My compatriots who stand in front of the aquariums around the world trying to educate the public about the true nature of marine mammal captivity have all, at one time or another – or all the time for some of us – had the uncomfortable recognition of “there but for the grace of god go I” when we see animals being held against their will in a concrete tank and enclosure.
Whether those animals are also required to perform, circus-like, or just held in a tank to swim around in circles for the rest of its existence; whether its companions are part of those truly gawdy “shows” or “extravaganzas” with shiny lights, shiny clothes and shiny names, like Stargazer; whether or not there is loud music, any too loud for creatures who use echolocation to communicate with its world but who can no longer do so in the same way with all that racket; the captivity, the willingness of humans to enslave, is at the root.
Animal rights advocates are not shy about acknowledging the parallels between a willingness to justify keeping these animals in captivity, on the one hand, with racism, on the other. How far removed is a willingness to enslave an animal from a willingness to see humans also in some hierarchy of worth and to treat them accordingly?
Thanks to David Samuels for his fine article in Harpers, we learn the history of zoos in America, from its most significant founder, Madison Grant, and uncovers something more than “parallels” in the connection between our willingness to set standards for others – whether those “others” are human or some other form of life on this planet – that are based in anything other than their own native rights.
“The Nordics are, all over the world, a race of soldiers, sailors, adventurers and explorers, but above all, of rulers, organizers, and aristocrats,” Grant wrote. Mocking the idea that environment, education, and opportunity could alter heredity, Grant expressed his great disgust for Negroes and issued dire warning about the Jewish immigrants, whose “dwarf stature, peculiar mentality and ruthless concentration on self-interest are being engrafted upon the stock of the nation.” Unchecked immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe, and southern Italians, he warned, had turned New York City into a “cloaca gentium,” producing racial horrors that future anthropologists would find impossible to unravel.
I urge you to read this article, especially if you are interested in the historical roots of today zoos – and, by extension, the relative newcomer, the aquarium.
It will bear out factually what many of you have heard reverberate through every justification of the enslavement of animals. For those of you who have either personally or historically experienced a racial or ethnic discrimination at the hands of a more powerful band of humans, I just don’t get how you can support animal enslavement for your amusement.
Don’t go to the dolphin show. It’s based in slavery.
For more information and how to end this slavery, please visit Free the Atlanta 11, Save Misty the Dolphin, Save Japan Dolphins, Blue Voice, A Red Letter Day for Dolphins and Sea Shepherd. That should get you started.