OK, I should be editing my dissertation at this very moment, but I came across videos of an event on July 4th, 2010 at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Japan, that I need to share. I found it to be disturbing, as a warning.
There is no doubt in my mind, especially seeing an event like this, that having cetaceans in captivity is not what ought to be done. What is fascinating, however, is to see the reactions of the other companion Dolphins and False Killer Whales. At 1:00 of the footage, the cetaceans watch (I hear echo-locating going on too, but it would be hard to determine from a video like this which of the cetaceans were making the noise) their companion through the pool’s glass enclosure.
I watch this and it makes me sick to my stomach. In part, because I feel deeply empathetic for that whale. Falling out of a pool can’t be enjoyable. While many shows like this one include the cetaceans “gliding out” of the water, the mammals do this on their stomach and are still can get themselves back into the water. Here, the False Killer Whale has no ability to do that. Imagining what that whale is thinking lying there on the concrete is overwhelming.
But it is interesting to hear the crowd’s reaction in the following clip:
As I watched this for the first time, I thought (always the researcher), “Boy, this would be a rich source of data if you could interview these people.” I wondered if this would be some kind of ethically crystallizing moment where a new perspective about whales in captivity could erupt—literally. As you listen to the reactions of the crowd, I hear gasps and giggles. More than anything, perhaps, this event simply reinforced people’s perspectives on whales—there to entertain or as innocent natural objects (or something else). That could be an interesting research question.