In which I watch a documentary and kick-off

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When I was a kid I wanted to be a dolphin trainer (this was right after I wanted to be a dog and before I learnt the word paleontologist). I had dreams of being best buds with a dolphin and teaching it cool tricks and generally hanging out in a pool. I wanted to go to Florida so badly and luckily my parents didn't give in "you really won't like it" they'd volley back at me each time I made my case. I felt duped but looking back I realise how well they knew me, that flying 4300 miles to see a seven year old lose her cool would not be worth their time. I would have hated it. I would have hated seeing an animal forced into performances, surrounded by glass and so far from home. It would have upset me and they knew that well ahead of my seven year old brain wrapping itself around the idea of a bigger picture.

A few years ago a whale washed up at home. I'd been out on the boat and the shipping news was warning us all to keep a look out. The carcass had floated into the channel and could do serious damage to a vessel. I looked out for it all day but didn't see it. It wasn't until early evening that my uncle tooted his horn outside our house and gave me a lift down to the beach to see it. It was an 80 foot fin whale and by the time we got down to the shore a big crowd had gathered. There was a sense of sadness that this whale had separated from its pod (apparently that's how whales choose to go, pretty poetic I think) but at least it was still in the water. It died out at sea not in a tank or being transported somewhere strange.

As a whole I think we instinctively feel the need to involve ourselves in the natural world. We assume that because we have evolved we should alter the paths of other creatures, regardless of their own evolutionary journey. We feel the urge to meddle. We feel the need to be entertained and flirt with the idea that we have nature's best intentions at heart when really all we want to see is an animal perform.We feel compelled to do something. step in, save it, interfere and disrupt. But what if we took a step back, foot off the pedal, big breath in and just let it go? The world would still spin. The ecosystems would balance out as they always have done and this pantomime of wild souls cooped up in pools barely big enough to dive in would be over.  As humans we assume an entitlement and dress it up as conservation. Conservation would be justly displayed in the wild, if nature was given a respectful distance, responsible fishing was enforced more heavily, conscious waste disposal was monitored and ethical offshore drilling was restricted. There are some brilliant people out there championing good conservation projects, giving nature the space it deserves and mindfully helping to restore habitats. I'm not looking at them, I'm looking at the parks and attractions that will swear to you it's all in the name of conservation and research, while a whale soaks the front row.

Yes, it's possible some creatures would become extinct, but don't we all? Evolution is based on extinction, the founding block of life's cycle is the death of a predecessor. I refuse to accept that killer whales and other animals are surviving purely because they are in captivity. They would survive without our intervention. 

We're the problem, we are not the solution. 

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  1. Blackfish was one of those shocking documentaries that really made me question how beneficial captivity is for animals, even in the name of conservation. I think a good number of zoos tend to get it right, but I know that now there is some new research which suggests that even zoo breeding programmes can fall short of the mark in making a dent in conservation, but I don't know enough about it to comment too much, and I'm in no way anti-zoos, there have been some remarkable recoveries of species throughout history, which are flourishing today, but I do agree with you, I think there is too much involvement in controlling nature. I do think that keeping Orcas in captivity is wrong though. They're large, intelligent creatures with complex family systems and Sea World seem to be a company which places business and money before the ethics behind keeping these animals, and it was distressing to watch. Amazing post, and you deliver a great message too! - Tasha

  2. Thanks Tasha, admittedly I probably shouldn't watch documentaries so late at night...