Dolphinarium: Animal Cruelty?

What do you think: are dolphinariums a playground for dolphins or are they simply a place to entertain people? We asked our followers this question and received more than 150 responses. In this blog we highlight some of the opinions.

Caro Lien was ambivalent regarding this topic and wrote the following: “Animals in a show that are being kept in a backstage pool and that never get to see the open air, troubles me. Animals that are being kept in an outdoor lagoon are in a better position, although space is still limited.

Tom Zwarts did not agree with this, he thinks: “A better position still means that these animals are in a bad place when you compare confinement to their natural habitat.”

Cora Dijkema agreed with that and is absolutely against dolphinariums. She wrote: “I have seen these magnificent animals, about 50, in their own natural habitat and I can tell you that dolphinariums are pure animal CRUELTY. Dolphins must be free! Don’t ever buy tickets to see dolphin shows !!!

According to Marian Kopcke, it is not so bad: “I think that the dolphins have a pretty decent life!”

Karing van Haevermaet also sees some positive sides: “Wildlife that is being threatened with extinction can be returned to their natural habitat through breeding programs. Zoos and dolphinariums offer people a place to get in touch with animals that otherwise would never happened.

Patricia Snel responds to this reaction: “I agree with the first point and I think it holds truth. I don’t however, understand why people have to get close to animals considering that this would normally not happen. There are wonderful documentaries in which you can see the animals in their natural habitat and through which you can learn much more about these animals… To cage animals for show is pure entertainment at the expense of the animal.”

Rachelle Helmans adds to statement: “The animals that have reproduced in captivity still need to be taken care of, which costs a lot of money. I don’t see the harm in letting people, who buy tickets, providing that money, see these animals from a reasonable distance.”

Coby Majoor highlights another side of the issue: “I believe that the dolphins in a dolphinarium are better off than most of domestic pets. You can tell by the fact that dolphins become older than they do in nature and reproduce in captivity. I presume that a lot of people who think a dolphinarium is cruel to animals, have pets at home, which they think is totally normal. Why would a dog not be happier in the wild than a dolphin? Thus, I don’t think it is cruel, as long as the animal is well taken care of, with enough space.”

Alex Romijn has an extensive reply to Coby Majoor’s question.

Dolphinariums limit dolphins:

  • Opportunity to exhibit natural behaviour.
  • Territory to the extent that dolphins have less than 0.00001% of habitat compared to their wild counterparts. This is comparable to the space that a battery chicken has.
  • The amount of food that dolphins receive, with the aim to satiate dolphins during the day, but to such an extent that dolphins will always have room for food to keep them performing tricks to receive more – force through feeding.
  • Sexual reproduction by selecting a few for breeding programs and even using artificial insemination.

Although there are differences, there are also some similarities with domestic pets. However, the argument that dogs may sometimes be in a bad living situation, does not make dolphinariums ok .. Also, I don’t think that the fact that dolphins become older and reproduce is a bellwether. Especially not when you consider that dolphins in confinement exhibit sexually abusive behaviour that can actually lead to the said reproduction. There is known case of a dolphin, named Honey, that got seriously injured because of this sort of abusive sexual conduct. Overall, scientists found that dolphinariums are not in the position to offer dolphins what they need. As for dogs, their wellbeing is completely context and situation dependent, which is the difference between keeping dogs compared to dolphins.