How far are animal rights followers willing to take their ideological, anti-captive wild animal views? It’s the same contradictory internal conflict that plagues organizations like Big Cat Rescue (originally Wildlife on Easy Street, who bred and sold big cats as pets), and their declaration that wild felines are not happy in captivity, but stock their own enormous collection of the caged animals.
"We had not then figured out what seems so obvious to us today, that breeding for life in a cage an animal that was meant to roam free was inherently cruel."
I take cruelty very seriously.Cruelty is defined as: willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.
Big Cat Rescue's current collection is apparently OK, because according to their founder, they seek to run their facility out of business once they end the breeding of big cats and they all die out in captivity. But what about the current unfortunate inmates? Why must they continue to suffer an unnatural and unpleasant existence just because selfish humans cannot cope with the concept of death?
It’s my personal belief, that I also feel is a quite rational one, that there is no point to living if you are unfulfilled, in constant mental agony, and there is no hope in sight that it will ever come to an end. Everyone has to die some time, and this is why we choose to end the suffering of our beloved companion animals when they are doomed to spend the remainder of their lives in physical and mental agony if we do not intervene. It is the kindest choice for them, even if we don’t want to see them go. So I wonder what the deal is with people who tout anti-captivity sentiment ‘unless an animal cannot be released into the wild’.
- Tonga the white serval at Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Rescue to remove elderly serval's nose so he can continue captivity
Winter is a dolphin who was caught in a crab trap and rescued (with assistance from the oh-so-evil Seaworld) and her fame really took off when she stared in her own film, Dolphin Tale, along with big stars like Morgan Freeman. Unfortunately, the trap cut off her blood circulation and the end of her tail 'flaked off'. Winter is the world’s only cetacean to successfully don a prosthetic tail, inspiring humans with prosthetic limbs and non-disabled people alike with her resilience and spirit…or at least what people perceive to be such.
Anti-captivity groups implore that dolphins are silently suffering in their small tanks, casting an illusion of happiness with their ‘smiles’ that are actually just the way their snouts are molded. Unlike other dolphin species, including killer whales, bottle-nose dolphins have reasonable longevity rates in captivity, with their wild average lifespans varying by locale. They are easy to train and adapt to captivity successfully, hence, why they are so widely kept in aquariums across the globe.
I viewed on Dolphin Tale’s IMDB forum that many people expressed anti-dolphin captivity sentiment (just as they do on every single Youtube video featuring dolphinariums that do not have comment approval), but were assured by responders that no other captive dolphins were used in the film to play Winter, other than herself. Winter is housed in the Clearwater Aquarium (a 24 hour webcam of her can be viewed here), and when it comes to captive cetaceans, they are exclusively a rescue facility.
Is Winter Happy?
Surprisingly, Winter does not always wear her prosthetic tail, she spends most of her time floating tailless in a pool, or swimming improperly. Not only is she eternally subjected to 'awful captivity', but she cannot even accomplish a fundamental pleasure of being a dolphin, outside of when humans provide her the artificial aid. Despite all this, she is almost 7 years old and going strong. I believe past experience shows that unhappy, stressed cetaceans do not fare very well for very long.
Why are anti-captive dolphin believers and Big Cat Rescue supporters presumably unphased by the captive existence of these unreleasable animals? Does Winter’s lack of a tail alter her brain and cause her to no longer "suffer" as do others with no disability? Do Big Cat Rescue’s cats pine for freedom, or are they unfulfilled and just waiting to die in their ‘cramped’ caging? I don’t think any empathetic human would be able to overlook this moral dilemma if any of that were true. When any of my pets are sick, or presumably unhappy, the stress is transferred to myself.
I don’t think Carole Baskin (founder of Big Cat Rescue) thinks her cats are unhappy, or living an unreasonable existence. I also don’t think those who care for Winter think they are subjecting this animal to a wretched life. Maybe these individuals think captive animals are not living the ideal life, but they are still pleased with the unnatural alternative.
Winter's captivity is reasonable enough to justify her existence. So, that’s a start with animal rights-ists (my personal belief is that a good portion of captive animals are thriving and are fine). Captivity is not detrimental to an animal enough to warrant termination of their 'suffering'. When I hear people describe captivity as a prison, make comparisons to the animal’s natural range, and describe the enclosure that they are forced to be restricted to, it really does come off as the human equivalent of being locked in a small dungeon (as they want you to believe). But animal rights followers do not truly believe their words, with the exception of maybe PETA, who is known for killing dogs and cats soon after they ‘rescue’ them. I can give them credit where it is due and commend their honesty, but not so much praise their twisted ethics and priorities (neither can the dogs and cats).
Maybe then, to ‘anti-cap’ people, captivity is not “cruel”, but it is 'unfair', which in a way is true. I can't really expect that any animal would make the decision on their own to enter captivity.
Yet, I would have to respond via Willy Wonka’s sarcastic smile, captivity is unfair? Please tell me more about how the world is fair.
Is it fair that wild big cats will inevitably succumb to a drawn out death after they reach about 10 years of age because of mild health restrictions making them unable to hunt and defend themselves? Is it fair that some dolphin species get bullied, raked, and killed by members of their own species for no apparent reason? What about a gray whale spending a year incubating and anticipating her new calf, being subjected to a laborious birth, and being thrilled in becoming a new parent… only to be chased into exhaustion, having her cherished newborn drowned by killer whales so they can eat the baby’s lip? Now that’s REALLY unfair!
The "wild" is extremely cruel and unfair.
It's important to separate animal rights from animal welfare (the former, if adopted, will turn our world upside down with ridiculousness). I don’t care about where the animal ‘belongs’, the only thing that concerns me is if the animal can be cared for properly in its new situation, and be managed by dedicated caretakers who can appropriately bond with the animal and adapt to the best of their ability to meet its needs. The survival of a tail-less dolphin is testament to human care standards.
Captivity has obvious costs, but also benefits for humans and the animal species alike. I for one am a believer that if Winter could talk, she would not have preferred to be left in that crab trap.
Girlinorbit on October 06, 2016:
If Winter were to be realeased into the wild, then she would die in pain. If she were uthanized, even if it were humanely done, that would be cruelty to her, because she had been living a happy, healthy life with her companion Hope. Besides, if she did have her tail, she wouldn't know how to survive because she wasn't old enough to have been taught anything about survival from her mother. Keeping Winter in captiveity is the best thing that can be done for her. She is able to swim without her prostetic tail, and she dosnen't wear it all the time because it would damage her skin.
Winter is healthy, happy, and enjoying life.
Maddie Ivins from UK, Wales on October 19, 2015:
I love Winter, if she was free. Her death would come faster than in captivity, she has no tail for crying out loud.
She only wears her fake tail for performances, which are physical therapy for her. She will get irritated if left on too long, I have visited her and the staff are so nice. It is better than SeaWorld. I believe she is happy. Also, she cant go free because she was a baby when found, meaning she has no experience to swimming in the ocean, not knowing what danger is and what isn't, no training in catching her own fish. They cant just go and find her mother because she could be ANYWHERE in that huge ocean, maybe even dead, for all we know her mother is out there and probably hoping for the best for Winter. The dolphins who CMA have. Have a fine reason to stay, Hope (The new baby who was rescued) was found trying to feed from her dead mother and Nick's mother died on arrival due to injuries. There is no other dolphin to be paired with Nick but they cant go catch a random male to pair him with, that's then wrong. They will wait and care for him well. I love CMA, I'd be nothing without them, Winter inspires my cousin who has a disability.
Its what I think, not trying to offend anyone. Its only my opinion.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on October 22, 2014:
That's fine Amberjewel
Amberjewel on October 22, 2014:
I noticed a passage in your report just now saying that "Surprisingly, Winter does not always wear her prosthetic tail, she spends most of her time floating tailless in a pool, or swimming improperly. Not only is she eternally subjected to 'awful captivity', but she cannot even accomplish a fundamental pleasure of being a dolphin, outside of when humans provide her the artificial aid." I do not wish to criticize, but I would like to point out one thing: Winter uses her prosthetic tail as a therapy device. Also, dolphin skin is sensitive. If she wore her tail 24/7, her tail would become quite uncomfortable.
I don't want to be rude, I'm only trying to clear up any confusion. However, I completely agree with most of what you said. :)
lia on April 26, 2014:
Hey there. Technically winter isint the world's only dolphin without a tail. FUJI. I believe her name is. Is missing a tail also, they spent I have no idea how much to make her a tail. She was around quite long before winter.
Clara on February 08, 2014:
I'm sorry but...are you a scientist? Have you studied or worked on the field, or are your blogs just a matter of opinion? Cause so have the ones I've read are...lacking in the science department...along with all the years of research. Just asking.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on December 05, 2013:
JJ on December 05, 2013:
Bravo. Just... bravo. It's easy for people to be tricked into thinking that these animals are "sad" without REALLY knowing what its like working with these animals. As humans, we do a great job of projecting our own thoughts and emotions onto objects and animals, which I think hurts the well-being of animals in the long run. I've yet to meet a dolphin that I think would have preferred to be out in the wild. In fact, I worked at a facility where some fencing was damaged during a storm and a dolphin got out. With the option of "freedom" right there in front of him, he opted to stay and wait until a staff member could let him back in to his home. And if I was that dolphin, I would have chosen the same thing. Seriously, these animals have it made... a clean home, fresh healthy food, regular exercise... I'd take it.
Another thing, I don't think there is a single dolphin under human care - "captivity" is a bad word in my book :) - that is longing for or even thinking about life in the ocean, especially since the majority of animals, especially in the US, were born there. Our ancestors used to live in the woods and search and hunt for food... I don't pine for those days, either.
janeanonymous on November 28, 2013:
For anyone to think that animals have the mental capacity to make a willfull or conscious decision on what is cruel & unfair is totally ludicrous. "Willful" is an adjective applied to a person who is determined to follow a personal course of action or behavior, usually against better advice or against authority. Conscious is capable of thought, will, or perception.
Abby on September 14, 2013:
PETA claims to be ethical, yet they want Morgan released... Morgan is probably DEAF!!! and needs to use echolocation (as in... echo, you know, and noise?) to find food... Morgan can't be released! Duh, PETA!
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 13, 2013:
Thanks very much jumo.
jumo on May 13, 2013:
I am, for the most part Anti -captivity, but what you write is interesting and well thought out, you do have some good points. (And kudos for at least mentioning that Killer whales might have a shortened Life span in captivivty...)
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on November 20, 2012:
I really need to revise that sentence structure, but thanks haha.
Shaddie from Washington state on November 20, 2012:
"...Captivity is unfair? Please tell me more about how the world is fair.
Is it fair that wild big cats will inevitably succumb to a drawn out death after they reach about 10 years old because of mild health restrictions making them unable to hunt and defend themselves? Is it fair that some dolphin species get bullied, raked, and killed by members of their own species for no apparent reason? What about a gray whale spending a year incubating and anticipating its new calf, being subjected to a laborious birth, and being thrilled to become a new parent… only to be chased into exhaustion and have its cherished newborn drowned by killer whales so they can eat the baby’s lip? Now that’s REALLY unfair!
The "wild" is extremely cruel and unfair." Probably my favorite set of sentences ever. I may just make it my Facebook status :)
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 25, 2012:
Thank you for your thoughts Andrew. My observations lead me to believe that dolphins are not suffering in captivity, although that may widely be connected to an individual's definition of 'suffering'. I only defend captivity providers that are invested in the welfare of the animals...like the Clear water Aquarium, and other facilities. I consider this proof that captivity is not inherently unethical.
Andrew Randrianasulu on September 25, 2012:
Well, this is unfair simply because people _assume_ captivity = care, without even thinking about money flow or providing better conditions. [and any sized tank is NOT something _any_ dolphin can call home]