Dispelling the Arguments of Captivity Proponents
Our animals love to entertain and are always smiling.
A dolphin's smile is a product of its anatomy. Dolphins and other cetaceans suffer stress and anxiety when kept in captivity, particularly when there is no enrichment or when housed with incompatible animals. Medications are routinely given to dolphins to treat ulcers and other medical conditions associated with mental and physical duress.
Captivity is necessary for breeding programs.
There are no self-sustaining captive populations and animals are needed from the wild to maintain genetic viability. Bottlenose dolphins and orcas are the only cetaceans who have been bred with some success, but even these do not have self-sustaining captive populations and offspring are almost never returned to the wild.
Our captive animals teach people about conservation.
The overwhelming majority of cetacean species kept in aquariums are not endangered or threatened. Further, animals are almost never returned to the wild, which should be part of an effective conservation program.
Our captive animals are ambassadors for their species, educating the public about their wild cousins.
Most surveys have shown that the overwhelming majority of patrons to dolphin entertainment facilities go to be entertained, not educated. The dolphin parks know this and provide entertainment, in the form of shows, tricks and stunts. They may throw out a few facts and figures to make people feel good about why they are there, but entertainment is the overriding reason for the existence of these parks. The type of education that is provided is mis-education - that dolphin capture and/or captivity is acceptable, that tail slapping, walking on water and leaping up to jump through a hoop are all natural and "fun" for the animals.
We couldn't do our conservation work without the money we receive from our customers.
The money spent by captive facilities and subsidiary entities on conservation projects is miniscule compared to the profits that are made with dolphin shows, swim-with programs and other entertainments. Very few facilities even have conservation programs and those that do spent only a fraction of what they take in on conservation or stranding response.
Our captive animals are protected from the horrors of nature.
Cetaceans have evolved to live and die in the wild and have their place in the marine ecosystem. Many captive animals - depending on the species - do not live nearly as long as their wild counterparts. Given the natural threats to wild animals, this raises the question as to why these supposedly "protected" animals would die sooner. The answer could be a combination of things - stress, ingestion of foreign objects, poor care, disease, aggression from other animals, lack of proper development, or lack of maternal skill by mothers who themselves have been born in captivity. For some cetaceans, mortality rates for captive animals are far higher than wild animals. Orcas and belugas - two of the most common captive cetaceans - do not do well in captivity. The average life span of an orca in the wild is 60-years for males and 80-90 years for females. Of the orcas held in captivity (captive-bred or wild caught) since 1961, only two animals out of 193 have survived past 35 years of age.
Our captive animals have been saved from a brutal death.
This argument is often put forth by aquariums which have sourced their animals from Japanese dolphin drive hunts. The drive hunts are incredibly brutal, with animals chased, herded and then killed for their meat. In recent years, recognizing the rewards to be gained from selling live dolphins to aquariums, the drive hunters have allowed aquariums to select some of the hunted dolphins at a price far higher than that of a dead dolphin. In some cases, however, without the demand from the aquarium industry the drives would not even take place. (And some believe that a long, slow death in captivity is far worse than a cruel, but quicker death at the hands of a drive hunter.)