Many if not most of you have by now have seen the video clip on ITN, of the dolphin trainer from the Ukraine. In this perhaps infamous video, the trainer proudly demonstrates his dolphin-training prowess, having trained this dolphin a “trick” that is typically related to a dolphin’s demise. In this trick, the dolphin “strands” and crawls on his belly about 10 feet, on the hardscape of the pool deck.
A friend and writer, Elizabeth Batt,observed that there was little regulation in the Ukraine that would require that such dolphin shows have educational value, but immediately checked herself, and noted that the situation in the U.S. was hardly much different.
So that got me to thinking about the U.S. laws.
Let us imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that the language in the Marine Mammal Protection Act and its implementing regulations has significance. Let’s assume that when the MMPA says that any permits that NOAA issues under Section 104 may only be issued to a person whom NOAA has determined offers an educational program, Congress got it right in letting the aquarium industry set the standard of “educational program.”
What is that standard?
I have a feeling that it’s a little ill-defined, and perhaps we end up in the company of Justice Potter Stewart when he stated – in what is probably one of the most oft-quoted concurrences – that he may not know how to define pornography, “But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” So, while I might be tempted to conclude this day’s observation with, “I know it when I see it,” and I’d bet that there are lots of aquariums that aren’t even coming close in these United States.
But let’s suspend that reality, as well, for a moment. And imagine that all aquariums were setting and meeting a standard of education that we would all accept as valid.
Even if we suspend that reality for a moment, and imagined that to be the case, there is one truth that each of you knows, that each of you recognizes as truth.
There is no education within the mind of man that can justify the enslavement of dolphins.