"We need captive cetaceans so we can study them!"
It is true that in the beginning of the captivity industry we did learn things from captive cetaceans. However, that time has long since passed. We have had these animals in tanks for over fifty years now, and everything that could be studied has already been studied. With all the great advances in technology this past decade, we have been able to study wild cetaceans in ways we have never been able to before. With the use of drones in the Pacific Northwest, scientists are now able to get aerial photos of orcas to determine if they are pregnant, and even view photos of behaviors that we don't normally see on a boat. The only real reason the cetaceans are kept in marine parks now is for entertainment. Scientifically speaking, Dolphinariums are now obsolete.
"Without these animals in captivity, no one would ever see them! Whale watching is too expensive!"
Often time’s whale watching is less expensive than a ticket to a marine park. With the cost of entrance, plus food, drink, souvenirs, creates a very expensive vacation. On the other hand, we have whale watching. Whale watching services do their best to allow you to view these animals at a safe and natural distance, and on the rare times when the boats don't come across whales, most companies provide free tickets to come back again another day. Not to mention that even if you don't see any cetaceans, there are other beautiful types of flora and fauna to view. Land base whale watching also provides amazing views and up close experiences with the animals, without disrupting their natural behaviors. And, for the most part, land base whale watching is free.
"They're ambassadors to their wild counterparts!"
These animals never asked to be "ambassadors of their species". Not only that, marine parks often show an inaccurate representation of the animals. For example, SeaWorld often shows their killer whales as cute and cuddly teddy bears that just want a hug. In reality Orcas are top predators of the ocean that are powerful, and they are not to be meddled with. Giving an untruthful picture of a species is not showing what the species is all about.
"Cetaceans don't swim long distances in captivity because they don't need to!"
Or, rather, they are unable to. Tanks are highly confined and cetaceans are unable to swim in straight lines, unlike in the wild where they have the capability to swim far and wide, without barriers.
Feel free to copy and paste these arguments during debates, and check back for more of these on a regular basis!
"The ocean is a scary place! In the wild they don't get top-notch veterinary care. In captivity, they do."
In the wild, cetaceans don't need veterinary care. These animals have evolved for hundreds of millions of years and are designed to live in an oceanic environment. And when they do get sick, they will often beach themselves. Unfortunately there are no hospitals in the ocean, but we are able to take them in for rehabilitation to help them grow strong again, and then we can release them back into the sea. Isn't it odd however, that if captive cetaceans do indeed have "top-notch veterinary care" that they often get sick with diseases and conditions that cetaceans don't get in the wild? And not a single orca in captivity has died of old age?
"But the bond between the trainers and animals is so strong! You can't break that up!"
The relationship between cetaceans and their trainers is an unfair one, as they are captive and they don't have a choice to who takes care of them. If anything, the trainer-animal "relationship" is akin to one of a prisoner and a guard.
Many times, cetacean captivity proponents come up with outlandish ways to justify cetacean captivity. Learn common arguments, and how to address them below.
"It's my right to see these animals!"
No, it is not. It is no one’s right to see any animal. It's a privilege.
"But the park that keeps the cetaceans does so much rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation work!"
While those things are good, that is no excuse to keeping cetaceans in captivity. You can have a rescue program without having whales and dolphins in captivity.
"You're humanizing the animals by saying that they're unhappy!"
At the same time, pro-captivity advocates will often say that the animals are happy and healthy. Double standards? But we digress. We know that these cetaceans health are being compromised by captivity due to their behaviors. An animal that lies motionless at the surface for hours, bites of the metal bars and sides of the tank, acts aggressively to the others in their environment, is not a "happy, healthy animal".
Photo credit: JMcArthur / We Animals
"We need cetaceans in captivity to get people to care about them."
There are millions of people who have never seen a humpback whale, but the majority of the population will agree that they are majestic and beautiful creatures that need protection. Humpback whales have never been kept in captivity, yet people still care about them due to books, documentaries, music, and so much more. We are able to create love and awareness for these animals without having them in a tank, and if we can do that for humpback whales, then there is no reason to have other cetaceans in captivity, especially considering almost all cetaceans are well known and loved.
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