Not pro-cap or anti-cap: I’m pro-animal.
After the Kalia post, it’s understandable this blog is getting questions about if I’m pro- or anti-cap. The tendency seems to be to assume that I’m pro- cetacean captivity because I won’t actively condemn SeaWorld, won’t stand for the accusations against trainers, and because I hold that cetaceans can exhibit normal behaviors in captive environments. I don’t ascribe myself as agreeing with either ideology - as most long-time readers of the blog know by now I prioritize what is most important for the animals involved, and neither side of the pro-/anti- captivity debate does that. I am pro-animal, and that is what is truly important and where my ethos about husbandry, research and education comes from.
When you hear about SeaWorld or other institutions that house captive cetaceans (and for the moment, we’ll just focus on them), you only hear two things right now; you either hear that the parks are horrible and awful and inhumane and animal abuse and that the whales are crazy and suffering, or you hear a story about a romanticized paradise where whales bond lovingly with humans in a perfectly Disney way and have every need fulfilled perfectly. Neither of these viewpoints are true.
More importantly, neither of those viewpoints are useful. What do I want to see, as a pro-animal person? I want everybody to stop yelling, shut up, sit down, and I want actual, unbiased research. I want studies of captive whale time budgets, enrichment usage, and stereotypy behaviors. I want time- and technology-intensive studies of wild whale populations so we can have real data on the true behavioral needs of their captive peers. I want a cost-benefit analysis of possible improvements to habitats compared with their benefits to the most deficient areas of behavioral repertoires. I want studies of actual cetacean well-being and mental health, which means finding an equally scientific metric for establishing a baseline for comparison with wild populations.
I want fucking science. I want as much research and study and collaboration across disciplines and viewpoints so we can figure out what the goddamn whales actually need and what they don’t. And you know what? When we keep fighting ourselves and mis-representing data and twisting people’s words, we don’t make that happen. SeaWorld has had to completely stop communicating about their internal operations due to attacks from the animal rights movements. They’ve been doing research as required by the AZA for decades, but now that information is highly guarded because nobody knows who they can trust. There’s no way they can admit any failing they’re aware of, even if the intent is to figure out how to do better because the news cycles are going to pull it out of proportion the moment they’re forthright about it and turn it into more hate rather than recognizing it for the progress it indicates. That. Is. Stupid. And. Ineffective.
The two sides of the captivity debate are putting human catharsis before the actual welfare of the animals they purport to be advocating for. So for fuck’s sake, folk, if you’re really pro-animal and not pro-ego, listen to the people who know what they’re talking about and support collaboration instead of infighting.
I’m pro-animal, are you?