Marine parks and animal entertainment

Strombo featured animal welfare activist Ric O’Barry last night. O’Barry is a fascinating character, who used to capture and train dolphins for films and marine shows, but who did an about face and has spent most of his adult life fighting for the protection and liberation of dolphins.  Strombo, as is usual for him, treated O’Barry with respect and tried to reach a true understanding of this volte-face.  I haven’t seen the film The Cove, which featured O’Barry, as I have a very difficult time watching animals mistreated, even if the purpose of such films is to educate people to stop this mistreatment. O’Barry has a very active dolphin project; he’s a little extreme at times, perhaps, but I admire his dedication.

I have never supported the capture and use of animals for the purpose of entertainment and exploitation: This includes zoos, marine parks, aquariums, and “swimming with dolphins.”  I entered into a debate with my sister about the ethics of swimming with dolphins, which is something she likes to do when she goes to the Caribbean.  Like many people, she sees no harm in this activity, never mind the fact that the dolphins are held captive and against their will. The dolphins might not live in a tank with concrete walls;  they are penned within a sea pool, but it’s still a cage. Here are some thoughtful articles about marine parks and other forms of animal entertainment; given what we know about the intelligence of dolphins and killer whales, their exploitation is particularly galling.  Perhaps Douglas Adams was right all along.  O’Barry made an observation that rings true to me: Keeping animals in zoos and so forth should not be done in the guise of education, as I think it teaches our children that it’s all right to place wild, sentient creatures in captivity outside of their natural habitat.  Zoocheck Canada, an organization I’ve supported for years, has excellent resources about zoos and animal captivity.

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