Here’s the set-up:
Controversy is brewing over the Georgia Aquarium’s plan to import 18 beluga whales captured off the coast of Russia. If the U.S. government approves the plan, it will mark the first time in nearly two decades that wild-caught cetaceans have been imported into an aquarium in the United States.
According to the aquarium, the whales are needed for research and education. According to animal welfare advocates, that doesn’t justify the trauma inflicted on intelligent, emotional creatures that suffer in captivity.
“If we let them in, it means we’re going to have this issue all the time. It will open up the floodgates,” said Lori Marino, a neurobiologist at Emory University and prominent cetacean rights activist.
Georgia Aquarium trots out the shopworn argument that the belugas will be ambassadors for their species, which is the core rationale marine parks use to justify keeping marine mammals in captivity.
But it’s an analogy that has some problems, I think. Most important, ambassadors are not normally forced into service. My father was an ambassador and he was sent abroad because the United States wanted a representative in the countries he served. In contrast, ambassador to the human world is not a choice any belugas are making. It is a choice humans (profit-seeking humans, I might add) are making FOR the belugas.
The Russian Belugas in Ambassador School
Now, you could say belugas need ambassadors because humans are trashing the oceans, and putting the future of wild beluga populations at risk. I think that Continue reading “A Bogus Beluga Rationale”