Not only does corporate giant SeaWorld defend their practice of keeping dolphins and other whales (including orcas) captive in their numerous marine mammal-themed parks, they just insulted animal rights activists – people like you and me – who feel these sentient mammals deserve more than being held as exhibits for profit.
Ever taken a look at SeaWorld’s dolphin tanks? Pretty barren, aren’t they? Not quite the picture SeaWorld paints of a company that “…protects marine mammals and advance[s] cetacean research, rescue and conservation.”
If you haven’t already heard, Virgin Holidays just announced they were stopping ticket sales to tourist attractions that feature captive dolphins and other whales. Says Joe Thompson, Managing Director of Virgin Holidays, “Virgin Holidays has decided to stop selling and promoting captive cetacean (whale and dolphin) experiences, as we look to focus on offering customers more natural, at-distance encounters with these animals. This decision means that we will be ending our long term partnerships with the likes of SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and other similar facilities.”
Dolphin Project commends Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group for taking this crucial step in ending dolphin exploitation.
It all starts – and ends – with ticket sales. If people stop buying tickets to dolphin shows, the corporations that continue to profit off the mammals will get the message that 1) captivity is cruel and 2) the animals deserve better. “Better” as recently acknowledged by the National Aquarium in Baltimore, that they are still moving ahead with their plans to build a dolphin sanctuary within the next two years. Ideally, representatives from the aquarium would present their ongoing research to the CEO’s of marine parks and aquariums that still feature dolphin and other whale captive entertainment, as well as to organizations like IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association). What is needed is a shift in thinking; an update to a very old, and outdated business model, where the mammals are given a proper retirement, and state-of-the-art technology is utilized in providing the public with a real educational cetacean “encounter” where no live animals are used or confined in tanks.
We are disappointed at SeaWorld, who chastised Virgin Holidays for “…succumb[ing] to pressure from animal activists” who, as the corporation claims, “…mislead and manipulate[d] marine mammal science to advance their agendas.” This is pretty alarming, if you consider their claim as being on the forefront of marine mammal protection and advancing cetacean research. How can one be engaged in research and protection, yet condone keeping these very mammals in sterile, artificial environments, where everything from their interactions, to food, to stimulus – everything – is controlled by SeaWorld?
As we have said over and over, if SeaWorld is going to remain a progressive and viable corporation, they need to acknowledge that a mistake was made: keeping dolphins and other whales in captivity is wrong, and thanks to their advancements in cetacean research, realize that the only real way to appreciate these magnificent mammals is to allow them to live as they were meant to live – wild and free. Further, perhaps the corporation should consider sharing their knowledge with institutions such as the National Aquarium so that an industry-wide standard for providing previously captive dolphins and other whales a proper retirement can be established.
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Featured image: Kasatka, SeaWorld, Credit: YouTube, Tilikum16