Friday, November 8, 2013

Blackfish and The Cove: My challenges to you

When it comes to the natural world, we humans are some of the most selfish creatures God put on this earth. I am tired of trying to saying this nicely. I’m tired of trying to be politically correct. There aren’t a whole lot of “issues” I get on a soapbox about, but people, we have to stop supporting dolphin and orca shows (and other similar exhibits). We have to.

A couple years ago, I watched The Cove, a documentary about how marine parks of all types and sizes acquire the dolphins they use in their shows. Ever gone to one of those? Ever had a “dolphin experience”? Well, “your” dolphins were there (in captivity, remember) because they were stolen from their home—oh, and their friends and families were murdered in the infamous cove.

So here’s my first challenge: Be human enough to watch The Cove. It will take less than two hours of your time. It will cost you MUCH less (in dollars) than it would cost to go to a dolphin show or participate in a “dolphin experience,” and it will change the way you look at those parks for the rest of your life. I guarantee it.

Tonight I watched Blackfish, a documentary about orcas—killer whales—in captivity for our enjoyment. Here’s what I learned in Blackfish:

(1) Orcas are very social creatures. That’s why they strand themselves in huge numbers on beaches. They refuse to leave each other’s side.

(2) Females live as long as human females—sometimes even beyond a hundred years. Males live at least fifty or sixty years. Sea World will tell you that when the orcas in their custody live to be twenty or twenty-five or even thirty, they’re living longer than those in the wild. Sea World lies.

(3) A female’s offspring remains with her for ALL OF ITS LIFE. All of its life, that is, unless it is stolen by captors working for Sea World and other groups like them.

(4) An orca trainer is never really safe with the orca. After decades in a small pool (compared to the ocean where they can swim a hundred miles a day if they want!), being deprived of food, being contained with other orcas who can be aggressive and cause physical injuries, some orcas get frustrated and take that frustration out on their trainers. How happy would you be after spending twenty-five years in a bathtub?

So here’s my next challenge: Watch Blackfish. It will take much less than two hours of your time, and you will be a better person for it. You will think differently about what we as “the intelligent species” do to those other species who are “less intelligent” (except orcas feel emotions more deeply than we do and in ways we aren’t capable of).

My third, final, and biggest challenge is this: Stop supporting these places. Stop going.

See, here’s the thing: Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Your kids don’t HAVE to see those shows. Your kids don’t HAVE to swim with the dolphins. They will not grow up to be better people for having done so, but you will have contributed to the early deaths of these amazing creatures by supporting the companies that put them on display. Thousands of dolphins are killed every year off the coast of Taiji as new dolphins are caught and sold for these shows. Orcas die many decades sooner than they should after living horrible, sad lives in tiny little fish bowls. Why? So you could have an hour’s worth of entertainment?

We need, as the human race to be different and better than this. It should matter to all of us. Instead of taking your kids to these shows, educate them about these animals, about  amazing creatures with whom we get to share this world. Rent videos. If you can afford to do so, take them on a whale-watching tour. Teach them to respect the natural world, to stand in awe of it, not to try to manipulate it for their own enjoyment. Then they will be better people. 

We're the only ones who can end these shameful, harmful acts against nature. It's up to us. What are you going to do?

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