Monday, July 31, 2006

Smiling Dolphins

'Mommy, mommy, look at the pretty dolphins...look how they leap into the air.'
'Yes, they're just so cute, honey.' She smiles at her daughter. 'Are you glad we came?'
'Yes.' Hahaha To her little brother. 'Danny, look how it's swimming in the water just using it's tail.' She stands up and points.
The children squeal with excitement.
Mommy looks at Daddy and smiles as she pats her daughter's head. 'They're just so cute.' Hahaha 'I wonder if they do that in the wild as well or if they train them to do that.'
'Mommy, I think they like it here,' says the little boy. 'Look at their smiles.'
'Yes sweetie, they're cute,' says Mommy.
'Wow,' says Daddy. 'Wow. Did you see the two of them jump out of the water at the same time.'
Hahahaha. Hahahahaha. The children laugh and squeal.
'Mommy, look over there,' says the girl. 'There's a woman swimmming with them. She's hanging on to its fin.' Hahahahahaha. 'She's going fast.' Hahahahah. 'Mommy, let's go swim with them.'
'Yes Mommy,' says her son. 'I want to grab its fin and swim too.'
Mommy pushes her sunglasses over her hair and looks at Daddy. 'Hon', she wants to swim with them. I'd like to as well. They seem so cute. Go and find out how much it'll cost.'
'I asked already,' says Daddy. 'It's a hundred bucks.'
'Wow, a hundred dollars,' says Mommy.
'Mommy, I want to swin with them now.'
'We're on vacation, Jeff. It's a once off, isn't it?. Let's do it. We'll get some great photos of the kids.'
'Daddy, please let's do it...oh Daddy, let's swim with them...please,' says the boy.
'Yes, we're all on vacation, Jeff and look at how the dolphins are grinning. They're just so cute. A hundred bucks is worth it, no?'

How often this scene or something like it plays out somewhere in Mexico or the Caribbean or at a show in Seaworld or similar exhibit in the United States. And let me preface this piece at this point by saying I'm a huge dolphin lover and just watched a program about captive dolphins on the telly the other night. Ever since I first saw them when I was sixteen while on the beach at Jelly Fish Bay in Killybegs, Ireland, I fell in love with their grace and uniqueness.

Their unexpected appearance caused quite a stir that afternoon, actually. People were in the water and next thing a couple of women further along the beach started waving their hands and screaming like a banshee choir and all the bathers were racing (as fast as the water would allow) from the sea screaming 'SHARKS, SHARKS, SHARKS'. One man in his haste didn't realize he'd lost his swimming costume and ran naked clutching his daughter from the water. I should say JAWS had been a recent hit and the opening scene of the woman slowly disappearing beneath the waves had clearly traumatized a part of the collective Irish psyche. Even I thought 'shark' for moments as I watched them slice across the waves. Then my intellectual side kicked in and I realized sharks don't swim so close to the Irish coast...but since then, we've had a whale travel up the cold River Foyle to the city of Derry so you never know.

Dolphins are certainly gorgeous animals. Yet behind their unflaggingly impish smiles (our human interpretation of the smiles) lies sadness and misery. Dolphins are mammels, highly intelligent, and thousands and thousands are ripped mercilessly from family pods in the wild by hunters and transported to sunwashed pools of concrete where they're trained to behave like circus animals just to appease the insatiable lust for 'cuteness' we humans have.

(In the United States, all dolphins performing at places like Seaworld and Miami Seaquarium, etc.--places which first displayed the animals for commercial gain--must be bred in captivity. It is also undeniable that the insatiable and growing worldwide demand for performing dolphins leading to brutal and murderous dolphin hunts is due to the practices of these parks in allowing people to interact with the animals under the dubious assertion that it is educational and/or therapeutic for humans. The displays are hard-nosed capitalism at its worst. In the Dominican Republic, one exhibit attracts 200 people daily whio pay $100.00 to swim with the animals. Multiply this by the number of exhibits throughout the Caribbean and it is easy to see the huge profits to be made. Little wonder the animals are overworked and die of exhaustion from being constantly on call. Moreover, fishermen are paid about $200.00 for the capture of a wild dolphin which, when trained, sells to these exhibits for $130,000 via 'brokers' of whom one Canadian--a former trainer--is the most notorious and nefarious in his 'harvesting' for gain )

The dolphins do have an ally. 'They [dolphins] are self-aware animals that make decisions and choices. Thus they are entitled to freedom.' says Ric O'Barry. And Mr. O'Barry should know. He was the trainer of five dolphins for the TV series Flipper. Moreover, he began his career taking part in the capture of wild dolphins for training, a practice he believed in then. Mr. O'Barry realized his error in participating in the capture of wild dolphins and spent the next 30 years leading his own group The Dolphin Project against the practice before becoming a consultant to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, a London-based coalition of 400 conservation and preservation groups.

The wild dolphin hunts take place throughout the world, though Japan leads the world in its cruelty. According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society hunts can last for days and the dolphins, being sentient animals, endure the most excruciating circumstances including intense terror at both the hunt and violent dissolution of their group. Hundreds of them are rounded up until all that can be heard is the sound of their bodies thrashing in the scarlet water. The animals selected for captivity are hoisted into tanks via cranes; the others, the smaller and weaker, are not set free. No, they are murdered simultaneously with those captured--thus answering your question as to why the hunt waters run scarlet. It's bloodsoaked water. And the carcasses are then dispatched to food processing companies. Such is the gruesome fate of sentient mammels, mammels whose sonar systems are as sophisticated as any man has developed to date.

So, I think it's incumbent upon people of conscience to educate our fellow human beings about this practice. We must also stay away from these displays of captive dolphins--including the American ones which have stirred and fed this worldwide increase in demand for dolphin exhibits--so that it will become unprofitable for corporations in the ghastly business to offer them as entertainment. We need not deny ourselves the sight of dolphins swimming and frolicking in water. The Whale and Dolphin Society suggests and recommends various trips to watch dolphins and whales in their natural habitat. So take the hundred bucks and spend it on a trip out to sea where you can watch wild dolphins truly smiling as they play.

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