TO FREE A DOLPHIN - A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO DOLPHIN ACTIVISM When you first see a dolphin show, it looks like a lot of fun. The dolphins are always smiling, and they're also laughing in their own way - and so are we. The audience is applauding as these marvelous creatures - so intelligent, so bursting with energy - doing amazing tricks for us. Could anything be better? Well, yes. It could be better if it were true. The dolphin smiling and all of us laughing and having a rollicking good time, all this seems like it's really happening. But look again. It's actually show business. At first glance you think it's real and I don't blame you, because it's magic, theater magic. For many years I worked the show-biz side of things. I helped capture dolphins for the Miami Seaquarium and trained them, putting on a great show of dolphins leaping and jumping through hoops on command and acting the clown in amusing skits. I even trained the most famous of all dolphins, Flipper, who starred in his own TV series and feature films during the 1960s, some of which are still being seen around the world. It was a great job and a daily challenge, staying ahead of the scriptwriters and the several dolphins that played the role of Flipper. Disillusionment Only toward the end of my dolphin-training career did I admit to myself that there's something wrong about using dolphins for our amusement. They have wonderfully rich lives of their own until we yank them out of the sea, their lives as a species going back 60 million years. I worked for a time on the Miami Seaquarium Capture Boat and used to help abduct them, kicking and screaming all the way. We brought them ashore and dumped them into an alien fantasy world -- and why? It was my job. If someone would pay me to do this, surely, I thought, it must be okay. I really thought what I was doing was acceptable. I even convinced myself that the dolphins we captured were lucky because they would be cared for by humans for the rest of their lives. And listen to the people laugh and clap their hands when the dolphins do flips in the air. Isn't that worth something? I could have stayed in the business of capturing and training dolphins and could have made a lot of money doing it. But when the Flipper show ended and I suddenly had lots of time to think about my life so far, I was sick to my stomach. I was appalled and disgusted by what I had been part of. I was also determined to stop it. Oh, it would be difficult, I knew. Perhaps impossible. If it had taken me years to see dolphins as they actually are and what we were doing to them, how could I expect the public to understand? I was being paid to think that it was okay, of course. On the other hand, I knew what dolphins in the wild were really like. Most people who go to dolphin shows believe that it's great family entertainment. How could I get anyone to realize that this is just a lie, an elaborate ruse masking our ruthless exploitation of these magnificent creatures?
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