Is It Ethical to Swim With Dolphins?

Swimming with dolphins or whales might seem like fun, but these programs can potentially harm the animals
Is It Ethical to Swim With Dolphins?


Time to embrace the end of animal captivity.

Remember when we all watched Blackfish and suddenly everyone was on the I-Hate-SeaWorld bandwagon? The backlash resulted in the theme park vowing to end its killer whale captive breeding program earlier this year and expand efforts to rescue stranded marine mammals.

Mission accomplished, right?

Maybe in the George W. Bush publicity stunt kind of way, but not in reality, as there is still a lot of work to be done. Recently, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC, formerly WDCS) decided to focus its efforts on what it calls the “Pledge Never to Plunge.” This campaign is aimed at rescuing the almost 600 other whales and dolphins that, according to the WDC, remained imprisoned in North America (not to mention other parts of the world) under the guise of “dolphin encounter” activities or other captive swim programs. After all, orcas only make up about 4 percent of all captive whales and dolphins.

Like the orcas, the WDC says these animals also suffer from the stress related to captivity, confinement, and performances, and often have dramatically shortened lives as a result. For instance, while dolphins and whales in the wild spend approximately 80 of their time underwater, captive cetaceans spend the same amount of time above water (due to shows and time spent with trainers), which can be detrimental to the animals’ health. Additionally, dolphins travel about six miles each day in the wild, but would need to swim about 1,320 laps in a pool to achieve this.

So what can you do?

For starters, people wanting to help should vow not to participate in any dolphin or whale encounter activities — hence the pledge not to plunge. Next, you can sign the petition on the WDC’s website, which will be shared with the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks, an international organization representing aquariums, zoos, and other facilities that hold animals in captivity. And finally, get the word out about this effort to your family, friends, and anyone following you on social media (using the hashtag #forgottenwhales).

Of course, donations are also welcomed and encouraged, as those funds help the WDC work on the establishment of whale and dolphin sanctuaries, meet with key regulatory members to advocate for better treatment of these animals, and pursue legislation to end captivity once and for all.

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