Dolphin sighting in The Georgia Aquarium? Is that sick or what?

Only a person who had either (1) not considered the plight of dolphins that have been incorporated into the dolphin display and entertainment industry or (2) considered it but concluded that dolphins have no right to swim in the ocean, would entitle an article “Dolphin Sighting…” and mean at The Georgia Aquarium.  That’s just downright distasteful.  At least to anyone who doesn’t fall into the above two categories.

It’s actually pretty simple.  The pro-caps can’t have it both ways.  Either dolphins have rights to be unmolested and free from human intervention, run over by motor boats, hit over the head by kayak oars, or displayed in a circus; or they don’t.

Shake Georgia Aquarium dolphin wild-caught

Shaka, the Georgia Aquarium's wild-caught dolphin; probably not the one "sighted"; photo from Phinventory

We have laws that prevent us from capturing wild dolphins but the ones we’ve already caught, well, that’s different.  You might think that the laws that prevent new taking rightly reflects that wild dolphins have rights, but the ones that we grow, well, those just don’t have the same rights.  But if we start nicking around the edges at an animal’s rights, it just gets downright illogical.

So, maybe the law has created something more like a privilege for the wild ones to remain unmolested from reckless boaters.  So tomorrow, we could change the law if we wanted, and let boaters run willy-nilly through whale calving grounds or pods of dolphins with babies.  Because it was just a privilege that we were bestowing upon a few wild individual animals.  We wouldn’t really have to explain why a “right” had been compromised, when it was just the kind hand of humans saying, “you’re our property, but we’ll leave the wild property alone.”  Sort of.  For now.

Mrs. Biology-I-am-a-nurse-and-I-really-love-nature, does this sound right to you?  When you taught your children not to pull the dog’s hair – as I’m sure you did – wasn’t it because it wasn’t right to hurt the dog?  Meaning, that dog had a right not to be hurt.  That dog had a right, under the Sun, not to be kicked, beaten, or abused.  Or even have his hair pulled.

Now, there’s not a law there, nor, perhaps, need there be one, as long as our ethics are sufficient to prevent, say, animal abuse.  So it’s clear that I’m not talking about the law so much.  We humans are on a growth curve getting laws in line with our current knowledge, our current awareness.  Always have been.  And so here, our laws are, once again but not surprising, behind the times in relation to science and the ethics that grows from increased knowledge.

But you know this.  You’ve undoubtedly seen in your lifetime and in history books that laws are usually pulling up the rear in ethics and social evolution.  That sometimes our ethics need some corralling by the law.  The end of slavery among  humans.  The Civil Rights movement.  Women getting the vote.  Our ethics were there….almost.  Among some.  Some others needed a legal nudge.

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again.  Dolphin Captivity: you’re either for it, or agin’ it; there’s really no in between.  A dolphin circus is absolutely no ethical excuse for dolphin captivity.  And a dolphin in an aquarium is certainly not a dolphin sighting.

But in case I come off as harsh (which would probably be accurate today), let me ratchet it back and send you to resources that are more measured than I:


2 responses to “Dolphin sighting in The Georgia Aquarium? Is that sick or what?

  1. Thank you for your informed and accurate article. I was astonished at what appeared to be regurgitated Georgia Aquarium PR info and photos in the “Dolphin Sighting” blog. The dolphins housed there don’t seem happy to me. Seems to be a for-profit breeding and forced performance facility. Not exactly what a real science educator would endorse or promote.

  2. Right. And unfortunately, the Georgia Aquarium is preparing for its first birth: the beluga whale named Maris is expecting early this Spring. And the Aquarium has already included on its website a preparation for a stillbirth or newborn death by saying that first births among belugas, both wild and captive, is common.

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