Thursday, December 19, 2013

Creating Compassionate Change

I need to say something. This may not be something that you care about, so you are free to ignore me, but I hope you do care. I think it's important to care about the creatures that we share our planet with.

You may or many not have seen The Cove. You may or may not have seen Blackfish. If you haven't, I think it's important that  you do. If you have, I think you need to take time to think about what you have learned in order to make the right decisions regarding any action you may take.

When I first watched The Cove, I was so horrified that I swore I would never again attend a marine park. Ever. The images were absolutely heartbreaking in a way that I can't even describe. There was a lot of information presented at the beginning of the film, but all I could focus on afterward was the blood (SO much blood!) and the screams of the dolphins. I recently watched Blackfish. I found it more informative, less graphically disturbing, but just as important.

What both of these films tell us is that the way we treat marine mammals is wrong. Taking animals from their homes solely for financial gain is wrong. Separating families is wrong. Requiring animals to perform for sheer entertainment is wrong. Forcing groups of animals together in small spaces is wrong. This is all wrong and it is all cruel.

I went to Sea World as a child. I went as an adult. These are good memories; they were good times with my family. What I was taught from these experiences was that this treatment was okay. It was glamorous. There was the star of the show, there was the music, the leaps out of the water, the power of their splashes. I thought that these animals loved what they were doing as much as I loved watching them perform. I was wrong.

There is a saying that when you know better, you do better. I think we now know better. Marine biologists and behaviorists have made enough discoveries about the emotions of these animals that tip the scales in favor of change. I don't think that can be debated.

However, what most people are suggesting and urging and asking for is probably not the answer. Boycott Sea World and parks like it. Hit them in their pocketbooks where it really hurts. Close them down and end the cruelty forever. I admit that this was my first reaction, as I said.

But stop and think about this.

If Sea World and its likenesses close, what happens to the animals? Those born in captivity won't survive in the wild. Who is going to pay to locate a whale's pod and have it transported from California to Norway or from Florida to the Pacific Northwest? Who is going to oversee these assimilations? Forcing any park to shut down just to cease existing will cause more harm to these animals. This can't be the plan.

Sea World, being in the biggest spotlight, is in the best position to affect change for marine life. They have the financial resources to transform the existing entertainment platform to one of a sanctuary. Sanctuaries are the best option for the majority of these animals. Trainers and other park personnel who have known these animals and come to care for them could best help them through the transition. Observing them in a habitat closer to their natural environment would allow us to learn more from these wonderful creatures. Wouldn't it be wonderful to witness the birth of a whale not born in captivity, from a relationship between two animals instead of artificially?

Now, I don't have all of the answers. Obviously. I'm not a biologist. Or a zoologist. I do know that radical, reactionary behavior doesn't work. I think if we really care about these animals, that we can come together to create a solution that is more beneficial than harmful. One that opens up a dialogue where we all learn something and we create a better world for all living creatures.

This is the action I would encourage you to take. Boycotting can be a powerful tool, but communication can bring about real change. Talk to the decision makers and ask them to make better decisions. Educate yourselves on all of the options. Open those dialogues. Speak from caring and compassion rather than fear and judgment.

We now know better, it's time to do better.


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