Saturday, May 12th marked the 6th annual Empty the Tanks, a day of demonstrations and events around the world protesting keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. Demonstrators gathered in 22 countries at numerous marine parks to spotlight the cruel confinement of cetaceans in small concrete tanks for our amusement.
The International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute posted our new video “The Lives of Wild Dolphins” on Wednesday May 9th in anticipation of Empty the Tanks. The video emphasizes how important living free in the oceans and how important the social bonds are for wild dolphins and whales, and why keeping these beings in captivity for our entertainment is so wrong.
Empty the Tanks was conceived of and is organized by Rachel Carbary, who had gone to Taiji, Japan, as a volunteer and was determined to do something to help stop the dolphin exploitation.
In Taiji, dolphins are killed for their meat, but the real money comes from the sale of a few of the dolphins from each pod to the captivity industry, netting significant profits each year for the dolphin hunters and the Taiji town government.
A demonstration for Empty the Tanks took place in Taiji in front of the notorious Taiji Whale Museum, which helps capture and broker live dolphins from the Taiji drive hunts.
Rachel told the International Marine Mammal Project: “There is no need to imprison these sentient animals for entertainment and monetary reasons. The future of our world should be in eco-tourism. We should be teaching people of all ages to respect wildlife and the wild spaces they come from.”
“Swimming with a captive dolphin that is performing a forced behavior due to food deprivation is not teaching respect - it is teaching dominance and disrespect,” Rachel added. “The captivity industry has also taught society that selfies with animals is appropriate behavior and that humans can encroach into the personal space of an animal. That bad education coming straight from the captivity industry is now resulting in the harassment of wild animals. We see this in every story where people are pulling dolphins from the water for a photo op. or when someone gets close to a seal pup for a selfie. Don't support captivity, respect wild animals and #emptythetanks."
The International Marine Mammal Project’s Michael Reppy attended the Empty the Tanks demonstration in front of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, a park in Vallejo, CA, that features performing bottlenose dolphins. He reports that about 30-35 protesters came for several hours, holding hand-made signs and urging park goers to not buy tickets.
SeaWorld San Diego outrageously claimed Empty the Tanks was about “dumping” cetaceans into the wild, far from the truth. Their full statement to Channel 8 News in San Diego:
“SeaWorld is home to an incredible collection of animals, including rescued animals that can no longer survive on their own. Some people believe these animals should be dumped into the wild, but we know they are not conditioned to survive if that happened. Our animal care specialists and zoo team are accredited, world renowned and are constantly seeking ways to innovate the care we provide these animals to help not only them, but also how to sustain and support species in the wild.”
In fact, people and organizations opposed to captivity well understand that captive dolphins and whales cannot be simply let go in the wild. Rather, we seek to retire dolphins and whales to seaside sanctuaries, where their needs for food and medical care will be provided. But the whales and dolphins in such sanctuaries will not have to be deprived of food in order to make them do tricks for a crowd to blaring techno music. Instead, they will be able to live out their lives in freedom. Some may prove able to be released back into the wild, but that will depend on careful scientific evaluation of each individual.
Furthermore, little of the research done at SeaWorld or other marine parks is of benefit to marine mammals in the wild.
It is long past time that SeaWorld and other marine parks around the world phase out captivity of intelligent whales and dolphins, and retire these beings to seaside sanctuaries.
Photos of Empty the Tanks in Vallejo, CA, at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom by Michael Reppy.