Tag Archives: aquariums

Atlanta’s ‘Blackfish’ audience recognizes the “pink dolphin in the room”

It was clear that Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary, Blackfish, struck a chord with the Atlanta audience when the manager of the Midtown Art Cinema had to use a gentle nudge more than once to stop the questions in last night’s special appearance by Emory Senior Lecturer Dr. Lori Marino, to allow the 9:30 showing to begin even close to “on-time.”

Members of the packed house at the Midtown Art Cinema last night were visibly moved by the journey that they had just witnessed, a journey of not only the orcas who were captured by an industry intent on using them for their commercial value, but also of the trainers who were used in much the same way.

Blackfish takes the viewer on a journey, both  human and orca

Blackfish takes the viewer on a journey, both human and orca

Whether they came to “training” as a calling or on a college-age whim, what was striking was that the trainers’ journeys were not unlike Tilikum’s own.  Trained and rewarded for appropriate behaviors and shunned for missing a “bridge” is a method employed not just on the non-human charges.  While this method is not restricted to the aquarium industry, what is restricted to that industry is the maintaining in captivity of marine mammals who do not thrive in those conditions and using “trainers” to keep that captivity machine running.

Blackfish joins Death at Seaworld by award-winning author David Kirby, the Cove and A Fall from Freedom as important repositories of information about how our society treats marine mammals

Blackfish joins Death at Seaworld by award-winning author David Kirby, The Cove and A Fall from Freedom as important statements about how our society treats marine mammals

What is also clear in the film is the nearly-inevitable stress-response that results and how that stress-response is an individuated process, both for human and non-human.  For a thinking being who in a natural setting makes both individual and group choices, merely having this choice removed may induce a stress-response.  The continual exposure to a lack of control will, once it reaches a point of saturation, express.  Learning, as we do in the film, that the brains of orcas have an extremely developed brain structure related to communication and emotion, this lack of control and the inability of echolocators to fully “express” themselves in concrete sound-bouncing chambers, it is little wonder that orca-human interactions are bound to “go wrong.”

The humans involved, too, react to this inherent, systematic and institutional ignoring of marine mammal requisites for a full life.  John Jett’s statement in the film that he remained a trainer “for” Tilikum, and his question, “who would take care of Tilikum,” revealed a growing awareness that things were not right for Tilly.  Carol Ray shares her first inklings that the welfare of the orcas was less important than their survival and distribution among parks.

While Tilikum has nowhere to go to address the “flight” in “fight or flight stress-response,” it is heartening that certain trainers and others around the world recognize the horrors of marine mammal captivity and are taking on the fight for their freedom, in their own way, on their own journey.

What was also clear to the moviegoers was the “pink dolphin in the room,” and one brave young woman gave voice to it, when she asked whether what she had seen in the movie applied to dolphins and whales, as at the local Georgia Aquarium, which holds 11 dolphins and four beluga whales and is seeking more.  Marino’s answer, born of her own research on dolphins, was unqualified in its response: dolphins and whales are not suited to captivity.

For more information about Tilikum and the facts revealed during the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement action at SeaWorld, I highly recommend the very readable Death at SeaWorld, now in its third printing in just over a year.

What you can do:

Eight deaths, three survivors: the survival odds are not good: EMPTY THE TANKS!

Verdict: brain damage due to overdose of antibiotics is the cause of the deaths of two dolphins, Shadow and Chelmers, housed at Connyland.  Administered by Connyland veterinarian, the Examiner reports that charges against the veterinarian for negligence and cruelty are expected to be filed.

Dolphins do not have a good survival rate at Connyland. Photo Credit: Ivan Schnyder

Dolphins do not have a good survival rate at Connyland. Photo Credit: Ivan Schnyder

While the charges against the veterinarian may be appropriate, one cannot help but note that Shadow and Chelmers bring the death toll at Connyland to eight deaths in three years and to query whether any charges will also include the amusement park that is responsible for the well-being and lives of the dolphins under its control.  How many deaths are considered “acceptable” in the aquarium industry?  How many deaths would be acceptable in anyone’s household?  If one lost eight dogs in three years due to illness and unrelated to natural aging, that is, eight out of eleven, I suspect that none of us would hesitate to wonder whether there was something in the environment and/or the care that was inappropriate and unacceptable.

So let’s look at the industry over the last six years and at some of the dolphins and whales who have been under its control (as documented by Ceta-base):

Aquarium                              Species                        Deceased in Last Six Years            
Connyland                            Bottlenose                   Shadow
.                                                                                     Chelmers
.                                                                                     Barchus (Bacchus)
.                                                                                     Magic II
.                                                                                     Chicky’s Calf (unnamed)
.                                                                                     Silver
.                                                                                     Secret

Georgia Aquarium             Beluga                          Natasha
.                                                                                    Gasper
.                                                                                    Maris’ Calf
.                                                                                    Nico (died 29 days after
.                                                                                       transport to SeaWorld)

SeaWorld (all)                    Beluga                          Muk Tuk                                      .
.                                                                                    Spooky
.                                                                                    Ruby’s Calf
.                                                                                    Sikku
.                                                                                    Martina
.                                                                                    Whisper’s Calf (twin)
.                                                                                    Whisper’s Calf (twin)
.                                                                                    Ruby’s Calf

Seaworld Orlando.          Bottlenose                     Starkey
.                                                                                   Bunny
.                                                                                   Sabrina
.                                                                                   Hekili
.                                                                                   Peanut
.                                                                                   Sundance
.                                                                                   Kato
.                                                                                   Bunny’s Calf
.                                                                                   Starkey’s Calf
.                                                                                   Calla’s Calf
.                                                                                   Rhett
.                                                                                   Sabrina’s Calf

Miami Seaquarium         Bottlenose                     April
.                                                                                   Cathi
.                                                                                   Nosey
.                                                                                   Hollywood
.                                                                                   Jupiter
.                                                                                   2009 Calf
.                                                                                   2009 Calf
.                                                                                   Hollywood’s Calf

This six-year snapshot of examples is but the tip of a very large iceberg of captive dolphin and whale death in an industry that will merely replace the dead with more income-generators.  But these income-generators, these dolphins and whales, do not deserve to be treated as livestock for human amusement.  Rather, they deserve to live a life for which their species was designed, and they deserve to live it in the ocean, with natural seawater, and tides, and sunshine and stars, and live fish that they hunt with their families, rather than live in small concrete tanks, where they are given medications, like the antibiotics given to Shadow and Chelmers, on a continual basis.

What can you do:  Learn how marine mammals are not suited to captivity, and on July 27 stand with thousands around the globe who are committed to find a life for all the current captive whales and dolphins that does not involve depriving them of the life they were born to live.

Join us as we say to the worldwide aquarium industry, EMPTY THE TANKS! to give dolphins and whales the kind of space, natural sea water, and ability to catch their own prey that defines who they are.  While there is no quick-fix to the problems created by the aquarium industry, we can begin the course toward protecting dolphins and whales from commercial and non-profit enterprises that would exploit them to satisfy the human attributes of curiosity and desire for amusement.

You can also sign a pledge that you will not attend a dolphin show, and thereby send a message to an outdated industry that it must use its considerable resources to find a better life for captive dolphins and whales, including releasing all those who are rehabilitated for a free life.

Thank you to Ceta-base for maintaining a database of the world’s captive cetaceans.

Empty the Tanks - Worldwide on July 27

Empty the Tanks – Worldwide on July 27. To find or create an event go to https://www.facebook.com/events/633576009989898


Could Blackfish interrupt the legacy of captivity?

As the world heads to Sarasota for a screening of Blackfish, a much-celebrated film by Gabriela Cowperthwaite that premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and will, on April 5, open the Sarasota Film Festival, Tampa Bay Online (TBO) takes a more “traditional” view of marine mammal captivity rooted in the 1960s and the television show, Flipper, as it considers whether the Tampa area can support two large aquariums.

TBO’s article, which demeans both its readership and dolphins by continuing, if only to correct itself, the aquarium industry’s old tradition of not giving dolphins unique names, reflects the all-too-evident sensibilities of the aquarium industry: the ability to profit and compete is a more salient factor in whether to keep marine mammals in captivity than the harsh reality that marine mammals do not fare well in concrete tanks.  Instead of films like A Fall from Freedom working to keep businesses like the Georgia Aquarium from opening (2007), from adding a dolphin “extravaganza” (2011), or from applying to import the first wild-caught marine mammals since 1993 (2012), the focus of TBO’s article suggests that competitive demographics is a more salient factor in aquarium siting and expansion than the truth about captivity.

Winter as she retreats from the noise

Winter as she retreats from the noise

Winter.  According to TBO, Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) officials believe they “have that . . . something particularly interesting and readily visible” to keep attracting visitors.  The CMA’s “something” is Winter.  Winter is a female dolphin who lost her tail fluke after being caught in the monofilament line of a crab trap.  She was brought to national focus by the movie, A Dolphin Tale, and now lives in a world with the additional noise that accompanied the increased ticket sales from her “stardom” – a not insignificant one, as reported by TBO, from “$8 million to $21 million between 2011 and 2012.”

Winter’s position as the CMA’s current “something” is complicated since she “would be difficult to replace because her prosthetic tail is integral to her story,” as the TBO quotes an economist.

Winter would be difficult to replace because her prosthetic tail is integral to her story.

Tilikum.  Difficult to replace, as would be Tilikum.  SeaWorld Orlando’s star sperm-donor with more living offspring than any other male orca in captivity, Tilikum was caught off the coast of Iceland at about the age of three in 1983, where he was removed from his family and placed into a lifetime of confinement with strangers.  Tilikum is one of the stars in David Kirby’s 2012 groundbreaking and much-acclaimed book, Death at SeaWorld, and although Mr. Kirby did not set out to make a case against marine mammal captivity, he now finds himself at the center of an international dialogue about the ethics of this confinement.

Tilikum during a performance at SeaWorld

Tilikum, his flacid dorsal fin, during a performance at SeaWorld

As does Ms. Cowperthwaite and her film.  Blackfish tells more of Tilikum’s story: a male orca who was caught in the wild in 1983 and brought first to Sealand of the Pacific and then to SeaWorld Orlando, where Ms. Dawn Brancheau, one of Tilikum’s trainers, met a fate – shared by two other individuals – that would not exist but for the aquarium industry.

While Tampa and Clearwater continue to vie for more of the public’s dollars as aquariums display marine mammals and continue their vested interest in maintaining dolphin captivity, come to Sarasota on April 5 for the screening of Blackfish.  Consider the life of Tilikum, the deaths of two trainers and an aquarium visitor at his hands, and become part of the educated dialogue.

This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.  – Abraham Lincoln

SeaWorld spearheads this meeting of the “I need a dolphin or whale” club

First go round, it was the Georgia Aquarium (on behalf of not only itself but also SeaWorld, the Shedd Aquarium and Mystic Aquarium) that said that it needed to import beluga whales from outside the United States.  Now SeaWorld is spearheading the effort, having set its sights on obtaining dolphins, more specifically, on an unnamed female Pacific Whitesided Dolphin, now being held captive at an aquarium in Japan.  The proposal is to tear her from her captive surroundings, from the dolphins that she has come to know, and to “ship” her as so much cargo halfway around the world to be put into another tank with strangers.

When is the welfare of the dolphin ever considered?  But I digress.

Pacific Whitesided dolphins where and with whom they belong: in the Pacific Ocean with their family

Pacific Whitesided dolphins where and with whom they belong: in the Pacific Ocean with their family. Photo Credit: Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

And we, the public, have an opportunity to give our input, to submit our comments, objections and questions on the permit application.  Comments must be submitted by March 6 to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the SeaWorld San Antonio application to import a female Japanese Pacific Whitesided dolphin.

At least based upon the readily-accessible information, there appear to be many unknowns. Without more information, it appears that this import permit application is either

  • not giving the public a meaningful opportunity to review and provide input; or
  • >is, itself, incomplete.

So, first, request all the additional information that NOAA is relying upon in its evaluation of the permit application.  Then raise meaningful questions in your comments, such as:

  • Who is the specific dolphin that SeaWorld intends to import? While there may be others who believe that they can piece it together to make a reasoned guess as to her identity, that burden in not on the public.  SeaWorld and NOAA share that one, with the ultimate burden falling on SeaWorld for the content of its application and the conclusions drawn from evaluating that application on NOAA.
  • Where is the birth record and the names of those to interview to verify that she (assuming they already have an individual in mind) is, in fact, captive-bred, as asserted in the application, and a record of the interviews conducted and by whom?
  • Failing the availability of a record that includes those interviews, on what basis will NOAA evaluate whether and agree that the unnamed female dolphin was captive-bred.  NOAA  must, via this record, eliminate the real potential (given the holding aquarium’s current ownership of wild-caught dolphins) for a wild-caught dolphin to be unlawfully imported into the United States without making all the necessary threshold determinations.
  • Failing a substantiation that the dolphin is not wild-caught, if it may then be presumed to be wild-caught (or they would surely have the records and interviews in the record), demonstrate that the dolphin was not caught in a hunt that has been recognized as inhumane, opposed by even by the International Marine Animal Trainers Association.

This should get you started.  In your comments, request a public hearing, or there won’t be one.

Shine as much sunlight on this as possible.

Via Email: NMFS.Pr1Comments@noaa.gov
Via Fax: (301) 713-0376

TO REQUEST ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: CONTACT: Jennifer Skidmore or Kristy Beard: (301)427-8401.

Captive Pacific Whitesided dolphin

Captive Pacific Whitesided dolphin

Ski Dubai “Penguin Training Program” video: the language of the captive trade

The International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA) recently posted on its Facebook page a new video by Ski Dubai about “the most innovative Penguin Training Program in the world.”

I notice that the language in the video is, not surprisingly, the same used to describe the captivity of dolphins and whales in aquariums, marine parks and other captive “encounter” programs.  This language is something spoken by every aquarium, any where.  This language has been intentionally designed.  Its purpose: to camouflage the truth that humans have ripped these creatures from their natural habitat and do not do well in captivity.

The animal captivity industry wants you to think that this can be recreated, even in Dubai.

The animal captivity industry wants you to think that this can be recreated, even in Dubai.

But what the aquarium industry and their minion, IMATA, whose purpose is the perpetuation of the aquarium industry, have underestimated is the ability of humans to hear the truth in between the words.  As you watch the video, listen for certain words.  Each time, insert its translation and hear the truth.

Keywords invented by the captive trade and their true meaning:

  • “Natural Behaviors” = tricks
  • “Education and Conservation for Awareness” = entertainment for monetary revenue that has no demonstrated substantial impact on conservation “behaviors” in humans
  • “Ambassadors” = captive beings who have not volunteered for “life” in captivity
  • “Animal Encounter” = exploitation of both people and animals for additional monetary revenue
  • “Best possible care program” = maximizing survival rate of already-trained animals
  • “Daily management behaviors” = so we can make them bend to what we need to do to them to keep them alive in captivity
  • “Stimulated” = things we do or give to the animals in an unnatural setting to avoid stress anxiety and boredom, which make animals ill in captivity
  • “Play day” = tricks for the public’s amusement (I can hear from here the clapping when the penguins bow)
  • “The animals are desensitized to having close interaction with people” = we have successfully exerted control over these animals

Please know that marine mammals are not suited to a life in captivity by virtue of their expansive habitat range (they migrate; they swim hundreds of miles in a short period of time; some dive to 1000′ in depth), their highly social and familial structure, and their high intelligence.  Keeping these sentient and social creatures in captivity is an inhumane venture fueled by an outdated view of the “animal kingdom”.

Enter a new day, based in today’s ethics, learn the language of the captivity industry, and do not go to zoos and aquariums that keep the animals who have no “business” being there.


Two dolphin videos: you choose

Just a short post to juxtapose two videos.  One I shot holding a camera while I watched (online) the April 2010 Congressional Hearings on Marine Mammal captivity.  Now that I think about it, I don’t think I finished watching the entirety of that hearing, but it’s archived.  And I wrote a few words about it.

Dr. Lori Marino, Dr. Naomi Rose, Louie Psihoyos, and others were empaneled, as were representatives from the aquarium industry.  I don’t know how dolphin experts and advocates, as these individuals are, could sit in the same room with Congressman Young (R, AK) and listen to his line about captivity without becoming physically ill.  Just one snippet from Cong. Young reveals his views that freedom was something that we “let” dolphins have.  Really?  We “let” dolphins have freedom?  Well, that is certainly one way of looking at it.  Apparently the way the aquarium industry, or at least their advocate from the great state of Washington, looks at it.  But let’s get on with watching the two short videos.

Congressman Don Young Republican Alaska

Congressman Don Young (R, AK) doesn’t think that we should “let” dolphins run around loose and wild, well, at least not all of them. Photo by Dennis Zaki, AlaskaReport.com

First is the Congressman who apparently doesn’t think we should “let’ ’em [dolphins, that is] run around loose and wild” even in the face of an aquarium industry where it is still debated whether legitimate education is provided.  I know, I know, Congressman Young.  You want to believe that aquariums are educational.

And here are dolphins, loose and wild, being dolphins, being the exuberance of dolphin-ness.

Doesn’t one of those videos seem like truth and the other like the stories we make up to justify some human agenda.  I know.  It’s as plain as the nose on your face, isn’t it?

As we face the start of the Taiji dolphin drive hunt on September 1, 2012, I’d ask that you keep these two videos in mind.  And remember: two videos, one a justification for an industry, the other a simple glimpse into truth and beauty.

It is now time to tell Taiji, Japan, that it must end its hunting of these marvelous, exuberant creatures.  On August 31 and September 1, 2012, citizens of the world in 93 cities worldwide are standing together on Japan Dolphins Day 2012 to say NO! to the Taiji Dolphin Drive Hunt and to anyone who defends dolphin captivity or slaughter, including The Hon. Don Young, and to say YES! to dolphins’ being free, being loose and wild.

The event, founded by Ric O’Barry and Save Japan Dolphins, is coordinated by Save Misty the Dolphin, and you can locate an event near you by visiting the Facebook event page.  Stand with us on this memorable day so that it will be the last time that we need stand shoulder to shoulder to stop a dolphin hunt.

Loose and wild.  All of ’em, Congressman Young.  All  of ’em.


Why focus on the aquarium industry? Think on a quantum level.

As I stand shoulder-to-shoulder both literally and figuratively with people around the planet in order to end the captivity of dolphins and whales, I am often rebuffed by those who are walking into an aquarium with the question, “Why dolphins and whales?  Why not some other creature?”

While there are many responses, here is what I’m thinking this morning:

I work to end the captivity of dolphins and whales, because it is there where we take animals not only out of their habitat, but we do this at a most fundamental level:  we take away their water.

What we give them in return is some artificial, manufactured approximation of sea water.   What I am focusing on is sea water versus land.  While it is also true that land animals who are held in zoos are not kept in their natural habitats, only the worst hell-hole-of-a-zoo does not give them dirt.  In most cases, it is clean dirt.  Is some bad zoos, it is filthy, putrid dirt, with animals living in their own waste.  There may be some places where they are kept in buildings, in the dark with no proper air circulation (think certain carriage horses in the city of Atlanta, and likely elsewhere), but there, even air they get, however, putrid and high in ammonia.  I am not saying that this kind of treatment of land animals is acceptable; I am suggesting, however, that we are taking away something more fundamental than location when we strip away the freedom of dolphins and whales and place them in tanks.

For marine animals, we have taken away their water.  The very medium of their existence.  Aquariums, by and large, take chlorinated, city water, and add salts and whatever else the aquariums need to add in order to not kill the animals, and call it done.  Now, granted, they do this everyday, with expensive filtration systems, and test kits, and are proud to tell how frequently the entire water volume is circulated through a filter or filters.  But really, how is that a good thing?  Other than to not kill outright, on the first day, the “asset” that they purchased and are holding in a small, artificial tank.

The fact that we also put these creatures – who use echo-location to not only survive, but also thrive – into sound-bouncing chambers, adds to the body of evidence that the aquarium industry has as an imperative the disregard of the true nature of these animals.  The aquariums MUST ignore the true nature of dolphins and whales in order for the aquarium industry to survive.  And for their banks accounts to thrive.

The time has come for us to recognize that we are not the boss of marine mammals.  We are the boss of us.  And the helper of everything else.

  • If we can help clean their water, then we should.
  • If we can help stop the extinctions we are causing and contributing to, then we should.
  • If we can help stay out of their calving grounds, then we should.
  • If we can help by not using gill nets and long-lines, then we should.
  • If we can help by stopping overfishing, then we should.
  • If we can help by leaving them alone, to live free and wild in the oceans, in their water, then we should.

End Captivity Now.  Take a pledge to never again go to a dolphin show.

And if you are feeling appreciative of your freedom and want to ensure that no more dolphins have their freedom taken away, and their families killed, off the coast of Taiji, Japan, on August 31/September 1, join a demonstration near you at one of 90 cities worldwide.

Leave them free and wild in their beautiful, blue water and all the quanta therein.

Striped dolphins living free in the ocean

Striped dolphins living free in the ocean, in their water, not some artificial glump that we manufacture just to keep them alive for the next show.


Don’t Go to the Dolphin Show – Ric O’Barry Interview

Ric O'Barry after release of The Cove

Ric O'Barry after release of The Cove, photo from The Examiner

Ric O’Barry, from Save Japan Dolphins, articulates

  • why going to the dolphin show is what keeps the dolphin hunting and capturing money machine going
  • why dolphins bred in captivity is not an acceptable alternative

So, whether your local or not-so-local dolphin show or display is at the Georgia Aquarium, Sea World, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, the National Aquarium, the Shedd Aquarium – don’t go.

Georgia Aquarium General Admission ticket price includes dolphin show:  Now that the Georgia Aquarium has included the price of the dolphin show in the General Admission price (but only a third or less of the participants will actually be able to make it into that horrid theater), everyone who goes to the Georgia Aquarium pays directly for dolphin captivity.  No longer can one rather craftily make the argument that they are going to see the jellies, but that they do not support dolphin captivity.  Nope.  Not any more.  The Georgia Aquarium is making you pay for that.  More on that later.

But now to Mr. O’Barry, who has worked for dolphin freedom for over 40 years, interviewed on February 16, 2012, by Veenarat Laohapakakul, for the show Viewpoint on ASEAN TV:

He also provides a pathway to dolphin freedom:

  • Stop the captures;
  • Rehabilitate and release the dolphins (who can be) already in captivity;
  • Use birth control for those dolphins already in captivity.

Freedom is not just another word for nothing left to lose.  Maybe it is for humans, who with those amazing thumbs can give up on their own lives.  But we have no right to project our own failings on the rest of the animal kingdom.

Just say NO! to the dolphin show.

For more information and how you can help:

Give the gift of dolphin and orca freedom

This Holiday season, when you receive that solicitation from Sea World, the Georgia Aquarium or another aquarium or swim-with enterprise to buy your family a few minutes in the presence of captive dolphins or whales, just say no.

No matter how “cute” and friendly or massive and majestic they are, when you buy a ticket to the show, you are purchasing cetacean slaughter as well as capture and captive breeding.

Whatever their origin, this captive life is characterized by housing in a morbidly small tank, or occasionally more than one tank, away from the communal and familial groups with whom they live in the wild, with insufficient quality of life, unable to display the behaviors that they have for more than 30,000,000 years.

When you buy that ticket, you are purchasing force-feeding to train them that dead-fish-in-the-hands-of-humans is food.  You are buying a ticket in a crap shoot that the next dolphin or orca will adjust to captivity. Or will survive captivity.  And the stake for each captive is her life.

For a gift this year, why not try spreading the message of freedom and respect for these naturally peace-loving marine animals?  Buy a copy of The Cove for someone who does not yet know of the horrors occurring right now in Taiji, Japan.  Donate to Save Japan Dolphins or buy apparel that saves dolphins.  [Someone in my life is getting a Save Japan Dolphins bracelet and maybe a sweatshirt and a hat or two.  Wonder who?]  Watch the free documentary A Fall from Freedom with your friends and family.  Contribute to the ongoing legal efforts to free Morgan and Tokitai (Lolita).

So push “play” and watch this marvelous video by Gudrun Wiesflecker, if you haven’t already, as you read these last few words.

While the story of captivity is not a pleasant one, the story of willful blindness isn’t either.  The lasting reward of contributing to cetacean freedom, on the other hand, is a gift worthy of any holiday, but especially these now upon us.

It probably will not be the last time I say this to you, but Happy Holidays.  Peace and freedom to you and to all cetaceans, now and forever.

Cove Blue for Jiyu

Whether the Georgia Aquarium dolphin shows are educational

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog on this topic, and if you had the great good fortune to have seen the videos in the blog, you would have seen first hand via video shot by a customer of the Georgia Aquarium that the Aquarium’s dolphin extravaganza was, shall we say, a little lean on educational value.

Seeing unvarnished home movies likely provides something a tad closer to the reality of the dolphin show than a highly polished piece that the Georgia Aquarium would put together as an advertisement.  Make sense?  It does to me, too.

Those home movies are no longer available, but since I want to continue to provide information and facts surrounding the Georgia Aquarium and dolphin captivity, it appears that I’ll have to rely at least in part on the G.A.’s own video.  But before I show you the video, let me set the stage a bit.  It may look like I’m straying off topic, but just hang with me.  I’ll bring it all home.  I promise.

In your mind’s eye, picture the strawberry pie on the menu at Shoney’s.  The big, center-posted picture on the cover.  With radiating smaller pics of fried chicken, Salisbury steak (both with a gravylike schmear), and maybe even shrimp, interspersed with various starchy concoctions, some with peas thrown in for color.

But the pie: the uber bright and shiny red of, not really the strawberries so much (yes, I think there were actual strawberries in there) as the goo that surrounds the strawberries.  The goo that jiggles, but not the same way that Jello jiggles.  Translucent, but again, not the same way that Jello is.  You know it.  More like  snot, really.  But darn red.  A mighty fine red, but one that you know isn’t real.  And this, this picture of the pie that is on the cover of the menu, that is now in your mind’s eye, with its perfect dollop of whipped cream, well, not real whipped cream, really, but some light and fluffy mixture of milk flakes, talc, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oil . . .  Crap.  I really didn’t mean to ruin that (open air quotes) whipped cream (close air quotes) for you.  Oh, who am I fooling?  You’re probably on your way to that single-use plastic container of Cool Whip right now.  (Are these people going to sue me for mentioning them in the same piece as the Georgia Aquarium?  Oh, I am just mean!)  Anyway.  Picture the pie.  The bright red goo.  The perfect dollop.

Flash forward to your having ordered it.  Now watch the pie as it approaches on the tray brought by the hard-working and underpaid (oops, slid into another social issue) waitress.  The reality is not quite as lovely as the advertisement.  The advertisement promised something that it didn’t deliver.

And by comparison, with that picture of the pie in your mind, that fake, fake, fake, fake, fake red of the pie that still somehow appeals to the inner 6-year-old-at-Shoneys-for-the-first-time, consider that the Georgia Aquarium is tinkering with that same appeal. The strawberry pie lie.  The reality isn’t what’s on the cover.  But what’s on the cover is what the restaurant needs you to believe so that you’ll order it.  So what does the Georgia Aquarium need you to believe?

I guess, first and foremost, it wants you to believe that the dolphins are happy.  Happy in captivity.  Happy that they are not in the ocean swimming freely with their close-knit community of family.  I guess there’s a lot they would like you to believe.  That dolphins live longer lives in captivity.  But there is also stuff they don’t want you to know.  They don’t want you know that the average life span of a dolphin in captivity is five years, when dolphins in the wild live far longer.  Or that the aquariums often give captive dolphins daily doses of medicines to control ulcers and intestinal and respiratory issues.  So you can probably expect a Georgia Aquarium online commercial to show you what it wants you to believe.  I expect you’ll see something that looks like happiness.  Jumping.  Splashing.

But what about the education part?  Surely they’ll highlight that aspect, too.  It is supposed to be central to the purpose of the dolphin show, right?  Education.  Right?

And here we are at the finish line, getting ready to watch one of the Georgia Aquarium’s own videos – one that it has placed on Youtube with all the agreements and consents that one gives when posting to Youtube – to see how it invites customers to come be educated about happy dolphins.

Soooooooo.  What did you learn about dolphins?  What do you expect to learn based on the Georgia Aquarium’s own enticement?  What education do the eleven dolphins who are held captive at the Georgia Aquarium provide to justify their continued captivity, held away from the open ocean for which they were designed?

To actually learn about dolphins and whales in captivity, watch A Fall From Freedom.

And don’t go to the dolphin show.

In the meantime, if you need entertaining, just take a gander at what we actually allow to entice us into believing that the food is good.  Or the dolphins happy.

This burger was made from happy cows, too!