Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jean-Michel Cousteau Speaks for the Orcas

In the video below, Jean-Michel Cousteau speaks compassionately and elegantly about the Orcas and dolphins kept in captivity, especially in relation to Tilikum 'Tilly' the Orca that recently killed the SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau. I had considered writing about it myself, but I couldn't put together the words in quite the way I wanted. Jean-Michel does so for me. Thanks to girl least likely to for bringing it to my attention.

Here's an article with a deeper interview with Jean-Michel Cousteau.

And, here's another article about the subject, which essentially compiles a lot of different reactions to the situation.

We need to try to make things better for the currently captive animals by moving them to sanctuaries that more closely resemble their natural habitat, and we have to stop capturing and caging more wild animals. It's simple. Put yourself in their fins, fur, tails, antennae...if you wouldn't want to live that way, it's not right for them either.

EDITED TO ADD (3/1/10): Apparently, we haven't learned our lesson. The show must go on. And instead of 20 people in the audience like when the trainer died, the first show back had 2000. All supporting Sea World, supporting using animals for entertainment. All not getting the big picture about animal welfare and caging wild animals.


Duke said...

I'm personally sorry that woman got killed but she knew the risks dealing with wild animals and decided to do it anyway. You certainly can't blame the Orca. That poor creature is pitiful all cooped up in a little tank.

But I think we have to separate honest zoos from carnivals like Sea World. There are many endangered species that are only surviving because of captive breeding programs in zoos. It's simply not feasible to study animals in the wild. Having zoos where scientists can draw blood and otherwise do detailed study is the only way we can learn enough to help the animals later.

A zoo is the only place the average person has to actually see animals in life. They can learn to appreciate them. If elephants were only some creatures from Africa no one ever saw they wouldn't care what happened to them. I think real zoos give people a much greater appreciation for animals than if they'd never seen one in their life.

Also, most zoos swap animals they breed and not many are captured in the wild like they used to be. Animals raised in captivity can't really survive in the wild.

So in my opinion zoos can do some good and if they build natural settings and don't deal in wild animals, maybe they are tolerable. I hate the idea of putting animals in cages myself and I would never do it. Outfits like Sea World are simply horrible places out to make money by mistreating those poor creatures. I'd shut every one of them down.

Kenike said...

I agree that zoos are different than places like Sea World. Most of them do not require the animals be trained or to perform for us. But most of them are still required to be on display for us. Even the shy animals, with no real place to get a break. And that’s how most of the enclosures at zoos are built, so humans can be sure to see the animals front and center.

I completely agree with the importance of animal education and to helping people connect to wildlife. I agree that connection is supremely important for teaching respect of animal lives. I don’t know that I agree zoos are the best providers of education and that connection.

I'm definitely against using animals for our own purposes. This means entertainment, and even study/research that is disruptive to their lives. And when we have a caged animal, we aren’t studying the norms of that species, we are studying the abnormalities. Granted not all of the zoo residents were captured from the wild, but it definitely still happens today. Maybe less often in the US, I don’t know, but if we import them from another zoo who took them from the wild that still counts as capturing wild animals even if our zoos are further down the chain. I don't believe in capturing wild animals and caging them, and I think sacrificing one animal as a representative of its species is not fair to that individual animal. I know I wouldn't want to be that animal sacrifice forced to live in a cage! And if we have zoos all over the world, and several of each animal type, we're no longer talking one animal, we're talking hundreds of each species. While I truly would hate to see a species disappear because I value all life, quality of life should not be the trade off for quantity of life. In general, our money is better spent on conserving habitat than on breeding programs because that is where the real problem lies.

And where I really struggle is when an animal is placed in a zoo where the environment is just so radically different from their natural habitat. That, and when their captive environment is just too small for them, so it is like a terrible cage. Elephants are a prime example. Most zoos do not and cannot provide the space these elephants need to live happy and healthy lives. And yet, elephants are a huge draw for customers, so zoos keep them even though it is not in the elephant's best interest. As such, many zoos and the places that call themselves zoos, their first priority is not animal welfare. And that is just wrong.

I much prefer wildlife rescue sanctuaries dedicated first and foremost to welfare, which also educate and allow for humans to connect with animals. The animals have more space and something of a real habitat. They rehabilitate injured animals, and if possible, release them back into the wild, but they also care for the animals for life who would not survive again back in the wild.

Ultimately, I am against zoos, though I have certainly done my share of visiting them in the past.
Here are a couple of viewpoints from animal welfare/rights groups: