Every time the Marine Land commercial comes on the T.V. and sings "Everyone loves Marine Land", my kids shout "Not our mom!". They then follow with, "We'll never go". The reason that they say this is because I am strongly against making animals that have an ocean in which to live, caputured, put into too small tanks and then forced to perform tricks for our entertainment. It bothers me. I am not a big animal lover. You will never ever hear me ask if I can pet your dog, or ask you anything about your dog. I may pet your dog out of obligation, but never by personal choice. Having said that, I am very much against animal cruelty, well any kind of cruelty to anyone or anything.Whenever I see the Marine Land commercial I shake my head. My kids stopped asking if they could go, years ago.
So here is where the moral dilemma comes in. We are in Florida. My Gracie loves dolphins. She has loved dolphins since she first spied one in the ocean far off in the distance on a Myrtle Beach vacation. That visit we went to Build a Bear Workshop and she selected a dolphin to make, and named it "Myrtle Beach". Dolphins are her favourite animal in the entire world. When I was researching our vacation online I came across this place ironically called "Marineland" in Florida. They offer dolphin interactions at a reasonable prices. Most dolphin interaction places cost the earth. This was an opportunity that we may never have again. I felt like such a hippocrite.
Yesterday afternoon we went to Marineland and paid our money for our dolphin interaction. I walked through the double doors and saw large tanks full of blue water and dolphins. It stuck in my throat. Were they happy? Were these tanks too small? By giving my child a thrill of a lifetime I had sacrificed both my morals and my humanity. It felt like a very bitter pill to swallow. Poor Christopher, I kept telling him how conflicted I felt. To his credit he humoured me, "Why don't you ask them how they came to have the dophins?'. I approached the woman at the desk with trepidation, afraid of her answer.
I tried to sound casual, to take the sting of accusation out of my voice..." How did you collect all of the dolphins, did you have them caught in the ocean?" I take a deep breath afaid of the answer.
"Most of our dolphins are really old. Alvin is the world's oldest dolphin. Some of our dolphins have been born here, and some of our dolphins have been rescued. The government no longer allows the catching of dolphins". I exhale. I still am morally conflicted. I convince myself that the young dolphins do not suffer, because they have never known any different. The real stinger is that their tank sits on a hill not 200 feet from the ocean. The dolphins would be able to smell the salt, perhaps see their ocean.
They called us for our dolphin interaction. Gracie, Riley and I walked over to the tank. Alvin was our dolphin. He was beautiful. The trainer told us not to touch Alvin until he had asked Alvin's permission, and told us where to touch him. He gave Alvin a hand signal and told us we could touch his head. I was expecting him to feel like warm marble. He felt like a pool noodle. I did not want to take my hand from him. I felt a calm like I have never felt. It was a quasi - religious experience. I felt a blanket of calm warmth envelop me. I was completely in the moment. Then the trainer asked Alvin to flip over and let us feel his tail. His tail felt like warm stone. I looked at my girls and they had the same look in their eyes that I felt in my soul.
I thought that it would be a "cool" experience to see a dolphin up close, but I had no idea it would have such an impact on me. It feels so bogus to hear myself say that it was the closest thing I have ever had to a religious experience that I have ever felt, and yet it is the truth. I am still morally conflicted about the small tanks and holding these beautiful creatures hostage, and yet I am thankful for the experience.