The Cru­elty of Dol­phins in Cap­tiv­ity

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michele-Lauren Hack­shaw

Imag­ine be­ing taken against your will, locked in a tank and forced to en­ter­tain vis­i­tors. That is the ar­gu­ment of the thou­sands who have signed pe­ti­tions against the pro­posed dol­phin park to be built in the north at Pi­geon Is­land.

When I first heard of the de­vel­op­ment, I won­dered: Why would we want this kind of at­trac­tion here? On this is­land we are blessed that we can go out on the wa­ters to view dol­phins in their nat­u­ral habi­tat. These gor­geous mam­mals will hap­pily put on a show for you, of their own free will; no co­er­cion, no space lim­i­ta­tions.

As I started in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment, voices sim­i­lar to my own stood out. Most mem­o­rable, an open let­ter from the De­vaux fam­ily, part of which reads: “To ad­dress the an­i­mal rights is­sue, keep­ing dol­phins in cap­tiv­ity is in­hu­mane. World­wide pub­lic opin­ion has turned against tours that feature cap­tive wild an­i­mals. Lead­ing tour com­pa­nies like TripAd­vi­sor and Vir­gin Hol­i­days have pledged to stop sell­ing this type of tour as a re­sult of pres­sure from an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy groups. The neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing the pro­posed fa­cil­ity at Pi­geon Is­land will not be good for St. Lu­cia’s im­age.”

Saint Lu­cia re­lies on tourism. With in­creased aware­ness through in­ter­na­tional an­i­mal wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tions of (wild) an­i­mal cru­elty, I share the point raised by the De­vaux fam­ily: How many trav­ellers will boy­cott Saint Lu­cia if this project goes ahead?

“To con­tinue to com­pete as a tour desti­na­tion, we have to set our­selves apart by of­fer­ing some­thing that no other desti­na­tion has,” the De­vaux let­ter con­tin­ues. “A dol­phin fa­cil­ity does not dis­tin­guish us (Dol­phin Dis­cov­ery alone has at least 20 fa­cil­i­ties around the Caribbean basin). The only thing we have that makes us unique is our her­itage: our nat­u­ral her­itage of moun­tains, beaches, and land­marks; and our cul­tural her­itage of his­tory, cus­toms, and peo­ple. With­out that her­itage to dif­fer­en­ti­ate us, vis­i­tors would have no rea­son to choose St. Lu­cia over any other is­land.”

Pi­geon Is­land is a na­tional land­mark, rich in his­tory and beauty, for the en­joy­ment of lo­cals and vis­i­tors. If the dol­phin fa­cil­ity goes ahead, it is worth ques­tion­ing whether it will in fact, as stated by the De­vaux fam­ily, “de­stroy the essence of Pi­geon Is­land” by in­ter­rupt­ing the tran­quil­lity, the un­spoiled beauty, and the am­bi­ence.

There is no short­age of ideas that can be for­mu­lated to boost our tourism but cru­elty should never en­ter the equa­tion. Saint Lu­cia is a beau­ti­ful, unique is­land and no other can com­pare. Let’s keep it that way.

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