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Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 1:08 pm
by stark
After watching their actions and concerns about horse racing, I'm having second thoughts about Shamu and the Ringling Brothers circus elephants.
Maybe there is a place for them in our society after all.

What say you?


Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 2:15 pm
by BaroqueAgain1
IMHO, those are separate issues. I don't think that the confinement of a circus life is good for such a large, social animal as an elephant. And putting a cetacean, even more far-ranging, intelligent and social, in a little concrete prison cell/pool is never humane.
I certainly don't agree with PETA's goal of eliminating horse racing, but they had it right about the elephants and whales.


Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:40 pm
by ElPrado2
I have had occasion to speak with elephants several times. They are amazingly intelligent. They can understand human speech from an early age. They simply can't speak it. They do have amazing memories. I have a friend that was in a traveling circus. He let me meet the elephants once when his show came Tampa. I gave them apples as a treat then and they were friendly, touching me lightly with their trunks and leaning into scratches on their cheeks and ears. I met this guy years later after the show had finally gone out of business. Most of the elephants were still alive at a wildlife facility. He told that the elephants could remember me still, as the girl with apples, and he could ask them if they did. After a minute he said they were nodding and squealing positively. I didn't hurt them, was nice and didn't tease. He said many people meeting them would tease or pinch their trunks or speak loud and irritate them. I didn't tease. They remembered me as a friend.
I could have had a job as an elephant handler.
I've had a long term relationship with a female dolphin, too. 1 lost her newborn in a storm while I was working on base in the gardening crew. I was in thigh deep water dragging a big pine branch to shore. Suddenly the crew got excited. We had found a newborn dolphin at the shoreline earlier. I looked down, and there was an adult dolphin with it's head out of the water beside me, 2 feet away. I signaled that we had found it by making a carrying movement with my arms, then shook my head, and did a motion that would show sorrow, the baby was dead. The dolphin stayed watching me for a moment, then swam off. A few minutes later, she came back, chasing a small school of mullet to. I guess that was thank you.
20 years later, I was walking along Bayshore Boulevard and heard a splash. I looked in that direction, and a dolphin pair of a mother and half grown dolphin were leaping close to me, a fairly rare sight. I believe that may have been the same adult dolphin as I had met before. They do have amazing memories.


Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 9:26 pm
by BaroqueAgain1
I agree that dolphins are amazing and intelligent creatures. So, when I say that 'cetaceans' shouldn't be put in small concrete pools (which is much like putting us in a prison cell), I'm including ALL of them: Orca, Pilot and Beluga whales, and all their smaller dolphin cousins. :(


Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:02 pm
by stark
So, I'm drawing a line down the middle of the page and being open minded.
On the left are the negatives, and there's plenty.
What about the positives I can jot down on the right side, are there any when it comes to Shamu and Dumbo?

Research and education?
Children's experience?

And back to horses.....

Would you support PETA in trying to outlaw horses from participating in the annual Rose Parade?
They shouldn't have to wear all that heavy silver and it's a shame they're asked to walk 5 miles on asphalt.


Posted: Tue Jul 23, 2019 2:27 am
by BaroqueAgain1
Children can be exposed to animals like elephants at accredited zoos, where modern exhibits have more space, with pools and sandy/soft ground to reduce arthritis. Or at sanctuaries.
And there are all sorts of programs on TV that teach about animals, from meercats to mountain lions to manta rays.
For me, it's hard to justify keeping cetaceans in captivity, even for the premise of educating children. When your natural environment is the whole ocean, and you use echo-location to travel through those open waters, being confined in a concrete pen, where all your sonar bounces back like a hard slap to the brain....well, it's a punishing prison for an innocent animal.
The Rose Parade is on Jan.1, and the usually-cool temperatures make it a good time for a horse to put in some work. Walking five miles, even carrying a saddle and rider, shouldn't be a difficult task for a healthy horse. They evolved to cover a lot of distance, constantly moving to find grass and water, often over hard/rocky ground.
I'm also under the impression that many (if not most) of the shod horses will have pads between the shoes and hooves when they work on paved surfaces. (If anyone knows otherwise, please share?) So I'm not quite ready to eliminate the equestrian groups from the parade. ;)

ETA: Research would be the only justification I can see for keeping whales in captivity. Animal Planet is running a series right now called The Aquarium, which is based at the huge Georgia Aquarium. The staff there is studying their beluga whales' food intake and metabolism. It's important work because some of the wild populations have had their numbers decline and the researchers want to know if that has to do with their food supply, and what their needs are.


Posted: Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:27 am
by stark


Posted: Sat Jul 27, 2019 3:17 pm
by Tessablue
First off, PETA's only concerns are money and notoriety. Animals don't have much to do with it, so there isn't any real need to consider anything from their point of view.

I am certainly happy to talk about zoos and aquariums, however, having been very involved in research from that perspective. It's a very complex issue that is rarely given the thought it deserves by public discourse, largely because it's really really complicated and the people involved in it are often afraid to put themselves out there and talk about their work (hard to blame them, really). But I'll attempt to break it down as best I can. For reference, I did a research internship at a top aquarium and have stayed in touch with many people from my time there.

First off, it's important to note that orca and beluga whale captitivy are very separate issues. Orca capitivity is extremely controversial within the aquarium community, and many of the people I worked with wanted nothing to do with it, while acknowledging that the people at Sea World are genuinely doing the best they can. I don't feel qualified to talk about orcas, but I can talk about belugas very extensively, as they were the whales I worked with personally.

Another important note: all zoos and aquariums are not the same. It's painful to acknowledge, but not every institution cares about their charges equally. However, it's easy to determine top-level institutions. AZA accreditiation involves an extensive review process and is difficult to achive. You can generally assume that an AZA-accredited facility is one that provides the highest level of care to its animals. The list can be found here:

Alright, so, let me emphasize something: beluga trainers and researchers do not want to capture wild animals. I'm not sure when the last beluga capture occurred in this country, but most animals in aquariums now have been there for decades and would not survive a release. Captive breeding programs are thoroughly preferred and have been relatively successful among belugas. Belugas are incomparably better-suited to aquarium environments than orcas, captive-bred belugas especially. Belugas are adaptable, non-aggressive whales who thrive with enrichment and form very deep social bonds with their trainers. They communicate incredibly well with humans and are not shy about informing people when they are unhappy (something I experienced when one of our whales became sick). Captive-bred whales are so thoroughly socialized from birth that they tend to seek out human contact whenever they can. We had one whale who would just hang out in front of the crowd and play with the kids all day, even when it was time for feeding! Not to say that our other whales weren't happy and social as well, but there was certainly a difference.

Was live capture morally justifiable back when it was widely practiced? That's a difficult question, but the benefits have been undeniable- both for whales and for humans. Aside from the establishment of a breeding program, the outreach effects have produced momentous change at a number of levels. Marine mammals are the most legally protected class of animal in the world, largely because it's impossible to encounter one and not want to love and protect it. Research and conservation funding for marine mammals still isn't where it should be, but it's certainly higher than most other conservation fields (and I actually know quite a few researchers who resent the "charismatic megafauna" for siphoning a large portion of available research funding). And this is without even touching upon the many aspects of whale biology and conservation that we have learned along the way. So is captive breeding justifiable? In my opinion, absolutely, as long as we're talking about beluga whales at an AZA-accredited institution.

In certain respects, there is much overlap between horse racing and the cetacean husbandry world. Both are widely villainized but are populated primarily by people who love the animals involved, particularly because there isn't much money involved at most levels. Both have had their fair share of bad publicity, some deserved because of nonrepresentative scandals in the field, some undeserved. Honestly, from the perspective of someone who loves and has been involved with both, I think aquariums are far more morally defensible because of their research and outreach capabilities. I know that can be a bit difficult to hear, especially on a racing forum, but isn't it true that the people who speak out most against aquariums first encountered and learned to love whales at those very institutions? Racing, as beautiful as it is, is still a sport at its fundamental level.

I didn't realize that there's a tv show about the Georgia Aquarium, but that's really encouraging to hear. Georgia, along with Mystic and the Shedd, is one of the most renowned beluga facilities in the world and does a lot of incredible work. We collaborated a bit during the beginning of that project, although our focus was on the stress levels and immune systems of the whales (developing ways to quickly and painlessly take biological samples from whales in order to judge their health both in captivity and in the wild). It's nice to hear that there is now a contast to Blackfish, which really outraged a lot of people in the community. I know people who were interviewed for that movie were furious when they saw how their words were presented in the final product, and it has unfortunately done quite a bit of harm to institutions that have nothing to do with it.

Happy to talk more about this and answer any questions people have about aquarium research and the like.


Posted: Sat Jul 27, 2019 5:32 pm
by BaroqueAgain1
Tessa, thank you for your well-informed observations.
The Aquarium series on Animal Planet has been wonderful to watch, as the Georgia Aquarium cares for such a huge variety of sea life, as well as fresh water species. Viewers haven't just gotten to learn about the usual cuddly characters, like sea otters and penguins, but also their big Pacific Octopus and their rays. It amazes me that their big ocean tank accommodates an adult whale shark, as well as 800-1,000 lb. Manta Rays. Also fascinating to see the lab where they grow baby corals to implant back in the wild.
It's hard to tell from the footage, but is their ocean tank constructed as a huge ring? You can see that it's deep and broad, but the way its big occupants swim past in such a leisurely way makes me think that they're not running into the wall of a tank just around the corner.
It was airing on Sunday nights, but I didn't see a new episode last Sunday. You may have to do some searching on the internet to find the episodes.


Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 11:46 am
by starrydreamer
If you're interested in orca captivity and SeaWorld, check out John Hargrove's book, Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish. He was interviewed for Blackfish but I feel like the book was a bit more moderate - he wrote extensively about his experiences and relationships with orcas.

Some of PETA's concerns are legitimate, I think, but on the whole, I still roll my eyes whenever they make waves.