Thursday, August 22, 2013

Op-Ed - The Right Side of History: Why Parents Need to Stop Taking their Children to See Marine Mammals in Captive Facilities

The Right Side of History:
Why Parents Need to Stop Taking their Children to See Marine Mammals in Captive Facilities
by Kathryn Sussman

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated."- Mahatma Gandhi

Parents today often unknowingly do a dreadful disservice to their children by taking them to visit marine mammals in captive facilities such as Sea World and Marineland. It is completely understandable why this mistake occurs, and ironically, more often than not, it is made by adults who are themselves great animal lovers. Parents want their children to love and respect the environment, the planet, and the majestic and mystifying creatures that make our world the incredible and stunning place that it is. They want to give their children the experience of seeing up close and, if possible, interacting with the beauty, intelligence, warmth and playfulness of these most wondrous beings.

Visits to these facilities, however, are unfortunately funding a complicated process of animal cruelty and exploitation. These kinds of private, for-profit parks that use marine mammals as exhibits and worse, that make them do tricks in swimming pools – in the industry known as “behaviours” – is not to the benefit of anyone involved except, of course, the private owners of these facilities who reap enormous financial rewards.

The great news is that all it takes to break this cycle is gaining an awareness of the problem. Once a parent becomes aware of the harm involved in keeping these mammals captive in entertainment facilities, he or she can instantly change his or her thinking and take the immediate step of boycotting them.

This awareness comes about from knowledge of the following facts:

1. In the wild, orcas can swim up to a hundred miles or more per day while dolphins will swim up to fifty miles per day.

2. An orca pod's social structure is highly complex and matriarchal. Orca families stay together for their entire lives. Dolphins are also highly social mammals who travel in pods.

3. Dolphins are thought to be one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, sentient and self-aware. They can experience empathy.

4. The process of capturing orcas, belugas and dolphins is violent and horrific. Entire pods are rounded up and the young are separated from their mothers and plucked out to be shipped off to aquariums around the world. In the past, entire pods have been wiped out because of this destructive process.

5. Orcas are more likely to die in transit than to survive.

6. It is a fact that orcas do not live as long in captivity. In the wild, orcas, on average, can live from fifty to eighty years. In captivity, on average, they live a fraction of that. They die early and they die often. Aquariums like Marineland often do not have a valid explanation as to why they die.

8. Orcas, belugas and dolphins in captivity suffer from skin and eye problems due to poor water conditions. They suffer from poor oral health and often experience neurosis from the boredom of isolation.

As parents and animal lovers, it is our job to teach our children to think about protection over personal pleasure, to have empathy for animals, and to try and imagine life from inside the swimming pool. It is our responsibility to weigh the benefits of seeing or possibly even touching these animals up close, and the pleasure that is derived from these acts, with the multitudinous levels of harm inflicted on these mammals for such pleasures.

The next time your child expresses an interest in going to one of these facilities, be empathetic about the disappointment he or she may feel when you explain it is not best for these mammals to visit them in such locations. But then explain how it is crucial to think first about the animals and their well-being rather than our own gratification from seeing them. This is how love works. We put the needs of those we love ahead of our own.

Offer other exciting options to your children, of which there are a myriad from which to choose: Read to them about marine mammals, show them drawings and pictures, buy them whale and dolphin toys, download marine mammal apps, play them films and marine mammal sounds cd's, take them to interactive exhibits, take them whale watching on the ocean, or visit rehabilitative establishments if at all possible. These activities will serve to increase their love of and mystique for cetaceans. After all, love shouldn't come with the price tag of harm and cruelty.

Today many parents are more likely to take their children to Cirque du Soleil than to a circus that still uses and exploits animals. Many of us would want to visit non profit facilities that focus on rehabilitation and retirement or even release than privately for-profit run facilities. So let us take the next step and start to protect marine mammals too: these shockingly intelligent beings who have slipped through the legislative cracks. Let us work together to join other countries in preventing holding cetaceans in captivity for entertainment and exhibition such as The United Kingdom, Brazil, Italy, Hungary, Chile, Costa Rica and most recently India.

It is a choice to be on the right side of history; one for which your children and your conscience will thank you.

1 comment:

  1. education needs to come from an early age.. schools should be doing more to promote the need to stop families going to these places