CAPTIVITY: Right or Wrong?

by Simo

I will state my position from the get-go quite clearly: dolphins do not belong in concrete boxes under any conditions for any reason whatsoever.

I am not one who is normally given to extremism; I naturally distrust dogma and absolutism in whatever form it may take. On this issue, however, there is no "wiggle room".

* )  The Education Canard:

For my part, I believe in the value of and the need for keeping some dolphins in captivity. People need to get to know and learn and care about these marvelous creatures
-- Dr. Carol J. Howard

June, 1981:

This summer, father, still with NCR then, somehow finagled airline fares for mother and me to accompany him on a trip to Rancho Bernardo on NCR business. Father got the bright idea to take us all to Sea World in San Diego. I insisted that I didn't want to go. If they wanted to, fine, let me stay behind at the hotel and I would catch up on some soap operas. He insisted I would go, and, as I could sense an impending scream-fest, against my better judgment, I gave in.

Ill spare you the details. What I saw at Sea World was, without a doubt, one of the most disgusting spectacles it has ever been my misfortune to witness. I'll concede Dr. Howards point: it was very educational. It was a case study in anthropocentric arrogance. The lesson: its OKAY to take intelligent, and sensitive, though defenseless, beings and completely subvert their will to that of the trainer. Do you suppose the gaping primates in the stands came to know and learn and care about these marvelous creatures as they emitted screams of simian delight at the sight of dolphins aping basketball players or game show contestants? Did they take home, do you suppose, a deeper appreciation of, and greater respect for Tursiops Truncatus? Or did they take home something else entirely? (One can rightly suspect a hidden agenda at work here. Is it more, or less, likely someone would agree with the idea that the dolphin may be mans intellectual equal after spending a couple of hours watching dolphins making fools of themselves?) Is this the kind of "education" people especially children need: that might makes right? Ignorance is far less harmful than this "education". What is being taught here is nothing less than mans most ignorant ideas from his pre-scientific, pre-technological, semi-civilized (at best) barbarian past.

It is high time the human race put aside the childish things of its infancy and grow the fuck up!

The "Concern" Canard:

I doubt there would have been a public outcry over dolphins killed in tuna nets if so many hadnt had the opportunity to appreciate dolphins in zoos and aquariums.
--Dr. Carol J. Howard

Here is a fine example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, because of this) fallacy. It assumes that, since event A preceded event B in time, A must have caused B. There is no evidence that the captive dolphin industry ever had anything to do with it. In Japan, in 1978, there were ten oceanaria holding captive dolphins. Three years later, at Iki Island, thousands of dolphins and other small cetaceans would be slaughtered senselessly as the local fishermen refused to accept responsibility for their having over-fished the area. The Japanese were genuinely surprised at the worlds reaction. Regarding their anticipation of American reaction and intentions, this was a miscalculation second only to that little faux pas of December 7, 1941. They tried to hang tough; after all, it wasn't any of the "Yankees" (or other meddlesome Westerners) damn business. They finally decided to capitulate when it began to look like Western disapproval of Japanese conduct was about to transform into an acceptable anti-Japanese racism, the likes of which hadn't been seen since WW II. Today, Japan still leads the world in industrialized cetocide. Those ten oceanaria and their captive dolphins sure did a wonderful job in reshaping the Japanese publics attitude towards cetaceans!

What, exactly, has the dolphin slave industry done to foster any concern? During the time the Japanese were savagely attacking the local dolphins, during the time that the tuna fishing industry was killing thousands of dolphins in purse seine nets, "$leazy World" was selling tuna fish sandwiches in their cafeterias and snack bars. Nor did the docents mention word one about any of this, let alone encourage the guests to write letters of protest. All the time, they were silent on these issues. Thanks guys: thanks for nothing.

In 1983, public outrage forced the government (an authoritarian dictatorship) of Turkey to call off the annual Black Sea porpoise hunt. How many oceanaria are there in Turkey? Not a one, zero, zip, zilch, nada. Nuff said.

The Pseudo-Environmentalist Canard:

Animal rights activists argue that we should go out and see them [dolphins] in the wild. Most people never get that opportunity. If they did, if we could arrange for all the millions of people who see captive dolphins each year to get out to see dolphins in their natural habitat, we would undoubtedly destroy that habitat in the process, inundating dolphins with our presence.
--Dr. Carol J. Howard

Let me see. Its wrong to inundate free dolphins, who can always swim away, with our presence, yet right to inundate captive dolphins, who can't swim away, with our presence as screaming mobs at a marine circus. Do I have this straight? Did most of those millions go to those marine circuses specifically to see dolphins? Or did they go simply because they happened to see an advertisement that put the idea in their heads? If there were no captive dolphin industry, would they all put to sea to see dolphins, or would they find something else to occupy their time? In southern Florida, if you want to see dolphins in their natural habitat, simply stake out a spot on any beach and be patient. Chances are you won't have to wait too long. How is simply standing and watching going to destroy the dolphins natural habitat? There are also many excellent documentaries about dolphins that were made in the wild without any recourse to captivity (i.e. Dolphins at the Omnimax Theaters, several by Wade Doak).

The We Just Cant Let Them Go Canard:

Some animal rights activists argue that all captive dolphins should be set free, without any regard to how long they've been in captivity or their readiness for life in the wild again. They simply assume the dolphin will be healthier and happier in the ocean. Not necessarily. It could be a bit like taking a person who's lived in the city for twenty years, setting him naked in the woods, and saying, There, now you're free be happy The idea of releasing dolphins that (sic) were born in captivity seems largely untenable. Captive born dolphins are unlikely to make it in the wild, inexperienced as they are in catching their own food, and in dealing [with] predators.
--Dr. Carol J. Howard

Interesting argument here. Dr. Howard concedes that the dolphin, just like the human, has no instincts not even for something as basic as survival itself(!) (Then, again, whenever have JADAs been bothered by self-contradictions or other logical fallacies? A strange consistency is indeed the hobgoblin of little minds.) I will gladly agree with Dr. Howard: everything that dolphins know, they learn. Therefore, it does not matter in the slightest when the learning occurs: childhood or adulthood. Richard O'Barry has successfully rehabilitated about a dozen ex-captive dolphins to freedom. How does he do it? His method can be summed up in ten words: give them the opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Dolphins catch on very fast when given the chance to learn..

Releasing captive dolphins doesn't disrupt existing pods: this is a bald-faced lie. Captive dolphins can be rehabilitated in groups, and then released, as a ready-made pod. Nor are dolphin pods restrictive structures, such as an exclusive country club. They form, merge, break up, and reform all the time..

The locals are probably also genetically adapted for life in their particular ecosystem, and the new dolphins could weaken their genetic stock Is Dr. Howard for real? New blood weakens the genetic stock?(!) Has the good doctor never heard of inbreeding???? Which genetic stocks are stronger: pure bred dogs, or mutts? Where do you see the most problems (i.e. hip dysplasia, congenital deafness or blindness, or other problems) among the pure breeds or the mutts? This argument is asinine on its face.

Captive born animals also could disrupt the wild community into which they are placed. Often the population in a given area is apt to be at or near the maximum of what the environment will hold, so bringing in additional dolphins could put stress on the existing group. (Would these be the same captive born dolphins who would be unlikely to make it in the wild? I thought their release was "untenable".) Lets do some math. There are about 2700 captive dolphins; the free population is some 150 million:

(150 X 106 + 2700)/(150 X 106)= 1.000018 (100.0018%)

If all captive dolphins were to be released at once, the population would soar by a whopping 0.0018% -- what devastating "eco-system pressure"!

"They [captive dolphins] also could bring in new diseases for which the local community is unprepared and lacks natural immunity." So don't release sick dolphins. Duh!

Some may object to the notion of developing a captive-bred strain making 'dogs' of dolphins. I confess I'm not eager to see the Pekinese equivalent of a dolphin. We can't rightfully object to that however, without arguing similarly that all domestication of animals is wrong dogs, cats, horses, and sheep should all be set free, by that logic.
-- Dr. Carol J. Howard

Oh yes we can! The underlying premise: dolphin == dog == cat == horse == sheep is false: therefore the argument collapses. The fallacy is certain. Dolphins have saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands (during WW II alone), of human beings over the ages. Additional new cases occur each and every year. Care giving, even within species, is very rare in the animal world. Care giving directed at species vastly different from that of the care giver in a word: compassion is known to occur in just three species out of about two million: Homo Sapiens, Tursiops Truncatus and Delphinus Delphis. The JADAs know perfectly well that this is a sufficient reason to split dolphins off from the rest of the animal kingdom. This is why they have spent the greater part of three centuries in efforts to deny that dolphins engage in such generalized care-giving, even going so far as to concoct an outrageous lie (see The JADA Proposition for more details). Therefore: (man == dolphin)> animals. If this is too extreme for you, lets compromise: man>= dolphin> animals. If you wont accept even that, then at least be consistent in your thinking: man == dolphin == dog == cat == horse == sheep. In any case, dolphins are of far greater moral worth than other animals, and we humans have no right breeding them like so many dogs

The Sad Saga of Dolphins Plus

Good Intentions Gone Bad

In the spring of 1986, I happened to peruse a supermarket scandal rag. Of all such so-called newspapers this one in particular was the most disreputable of them all. Had I read in this paper that: 2 + 2= 4, I would not believe it until I'd checked it out for myself. There was an article about an outfit down in Florida called "Dolphins Plus", where you could actually swim with dolphins. "HOT DAMN!", I think to myself. I called information and there was an actual listing for a Dolphins Plus! (One of the few occasions where this paper reported a truth.) I called the number, and it was just as the article described! I asked questions concerning how their program worked, where they got the dolphins, how they were treated. I had some reservations about their using captive dolphins, yet decided to fly to Key Largo (well, actually Miami) to check it out. Had I seen anything I didnt like, I'd've been on the next flight out of there.

Upon arrival, I met the founder, Mr. Lloyd Borguss. Yes, they did use captive dolphins; Borguss had caught them off the west coast of Florida. However, he assured me that all the dolphins (there were four) were let out, every day, into a canal nearly a mile long, cutting clear across the Key, as Borguss felt that no cage was large enough for any dolphin. The sea pens weren't so much to keep the dolphins in, but to keep the vermin (including the two-legged variety) out. (Dolphins Plus has sea pens that are larger than the tanks at most oceanaria.) Even that wasn't good enough. Even though the dolphins wouldnt leave the canal (Borguss didnt know why) he used a motorboat to lead groups of dolphins out of the canal and into the Atlantic. They always came back, of their own free will, so I figured they must have been well treated, otherwise the name would've had to have been changed to "Dolphins Minus" or even "Dolphins Zero". Mr. Borguss also claimed that he did not want the dolphins to forget what it was like to live in the sea as he planned to release them to freedom in the future. The plan was to build a rehab facility on Floridas "Gold Coast" so the dolphins could return to the waters whence they came.

As to how Dolphins Plus came into being: Mr. Borguss claimed that originally hed wanted to work as a dolphin trainer. Every oceanarium he checked out forced the dolphins to perform by under feeding them. While a ration of 11 pounds of fish per diemsounds like a lot, an adult dolphin requires some 15 to 18 pounds of fish a day. The dolphins perform to make up the difference. This was SOP at every oceanarium in the world with but one exception: a small oceanarium located in Germany. If the dolphins don't want to perform, the patrons are offered their choice of a refund or a ticket to a future show. The dolphins were never penalized for failure to perform, and received a full ration every day. (The docents at Dolphins Plus were required to mention this in their pre-swim lecture to the public.) He considered the German option seriously, but decided hed rather stay in the 'States. He founded Dolphins Plus instead.

The original mission was to educate the public about dolphins (the docents lecture lasted for an hour, covering everything from appropriate behavior towards the dolphins, issues of dolphin preservation, good solid information about dolphins, and how Dolphins Plus differed from the usual captive dolphin situation. Additionally, the docents gave a good talk; no one was ever bored) give the public a chance to see dolphins up close and personal, on the dolphins' own terms. All this is explained in an early video I still have. That is, indeed, hard to argue with. It was easy to overlook how the dolphins got there in the first place, besides, the arrangement wasnt meant to be permanent: Mr. Borguss said so.

The dolphins were not forced to swim with any one. They all received a full ration, and if they didnt want to play, there was no penalty. All your admission bought you was a definite maybe. You paid your money and took your chances. If the dolphins didnt want to play with you, better luck next time. (I had my share of better-luck-next-times.) Other times, you'd be involved with the dolphins for as long as each session lasted (30 minutes). It was literally a dream come tru. How could any one, except a deep down, hard-core, animal rights wacko, possibly object?

Then the dream turned into a nightmare. Other, less honorable, sleazy operators started their own dolphin swims. However, they guaranteed you would get that "dolphin experience" of a lifetime. How do they get dolphins to entertain the endless stream of landers that are presented to them? The same way they get dolphins to perform the same, idiotic, mind-numbing doggie tricks several times a day, day after day: they under feed them. If the dolphin doesnt want to play with the landers, he goes hungry until he learns to get with the program.

These days, Dolphins Plus offers what they call "Structured Swims" you are guaranteed you will get to swim with a dolphin. In other words, Dolphins Plus has sunk to the lowest common denominator; it is now as sleazy as every other so-called swim program. Lloyd Borguss has become the very thing he detested 14 years ago. Sure, they still offer Unstructured Swims where its up to the dolphins whether or not they want to play. Perhaps this is how Mr. Borguss takes a load off his conscience, and the consciences of those patrons who know what the implication behind "Structured Swims" is, may be both. For your entertainment, 11 dolphins are paying the ultimate price.

What about Mr. Borguss’ plans to rehabilitate his dolphins after a few years of service? The future never came. The "Gold Coast" rehab facility never got built. Instead Borguss expanded his operation by opening another facility down the road. Perhaps the thought of all those snowbird dollars getting away was too much temptation to resist. Certain activists accuse Borguss of having lied all along. I personally do not believe this. I am convinced that he meant what he said at the time he said it. Borguss wasn't the first, nor will he be the last, to sell out an ideal.

In the captive dolphin industry, the shit always rises to the top, poisoning and corrupting everything it touches. What if Mr. Borguss had stuck to his ideals? The only thing that would be left of Dolphins Plus would be a distant memory and a great big hole in the ground. What the captive dolphin industry can’t corrupt, it destroys.

This industry is beyond redemption, beyond reform: it must be utterly destroyed root and branch. There cannot be allowed even so much as a single dolphin kept in captivity. We humans have demonstrated we can't handle the responsibility. Wait a minute, you say: What about scientific research? If the research can't be done with free (I cant stand the term wild) dolphins, if appropriate protocols cant be devised, then I say: "So be it." The research doesnt get done.

"What about that language research?", you ask. Remember, the capture of dolphins is a disgusting act of sheer violence. The captured dolphin is a father, mother, son, daughter, and valued companion, and member of a community. What a wonderful way to begin to break down the communication barrier! To the dolphins who witness this, what opinion do you suppose they form about landers? As to the captured dolphin, what incentive does he or she have to participate? It's even conceivable that this dolphin would take out its resentment by deliberately sabotaging the entire project. Dolphins are known to have just such a perverse streak.

"What about dolphin assisted therapy? Surely you cant be against helping the children?" Actually, I can. How dare we destroy the quality of life of dolphins to enhance our own. Furthermore, this is another of those asinine New Age ideas that has no scientific merit. These quacks and shysters hold out false hope to the parents of sick kids. In other words, this is the new snake oil. These charlatans prey upon the desperation of the well intentioned for big $$$$$. It doesnt help the children and it hurts the dolphins. The promoters of dolphin assisted therapy should, one and all, be doing time behind bars. This is the usual penalty for fraud. There can no longer be any excuse whatsoever for holding dolphins captive against their will.

This brings us to the source of the problem...

The Source of the Problem

We has Met the Enemy and He Is Us

"I just love dolphins to deaf (sic)"
--Comment left in guest book of "Sarahs Dolphin Pages" web site

Walk into any 7 -- 11 and what do you see? Dolphin shaped cigarette lighter cases, dolphin shaped bottle openers, dolphin shaped coin purses. Any gift shop? Dolphin statuettes, doorstops, paperweights, post cards with dolphins on them, pictures and posters with a dolphin theme, clothing with dolphins emblazoned on it. Dolphin jewelry, doorknockers, mouse pads, even mice shaped like dolphins. Remember the film Independence Day? Remember what the engagement ring the hero gave his fiancée looked like? It was in the form of two dolphins, because, the hero explained, she was crazy about dolphins. Walk through any office or other place computers are in use, chances are youll see at least one with dolphin wall paper or a screen saver. Yes, we do love our dolphins, dont we?

Perhaps nature in its perfect plan knew that someday man would have to harvest the seas, and it almost seems that the porpoise (sic) was brought into being and placed in the oceans waiting, for millions of years, for that day
-- Elgin Ciampi

What do you think of that? Disgusting, isnt it? You can say it, but do you really mean it? Many people may profess their love of dolphins, however, it is love utterly devoid of respect. Their every action proclaims their agreement with Ciampi, even as their lips proclaim their disgust.

Further damaging a reputation tarnished by reports of violence, a bottlenose dolphin off the coast of Florida bit a 14-year-old French tourist who tried to pet it this week. The girl, who was swimming in the Intracoastal Waterway near Nokomis, FL, suffered only minor cuts and bruises. She was taken to a local hospital, treated and released.

This involved a dolphin named "Beggar".

There are similar incidents involving another dolphin: Jo-Jo. And people act oh so shocked: "Flipper would never do that!" They act as if it were some great revelation that a dolphin might actually bite someone. It isn't news to me. As long ago as 1967, Dr. Lilly described some of the things people can do to provoke a dolphin in Mind of the Dolphin.

How does this happen? The snowbirds hear about a friendly dolphin, such as Jo-Jo or Beggar, and they expect the dolphin to make himself available 24/7 for their entertainment. They don't realize, or, perhaps, care if they do, that Beggar has a life of his own: business (like feeding himself) that takes precedence over amusing landers. Or, perhaps, he just may not feel like playing at the moment. They find it inconceivable that Beggar's life doesnt revolve around them. When they insist on inflicting themselves on him, he bites. The snowbirds blame the dolphin: "There must be something wrong with him!" It's all Beggars fault; the very idea that, perhaps, the biting may have had something to do with what they were doing never occurs to these dipshits. All this betrays a profound lack of respect.

Meanwhile the incident raises new questions about the nature of dolphins, animals once thought to be friendly and calm.

One could not think of a more dumbassed statement. Dolphins are, and always have been, friendly and calm. However, there are limits to their patience, only so much bullshit they will take from these ignorant snowbirds. I guarantee you: every snowbird Beggar bit had it coming, was warned off (dolphins seldom bite with no warning), persisted in the objectionable behavior anyway, and got exactly what he deserved. Any one who's worked with dolphins for any length of time has committed some faux pas thats been answered with a nip or two. As far as this concerns Beggar good for him!

It is this same lack of respect that drives the captive dolphin industry. In his anthropocentric arrogance, displaying all the maturity of a four-year-old, the snowbird demands his dolphin experience. He does'nt give a rats ass about what the dolphins might want, what his need for instant gratification may be costing them but he loves them so much! Hell, fork over those hard-earned $$$$$ to some sleaze whos all too willing to give him a prefabbed, prepackaged, guaranteed COUNTERFEIT dolphin experience of a lifetime. He'll pay out those $$$$ to some marine circus for the chance to pay through the nose for ice-cold hotdogs and warm, insipid beer, and to see dolphins making fools of themselves. He'll scream with delight when he should be flooding the stands with his tears. He is totally blind to the tragedy unfolding before his eyes. But he loves dolphins to "deaf" -- literally.

If you truly love dolphins, then learn to respect them. Oppose the captive dolphin industry. If you see an ad on television for some marine circus, call the station manager and tell him you want it off the air. (When I was living in Las Vegas, this is what I did after seeing an ad for Sea World that suggested that their performing dolphins were not captives. I pointed out that this was false advertising, and if it didnt stop, my next trip would be to the FCC to file a formal complaint. Not only did the station pull that ad, they canceled Sea Worlds account completely. No more ads for Sea World ever ran again on that station.)

"Just say no" to the captive dolphin industry. Don't patronize it, don't buy tickets to its shows regardless of the excuses they use, don't contribute to its bullshit "conservation" programs, don't do business with those who sponsor it, don't watch its TV specials, stay off its web sites. I would like to see Sea World open its doors one day and have the stands remain empty. If no one comes, they'll go broke in no time. The captive dolphin industry can be destroyed once and for all after all its your money that keeps it going.

What Do We Do with all Those Captive Dolphins?

Having gotten rid of the captive dolphin industry, what becomes of the 2700 or so captive dolphins? We rehabilitate them to freedom. It's been done with other long-term captive animals (i.e. chimpanzees and gorillas) successfully. In fact, rehabilitating dolphins is much easier. Unlike apes, there is no need for an arduous training schedule. Richard O'Barry has successfully rehabilitated some 12 ex-captive dolphins. His method does'nt amount to much more than allowing them to figure out how to survive in the "wild" on their own. This method, or methodologies very similar, works with "born-ins" as well as with the once free. Methodologies will naturally improve as we gain experience.

Naturally, not all 2700 dolphins will be able to return to a life of freedom. Some dolphins don't seem to want it. The prospect of all that free food, a safe, though confining, environment, where they dont have to dodge sharks or barracuda or other sea nasties, strikes them as a pretty good deal. Others may be just too crazy to ever release, having been driven insane by too many years in captivity, too much stress from performing, too full of hate. Another possible problem is that some born-ins just may not have the psychological strength to leave the only way of life they've ever known.

What about them? The answer is some sort of seaside facility where they can be cared for, where they can have as normal a life as can be provided for them. A facility where they would never again be forced to perform, or endure unwanted impositions from landers. I would also propose this: once it has become obvious that a dolphin can't be rehabilitated, then surgically sterilize it: vasectomies for the guys, tubal ligations for the girls. This might seem cruel, yet it is the greater kindness. We can't allow them to reproduce; otherwise, well never solve the problem. Under no circumstances must the idea that it is okay to breed domestic, captive dolphins be allowed. This must remain unacceptable.


America once was the worlds première whaling nation, where whaling was so ingrained in the culture, that Melville's Moby Dick was (and is) regarded as the first quintessentially American piece of literature. (Whether or not it may be regarded as the original "Great American Novel" is a whole 'nother story. IMNSHO, Melville's writing blows chunks.) The last American whale hunt occurred in 1970, not all that long ago. As a nation and a culture, we've made some incredible progress. Not only that, it was a cultural realignment that took place very quickly. It took generations of struggle to, for example, free the slaves, or for women to win suffrage. In less than ten years, the USA joined ancient Greece, or modern Polynesia, as a decidedly delphin-o-phile culture. However, we shouldn't get too self-congratulatory just yet. America's current love affair with dolphins is a first step, an important one, to be sure, but that is all it is: a first step. Next comes the hard part: learning to respect dolphins for who and what they are, not what we'd like them to be. With that, comes the necessity to root out our habitual anthropocentric arrogance: its negative manifestations (i.e. dolphin as dumb animal, or commodity to be bought and sold) as well as its positive manifestations (i.e. dolphins as New Age totem -- a term New Agers actually use). Are we up to the challenge?

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