In theory, swimming with dolphins seems straight up magical. But for the dolphins, it’s another story.
Most people have good intentions when they go on excursions or visit parks that allow regular people to pay a fee, throw on a nerdy life vest and swim with Flipper’s friends while taking all sorts of ridiculous pictures. But if they knew the truth behind the deceptive practices, they’d be appalled.
Spoiler alert: those dolphin smiles are fake.
Here’s why you should not swim with dolphins:
Most captive dolphins nowadays are born and bred in captivity. But sometimes the dolphins are illegally captured and sold to parks around the world.
Dolphins captured in the wild are taken from their families – even babies who typically stay with their mothers for three to six years.
Many of the dolphins who are considered less “attractive” (therefore less profitable) are slaughtered during the capture and sold as meat.
They’re highly social creatures that live in large pods and travel forty-plus miles a day, therefor confinement is cruel.
The dolphins are often confined to chemically treated pools, which is especially traumatic for them since they communicate through sonar.
Facilities in the U.S. that allow you to swim with dolphins are not well regulated. Unlike other animal facilities, these are not USDA regulated. They operate under oversight by APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), whose standards have giant loopholes have been widely criticized by mainstream organizations. Here’s APHIS’s extremely limited veterinary guidelines, in case you want a look-see.
The claim that dolphins in captivity provides an educational experience is totally bogus. All you get in a counterfeit, man-made impression of dolphins. As ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau said: “No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.”
The Bottom Line
Even if a place says they never capture dolphins from the wild, only have those that are rescued, or make some crazy claim that the dolphins want to be there – it is still wrong. They are profiting off an industry that survives on the inhumane capture and captivity of wild animals for the entertainment of people who should know better, and be better.
If you’re a true lover of dolphins, just leave them the hell alone.
And if you have swam with dolphins, it’s okay and there’s no need for you to feel guilty. Now you know and can help spread the word. Because as Jane Goodall said, “The least I can do is speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”