Should we, humanity, keep dolphins in “cans”?

    29 Jun 2021

    Dolphinariums and zoos – what should we do with them in near future? Animal protection and conservation organizations have been asking themselves this question for decades. Let’s try to make it clear on the example of dolphins.

    Dolphins are wild animals that are accustomed to living in the open sea, hunting for live fish (in dolphinariums they are fed by the iced stuff);

    ·        diving to a depth of 150 meters;

    ·        jumping above the water to 3 meters;

    ·        accelerate to 40 km / h;

    ·        navigate by echolocation and communicate with the help of special sound signals (in the conditions of the pool the covering of walls creates the effect of echo and repeated reflection of sound waves that negatively influences dolphins).

    Being kept in the dolphinariums, their lives change forever. They must restrain most of their natural instincts, live a different daily routine, follow the discipline imposed on them by people, even learn to adapt their vision, because they are accustomed to the underwater lifestyle. In the dolphinarium, they must constantly stay close to the surface, perform tricks. The water in the pool causes to dolphins skin diseases, to prevent this they are constantly eating a special diet of drugs.

    In short: humans cannot provide dolphins with proper housing conditions. Can an animal in such a situation treat children, radiate love and joy? It will never return to the sea and is doomed to live all its life in the pool – for a few years because only some are lucky to live more than a decade.

    “Human adores dolphins! Yes, for your personal pleasure! What cynicism to call their “water friends” creatures who were captured and trained,” said French diver and author of the movies Jacques Mayol.

    “The best way to express our gratitude to the dolphins would be to leave them alone. In many ways, they, no doubt, surpassed us, if only because they do not need anything from us. They don’t need anything! And the main thing that they do not need at all is the mud and debris of the ocean, for which man is responsible. It is the dolphin that man needs, and not vice versa. What can we teach dolphins? What would be useful for them? Wearing a bowler hat like they do in comic plays in large zoo aquariums? To read? Listen to music? The most beautiful music in the world is the sound of the wind, water, cries of birds, sounds of the sea. Wearing a suit? Their skin serves them in all seasons. What then? What do we want to achieve? And I will answer you: we need to get rid of our selfishness. We’re hypocritical. Man loves dolphins! Yes, for my own pleasure, to make them vassals, domestic servants, slaves, robots carrying bombs on their backs. And he is close to it. Dressed up as clowns, aren’t they already languishing in aquatic zoos in all corners of the “civilized society”?” – this is also a quote of Jacques Mayol, one of the greatest divers in the world, multiple world champion in freediving.

    “We need to treat animals differently – with more understanding, and maybe even with reverence. A person has lost contact with nature, built his life on cunning and ingenuity – therefore, he examines animals through a magnifying glass of human knowledge, and it enlarges a feather or wool but distorts the image as a whole. We look down on animals, believing that their fate is regrettable: after all, compared to us, they are very imperfect. But we are mistaken, cruelly mistaken. For it is impossible to approach animals with a human standard. Their world is older than ours and more perfect, and they themselves are more complete and perfect beings than you and me. They have retained many of the feelings that man has lost: they live listening to voices that are inaccessible to our hearing. Animals are no less our brothers and not poor relatives, they are other peoples, who have fallen with us into the web of life, into the web of time; just like us, prisoners of earthly splendor and earthly suffering,” said an American writer and naturalist Henry Beston in his book “The Outermost House”.

    And what the emotionless international laws say?

    Dolphins are listed in the International Red List (IUCN);

    dolphins are protected by the Bern and Bonn conventions.

    If so, all further questions disappear. If environmentalists say their hard “no”, then there will always be an “uncomfortable” question: how does the life of a dolphin in a “can” with a meager area for a sea animal differ from the life of a wild animal in an aviary?

    Further. From what position does the environmental movement oppose the dolphinarium?

    If activists are so-called abolitionists (radical wing), they must be against the existence of enclosed spaces for animals in general, as well as against slaughterhouses and other places and types of animal exploitation.

    If the movement against commercial dolphinariums adheres to the concept of “animal welfare” (moderate wing), it is not against zoos and dolphinariums, but for “humane” conditions of keeping animals. This is in a very rough approximation.

    I, together with other Ukrainian participants in the campaign against commercial dolphinariums, have taken an intermediate position in this ideological dispute, which has been going on for more than a year and in more than one country. More precisely, the issue of ideology is simply not considered by the participants.

    Regarding the first question, there is an answer: if the inhabitants of the zoo live in a more or less natural environment, see trees, hear natural sounds and breathe the usual air, then for the dolphin to create authentic conditions (exact chemical composition of water, large area for movement, habitual food) impossible.

    On the second question. The campaign in Ukraine aims to close all landlocked dolphinariums. The second goal of the campaign is to block the owners of commercial dolphinariums from constantly replenishing their collection – illegal catching of dolphins in the Black Sea, supplies from the Russian Federation, and even Japan.

    If you strictly follow the letter of the law, then after a few years of such a policy, dolphins in dolphinariums will die a natural death. And there will simply be no new replenishment, as removal from the natural environment and import of animals listed in the Red Book of Ukraine are prohibited. There will be only one source of replenishment – the reproduction of dolphins in captivity. Experience shows that these animals breed in dolphinariums quite rarely. For a fast-paced business flow, it is an unprofitable and unreliable source of animals for spectacles.

    Thus, the problem of “animal welfare”, in this case – dolphins – is pushed to the background and disputes in this regard simply do not arise. Environmentalists have a clear scheme: there is a law – it is obeyed – there are no dolphins left in dolphinariums.

    Instead, environmentalists should put forward a constructive program for the development of the zoos in Ukraine and in other countries too. It should be as follows: the transformation of the zoos into a bioparks, the reorientation of the very idea of ​​the zoo from entertainment for people to the preservation of wildlife.

    And also – stopping the purchase of animals from other climatic zones. Focus on making the zoo a center for keeping animals confiscated from smugglers and poachers.

    Bioparks are a topical issue for Europe. You can get acquainted with their experience on the example of a biopark in the Spanish city of Fuengirola, where “immersion in the natural environment” is practiced.

    Imagine alternatives to keeping exotic animals, which are also attractive to visitors (both adults and children): aquashows with professional swimmers, colorful spectacles without the participation of dolphins and other inhabitants of the sea. Therefore, there are examples – Australia, Canada, and other countries have long successfully abandoned the use of animals as such in circus performances, and Greece recently, in 2012, legislated to prohibit such use.

    So, the use of dolphins for commercial purposes has become out of fashion and is generally considered non-ethical and barbaric.

    You may read about the activists’ struggle for dolphins and whales in Russian Federation in our “Born to be free” movie review.

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