Ghandi once said: “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated” What would Ghandi have to say about our nation and our moral progress? For centuries we have captured wild animals and enslaved them to a life in the entertainment industry. We have ignored their rights and needs, put them in unhealthy conditions and taken them away from their natural habitats. This doesn’t only affect the animals in which we harbor… it has effects on our children and society as a whole. What does this teach our children? We allow for the public school systems to take our children to the zoo for a field trip. They explain this will teach children about multiple species of animals, their habitats, and how they are uniquely valuable to their specific environments. In reality though, this is not the lesson they are learning. Subliminally we are sending messages to these children that it is justifiable to take something against it’s will; we are telling them it is okay for something to be treated inhumanely. And we wonder why children have become so violent on the playground; why they grow up and feel they can bully others without consequences. Is it a coincidence that they have seen this in action growing up throughout their entire lives? Society hasn’t been the best influence on it’s children, yet we haven’t done much to change the way society deciphers what is right and what is wrong. If society can’t decipher this, how can we expect our children to be able to tell the difference between the two?
Enslaved animals all across the globe have been desperate for help, and because little aid has been provided to them, they have resorted to committing suicide. Humans are not the only species to have discovered the alternative of suffering a hopeless life. Many of these creatures are too big and too smart to be caged, left un-stimulated and alone to figure out how to commit suicide after a long life of depression. Many marine mammals have jumped out of their aquariums hoping to escape- ultimately leaving them in the path of death due to suffocation. Multiple suicide cases of Orca whales have been documented across the world, in many cases refusing to come up for air until they drown themselves. One case in particular where the Orca repetitively hit his head against his tank until he suffered a concussion and died.
One example of an animal enslaved to the life of the entertainment industry is the story of Lolita, the Orca whale. Orca whales are extremely beautiful creatures that are found in every ocean. Many species of Orcas, like Lolita who is a Southern Resident Orca, are endangered. Lolita is the only Orca whale left at the Miami Seaquarium, she is forty-two years old and twenty-one feet long. She was born in the wild off the coast of Washington and during her brutal capture in which five of her pod members were killed. She was bought by the Miami Seaquarium, and subsequently flown down to Miami, Florida to reside. Her tank is the size on a hotel swimming pool, which is illegal by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); it is also one of the oldest and smallest in the world. In the wild, Orca whales travel seventy-five to one hundred miles a day, for Lolita to do that, she would have to do over six thousand laps in her tiny swimming pool. Because her pool is so shallow, she is almost always touching the bottom or edges of the pool. With lack of stimulation and constant isolation Lolita sulks at the bottom of her pool at night. It is illegal for Orcas to live in captivity alone without the company of another Orca, however it is very difficult to keep multiple Orcas alive in captivity- since they normally die before reaching a 1/4 of their life expectancy rate. Lolita once had a cell-mate, his name was Hugo. Like Lolita, Hugo was also captured in the wild and bought by the Miami Seaquarium, however it didn’t take Hugo long to go crazy and commit suicide. This act is not uncommon amongst captive animals. Many Orcas commit suicide due to a lack of stimulation and the constant effect of their echolocation. Echolocation is a type of low sonar sound that whales emit; because the walls of their pools have nothing to absorb the sound, it bounces off the wall and hits the whales, ultimately driving them crazy. Lolita is the last living whale in her pod and it is time for her to retire, however despite the monthly protests to set Lolita free, the Miami Seaquarium is ignoring Lolita’s rights (set by APHIS) and keeping her as an asset to their aquarium.
Lolita is just one example of how we are treating animals cruelly, using them solemnly for entertainment and financial gain purposes. If we don’t change the way we treat our animals, how can we expect our children to grow up and treat them right? How can we expect our children to grow up and treat each other? We need to decipher what is right from wrong based on what is right and what is wrong, not what is financially beneficial and isn’t. It is wrong to torture something or someone for financial or personal gains. It is wrong to take something from it’s family and natural habitat against it’s own will. It is wrong to ignore the needs of other’s because you know you won’t be held accountable for it. Just because someone turns an eye doesn’t mean it’s okay to do the wrong thing. Isn’t this what we want to teach our children? Aren’t these the lessons we attempt to instill in them at a young age? If so, why is it okay to say one thing, and show them another? Until we are able to have our actions mimic our words, then we can never expect for justice, whether it be towards the earth and it’s creatures, or towards one another, to occur in society.
“Save Lolita.” Website n. pag. Web. 14 Nov 2010. .