Holding dolphins in tanks for entertainment is torture
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"There's about as much educational benefit studying dolphins in captivity as there would be studying mankind by only observing prisoners held in solitary." - Jacques Cousteau.
Make no mistake, dolphinariums are not so much about education as they are about profit and victimizing incredibly beautiful animals for entertainment. Consider how buying a ticket to "swim with dolphins" perpetuates an inhumane industry. Consider what dolphins lose to entertain us and how special they are to the entire world.
They are violently ripped away from their mothers and social units during the process of capture. Death rates are between 30-80%. Dolphins drown in the nets or die from wounds during capture. They do not breed well in captivity and do not meet the needs of the entertainment industry. Therefore, they continue to be captured in the wild, where they are herded by fishermen banging on metal rods to scare and confuse them. Escape is made impossible by closing off the coves with nets.
Every year at Taji, Japan, in the midst of horrible slaughter, there are employees from dolphinariums trying to find the next "Flipper," who, if he survives the stress of transport, will be dropped into a cement tank or other confined enclosure. These amazing creatures are killed one by one except for the ones left alive to be sold to dolphinariums for as much as $100,000 a head.
In the wild, dolphins exhibit collaboration with each other and playfulness. Science has shown us that they are self aware and capable of abstract thinking. They swim 100 miles per day! Try doing this in a cement tank, the largest of which is less than one ten-thousandth of 1% of their natural environment.
During the stress of captivity, they exhibit repeated movements, self mutilation and other basic behaviors of psychological disturbance.
According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the argument that dolphinariums are conservation programs is a fallacy. Whether captured from the wild or captive bred, these animals exhibit the same needs for social interaction and freedom. No scientific literature verifies that people's interactions with dolphins in captivity is legitimate and "fun" for the dolphins. In fact, food is often withheld in captivity so that the dolphins will perform tricks: imprisonment akin to torture. Captivity is not about conservation or education - it is about money and profit.
If we humans think we are self aware and intelligent, then we need to adjust our behavior to the information that comes from our science. What we have learned about dolphins in captivity tells us that they are not meant to suffer impoverished lives. Let these magnificent creatures stay in the wild where they can live their natural lives and allow us to love them forever. Let the U.S. Virgin Islands go on record as a territory that has the intelligence to veto this proposal.
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- Jane Griffiths, St. Thomas