There we were- the four of us at Marine World. We’d gone on the Thomas the Train kiddie rides, and our next stop was to see the show starring Shouka the whale.
My husband got lunch, and we sat there while they entertained us with environmental trivia and advertisements. The male announcer was handsome in his polo shirt. The female trainers were cute and energetic in their wet suits. The music pounded.
And then Shouka came out. She is 13 years old and 16 feet long. She weighs in at a slim 4,000 pounds. She was wearing what’s “in” right now- black and white.
She did one swim around the stadium, and then went back to her private area in the back. Finally she emerged again and did what they wanted her to- waving to the crowd with her fin, splashing an unsuspecting visitor with her tale, and jumping high to reach the suspended balls.
All of a sudden I found myself crying. It totally took me by surprise. I hadn’t gone in there thinking, “Oh these poor animals…” I had been looking forward to seeing a beautiful whale. But seeing her do these forced human actions and realizing how small the aquarium is versus the ocean, I just felt so sad. I imagined being confined to a small area for my whole life. The feeling was suffocating.
The sadness seemed to have a life of its own. I wasn’t thinking about the whale, I was feeling. I held my two year old close to me as I donned my sunglasses. I wanted to run away, but I didn’t. Everyone else seemed to be happy and clapping to the nauseating music.
My husband later asked why I’d been sad. I told him I felt bad for the whale being cooped up and having to do these stupid tricks. “You aren’t going vegan are you?” he asked.
It was a fair question, but no, I’m not going vegan.
I want to believe that these animals are ombudsmen, teaching children and adults to care for the earth and its inhabitants and therefore their captivity is worth it. Or that if they are not born in wild they don’t know what they’re missing.
But I don’t buy it.