We at Ocean Justice are fully and completely against those Dolphin Swimming Experiences/Interactions – you know, swimming with the dolphins, interacting with them at those parks and resorts, getting a picture. We see this as a forced servitude of an emotionally aware, intelligent and family oriented species. They did not choose that existence; they were ripped from their families, friends and children and forced into a situation for amusement.
They (the dolphins) were sold to a person or company to make money.
I spent several hours reading stories of survivors of human trafficking for this blog, how they were tricked or forced, the daily torture of their existence, the long hours, the loss of spirit, humanity and pain. Human trafficking is a modern-day horror for those caught in the web. I do not minimize it for the sake of making this comparison. Indeed, it actually made me ill reading these stories, because I have daughters.
I need to share a heart-wrenching revelation.
Many of our strengths as people come from compassion, an ability to love, to project, think, wonder and see past the window dressing of marketing and lies and comprehend a different reality. We need analogies; we need extrapolation to understand – compared to what. That’s why I decided to wade into this pool of comparison, to hopefully change minds, to stop really nice people from signing up for dolphin interaction experiences, to ask questions, and think about outcomes.
When you sign up to swim with the dolphins, pay your fee (upwards of $125), get that $25 professional photo (in a cute frame), do a quick selfie, pat the head of the dolphin, and you get to experience a few moments of pleasure – when in fact you are creating harm. After you move on – the next family or group will do the same – 10 hours a day for years on end until the captive being finally dies. The dolphin has no choice, its living conditions are barely tolerable (remember they lived in pod (family) free to roam the ocean), their food is cut, prepared and doled out in just enough volume to keep them subservient.
And this is where I had a gut-churning revelation and see a comparison to those tricked or forced into prostitution. The “john” doesn’t care about the person’s background, how they are feeling, where their parents are today, if she or he really wants to be there – they exist for a moment’s pleasure, nothing else. Those forced into the sex trades work 14 to 15 hours a day, dealing with upwards of 20+ paying customers, day after day sometimes for years until they die or are rescued. The “john’ refuses to think, refuses to care, and the harm he caused, is quickly forgotten.
Here’s my point – lack of compassion.
• Human trafficking exists because those who trick or force are cruel, those who use the children, women and boys for sex and labor are heartless, and the public is detached because it refuses to see the problem.
• Dolphin captivity exists because those who hunt and enslave are cruel, those who sell the dolphins are heartless and greedy, and those who swim and pet them are uneducated or frankly just don’t care. After all, they are just animals, right? They look like they are smiling, so they must be happy. Is that the logic you use?
In order to gain compassion, you need to be educated and understanding
Dr. Denise Herzing is one of the top cetacean scientists in the world, who has spent the past 30 years living with dolphins in the Caribbean, following generations of spotted dolphins and journal her findings. Her book, peer reviewed reports, social media inclusions are fascinating and eye-opening. Much like Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey, Dr. Herzing has charted new territory in the understanding of dolphin culture that allows one to see the amazing similarities between ourselves and our cousins under the sea. Her research and dedication is groundbreaking, and it allowed me, and tens of thousands of others to understand dolphins in new ways.
When you look at the list below, how many of these traits do you have or do your kids have?
• Dolphins create lifelong friendships
• They are highly emotional beings
• They mourn their dead and experience depression
• They are sexual beings, and it’s a vital part of their culture
• The young females are charged with babysitting duties
• They hold “hands” and touch in friendship, and enjoy each other’s company
• Dolphins play games, have rules
• They have a hierarchy of respect for each other
• Dolphin parents discipline their children when acting up
• Skills are passed on from generation to generation
• Each dolphin has its own name, given at birth
• They are curious beings and explore their surroundings
• Many dolphins find humans interesting, and in some cases friendships are formed
And of course there is so much more we don’t fully understand, but as the evidence mounts, the case for banning captivity also grows. More importantly the case for ending the dolphin interaction experiences around the world also grows. These for profit businesses are born of cruelty and continue because of your patronage.
The only way captivity of dolphins can occur is through violence, they must be torn from their family, their friends, and their territory and forced into a boat and shipped to a tank. Their loved ones will grieve, their friends will long for their return, and fear will be reinforced around human presence. Will you think of that when you are posing with the dolphin? Who was his or her mother? Does the dolphin miss its family, its best friend, or its child? Does it miss hunting, exploring, playing, and resting? Does he or she miss the smells, sounds, waves, corals, and seaweeds of its home?
Would he or she enjoy a break from the daily interactions of screaming human children, being touched constantly by rough fingers, poked and prodded, laughed at and jeered?
Can you imagine the torture of such an existence?
The answer is yes, yes you can.
** Read Dr. Herzing’s book – Dolphin Diaries – available on Amazon