When I went to Cozumel, Mexico over spring break, swimming with dolphins was all the craze. We did not swim with dolphins during our trip, because we were advised by our travel agent that dolphin swimming could be harmful to the dolphins, and it would be better and safer if we did not do it. We discovered some people had been advised otherwise. When we went to a park to go snorkeling, there happened to be an enclosed dock where people were swimming with dolphins, right beside where we were. We decided to get a taste of this dolphin-swimming craze by standing on the dock and watching. It was rather convenient that we could be there watching for free, while the people who were actually in there swimming had paid hundreds of dollars.

As I gazed down into the small space the dolphins had to work with, observing the people and the dolphins interact, I noticed that this was more like an amusement park ride than a dolphin experience. One by one, the people were instructed by one of two trainers (who were sitting on the dock) to go out into the middle of the water. Then, the dolphins would come up, and the person would hold onto their fins and be pulled at an amazing speed to the dock. It looked exciting for the people, but painful for the dolphins.

Many people have observed this happen, I'm not the first. It is done for therapeutic reasons as well...

"Would you throw your kid in with a strange 500 pound dog with a huge set of teeth?..well...I suppose if that dog had a friendly smile and was water-loving."

Dolphins have been used in therapy for disabled kids and over-worked adults. But is it always safe? Fonzie, a male dolphin, became famous for helping a local Keys boy overcome the effects of a stroke. Fonzie became the poster boy after this successful therapy...that is, until he was caught on videotape...er, mounting a tourist.

"They're wise, they're mystical, we have much to learn from them... let's see if we can make them do flips!"

When you look into a pool of dolphins doing tricks, they look so happy and playful. When they interact with other people, they look so fun to be with. When a disabled child goes through DAT, (dolphin-assisted therapy) they're so cheerful. And apparently it helps the kids at home as well, according to their parents. But how can you trust the parents to be honest when they've scooped over hundreds, even thousands of dollars a week so their kids could swim around in a small pool with sea mammals. Yeah, well, what if it does help? Has anyone wondered what effects it may have on the dolphins? Could putting disabled people in there be disabling for the dolphins? And if it is stressful for them, could that put the people who surround them in danger?

Catherine Hillard testified to Congress that she'd been attacked by a dolphin with such force that she flew out of the water. The dolphin then raked her with his teeth, leaving scars. She explained that it turned out the dolphin had a reputation for this behavior. It seemed the dolphin, named Little Bit, had attacked her out of frustration, because he was being teased by a dolphin in another tank.

"If bugs were as socially intelligent as dolphins, would we find ourselves going around kissing crickets?"

Dolphins always look so happy when they’re swimming around in their closed-in tanks. This could mean they’re happy where they are…or that there’s a case of miscommunication. The human face has thousands of different expressions, allowing us to tell if someone’s in distress. Have you ever bothered counting how many expressions a dolphin’s face has? Dolphins are being judged by their physical appearances. Those teeth-filled smiles make it hard for us to know if a dolphin is happy or sad. But being human, we read facial expressions like words, but dolphins don’t have that ability. They probably interpret each other’s feelings differently, which is why they probably often misinterpret us as well. While watching a dolphin show on TV, I heard the trainer tell the audience “That’s our Joey, the louder you clap, the better she’ll perform her tricks. She loves to hear your applause!” I was wondering if she’d ever bring attention to the dolphin who didn’t like loud clapping.

I know! Let's lock ourselves in a small room and periodically receive treats for interacting with people we not only have never seen before, but who don’t speak our language!

Put your self in a dolphin’s position. You’ve been stolen from your home in the sea, maybe even dragged in a large hammock into a truck that is very uncomfortable, and could even cause your death. Then you are dumped into a small pool with very little space to move around in; you may only swim 15 meters until you hit a wall, when you normally cover up to 100 miles of ocean a day. Then, up to 15 people come in to visit you. You’ve never seen these people before and are in a confined space where you cannot get away. Would you do this out of choice? According to many dolphin trainers, yes. They claim the dolphins love to do this. Are all dolphins the same? But if you were one of these dolphins, wouldn’t you find the situation at least a little bit stressful? And I wouldn’t be surprised if this stress turned into aggression. Is it wrong to swim with dolphins? The truth is out there…and I don’t like it.

Now, to find out what happens…when dolphins go bad

Scientists have monitored some dolphin swims, and not all the results have been good. They have noticed dolphins exhibiting harmful, and even sexual, aggression to their human visitors. The truth is, dolphins have assaulted tourists, resulting in cracked ribs, broken arms, bruised sternums and bloodied faces. And the thing is, swimming with dolphins cannot only be harmful for the person, but for the dolphins. It was wrong for us to think we should just take a creature out of the wild and make it practically beg for its food by performing tricks. People don’t realize that the amusement of swimming with dolphins is often one-sided. When trainers say they look down at a dolphin and see a friendly, playful creature that loves interacting with people and performing for audiences, what they really see is money. Dolphins are commercialized animals that are used by resorts to make money off of them. The dolphins shouldn’t be blamed for their actions. It’s about time the dolphins strike back.

factual source: Saturday Night Feb. magazine

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