Tuesday, October 9, 2012

THE RIPPLE EFFECT: What Flipper Can't Tell You

Med Beat columnist, Kurtis Morrish, protests marine animal cruelty at Marine Land, October 7, 2012. 

Smiling with friends, running around a marine animal park, you watch the dolphins, orcas, and sea lions play. You bond with them as they stare at you, and they almost seem to smile back. You fondly remember watching all these creatures, so majestic and beautiful, swimming in such documentaries as Planet Earth's "Ocean Deep," and you imagine them as they might be beneath the waves, wistfully bonding with nature too. There is only one problem with this scene: marine animals should be left in the 'ocean deep' where they belong. 
Why is "Ocean Deep," and other marine life videos, so fascinating? Because it reveals to us land-folk just how intricate and delicate ocean ecology is in its own element. Key words: in its own element.  Sea creatures already face so many dangers directly and indirectly because of humans: excessive amounts of mercury, pollution, oil spills, and harpooning for food. Why make our damage worse by encouraging such foundations as Marine Land (associated with the highest accounts of animal cruelty of all the marine animal parks today)? What is fun for us, is certainly far from fun for our flipper friends. What is masked behind the dolphin's smile is an entire multi-million dollar industry built on suffering.

Let's focus on dolphins.

Dolphins, like humans, are social beings, each with their own family pod. So, when humans take a dolphin from this dynamic, it causes the family left behind, and more so the taken dolphin, irreparable emotional pain. When a family member is captured, dolphin pods often follow the boat for miles in an attempt to save the dolphin. 
Artist, Banksy, creates a representation of a
dolphin being captured in a net to protest
dolphin cruelty. 

What is worse, is the process of getting these dolphins. You might imagine it to be a group of people with fishing nets; not the worst image. Wrong. The process is violent. Dolphin pods are chased until they run out of energy by contraptions ranging from harpoons to explosives. Once the animals are trapped between the massive nets capture teams have sprawled out, the team chooses which animals are "desirable". First, imagine how many sea creatures (residual dolphins included) in general die from the harpoons and explosions. Second, realize how many dolphins, once extracted from the ocean, die from physical trauma/injury and shock. Imagine how terrifying it would be for a creature that has only known the ocean water to be pulled from it and put into a small, water-filled box, hauled away inside a boat. 

If the dolphin survives this ordeal, she is moved into a tank, 24ft by 24ft (the typical size). Dolphins become depressed, only able to swim in tight circles. Considering the vast shrinkage in space from the endless ocean to this box, and the inability to interact with other dolphins, wouldn't the human equivalent be solitary confinement? Strange, because last time I checked, these dolphins did nothing wrong to deserve any punishments or torture, and that's exactly what they're getting. When dolphins refuse to perform or just don't know how, they are punished further: starvation or confinement in smaller spaces alone until cooperation.

Chlorine, and a slew of other harsh chemicals, cause damage ranging from burning eyes and peeling skin, to death. Ric O'Barry believes that the chlorine can also make dolphins go blind (O'Barry was a former dolphin trainer/capturer, and now, he is the founder of The Dolphin Project; featured in the film, The Cove; and the author of the book Behind the Dolphin Smile , which everyone should read!). 

Dolphins usually live about 25-50 years in the wild, some orcas able to live till 90 years of age! And yet, in the confines of marine animal parks, dolphins usually don't live past 10 years.

You may think, Oh, but they promise they treat the animals well! Wrong again. Most marine animal parks may say this, but their regulation is minimal if existent. The Animal Welfare Act attempted to help with this situation, asking parks to regulate water quality, food distribution, spacial requirements, and even health care, but the parks know they're way around the regulations. And, the government looks the other way when they see contaminated waters, deaths (from chemicals, starvation, injury, etc), letting offenders (even repeat offenders) off the hook continuously. 

Know what is going on around you. Don't turn a blind eye. Stand up for what is right, because the victims don't have the legs to do it. 

For further information, again, read Behind the Dolphin Smile. And, read AAFFs (Animal Rights Foundation of Florida) information brochure, the source for this article. Also, see the Dolphin Project's site for ways to get involved in protecting dolphins around the world. For more information on Marine Land, see this site; it is considered to be ONE OF THE WORST marine animal parks existing today. 

Feel free to contact columnists at Unleashed. Our Med Beat columnist, Kurtis Morrish, has worked closely with causes protesting marine animal abuse, so he will have ample information for you! 

Women in the World and the Ripple Effect Section, Sasha Martin:

I made my own major, The Nature of Emotion as investigated through literature, psychology, anthropology, cognitive science and other interdisciplinary fields, and am minoring in Creative Writing. I created Unleashed for the general empowerment and knowledge of women and men everywhere, and continue to be involved as editor, designer and writer. I am an editorial and PR intern for City Lights. I happen to love the Unleashed staff quite dearly, as well as readers like you. It's amazing what words can do! Feel free to email me at Unleashed. I hope you enjoy! 

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