Monday, September 20, 2010

The Cove Movie

Someone once recommended we watch The Cove, an Oscar winning documentary about the mass killing of dolphins in a hidden cove in Japan and the capture and sale of dolphins to animal trainers for captivity. Last week, I finally watched it and was shocked.

The film produced a mixture of emotions. I was proud of the people who made the film for doing something about this awful practice. They risked being imprisoned to stand up for what was right, and they caught it on film to share with the world. Pretty gutsy.

It also made me sad to think we have a membership to the Shedd Aquarium where they have dolphins in captivity. I wonder how their dolphins were acquired and I struggled with the price the animals pay to provide entertainment for us. I was amazed by the size of their tank at our last visit, but when the movie explained how far they can travel in a typical day, I was disturbed.

While watching the last half hour of the film, Ada awoke from her nap and sat on my lap. She loves movies, and apparently she loves dolphins too. Each time a dolphin came on the screen she yelled "Dolphin!" and got all excited. I had to take her to another room while I watched the end of the film since the footage they show is graphic and not something a two-year old should witness.

On a side note (as if these emotions weren't enough to get me to remember the film) as the credits played, I noticed none other than "Iain Kerr" roll by on the screen. What are the chances that someone has the same name as my son (after we tried to make it so unique) and that I stuck around long enough to notice it on the credits? Granted, Kerr is Iain's middle name and not his last name, but there can't be that many Iain's in the world with the Scottish spelling to begin with.

So that brings me to my current debate on the morality of zoos and aquariums and places like Sea World where animals live in captivity. Visiting these establishments has always been entertaining and educational. Some of the animals have been rescued and frequently the exhibits talk about conservation and activism to save the very animals on display. Animals in captivity is a common theme in kids movies such as Happy Feet, Madagascar, and Finding Nemo. What is a parent to do? Do we keep visiting these establishments and supporting the captivity of animals that shouldn't be captive? Or do we explain to our children about captivity and the benefits and drawbacks? Is it okay for some animals to be in captivity? Only those that are unfit to return to the wild or endangered species or animals that can live well in captivity--whatever that means? I'm not sure where the cost of educating our children outweighs the cost to the animals that are captive. It isn't an easy debate for me to reconcile since my education on the subject is limited but I hope my heightened awareness of the issue will at least provide food for thought. There are plenty of institutions that don't use animals in captivity to educate their patrons so perhaps that is a place to start.

Moral of the story: Being a good parent means setting a good example and teaching your children right and wrong. Keep that in mind as you educate and entertain them. What's popular may not always be right.

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