range, may give us some sense of what an orca or dolphin, far more intelligent than a dog, would experience in the same situation.
We would need to be very responsible in that endeavor to release these highly intelligent mammals in a way that took into account their intelligence, their lifestyles, their instincts, their native habitat. We could do that. And if we humans are ethical and moral creatures, we will do that.
Rehabilitate the stranded. After we succeeded in rehabilitating the captive-bred or captured dolphins and orcas, there would be ongoing work to rehabilitate whales and dolphins who strand, generally en masse, for reasons that still elude the human species. Instead of finding reasons to retain the stranded, Sea World and the rest could re-focus the effort that they now expend in training for jumping, splashing, ball-throwing shows on caring for the stranded, locating the still-free remnant of the pods, and reuniting them.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to share with your children an experience of restoring a free life to these magnificent creatures? As a comparison, if we desired to design a depressing life for dolphins and whales, we would wind up with a design like the current Sea World and The Georgia Aquarium. Of course, that is not our desire. That is, I feel certain, not the desire of the aquariums. But the apparently willful blindness of the aquarium industry to the egregious, depressing life that they have designed for whales and dolphins is no excuse. It is not an excuse for any of us, any more. We and they must step beyond the Mid-Twentieth Century mentality of dolphin and whale captivity.
The great news is that there is an alternative. An ethical alternative. An alternative that will allow us all to participate in making a difference for life. But we must together create that alternative. How?
By being part of a demand for A New Show.
And, meanwhile, by taking a pledge not to go to the current one. Be part of building an ethical outcome to the captivity dilemma. Never again allow a dolphin to die as Jiyu, whose life will forever remind us that dolphins should be free.