Friday, January 24, 2014

Captive Athletes: the link between the Olympics and the captive cetacean industry

          There is something special about watching the world come together to watch a live sports event. For a brief moment, all the happenings of the world become dim background noise as the audiences of each nation hold their breath, waiting to see who will earn one of the coveted medals. Athletes from all over the world compete against the best of the best until a few come out on top, crowning them victor in their sport of choice.

I think it's safe to assume you all know I'm referring to the Olympics.

Almost everyone enjoys the Olympics. It's exhilarating to watch top athletes try their hearts out to try to win a gold medal. We cringe at their mishaps, grieve when it costs them their winning chance, rejoice when they reach their goals, and become inspired when we see an underdog rise to the top. But what happens when the Games are over? We turn off our televisions and return to the “real world”, whether that be work or school or other daily activities. The athletes board a plane and go home to their families, with or without a medal, and continue to train for their next event.

But what if some of them didn't get to go home? What if they were left somewhere unfamiliar, isolated, and far away from their homeland? And what if that's where they were expected to spend the rest of their lives?
For two orcas, who were recently taken from the wild along with five others, this is looking to be a definite possibility. The Sochi Winter Olympics, hosted by Russia, is planning a grand display of these two orcas for their opening ceremony. In order to get to the planned display, they will have to fly across seven times zones, only to end up in a tank where they will spend the rest of their lives, away from their families and their home, suffering the same ill effects other captive cetaceans experience. While we humans enjoy rooting for our athletes, these two creatures, athletes in their own right, will be nothing more than entertainment, another means for monetary gain with not a second thought given to their welfare. No matter how well they perform, after the scores are given and the medals are handed out and the victors are named, they don't get to go home. The thought of that puts quite the damper on the Olympic celebrations.

To further my disgust, it's also been stated that they intend for a Black Sea Bottlenose dolphin(an endangered species, mind you) to take part in the Olympic torch relay. The intention is for a trainer to hold onto the fin of this dolphin with one hand while carrying the torch in the other. This is scheduled to happen in a small pool at the Black Sea resort on February 4th, three days before the opening ceremony. The degrading aspect of this aside, I can't help feeling like this is an accident waiting to happen. After all, fire isn't exactly on the list of things aquatic animals tend to encounter.

When I first heard about these plans, I wasn't sure what to feel, other than dumbfounded. How is it possible for humans, the supposed superior species, to continue to use these self aware and intelligent creatures for profit, despite all of the science and research that says captivity is detrimental to their well being? But then I remembered; sometimes greed takes the front seat instead of compassion.

Those in charge of the opening ceremony probably wish we would all ignore this little fiasco and look the other way. But, in all honesty, the only thing I'm looking away from is my TV screen. I'm not asking you to not watch the opening ceremony or to even boycott the Olympics. All I'm asking is that when you're watching the skiers take those daring leaps or the figure skaters displaying their fine tuned skill and grace, you remember the athletes that don't get to go home and don't win any medals. I know someone out there is likely wondering what the big deal is. It's just a few animals, why worry about them when there's the Olympics to focus on? To them I say:

If I don't worry about them, who will?

For those interested in contacting the International Olympic Committees with your concerns:

President Thomas Bach
Chateau de Vidy
Case postale 356
1001 Lausanne

Phone: +41 21 621 61 11
Fax: +41 21 621 62 16

Please sign the petition!


  1. I have been posting everywhere I can this horrible story of the 8 orcas that have been kidnapped by Russia and the 2 they are putting on display. Wish this would get Worldwide coverage. No one seems to talking about this!


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