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Archive for the ‘Aquariums’ Category

Stop the dolphin slaughter—stay away from marine-mammal parks

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By Paula Moore

Dolphins have rich social lives, brains that are as complex as our own and pod-specific cultural practices that are passed down from generation to generation. Some scientists argue that dolphins should be classified as “nonhuman persons” and that their rights should be protected. The resident dolphins of Toshima, Japan—about 100 miles south of Tokyo—are considered official citizens of the small island and are fully protected while in the island’s waters.

But elsewhere dolphins are in danger. Every year in Japan, thousands of these intelligent, self-aware animals are killed in violent hunts known as oikomi or “drive fisheries.” Others are ripped from their ocean homes to be put on display in aquariums and marine theme parks or used in “swim-with” programs. These industries are inextricably linked. If you don’t support the slaughter of dolphins, then don’t pay to see them perform in dolphin shows.

September 1 marked the official start of one of the most notorious dolphin hunts—the annual slaughter in Taiji, Japan, that was documented in the Oscar-winning film The Cove. Video footage of past hunts in this Japanese fishing village shows dolphins thrashing in their own blood for many agonizing minutes after being speared or having their throats cut. By the end of the slaughter, the entire cove is red with blood.

While most dolphins captured in Taiji end up as meat in Japanese supermarkets—despite the fact that dolphin flesh is so dangerously contaminated with mercury that some Taiji officials have likened it to “toxic waste”—every year, about two dozen live dolphins are sold to aquariums, performing-dolphin shows and swim-with programs across the globe. It’s these lucrative sales that keep the dolphin slaughter going.

A dead dolphin brings in only a few hundred dollars. But a single live dolphin can fetch $150,000 or more.

According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, dolphins captured during Japan’s drive fisheries have ended up in aquariums all over the world. Even countries that no longer allow the importation of dolphins caught during the gruesome slaughter may be displaying animals purchased before the ban or moved through other countries to disguise their origin.

Dolphins suffer immensely in captivity. Eight former trainers at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, recently spoke out to the Toronto Star about the substandard conditions at that facility. Among other abuses, the trainers claim that five dolphins had their skin fall off in chunks after they spent months swimming in water so green that they could barely be seen in it. Photos of the dolphins show them with their eyes squeezed shut against the filthy water. According to the trainers, some animals have gone blind at Marineland.

In the open sea, dolphins live in large, intricate social groups, swim together in family pods and can travel up to 100 miles a day. In captivity, their world is measured in gallons instead of fathoms. Dolphins communicate with each other through whistles and body language. In tanks, their vocalizations become a garble of meaningless reverberations. Most aquariums keep antacids on hand to treat the animals’ stress-related ulcers.

No animal deserves to be torn from his or her rightful home, locked up in a tank or cage and forced to perform tricks just for our amusement. But the plight of a captive dolphin swimming in endless circles in a concrete tank is especially heartbreaking. Please stand up to this cruel industry. Before you buy a ticket, remember that patronizing marine-mammal parks and swim-with programs helps to support Japan’s bloody dolphin hunts—and condemns intelligent, social beings to a lifetime of misery.

Paula Moore is a senior writer with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Zoos: Don’t ‘get the party started’

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By Jennifer O’Connor

What do blaring techno-pop, psychotropic drugs and zoos have in common? The answer, of course, should be “nothing,” but in an effort to keep revenue flowing in, zoos and aquariums around the world are welcoming events ranging from raves to weddings at their facilities—at a high cost to the resident animals. It’s bad enough that animals are confined to these facilities in the first place. They shouldn’t also be reduced to party props.

Recently released toxicology reports suggest that two dolphins at a Swiss zoo died after ingesting a heroin substitute shortly after a weekend-long rave was held near their tank.

Reports speculate that the drug had been dumped into the tank during the rave “accidentally” or as a practical joke, but Shadow and Chelmers died slowly and in agony. Chelmers’ keeper described his last hour: “He was shaking all over and was foaming at the mouth. Eventually we got him out of the water. His tongue was hanging out. He could hardly breathe.”

Zoos are marketing their facilities for birthday parties, corporate receptions and nighttime “safaris,” even though the commotion and noise can leave animals anxious and unsettled. Three guides at a rave at the Georgia Aquarium admitted that music at such parties upsets the animals and causes them to fight. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency that inspects zoos, has acknowledged that allowing nighttime visitors can agitate primates. At the San Diego Zoo, an inspector asked zoo officials to reevaluate nighttime display of the gelada baboons, as they appeared to be stressed out.

Aren’t zoos and aquariums supposed to be focusing on the comfort and well-being of the animals? It seems we haven’t progressed much in the years since a former zoo director admitted, in a 1984 article, that the animals are “the last thing I worry about with all the other problems.”

By their very nature, zoos leave animals vulnerable to the whims and wishes of zookeepers and visitors. Animals in zoos have been poisoned, left to starve, deprived of veterinary care and burned alive in fires. They’ve been beaten, shot, pelted with rocks and stolen by people who were able to gain access to the cages. Many have died after eating coins and trash tossed into their cages. A giraffe who recently died in an Indonesian zoo was found to have a wad of 44 pounds of plastic in his stomach made up of food wrappers thrown into his cage by visitors.

It’s no wonder that zoos are increasingly desperate to attract visitors: Parents who still take their children to the zoo are becoming as rare as the dodo bird. Most people are starting to agree that sentencing animals to life behind bars is ethically indefensible, and in response many zoos are adding trains, sky rides, carousels and water attractions to entice visitors to come through the gates.

Visitors to Disney’s Animal Kingdom are “educated” about threatened wildlife on a thrill ride once called “Countdown to Extinction.” And let’s not forget coyly named fundraisers such as “Woo at the Zoo” and “Jungle Love,” at which visitors pay to watch animals have sex. Accompanied by candles and Barry White tunes, tourists sip and sup while awaiting “action.” How does this foster even a scintilla of respect for animals?

Zoo events may be a novelty for visitors, but for the imprisoned animals, it means that their already-limited period of peace and quiet has been stolen from them. Parties and picnics belong in the park or in backyards, not outside the bars of a caged animal who can’t decline to attend.

Jennifer O’Connor is a staff writer with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

 

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

May 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm