In tourist-driven "swim-with" programs, dolphins are
denied everything that is important to them. People are captivated by these fascinating
marine mammals, but dolphins used in swim-with programs continue to live in
misery long after travelers return home with their pictures and memories. Most captive dolphins die
prematurely and live to only half the age of their wild brothers and sisters.
Dolphins have distinct personalities, can recognize
themselves in mirrors, and can think about the future. Scientists at Emory
University performed brain scans on dolphin species and found that the cerebral cortex and the neocortex of
bottlenose dolphins were so large that dolphins' cognitive capacity is second
only to humans. Thomas White, professor of ethics at Loyola Marymount University
says, "The scientific research suggests that dolphins are 'non-human
persons' who qualify for moral understanding as individuals."
In the wild, dolphins swim together
in family pods up to 100 miles a day. They navigate by bouncing sonar waves off
objects to determine location and distance. In captivity, their ocean worlds
are reduced to claustrophobic swimming pools.
Although captive dolphins in the United States are afforded
bare minimal protections, programs outside the U.S. are often governed by few,
if any, laws. Throughout the Caribbean, dolphins are kept in small pools or
polluted sea pens. Debris and trash left in or near these pools, such as
plastic bags, sunglasses, or the paper used to wrap the "fish food,"
can be ingested by the animals, causing acute gastrointestinal problems and sometimes
even death. Driven by greed, many facilities operate almost continuously,
giving the animals little respite from a constant stream of tourists.
Cruise liners are a significant source of customers for swim-with-dolphins
programs because most cruise lines promote these offshore excursions. Revenue
generated from these side trips is considerable.
In 2005, Radisson Seven Seas
Cruises ended its "dolphin encounter" excursions on its Caribbean itinerary
citing concern for the dolphins' well-being.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.