Debate Kit: Should Marine Mammals Be Held in Captivity?

A hot topic in classrooms and on the minds of the public is whether or not marine mammals should be kept in captivity. Here at PETA, we campaign for animal rights and understand that animals are not ours to use for entertainment. We know that many schools assign debates on topical issues to help their students learn to speak and write persuasively, practice research skills, and recognize multiple sides of a controversial or multifaceted issue. This student debate kit lists a variety of resources that can be shared with students to support the argument that marine mammals should not be held in captivity.

Resolved: Marine mammals should not be held in captivity.

Affirmative Argument

Marine mammals—highly intelligent, sensitive, social beings—suffer greatly in captivity. The chlorine and copper sulfate used to keep tanks clean have caused dolphins’ skin to peel off and may cause them to go blind. Many marine mammals suffer from peptic ulcers, often leading to death, because of frustration resulting from their unnatural lives. Captivity also tears families apart. In the wild, orcas often spend their entire lives with their mothers and siblings and live in large, complex groups.

While the aquarium industry claims that it exists purely for education and conservation, what these facilities really teach people is that it’s acceptable to keep animals in captivity—depressed, lonely, in cramped conditions, far from their natural homes, and at the mercy of humans. Marine mammal conservation is achieved by abolishing whaling, cleaning up our oceans, ending driftnet fishing, and prohibiting live captures, not by forcing cetaceans to swim in repetitive circles for our entertainment.

There are countless ways that we can inform the public and cultivate respect for animals without imprisoning marine mammals. It’s time to put the focus on teaching visitors how to protect marine life rather than harming it.

© Free Morgan Foundation

Become an ‘Expert’

Use the following links to research general information about marine mammal captivity and prepare logical arguments.

Build Your Case

Use the following links to gather evidence and examples to support your position against marine mammal captivity.

Research Articles and Investigative Analysis

Witness Accounts and Videos

Documented Physical Evidence of the Suffering of Orcas and Dolphins in Captivity

© Ingrid N. Visser, Ph.D.

Finding the Solution

Use the following resources to help build a proposal suggesting solutions to issues that could allegedly arise from ending the captivity of marine mammals.

Anticipate Counterarguments and Prepare Rebuttals

Analyze aquarium and marine park websites to determine their stated reasons for keeping marine mammals in captivity. Investigate how much money these companies acquire through ticket sales and other endeavors and think critically about their motivations. Also, examine which other entities benefit from keeping marine mammals in captivity (e.g., aquarium suppliers, food vendors, scientists who study only captive animals). Create a list of typical statements made by parties who want marine mammal captivity to continue. Information included in the links in this document can be used to respond to counterarguments.

© iStock.com/Donhype

Other Considerations

Additional Resources

Websites

Books

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Have students use the curated content in this debate resource kit to prepare an affirmative argument stating why marine mammals should not be held in captivity. These resources will assist students in supporting their position using scientific, ethical, and philosophical arguments.

Want free educational posters and stickers for students to use during their debates? E-mail us at [email protected]

Do your students need to conduct an interview as part of their research? Staff members from PETA’s student sector are available to speak with students via phone, Skype, or e-mail and to answer questions about our stance on keeping marine mammals in captivity. Have students e-mail us directly at [email protected]—or if you’d like to contact us on their behalf, please fill out the form below, and we’ll arrange for them to speak with a representative.

Thank you for helping your students speak up for animal rights. Happy debating!

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“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind