As a dolphin lover, I was dismayed to hear that SeaWorld San Antonio was named as one of 12 facilities in World Animal Protection’s The Show Must Not Go On report due to their treatment of dolphins.
Forcing dolphins to perform unnatural and demeaning tricks, such as tail walking and beaching themselves, is in direct contradiction to AZA’s ethical commitment to “respect the dignity of the animals” in your care. Behind the scenes, bottlenose dolphins are used as photo-props and commanded to perform for fish in order to entertain guests, not educate them. Allowing guests to have direct contact with dolphins sends a dangerous message that it is completely safe to be around themse, but in reality, they are wild animals and pose safety risks to visitors involved in these interactions.
In the dolphin and beluga show, a Pacific white-sided dolphin beaches themselves and is made to spin around outside of the water as a trick. This behavior puts the dolphin at risk of stranding, while putting immense pressure on their internal organs. Furthermore, this behavior contradicts the AZA’s need for educational benefits as the tricks performed by dolphins at SeaWorld San Antonio’s facility are unnatural to them, misinforming viewers to how dolphins behave in the wild.
I’m asking the AZA to remove SeaWorld San Antonio’s accreditation as one of the “gold standards” of animal welfare until demeaning and unnatural behavior is removed. You have a chance to set and enforce higher welfare standards for intelligent and complex cetaceans in your care and I urge you to take it.