SeaWorld to Stop Using Dolphins as Surfboards

SeaWorld to Stop Using Dolphins as Surfboards

SeaWorld has announced the long overdue news that trainers will stop riding on the faces and backs of dolphins. Imagine being forced to carry a person using your jaws alone, or having to pull someone by a strap wrapped around your nose. Until now, dolphins have been forced to perform these torturous “tricks” during shows.

After the publication of a damning veterinary report exposing the true extent of the harm caused to dolphins, SeaWorld decided to end these practices which cause many captive dolphins to suffer from open wounds on their rostrums (the equivalent of a dolphin’s “nose”) or their backs.

SeaWorld has long been under fire for its treatment of cetaceans. In 2016, the California Orca Protection Act mandated that orca captivity be phased out statewide. Though the company voluntarily pledged to stop breeding orcas at all locations, it is not legally bound to abide by this promise.

In fact, SeaWorld has a history of skirting the law: trainers were documented riding on the backs of orcas due to a loophole in the landmark Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ruling that disallowed trainers from standing on or entering the water with orcas—except in medical pools.

While SeaWorld has committed to ending the use of orcas in its circus-style shows, dolphins remain exploited in this fashion. The veterinary report emphasizes that these spectacles are devoid of educational value and can lead the public to believe the behaviors they witness are normal and that such human-dolphin interactions are harmless.

The announcement is a step in the right direction. However, dolphins are still forced to endure the extreme confinement of SeaWorld’s tanks and the trauma associated with being on constant display in an unstimulating, unnatural environment. All of SeaWorld’s cetaceans should be sent to sanctuaries for permanent retirement.

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