The UK - A "captive dolphin & whale-free" Zone
Since the early 1990's there have been no captive dolphins or
whales on display in the UK, following the closure of the last
remaining facilities; Marineland (Morecambe), Brighton Dolphinarium,
Windsor Safari Park and Flamingoland (Malton).
So why did this happen?
In the late 1980's early 1990's public opinion on the confinement
of these sentient, intelligent marine mammals in a totally
un-natural environment purely for public entertainment began
to change. The moral issue of keeping such wide-ranging marine
mammals in a cramped space, performing for their food under
the guise of education or research began to be questioned.
Dolphins and whales were in captivity for one reason and one
reason only - to make money. So let's look at some of the arguments
put forward by marine parks that campaigners proved incorrect
to substantiate their argument against the keeping of dolphins
and whales in captivity in the UK:
- "The animals enjoy performing"
Contrary to what marine parks would have us believe, dolphins
and whales do not enjoy performing, they are trained to
do this. A dolphins' "smile" is a feature it is born
with, not an indication of happiness. Various training methods
are used, but the most simple and effective would appear to
be food deprivation - if the animal does not perform its' tricks
effectively or is disruptive in any way, it is simply starved.
These mammals are intelligent enough to understand this method
of "training" and usually concede defeat in the
end rather than starve to death. The animals also suffer
stress from being placed in these artificial surroundings
- the stark, concrete pools offer them no mental stimulation.
It is no wonder that the trainers say the animals have
to keep them stimulated, after all a concrete pool, surrounded
by man-made noise, in no way substitutes for the curiosities
of coral reefs, sand, rocks, weed and the challenge of
hunting life fish and squid.
- "They are here to educate the public"
In fact during these shows trainers do offer a bit of educational
information about life in the wild and dangers of the sea,
pollution and drift netting etc. This is usually followed
by a display of the animal's agility, and comments on how
behaviour is characteristic of a happy, wild dolphin. This
makes their image look good. But in reality, in the wild
a healthy dolphin or whale very rarely beaches itself,
to hit a ball, allows someone to ride on its' back, "sings" on
command or allows itself to be "kissed" or fed. These
are not natural behaviours, simply tricks the marine parks
use to keep the audience interested. So to use the excuse the
animals are in captivity for educational purposes is simply
untrue - what you see in a marine park is a caricature of what
the animals acts like in its' natural environment - it is simply
mis-information. The only thing you learn about a marine mammal
by watching them in captivity is what they physically look
like, that they swim in water and breathe air. You could learn
more than that from a good video, DVD or movie - without subjecting
the animal to a lifetime of captivity. The only way to see
marine mammals acting naturally is in the wild, where they
- "They are endangered and we have to maintain the species"
Most dolphins and whales held in captivity around the world are
of two species; Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and
Killer Whales or Orcas (Orcinus orca). Whilst these animals
face many dangers in the wild, they are not yet on the endangered
list. Also survival rates and birth rates in captivity are
extremely poor, with animals continuing to be captured from
wild populations around the world to replenish stocks to marine
parks - therefore the argument for the maintenance of an endangered
species is also incorrect.
- "We really care for our animals"
The huge cost of purchasing these animals means they are indeed
cared for, after all they are huge money spinning machines,
to replace them is expensive, so it is imperative that health
is maintained. But that doesn't mean they are happy or not
Armed with this knowledge, people concerned with the welfare
of these marine mammals began protests against the various
captive facilities around the UK. By giving the public the
opportunity to learn both sides of the story, the public voted
with their feet, facilities began losing money and closed down.
For three of the dolphins; Rocky (Morecambe), Missie & Silver
(Brighton) - the story had a happy ending. A coalition of concerned
individuals and NGO's ensured they swam free in the waters off
the Turks & Caicos islands - a far cry from the dim, concrete
pools they had come from. Sadly the remaining dolphins (from
Windsor and Flamingoland) were sent to Hardjerwijk in Holland
and Kolmarden in Sweden respectively - not given the chance of
freedom they were doomed to a life of captivity, never to see
the ocean, feel the currents, chase live fish or make their own
choices ever again.
Failure to secure freedom for the dolphins from Windsor and
Flamingoland was disappointing, but from these campaigns came
the biggest success of all - the knowledge that the UK would
be free of captive whales and dolphins.
Liberty is a right for all both man and beast, we aim to see
it stays that way in the UK. It is also why the Marine Connection
continues to fight on behalf of dolphins and whales in captivity
around the world.