Many of us grew up watching dolphin and shark shows and have good memories of watching these shows. However, there is the realization today that placing these gentle animals in captivity does not help their cause, and is perhaps also dangerous for humans as well. The main thesis of this short paper, therefore is that the captivity of cetaceans such as dolphins and killer whales is unethical because this does more harm than good on both the animals and on humans.
Inhumane Treatment of Animals Results in Dangerous Behavior The animals are treated inhumanely, especially before a show. According to the website of The Dodo, in one instance, the dolphins were intentionally not fed so that they would be hungry prior to a show, and would get the fish that would be offered to them by both the trainers and the children. In one case, the dolphins were so hungry that they would knock off entire trays of fish from the guests, and even injured the hand of a child in the effort to get the fish. Therefore one can see that placing these beautiful animals in captivity leads to all sorts of inhumane practices, which in turn causes injury to both the animals and to the humans. The animals learn to become barbaric, whereas the humans are injured in the process. The infamous “SeaWorld” has reasoned out also that it does not capture killer whales or dolphins in the wild, but breeds them in captivity. This is an even worse scenario because it is akin to prisoners giving birth to children in prison, and if the children remain with them, they most likely will grow up in prison. The young dolphin or killer whale does not get to learn and develop in its natural habitat, and may be deprived of the skills or knowledge that can be provided to them if they grow in the wild. In the website of The Orca Project, SeaWorld has defended its position by stating that the film “Blackfish” has done nothing but discredit its efforts to take care of these animals, but SeaWorld has not come out into the open and engage its critics in intelligent debate. Again, breeding and growing these animals in captivity deprives them of what they could actually do in the wild, and this is a thoroughly unnatural thing. In the website of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, dolphins kept in chlorinated pools at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium had their skins peel off due to the chlorine and other chemicals placed in the tanks and pools in order to keep the water clean.
Erosion of Echolocation Skill/Quality One more reason why keeping these cetaceans in captivity is highly unethical is that captivity erodes these animals’ capacity for echolocation. Echolocation is these animals’ capability to locate items or determine these items in the wild via their own natural sonar. In the wild, these animals can swim as much as 100 miles per day, and echolocation helps them navigate their way. If they are kept in tanks that are only 24 feet long, then one can just imagine what their own echolocation can do to them. Sounds will keep bouncing off the tanks, and drive these animals insane. In the website of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), it is mentioned that even the eminent marine scientist Jacques Cousteau mentioned that the animals kept in tanks would be confused and their own sensory apparatuses would be damaged as well.
Therefore all these animals kept in captivity should be returned to the wild. Their continued captivity is an unethical practice that must be ended. They should be set free in their natural habitats such that they are able to do what they were genetically set out to do in the first place. Their echolocations skills are eroded, and they are made to suffer as a result of this. Their captivity has resulted in injuries and deaths to both the animals and to humans as well. If humankind presents itself as a gentle and human race, then freeing these gentle animals should be a priority. These animals are not for amusement or entertainment, but they are part of and help in maintaining our global ecosystem. Their safety and growth in the wild is also our own safety and growth on earth.
PETA. 2014. Marine Animal Exhibits: Chlorinated Prisons. Web. http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/animals-used-entertainment-factsheets/marine-animal-exhibits-chlorinated-prisons/
The Orca Project. 2014. New Poll: Should SeaWorld Face the Public? Web. http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/
Zimmerman, Tim. 2014. Exclusive: Three Former Employees Reveal the Shocking Realities of SeaWorld’s Dolphin Feeding Pools. Web. https://www.thedodo.com/exclusive-three-former-employe-710451529.html