One of the most common goals I see on other people’s list of life goals is to swim with dolphins. I understand why it’s such a popular goal; dolphins are amazing creatures. But swimming with them in the wild seems like a longshot for most people, so they settle for a few minutes with a captive dolphin in a swimming pool.
What we don’t understand, however, is just how evil the captive dolphin industry is. We only see happy dolphins doing tricks for our entertainment. We marvel at their intelligence but never once stop to ask ourselves why such intelligent creatures deserve to spend their life in a concrete tank, doing tricks for dead fish and our amusement?
It’s nothing more than a minstrel show.
Why is it acceptable for us to dominate every creature on this planet simply because we can? Does our intelligence give us an inalienable right to control the destiny of another sentient being? Where is our empathy for other species? How can we walk through life convinced that it’s okay to confine another living creature to a pen or a pool for our amusement? How do we justify that to ourselves?
Our intelligence also provides us with another option: to stand up for what’s right in the face of what’s popular and accepted by society at large.
Anyone who has seen a dolphin knows how intelligent they are. Researchers have suggested that they are as intelligent as humans, and have complex social structures. Why then, do we rip these beautiful animals from the oceans and put them in a concrete pen? How can we patronize businesses such as Sea World or Discovery Cove when it’s nothing more than a prison for the dolphins?
Is it greed? Is it because we want something for our own selfish desires? Is it for that photo-op moment so we can show our friends and brag about how cool we are?
I’m asking anyone who has a list of life goals that includes swimming with dolphins to remove that goal from their list unless they do it in the wild, at the will of the dolphins. Join my Facebook Cause to show your support and pledge your refusal to patronize any captive dolphin programs.
I’ve seen dolphins in the wild, and they are far more amazing in their natural habitat than confined to a concrete prison. I’ve also seen dolphins slaughtered with my own eyes in Taiji, Japan out of greed and sometimes I wonder if death isn’t the better alternative for these creatures rather than a life of captivity doing tricks for stupid humans.
It’s a minstrel show. Jump Dolphin Jump.
To learn more about dolphin captivity, please read this document.
This is a really interesting topic, but I wonder if intelligence is really a legitimate reason. What about all of the remarkably stupid animals out there like the common goldfish? Is it really okay to trap them in a fishbowl for their short life just because they don’t have the same kind of intelligence or social behaviors? Just food for thought when it comes to owning pets and interacting with wildlife at all.
I would say it is a legitimate reason, maybe not the only legitimate reason but a pretty important one, in my opinion. I think animals that are intelligent would tend to suffer more as a result of their intelligence.
I have had the most wonderful and incredible experience swimming with dolphins in the wild in the seas of the British Virgin Islands. It was completely unplanned — we saw them from afar one morning and went after them; we were at it for about two hours. It is one of the most magical moments I can look back on of my life.
I had too been surprised at the amount of people listing this in their list of goals, but I never got to stop and think about the consequences of “trapped” dolphins. Thank you Steve for bringing it out to light.
P.S. I recently discovered your blog and am hooked. Congratulations. I really like your work, and I am glad your life seems to have taken a much deeper and greater meaning, while making it much more fun in the process. Thanks for sharing!
I just think it is sad that people are willing to settle for canned experiences. I can’t imagine how many times better it would be to happen upon wild dolphins and to interact with them than it would be to pay for some pool time with them. I wish people would realize that not every experience can be bought or sold, but that’s what makes sit so special to begin with.
Abby B, Common Goldfish can reach up to 18 inches long. A bowl is absolute cruelty to them as well.
On a recent cruise to Costa Maya I happened upon the “swim with dolphins experience” and when I saw the area they were confined to I felt nothing but sadness. It was so small and I knew they would never get to experience a life outside the small concrete pool they lived in. Reminded me of the poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. Shortly thereafter the trainers came with their buckets of food to entice the “tricks”. All I could do was pray that they were happy and they didn’t remember and miss their life before when they could swim as far as they wanted.
I’m happy that I stumbled across this blog as well! Completely agree with the dolphin swimming, as when I was younger, I did one of the cruiseship excursions, and it sucked to see them in such a small water-based pen.
Knowing that elephants have been listed as just as intelligent as dolphins and chimps, would you still ride one of them as listed in your “bucket list goals”? I’d assume that they are probably kept it tight quarters as well aren’t treated the best.
I’ve always wanted to ride on an elephant but I know they are pretty angry creatures in the wild (at least from the stories you read of them rampaging through forests/crops/villages.
@Bryan: You make a great point about the elephants, and honestly I don’t know what I think. It’s obvious that I wouldn’t want to participate in anything that leads to animal cruelty/captivity, though I wonder if their aren’t legitimate options available that don’t contribute to either. There might be, but there might not be. If I’m ever in the position to accomplish this goal, it’s something I’ll have to consider at that time.
It’s really the same argument as to whether zoos are beneficial or exploitative (or the captive dolphin industry for that matter.) It’s my belief that there really isn’t a black and white answer, but it’s an issue that’s open to interpretation, or on a case to case basis. Some zoos exploit animals, others do work that really does benefit the species. Places like Sea World are obviously exploiting the animals in their care despite the media campaign bragging of all the good they do. Again, it really depends on the facility and their overall mission, and the work they do.
I support facilities that do rehabilitation and release, for any species. But if they’re using these animals for profit, then I don’t support that. If I find a place in Africa with a mission to rehabilitate or preserve elephants in their natural habitats, and they aren’t exploiting them for profit, I’ll make that decision then.
Excellent article. Thanks so much. The voice of commonsense.
Swimming with dolphins is something that most people think is great both for humans and the dolphin. It is not – it is an artificial experience, causing great stress to these beautiful, intelligent creatures. I’m always amazed how ignorant people are on this subject.
Why, oh, why does mankind have to take advantage of nature all the time!?
Thanks for sharing this. Since watching “The Cove” a few years ago, I’ve been trying to spread the word about the brutality of dolphin slaughter and the oppressiveness of dolphin captivity. So many people who pay to see dolphins perform or swim with them have no idea how cruel the industry is.
Thanks Steve for sharing your link. I appreciate the time you took to read my “Finding Nemo”/Dolphin Swimming blog post. I’m going to watch The Cove and do more research. This is the first I’ve heard (or even consider) this to be a bad thing. Abby (your first comment) kind of raised the same question that thought of… “So should we not have dogs, cats, goldfish, etc.) Some pets/animals get cared for better than most humans.
Great post and great site. Like I said, I’m going to continue to educate myself on this topic.
Thanks Phil! I don’t think most people realize that dolphin captivity is such a bad thing because corporations like Sea World have waged the most successful PR campaign of our time to convince us that they are doing good deeds. The more people know about what happens behind the scenes, the less “wonderful” the industry becomes in the eyes of the public.