A dolphin casts the illusion that it is always smiling. However, that’s actually just the way their jaw is shaped. In fact, they have as wide a range of emotions as humans do. Cetaceans are extremely intelligent creatures. Despite the fact that dolphins have paralimbic systems in their brain, that strengthen their sense of emotion, dolphinariums fail to acknowledge that keeping them in captivity is inhumane. Even though science has proven how cetaceans have evolved, dolphinariums and other marine parks continue to keep them imprisoned.
For 50 years, SeaWorld has used marine mammals primarily for entertainment purposes, claiming it provides an “educational experience” for their visitors. But in reality, SeaWorld lies to their visitors and even their employees. They constantly argue that orcas live longer in captivity than they do in the wild. That is patently untrue. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), orcas typically live 30-60 years in the wild (females can live even longer). However, their lifespan is greatly reduced in captivity. Orcas are lucky to make it past the current average of 14.
In addition to flat-out lies, SeaWorld attempts to sugarcoat a variety of things. Cetaceans have extremely strong social bonds, and male orcas will often spend their entire lives with their mothers in the wild. Yet SeaWorld has callously separated 25 orcas from their mothers, transporting calves to completely different parts of the world. They claim the orcas trapped in their small tanks are a family, but that’s hogwash. An artificial collection of orcas from different geographic locations who speak different languages is no family.
Jim Atchison, the CEO and President of SeaWorld, refuses to change the business model of his company, which many believe is a big mistake. Orcas may be a main part of SeaWorld’s business, but business models can change, and often for the better. SeaWorld has the potential to be an educational and fun amusement park, teaching people about the amazing biodiversity of the oceans and why it is urgent we do everything we can to conserve and protect it. Nonetheless, SeaWorld recently announced their plan to build bigger tanks for the orcas. Wrong path to go down, SeaWorld.
The next time you see a captive cetacean, remember that their expression can be deceiving. Look into their eyes and you will see an ocean of suffering swelling in the mind of an intelligent being. Facilities that hold marine mammals captive need to release those animals back into their natural habitats or sea sanctuaries and end their cruel breeding programs. Cetaceans do not belong in a concrete box. It’s time to empty the tanks!