May 21, 2009
As the summer travel season kicks into high gear and families begin making trips to watch performances by dolphins, orcas (killer whales), seals and sea lions in marine parks, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have issued the fourth edition of their in-depth report, The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity to educate tourists about the suffering that goes on behind the scenes.
The fourth edition of the report reflects the changing nature of the captive display industry. While some display facilities have closed in the United States and Europe, more have opened in the Caribbean and Asia, where few or no regulatory restrictions exist. The demand from the tourism industry for marine mammal attractions at these facilities has resulted in increasing live animal captures from wild populations, particularly in Asia, the Caribbean, Russia and the South Pacific. The capture methods employed are inhumane and result in numerous deaths. One particularly brutal hunt occurs annually in Japan.
For decades marine attractions around the world have marketed themselves as invaluable enterprises that contribute significantly to the research, conservation and public appreciation of marine species. The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity uses the latest research to debunk these claims. For example, the primary justification for the public display of marine mammals is the educational benefit of these exhibits. However, no objective, detailed evaluation of the effectiveness of educational programs offered by marine theme parks and aquaria has ever been published. In addition, public display is often justified with the argument that essential scientific research is conducted on captive animals. However, captive animals are rarely considered ideal research subjects when attempting to answer questions related to wild populations and conservation. Furthermore, fewer than 5 to 10 percent of zoos and aquaria are involved in substantial conservation programs and the amount spent on these programs is a mere fraction of the income generated by the facilities. Simply exhibiting wildlife cannot be considered as conservation or education.
Marine mammals are some of the most charismatic creatures on the planet and it is certainly understandable that people are drawn to them. However, the ethical concerns of keeping marine mammals in captivity must outweigh our own entertainment. WSPA and the HSUS believe there can be no justification for subjecting these animals to traumatic captures and an impoverished quality of life. The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity exposes the behind-the-scenes suffering of these animals and seeks to change the public’s perception of captivity.
Please visit Free the Dolphins for more information.