Here in San Antonio we live quite close to Sea World. We can actually see the roller coasters when we drive out of our neighborhood. Many of our friends frequent Sea World or have season passes.
And yet, every time we drive past, my daughter and I talk about how it’s not nice to keep animals in small tanks for entertainment purposes. We talk about riding the roller coasters at Fiesta Texas instead because they don’t have animals there.
Sea World hosts a Homeschool Day each fall. This year it is on October 4th. There are no rides or attractions, just hands on interactions with the marine animals. It sounds like such a wonderful educational opportunity, it really does. And I do understand that Sea World is not just about entertainment but also helping marine animals and educating the public. This is why I think zoos and aquariums are a gray area for so many vegans, because there are educational opportunities and if we expect people to be moved to protect animals, we need to expose them to the animals.
We had a membership to the National Aquarium in Baltimore before relocating to Texas, and enjoyed it the few (two?) times we went. We saw the dolphin show there once as well. I think these facilities train dolphins because they are so smart, and these shows are a wonderful way to showcase their intelligence. At the time, I was unaware of where many of the dolphins used in shows such as this come from (The Cove was enlightening).
Even with the positive work done by facilities such as National Aquarium in Baltimore (they were active in habitat restoration and wildlife rehabilitation), and here at Sea World, I have an internal debate with myself of whether to support them because they have captive large marine animals such as dolphins. Perhaps if I knew that all the animals were rescued and rehabilitated there, and that is how they came to be there, I might feel different. But this is not usually the case. I admit to putting an aquarium in a somewhat separate category in my mind than a marine park – though we have not joined an aquarium or zoo since relocating.
As for the Sea World Homeschool Day – we will be declining the opportunity to spend the day with the animals at Sea World. I am considering an alternative field trip for the kids that day.
How do other vegans handle these situations? Do you go to zoos or marine parks? Do you consider large reputable aquariums acceptable but not marine parks? I’m curious where vegans fall in this discussion.