Tag Archives: dolphinariums

Whether dolphin shows are educational – a matter of definition?

Congressman Young’s (R-AK) point, during a hearing regarding marine mammal captivity, that whether the dolphin shows are educational or not educational is a matter of definition, might be a valid one.  What specific kind of information any particular dolphin exhibit imparts can certainly be varied: one exhibit might focus on dolphin life span and intelligence while another addresses family structure and habitat range, while still another describes what we understand and do not understand about dolphin communication.

But saying it’s a matter of definition is a convenient cop-out, and not altogether true.  Because one should look, that is, Congressman Young should look, at the actual content of shows that justify keeping marine mammals in captivity, before cavalierly speaking of something being a matter of definition.  And so should we all.  So, here, for your convenience, Congressman Young (and the minute numbers of you who are actually reading this), is an example:

And more:

I’m just wondering what you learned about dolphins in those videos, shot at a real dolphin show.  That they can jump?  I’m thinking, just thinking, that you already knew that.

I’m also thinking that you didn’t need to see a dolphin in captivity to know that it can jump, or that it can jump in perfect timing with other dolphins, or that it can jump in perfect timing with other dolphins 15 feet into the air.  Or that it can be trained to tail walk.  Or splash.  Or make noises on command.

Here’s what I’m guessing you didn’t learn at the dolphin show: that the high-pitched noise, flashing lights, constant noise (encouraging the audience to be loud?!), explosion simulations – where to stop with this list – not to mention being deprived of legitimate natural behaviors  – like catching it own prey, swimming in the natural rhythm of the ocean and its seasons, swimming fast, swimming far, and swimming deep – puts a constant stress on the dolphin that nature does not.  And I know that you know what stress does to the health of a living being.

So, in the end, none, I repeat, none of the show is about education.  Its sole imperative is to entertain.  To entertain you so that you will come back, and you will tell your friends to go to the entertaining dolphin show.  And your friends will tell their friends.

Here’s what I’m hoping.  That you’ll recognize the moral bankruptcy of the dolphin show.  And you won’t go.  And you’ll tell your friends not to go.  And your friends will tell their friends.

And just one short post-script: be on your guard against being lulled, fooled or warmed by current dolphin and whale movies into supporting captivity by going to a dolphin show.  Here’s a dolphin and whale movie that you can watch on your computer that will allow the warm-and-fuzzies you get from those Hollywood movies not to send you straight to the Georgia Aquarium or SeaWorld to watch dolphins that were not saved, but enslaved.

Let the dolphins be free; watch a documentary, go to the beach, hug your dog.

Playmobil – Dolphin toys teach that captivity is A-OK

Accurate: Taken out of their natural habitat

Accurate: Taken out of their natural habitat

Here is the true educational impact of dolphin captivity: Kids love the dolphin shows. They want to be trainers or aquarium vets so that they, too, can capture dolphins and show how much they love them. In the meantime, Playmobil makes its few beans by capitalizing, in between multiple aquarium visits, on the children’s love of this amazing creature.

Now, there are those who went to the shows as children and became dolphin advocates, but I’m not focusing on that itsy-bitsy minority right now.  I’m focusing on the 99% of people (based on my personal observation of how many people go to the dolphin show, versus how many of us are standing on the sidewalks or in The Coves around the world trying to protect them) who continue to think that dolphins in captivity is natural.

The Georgia Aquarium and its ilk, including the garishly commercial SeaWorld chain and/or minion claim that dolphin captivity programs have an educational or conservation purpose (convenient, because otherwise it would be illegal in the United States to keep marine mammals in captivity).  The actual text of the Marine Mammal Protection Act notes, however, that the aquarium industry, itself, gets to set those standards.

Thanks to Playmobil, those standards are clear for anyone, including the child that a parent unwittingly exposes to a most cruel and inhumane captivity industry, to see.  The standards (I’ve paraphrased, if you will), plus a few

Accurate: Taken out of their natural habitat

Can you spot what’s wrong with this picture?

informal ones, are :

  1. Display the animals regularly (if you only do it once in a while the customers might stop coming).
  2. Make people think these dolphin tricks are “natural behaviors” even though our own training manual is about training “new” behaviors for the show.  Don’t worry about the logic failure there.  Just keep saying “behavior” over and over and work in “free” and “freedom” a few times, too, and keep smiling all the while at the paying customers.
  3. Train the dolphins to ensure that they do the trick, I mean behavior, during the shows for paying customers (it’s embarrassing when the tricks don’t play out).  Tell the customers that even though dolphins don’t  routinely jump through hula hoops in the ocean, they would if they could.
  4. Tell the paying guests that the dolphins are protected from mean predators that live in the wild, and don’t tell them that dolphins are at the top of the marine food chain and don’t really have predators.
  5. Keep the chlorinated water clean.
  6. Keep a vet handy for those annoying upper respiratory issues that seem to occur more frequently in the dolphins that we own than in the ones we haven’t caught yet.
  7. Whatever happens, keep on smiling.

The facts that the Georgia Aquarium does not reveal to their paying guests, during their educational extravaganza are:

  1. Dolphins in the wild swim to depths of 850 feet.
  2. The deepest tank we have is somewhere around 30 feet; the shallowest is 12 feet.
  3. Dolphins in the wild swim up to 70 miles per hour.
  4. Dolphins in the wild swim up to somewhere around 100 miles per day.  They may do this just in a local area or they may travel for miles and back.
  5. The dolphins in our tanks can swim a few body lengths before having to turn around to do it again, over and over and over for the rest of their lives.
  6. Dolphins in captivity have an average shorter life span than in the wild, despite the position taken by the captivity industry.
  7. Many dolphin babies in captivity die in the first few days.
  8. Dolphin babies in the wild stay with their mothers and their extended families.
  9. Dolphin babies are separated from their mothers for the captivity industry (whether from wild capture/slaughter or from a dolphin breeder).
  10. Dolphins are trained with food deprivation.  That’s right.  These highly intelligent creatures know that food comes with doing the trick.

Don’t buy your children this toy.  Watch a couple of documentaries about the truth of dolphin captivity.

And don’t go to the dolphin show.

To let Playmobil know that they are teaching our children to disrespect the very animals that they love, and either knowingly or unwittingly contributing to dolphin captivity and slaughter, please contact them:

P.O. Box 877
Dayton, NJ 08810
Voice: (609) 395-5566
Fax: (609) 395-3015
Customer Service e-mail address: service@playmobilusa.com
Non-Customer Service e-mail address: webmaster@playmobilusa.com

Thanks to Amanda Faughnan for the foundation of this piece.


What the World Needs Now Is … More Dolphin Captivity?

The federal government is preparing to use $75 million in my tax money and yours to build another dolphinarium in Mississippi called the Ocean Expo.  Interesting choice of words, since I seem to recall a big box Expo attached to yet another dolphin captor, who has trained 10 dolphins (and one wild-caught dolphin held for what I don’t know) to perform three times daily in a dolphin extravaganza in another southern U.S. state.  But that’s a story for another day.

Moby Solangi

One Mr. Moby Solangi, who has captured over 200 dolphins in his career, has applied for monies to fund his various dolphin projects, and he apparently continues to have the support of Senator Thad Cochran.  Mr. Solangi may even get a sympathy vote for having lost property during Hurricane Katrina.  But the property he lost was a hub from which he loaned dolphins, sea lions and other marine animals for display.  So he won’t get a sympathy vote from me.

What he’ll get is a signed petition and a growing community in opposition to this abomination on Facebook (Citizens Against Ocean Expo) who will never stop until the dolphin captivity practiced by Mr. Solangi and others is revealed as the cruel, outdated practice it is, and one akin to allowing humans to wrestle bears at roadside zoos or conduct dogfighting.

Harsh comparison?  I think not.  Some amusements at the expense of animals may appear to be benign.  But there is nothing benign in this.  At its root, these dolphins shows are, as Ric O’Barry said, about control.

I would just add one more object, and that is money.

So, let’s fight to keep our tax money out of Mr. Solangi’s pockets, and more dolphins in the ocean where they belong.  Join us.  Sign.  Call Senator Cochran.  Tell him no to the dolphin show.

Dolphins where they belong



Dolphin Dance

This isn’t a new video, but the Women for Whales posted it on Facebook today.  And I’m so glad that I happened to see it.

Here’s what I saw.  I saw life at its purest, most self-expressed.  I saw freedom.  I saw play.  I saw love and family and glee.

This is what dolphins do when they are in control of their own lives.   They dance.  They hold hands.  They flap their fins in some kind of gleeful signal.  All in the wide open ocean.

Shame on the Georgia Aquarium, SeaWorld, Miami Seaquarium, Marineland, Resorts World Sentosa, and all dolphinaria and aquaria for capturing and enslaving a creature who deserves to be free and in control of his or her own life.

If something stirred in you, like a sense of your own freedom, and how precious it is to be free and fully self-expressed, please contact Save Japan Dolphins, the Oceanic Preservation Society, Free the Atlanta 11, Save Misty the Dolphin on Facebook or Saddest Dolphins.com (I’m sure there are many others, too) to find out how to make a difference in the lives of dolphins today, and forever.

Become part of a growing community that celebrates and demands self-determination and freedom for these extraordinary creatures.

Universal Sacredness of Life – Support the UDAR

Poster by Andy Beattie

Poster by Andy Beattie

Support the UDAR.  However you can. By voting. By considering.  By editing.  By signing the declaration.  By joining a local animal rights organization.  And a few international ones.  And maybe, if you’re lucky, it can be both for you.

But support it we must, in order to not die ourselves.

When even one species leaves the planet, the planet is changed, and so are we.  The Martha I am is, perhaps imperceptibly, changed by even one extinction. And so, because imperceptible with one, we think it will be so with two.  And three.  And three hundred.

At which extinction will the change be perceptible to the densest among us?  It already and certainly is among the most perceptive. I do not count myself among them.  I am aware only of the conceptual likelihood that this is so.

At which extinction do we acknowledge that we do not value the sacredness of life.  Where life will be a commodity to trade in for us all?  When my flesh is only so much protein on the market?

Now – you see, I don’t believe that that day will come. I believe that right now, we are waking up to the sacredness of life.  And that all life, if one’s own is to be truly and presently lived, is regarded with awe.  And respect.  And love.

Support the universal dignity of life; live in the awe of life; support the UDAR.


Poster by Andy Beattie

Poster by Andy Beattie

(For access to wonderful information about animal rights, thank you, Andy Beattie.)

Stop ocean noise pollution

Dolphin Research Centers/Reuters

We are at it again.  Trying to learn from animals to serve a human purpose.  What could be wrong with that, I can hear many of you ask.  Well, my brain isn’t big enough to grasp all the logical arguments against it.  But my totality gets that where we humans attempt to acquire information to satisfy a curiosity, to augment our resources, to provide a benefit to humankind, we are on shaky ground, and should tread cautiously, mindfully and responsibly before treating other creatures, other sentient creatures, without their permission, as our personal and of-right experiment. 

My question now, as ever, is why we need to know something.  So that we can start using sound in a way that we were never intended, do not understand, and will be like the ever-bull-in-a-china-shop earthling?  I’d like to think we we’ll soon stop this.  But so long as there are research monies, it appears that we’ll study any thing at any cost.

Let me be clear.  I am not against curiosity.  I am wholly in favor of it.  But with curiosity as with everything comes responsibility.  So, we shouldn’t inject rabbits’ eyes with eye liner at ever-increasing concentrations and repetitions to see where it becomes an irritant.  We already know enough from prior studies to make reasoned assumptions and act accordingly.  We really do.  In the same way, we shouldn’t study the language of an echo-locating creature that travels hundreds of miles per day in a small sound-bouncing chamber or enclosed bay.  Nor should we study that same creature in the ocean by inflicting upon it sounds not generated by its natural world.  It’s bad enough that our ships pollute their environment with sound.  Now, we’re specifically generating them and then targeting and inflicting those sounds on them?

Two groups, that I am aware of and certainly there are more, are doing just this, both with “environment” in their name.  Sidebar:  that aspect of the environmental industry, the part that would defend human activities against a charge of being an intrusion on the environment, makes me more than a bit ashamed to be an “environmental” attorney. 

The first group, Southall Environment Associates, Inc., is performing studies funded by the U.S. Navy, NOAA, and others.  Dr. Southall has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles on the effects of noise on dolphins.  Really?   And how much more sound will you expose dolphins to, to ascertain (1) at what levels we don’t invade their space, (2) at what levels do we merely harass them, (3) at what levels do they beach, or (4) at what levels does our sound cause internal hemorrhaging?  I have the answer for you.  For all questions: as many as you can get funding for.  And as to how many studies you need to know this?  That answer, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is zero. 

The second group is The Natural Environment Research Council.  As you will see from the article, the object of the study is to more fully understand how echolocating creatures use sound.  Unless and until the only reason underlying this study is to find ways for humans to minimize our footprint in their environment, shut the thing down.  I note that Professor John Rees is NERC’s natural hazards theme leader.  So maybe we are trying to figure out how cetaceans seem to anticipate earthquakes.  Or how to find victims beneath piles of rubble.  Both of those could be laudable if we were just observing their behavior in their world, unharassed.  But to study dolphins in a sound-bouncing bowl to show that the dolphin can distinguish between a plastic fish and a real one?  Hm.  The results of the study being to assist humans in using sound to find objects, with the sophistication and intricacy of echolocating creatures.  Really?  Meaning we are going to project sound in way that we are not naturally equipped in even more ways.  

Here’s my questions, again.  Do we need to study dolphins and bats to get whichever goal we have?  Don’t we have enough sophistication with sound and expertise with sound engineers who can tweak dials and squelch signals and dampen inputs?  Sure we do. 

I’m looking to a day in my lifetime when we understand that our efforts, our study, should seek to decrease the size of our footprint.  And not to expand it into terrain that is not our own.

Let's study that from here.

A birthday wish for Nellie.

Daron Dean, The St. Augustiner Record

58 years.  The oldest of her kind.  In captivity, that is.  58 years living only in enclosures, tossing balls, retrieving Timex watches for commercials, performing in shows, producing offspring for more shows, giving blood “voluntarily,” being a swimming “lab.”  And the Georgia Aquarium and Marineland celebrate. They celebrate by creating a video for humans to watch.  Not for Nellie.  They get dogs and kids, her captive-born offspring, and employees from the Georgia Aquarium to say into the camera, with big smiles, “Happy Birthday, Nellie,” to the world’s oldest dolphin in captivity, so that you’ll come to Marineland and the Georgia Aquarium.

I feel certain that you will not be mislead by a video that might, with its cute soundtrack and birthday cake, sound and look like happiness to a 7-year-old.  We have actually grown up and developed the ability to think.  We can realize that the dolphin shows we loved as children bely an ugly truth – that these animals who were not made to entertain or be the object of captive research or breeding programs, are being used for precisely that.  You may understand that, but they are hoping that your 7-year-old sees the video, sees the birthday cake, hears the happy tune, and nags you until you agree to go.  To pay money that subsidizes dolphin capture and, yes, I’m going to say it, dolphin slaughter.

Just in case you’re wondering, what did they learn from Nellie to justify her 58 years in captivity?  “Other than routine medical checkups, no official scientific studies have been made and there is no clear explanation why Nellie has had such a long life.  There are many theories, ranging from Marineland’s filtration system to her diet.”  But now that she’s old, Marineland curator Kevin Roberts said, “Every day she is with us we are able to observe and gather more and more data about geriatric dolphins. She is our own swimming lab.”  More good birthday news for Nellie.

So here’s what I say to all who think that Nellie and other dolphins are here to satisfy something for us.  A dolphin was made for itself.  Not for us at all.  And here’s my belated birthday wish for Nellie, I wish your next life to be free.  Namaste, Nellie.

Buh-bye AT&T – I don’t pay dolphin exploiters

Bernie Marcus, founder of Home Depot, has exported his “icon in the big boxes” to the aquarium concept and is hoping that “this sets the stage for future aquariums.”  The concept that killed small town America and mom and pop hardware stores has now targetted dolphins through a $110,000,000 dolphin facility.  The killing analogy is not off the mark, since dolphins and whales in captivity are known to have significantly shortened life spans relative to their natural, “loose and wild” counterparts.

I will not be attending.  I encourage you not to attend.  I encourage that you read and watch videos about dolphins and other cetaceans in captivity (here is a new interview with a trainer at Sea World, who will soon testify about the conditions for both the orcas and the trainers at that facility).   Learn what highly intelligent and complex creatures they are.  Read about the life-saving exploits of dolphins toward humans.  And think.  Think  about the education that your children get

The dolphin "smile" is misleading.  Use you own brain and ask yourself, "Do you really think they are happy in captivity?"

The dolphin “smile” is misleading. Ask yourself, “Do you really think they are happy in captivity?”

about dolphins at Sea World or at the Georgia Aquarium.  That dolphins can jump really high, and do flips, let trainers ride them in the water, toss balls in the air, and they are really happy-looking?  All of that disgusts me.  That we would compromise the life of a creature to pay admission, be amused and call it education.  But I am  encouraged.  A bit bemused that Georgia would add an aquarium when they are on their way out.  But on their way out they are.  And that is a good thing.  A very good thing.

So in the meantime, AT&T will lose me as a customer.  Join me.  Do this for the dolphins.

Here is a list of the sponsors of the Aquarium or the dolphin show:

  • AT&T                          Air Train                      Coca-cola
  • Georgia Pacific         The Home Depot        The Southern Co.
  • Sun Trust                   Turner Broadcasting  Accenture
  • UPS                             Publix                            Clear Channel
  • Unisys                         11Alive.com                  Acuity Brands
  • Microsoft

How many of these can you take out of your shopping cart?


Wild Dolphins

Photo courtesy of Greenpeace

A wild dolphin is a beautiful thing, unless you’re Congressman Young (R), Alaska, or the head of the American aquarium and zoo organization, or someone who loves marine mammals soooooo much that they’ve given their lives to studying them in captivity, or a doctor-turned-Congressman who seems to understand the scientific method like no one else.  Luckily so for the rest of us, on that last count.

I’m not even halfway through an April, 2010 hearing on the educational value of dolphin shows, and it is already terribly disconcerting to hear our Washington leadership dance on the fence rail of whether there is any merit that outweighs the personal and species cost of keeping these magnificent animals in captivity.  While their captive life spans are a fraction of what it is in the wild, their shortened lives should not be being someone’s “trained seal.”  Ar ar ar ar ar.

The hearing is quite long, but chocked full of information and possibly misinformation.  But I’ve edited down the entire hearing to 30 seconds that I consider to be the crux of the chasm between those who celebrate the rights of other species to living lives unharrassed by and independent of any human-referenced definition, on the one hand, and those who view animals as being here largely, if not exclusively, to serve humans, on the other.

Cong. Young doesn’t appear to want people  to “let” dolphins “run around loose and wild. . .”  I do.  That is exactly what I want.