Animals in the news

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"What word would you use to describe confining a being for life despite them having committed no crime, purely for research and/or entertainment? "

Pet.

"1) Are cetaceans and great apes (I tentatively include elephants but am not completely certain of their ability to 'know') able to make the same distinction between freedom and confinement as humans?

2) If so, who are we (as a species) to confine and display them for any purpose, no matter how altruistic?

It was wrong when we did it to circus freaks and the Dionne quintuplets wasn't it? I'm suggesting we should broaden the net and err on the side of caution, rather than be seen for barbarians if and when we confirm what many suspect. "

My answer to 1 is no and 2 is not applicable but still I see no issue in it even then. They are a lower form of life, over which we have stewardship - if we need to have a few in captivity for research, conservation and education purposes (as well as entertainment) then that is a what we do.

The issue of erring on the side of caution is a common logical fallacy. If all we were ever to do is wait for more information before getting absolute proof of no harm, we would never do anything. And the counter argument is easily stated in the exact opposite terms, that we should wait for absolute proof of harm would result in the same inactivity but to just as dire a set of consequences.

Final note before I start ignoring this thread - if you really think that the main goal of the aquarium is just entertainment then you are way off base and likely haven't even been there. The aquarium displays and even the 'shows' highlight more education than action and actually only need to be seen once - the return visits are to see all of the other educational displays and to get a much better understanding of our interaction with nature. AND it's one of the best sources of some of the concrete effects of climate change on the natural world. All good stuff.

"They are a lower form of life, over which we have stewardship - if we need to have a few in
captivity for research, conservation and education purposes (as well as entertainment) then
that is a what we do."

I'm not sure if you are being provocative or dense. Have we not rid ourselves of the notion
we have and deserve dominion over the earth's creatures yet? Even if there were a moral or
ethical basis for that argument (there isn't btw, unless you are using the Bible -- aka Bedtime
stories for Christians, as an instruction manual for living. In which case avoid the oysters and
graven images too) we've done such a piss-poor job of stewardship we might consider a new
approach based on treating mammals such as apes and cetaceans as our equals instead of our
slaves. That would be ethical. Acting in our own self-interest and calling it stewardship is not.

The wiki entry on "cetacean intelligence" is worth reading and also has a host of scholarly
articles linked if you'd care to learn why you are so very, very wrong.

I've been to the aquarium plenty of times btw and support what they do with the exception of
keeping whales in captivity and allowing them to breed there. We as humans aren't yet
sufficiently evolved that we can do away with zoos and aquaria just yet.

you surely will have noticed that a great deal of the information presented on the wiki page, and in other articles comes from research done at marine parks, aquariums and related institutions...

do you still think it's just an aqua-circus?

The unfortunate truth is that a great deal of knowledge comes from what some consider to be horrible acts. Without this type of "barbarism," we wouldn't have medicine as we know it today. We wouldn't know as much as we do about the human body, our ecosystem, and our fellow animals.

I'm not saying one way or the other yes or no we should keep these animals captive and study them, but the fact of the matter is that we've learned enough from having these animals captive that we can sit here and debate our right to have them captive in the first place. If we weren't given the opportunity to study them so extensively, we might never know the potential intelligence of these animals. Without the captivity, we wouldn't know that a gorilla can learn sign language. Without the captivity, we wouldn't have nearly the same opportunity to study the language of dolphins. It all comes down to what you're willing to sacrifice for the so-called "greater good," and whether you include the kin of said sacrifices in that greater good.

"I'm not sure if you are being provocative or dense. Have we not rid ourselves of the notion we have and deserve dominion over the earth's creatures yet? Even if there were a moral or ethical basis for that argument (there isn't btw, unless you are using the Bible -- aka Bedtime stories for Christians, as an instruction manual for living. In which case avoid the oysters and graven images too) we've done such a piss-poor job of stewardship we might consider a new approach based on treating mammals such as apes and cetaceans as our equals instead of our slaves. That would be ethical. Acting in our own self-interest and calling it stewardship is not. "

First - what is so much in our self interests that keeping whales in captivity is such a big deal. I mean I know there are these Whale Barons living in West Van now but there are so few of them compared to the mass of humanity.....really you've beaten the entertainment drum and pretty much noone has taken up your dance on that - everyone has called you out on that and put many arguments up against it.

As to the right of dominion over animals - umm sorry I don't see a problem with this. We are the preeminent species on the planet and as such have certain rights and responsibilities. To me that includes dominion over all other species. I see no moral and/or ethical dilemma in that at all - not being dense - I just don't believe in mother earth as an entity and 'her' having dominion over us.

I'm curious what ethical model you subscribe to that prohibits the keeping of whales in captivity?

"We are the preeminent species on the planet and as such have certain rights and
responsibilities."

O rly? We're a relative newcomer to the planet. Hasn't every other species existed for longer
on the planet and caused less damage to its surroundings? If you think skyscrapers and
American Idol are some measure of success I'd recommend you break out a Grade 12 English
Lit text and read the poem "Ozymandias."

"First - what is so much in our self interests that keeping whales in captivity is such a big
deal."

We profit from their captivity and satisfy our curiousity by studying them. Neither actually
benefits the whales. If we didn't hunt them or pollute their homes they could manage quite
nicely without us... as could all other species on the planet.

"really you've beaten the entertainment drum and pretty much noone has taken up your
dance on that - everyone has called you out on that and put many arguments up against it.

I disagree. I don't think anyone has said entertainment value is NOT a big part of why we
keep cetaceans in captivity.

"As to the right of dominion over animals - umm sorry I don't see a problem with this"

Yes, I know you don't. By this argument however, you are saying that the 'smarter' you are
and the more tools you are capable of using, the more rights you should have. That sounds a
lot like eugenics to me. But creatures that shit where they eat aren't perhaps as smart as
they might imagine.

"I'm curious what ethical model you subscribe to that prohibits the keeping of whales in
captivity?"

I think the evidence of higher intelligence in cetaceans and great apes is so overwhelming that
keeping them penned up for our own amusement (which includes research purposes) is akin to
jailing a person and observing him or her despite the fact he has committed no crime, nor
suffers from a mental defect that might cause him/her to hurt others. I doubt many people
would condone the latter. I don't know if that's an "ethical model" per se, but it's how I view the
situation.

Found randomly while googling cetacean intelligence. Apocryphal, probably untrue, but
nevertheless, just a bit sad... see below.

------

Laurie Anderson - John Lilly Lyrics

Now in this book there are a lot of stories
about talking animals: talking snakes, and birds, and fish; and about people who try to
communicate with them.
John Lilly, the guy who says he can talk to dolphins, said he was in an aquarium and he was
talking to a big whale who was swimming around and around in his tank. And the whale kept
asking him questions telepathically. And one of the questions the whale kept asking was: do
all oceans have walls?

Well Stump, I guess the reason I was wonder what model you're using for your judgment that it's wrong is simply because I was hoping you'd had a better thought out response than "It's wrong because that's how I feel".

Fortunately for everyone, there are plenty of models to pick from, and at least one that would support either side of this argument. Even if someone were to take your assertion that it's analogous to eugenics, which is still probably not true.

"I was hoping you'd had a better thought out response than "It's wrong because that's how I feel".

And I do. Did you read what I wrote?

Frankly, based upon the responses from the pro-whales in captivity brigade, I'm feeling like the only person who has given it any real thought... and applied any other criteria to the problem besides blindly accepting the viewpoint of an organization with a vested interest in the status quo.

These cetaceans have done nothing wrong, yet their freedom has been compromised. No way to treat an intelligent species IMO.

Maybe we should just get Stephen Harper to sign off on security certificates for them so they can enjoy the full police state experience.

It looked to me like many people HAVE thought about it.

Points they've made include:

1) They're not convinced that cetaceans meet the requirements by which we grant human rights.

2) They're not convinced that whales are intelligent.

3) They're convinced that the 'captivity' is actually in species best interest. (For example we as a species often curtail the freedom of our own members for various reasons) If the benefits outweigh the harms then does the end justify the means?

It's demonstrated in many aquariums (Take Victoria for an easy example) that if you take out the whales that the aquarium closes. Is that necessarily what you want? If the whales and dolphins leave, and the whole aquarium closes, who then takes care of all the animals in our eco-system that the Vancouver Aquarium assists?

For all of your "real thought" I don't agree with your conclusion. We obviously value the different criteria differently, and that's fine. I just hope that you and the anti-aquarium lobby never get enough traction to shut down the good works done by these organizations. Although if it happens, then I guess at least we'll know exactly who to blame.

"(For example we as a species often curtail the freedom of our own members for various reasons)"

Never for entertainment or research purposes.

Who gives us the moral authority to determine what's best for other species?

"If the whales and dolphins leave, and the whole aquarium closes, who then takes care of all the animals in our eco-system that the Vancouver Aquarium assists?"

No one. They will die in all likelihood. Nature as a system can work in a harsh manner. Who are we to tinker with a system that has functioned quite successfully for millions of years?

Here's a crazy idea about stewardship. Howzabout we dont' f*ck up the environment in the name of economic progress so they (endangered animals) don't need protection?

"I just hope that you and the anti-aquarium lobby never get enough traction to shut down the good works done by these organizations."

You're misrepresenting my position. I don't have a huge problem with the aquarium, just cetaceans and great apes in captivity.

"It's demonstrated in many aquariums (Take Victoria for an easy example) that if you take out the whales that the aquarium closes."

Would you support a decision to allow the display of freaks (excuse the term if you will) because it was necessary to keep a circus economically viable?

"For all of your "real thought" I don't agree with your conclusion. We obviously value the different criteria differently, and that's fine."

Sure it is fine. But... I disagree most vehemently with your characterization that those who oppose cetaceans in captivity are running merely on emotion. There's plenty of examples that cetaceans are on a par with humans in terms of cognitive skills, emotional depth, and abstract thought.

As someone pointed out upthread, we as a species may well have bigger fish to fry. Which is the more sensible use of resources, saving one starving child or one oil-soaked sea otter?

"1) They're not convinced that cetaceans meet the requirements by which we grant human rights. "

And my position (shared by more than a few people) is that those requirements fall short and need adjustment.

BTW, relying on scientists to make decisions on ethics or philosophy is a questionable approach to the subject of human and/or other intelligent species' rights. It's a bit like asking a priest to design a nuclear reactor... the wrong person for the job.

"No one. They will die in all likelihood. Nature as a system can work in a harsh manner. Who are we to tinker with a system that has functioned quite successfully for millions of years?"

This seems simplistic. It assumes we haven't been tinkering with the system which is false. Care to expand?

"Care to expand?"

Life on earth will not cease to exist if humans cease to exist. We are a part of the system, not its pre-ordained custodians or programmers and should conduct ourselves accordingly.

we are part of the system...again that seems simplistic.

earlier you were arguing as a 'higher level' species (along with whales/dolphins) we have a duty to basically not be tyrants with the planet/other species. now you're saying we're all just cogs in the system...

it all seems to simplistic...the idea that we're just another step was true throughout history but you must realize with what we now have/know/are doing we've stopped that natural progression. i'm not saying that's good, bad or whatever, but you can't ignore it.

"now you're saying we're all just cogs in the system..."

Not what I said at all. If you don't understand what I mean, seek clarification rather than
make assumptions please. Not all parts of the system have an equal effect. A motor is more
important to a car's function than a windshield wiper. But both are part of the same
transportation system.

"it all seems to simplistic...the idea that we're just another step was true throughout history
but you must realize with what we now have/know/are doing we've stopped that natural
progression."

Firstly, I don't know why you assume it must be complicated or complex. Secondly, I don't
realize that the natural progression has stopped. I would argue it continues. We are far
different creatures physiologically and philosophically today than we were two hundred years
ago. Further, our time on the planet is a mere eye-blink. Cetaceans have been around longer.
Maybe we should respect our elders... even if they are a different branch of the family tree.

"...as a 'higher level' species (along with whales/dolphins) we have a duty to basically not be
tyrants with the planet/other species."

Very much what I AM saying. You've crystallized my thoughts eloquently. Thank you. I'd
include the great apes in that category (higher level) as well.

I'll be off-line over the weekend but look forward to further discussion.

regards all.

"Firstly, I don't know why you assume it must be complicated or complex."

I never said anything has to be complex or complicated, I'm saying your arguments are simplistic so I would ask you to not make assumptions and seek clarification please.

"Secondly, I don't realize that the natural progression has stopped. I would argue it continues. We are far different creatures physiologically and philosophically today than we were two hundred years ago. Further, our time on the planet is a mere eye-blink. Cetaceans have been around longer. Maybe we should respect our elders... even if they are a different branch of the family tree. "

By stopped I obviously did not mean has ceased to function, I meant it has stopped evolving the way it had for millenia. Throughout time we evolved with animals and plants and the planet in a fairly balanced relationship. That balance is severely out of whack and it has been thrown out of whack only very recently in the big picture.

You can't ignore all we've done/are doing to the planet/animals/plants through our greed/ignorance/apathy/stupidity (this list could go on....).

Stump,

In your googling your way to the mindfreak of Lilly (really he can talk to dolphins and you bothered to reference it - do you want people to automatically dismiss your opinion by bringing up garbage like that?) you didn't come across this pretty much comprehensive debunking of cetacean intelligence....

http://www.highnorth.no/Library/Myths/br-be-an.htm

Methinks you look for answers that only support your position. I've read the other stuff (pro-cet int) and found it to start from the premise that Cets are intelligent and are trying to prove it.

I also like the point about apes learning sign language as training to respond to obtain reward not learning of languance.

So I come back to the point- its about belief not fact. You believe whales are smart enough to know they are in captivity unjustly. I and many others believe that there is no proof and likely never will be that they are smart enough to make the distinction of captivity let alone injustice (except in Disney movies). As such trying to 'prove' your point will be pointless since you can't prove an opinion.

I read the link you've posted... before you posted it actually. And the author seems as determined to believe cetaceans can't think as I'm determined to believe they do.

Re: Lilly, a quick read of his obituary shows he took a very scientific approach to his work. (linked below)

Perhaps a little fortune cookie wisdom... such as my five year old reminded me the other day, is apropos.

"Sometimes the wisest people wear the weirdest clothes"

Remember that only a few hundred years ago we would have been having the same discussion (re: intelligence and humanity) about people from Africa, or North American First Nations folk, or Australian Aborigines.

Gets even harder when the creatures in question don't look anything like us.

I read it and thought it was a fairly balanced review of multiple research papers on both sides of the topic. At the end it came to the conclusion that sentience is not proven yet. Even you have to admit that that is a logical resolution to such a study because you have even gone so far as to state it is only your belief that whales are sentient.

As to Lilly's Obit - nothing in it supported the fact that being able to speak dolphin was supported scientifically. In fact it cast further doubt on him as a source due to his numerous drug induced near death experiences. Ad hominim attack as it is, I still wouldn't be trusting the source.

Finally, we are having this discussion today for whales because science hasn't proven (as it has with humans of all races via DNA and other observable proof) that whales and other large mammals are sentient. That we are having this discussion after 50 years of in depth research leads me to deduce that we will also be having this discussion 100 years from now as I doubt that more research will change the results.

I mean if whales are so sentient why can't they avoid the whaling ships? You'd think after a few generations they'd learn to dive and swim away when they hear the rumble of the ships on water.

We can prove sentience using DNA analysis?

"At the end it came to the conclusion that sentience is not proven yet."

All the more reason to err on the side of ethical behaviour i.e. not jailing creatures who've
done
no wrong, or experimenting on them without their consent.

"In fact it cast further doubt on him as a source due to his numerous drug induced near death
experiences."

I LoL'ed. Ever dropped acid? It'll crack your brain open and let you look inside. You might not
like what you see however.

"I mean if whales are so sentient why can't they avoid the whaling ships? You'd think after a
few generations they'd learn to dive and swim away when they hear the rumble of the ships
on water."

Funny thing about being a mammal. You have to breath air. Which means you have to
surface whether you're human or cetacean, or seal. Since humans have developed ships that
can go as fast or faster than the whales, they can run them down and pop a harpoon with a
float attached into their back, so the whale can't dive. Further, a sperm whale's top speed is
about 20 knots. One doubts they can maintain that for very long. A humpback whale's
average speed is about 5 km/h, well within the abilities of a a sailing ship or accomplished
kayaker, not to mention a multi-person West Coast hunting/war canoe.

Another point is that traditional whaling involved sneaking up on the whales, not running them
down. Anyone who has ever snuck up on a seal or other creature in a canoe or kayak will
know what I'm talking about. In fact, I was in a voyageur canoe last weekend with four other
people and we got within six feet of a beaver before it bolted. No question whether you're
being provocative or dense with that statement Dewar!

"You'd think after a few generations they'd learn to dive and swim away when they hear the
rumble of the ships on water."

After a few thousand years you'd think humans would have learned by now that war solves
nothing... and yet the conflicts continue. Plus, you don't see the whales warring with each other.
Perhaps we could learn from them if we chose to pay attention.

Aquarium eyes taking in more dolphins, whales

No need to release formerly injured animals

Elaine O'Connor, The Province

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Vancouver Parks Board will vote on a contentious bylaw amendment Monday that could allow the Vancouver Aquarium to keep more dolphins and whales in captivity.
Under the current bylaw, enacted in 1996 over concerns about unregulated capture of dolphins near Japan, the aquarium is barred from bringing in any cetaceans captured after 1996.

The amendment would permit the aquarium to bring in any baleen whale, narwhal, dolphin, porpoise, killer whale or beluga whale "that has been injured or is otherwise in distress, and in need of assistance to survive or rehabilitation, whether or not the intention is to release it back into its natural wild habitat."

The original bylaw also permitted injured animals to be taken in but did not specify whether they had to be released after treatment.
Animal activists are outraged.

They think the change would make it easier for the aquarium to keep the animals and note that a steady supply is crucial to its success, with its $80-million expansion that includes larger dolphin and beluga pools.

"This is cruelty," said Rob Light of No Whales in Captivity. "It's not educational."

Vancouver Aquarium president John Nightingale said the aquarium has public support for bringing in cetaceans and aims to bring in more.
"We've always said that an ideal group of dolphins is seven or eight," Nightingale said. "That's the number you want."

He cited polls that show about 75 per cent of respondents agree that "the aquarium should be allowed to bring a new whale or dolphin into its facility, if it was injured or otherwise in distress at any time in the past and requires permanent human care to survive, with no intention of releasing it back into the wild."

Nightingale said that the amendment is just a clarification for the board. He said that in some cases a rehabilitated animal can't be safely released even after they recover. Wording in the earlier bylaw did not make this clear.

eoconnor@png.canwest.com

I always like a good news story. Thanks Stump.

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) - A controversial section of the Park Board By-laws which allows for the capture of marine mammals is up for debate on Monday's Park Board meeting.
Currently, cetaceans or marine mammals can't be brought in unless they've been injured or face death because of being stranded. That rule could be changed. It would only require an animal to be "in distress" and the Aquarium can acquire a distressed mammal even if it doesn't intend to release it back into the wild.
COPE Park Board Commissioner Loretta Woodcock: "It doesn't mean injured at all. So, it could just be an animal that's being chased by a boat, and it's fatigued and it's in distress."
She says the whole amendment should be abandoned.

Canadian warship frees entangled whale
Updated Fri. Jul. 6 2007 9:26 AM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

A Canadian warship came to the rescue of a humpback whale entangled in fishing gear off the
coast of Newfoundland.

HMCS St. John's was on a routine fisheries patrol when it received a radio message
Wednesday from a fishing boat that a whale was in distress.

"When we got the radio call we really weren't sure whether we'd be able to do anything at
all," Commanding Officer Brian Santarpia told CTV's Canada AM. "They just told us that
there was a whale caught in a trap and we didn't know how large it would be."

When the ship reached the whale on the Grand Banks they found it was 10 metres long -- 3
times longer than the small boats they dispatched to assist the mammal.

The whale was thrashing about as it was caught in ropes and had an orange buoy snagged in
its tail. The sailors had to keep a safe distance so that they wouldn't be seriously injured by
the flailing of the whale.

"We got up close and pretty quickly we realized it was gonna be harder then we had originally
thought because the lines were going underneath it to something really heavy attached to the
bottom," Santarpia said.

The lines were actually attached to about 20 crab pots approximately 50 metres below the
surface and the whale often dove into the water to free itself from the lines.

The sailors managed to bring the crab pots closer to the surface and it was almost two hours
before they could begin their rescue effort -- dubbed Operation Free Willy -- in earnest.

"We were quite confident once we decided to let [the sailors] into the water that the whale
was gonna stay very still at that point. It had been still for quite a few minutes and was
exhausted," Santarpia said.

The navy divers then cut the whale loose as the crew watched from the decks of HMCS St.
John's.

According to a report in The Globe and Mail, the divers had to get within reach of the whale's
tail and stare into the whale's eye, which was about the size of a human hand.

Once the whale was free it swam away past two humpbacks and a few dolphins.

Santarpia praised the role of his crew in their efforts to free the whale.

"It really is kind of a neat experience," he said. "I guess it just goes to show that we have
220 highly trained sailors in a modern warship. It doesn't matter whether everything that we
have to do is something they've seen before, the crew really showed a lot of initiative in
finding ways to get this done."

With files from The Canadian Press

story linked below

full story linked below

-------
NZ dolphin rescues beached whales

A dolphin has come to the rescue of two whales which had become stranded on a beach in New Zealand.

Conservation officer Malcolm Smith told the BBC that he and a group of other people had tried in vain for an hour and a half to get the whales to sea.

The pygmy sperm whales had repeatedly beached, and both they and the humans were tired and set to give up, he said.

But then the dolphin appeared, communicated with the whales, and led them to safety.

emd By emd

If the dolphins convinced the whales to go in a cage, would that be OK??

You should ask them! :-)

EMD, it would be OK, I asked them about it.

u guyz shud konsider making n acshuel contreebushun to the conversashun insted of just pooking fun and hiliting yr missndarstandin ov the isshoo

emd By emd

I presume you don't have any pets, right Stump?

Damn... I didn't realize we needed to actually make an actual contribution to the conversation in order to be allowed to post. If that's the case, I have a LOT of deleting to do...

... sort of like this message right here, for instance.

;p

I think Stump must be referring to actual contributions like post 85

"You should ask them! :-)"

But hypocrisy isn't just an oath doctors take...

(yes, I realize that the oath is actually the Hippocratic oath)

heh, i thought exactly the same thing there, Dugly :)

... about post 85, not about doctors that ride hippos...

Post 85 was my subtle way of pointing out to EMD that our inability to communicate with a species doesn't necessarily give us the right to treat them as property, esp. the creatures such as cetaceans and great apes.

As to whether one has pets or not... it's irrelevant. Pets are typically creatures with thousands of years of domestication (dogs, cats) and are in no way comparable to apes and whales in captivity.

BTW, deed u guyz hav N E thyng to ad reeguarding animal ritez, or did u jus wnt to pook funn at thet witch you havnt givin much thot?

the view from your horse must be outstanding stump...

neither actually... nothing in particular to add, at least not here in this thread... and while I'm poking fun, it's certainly not something that I haven't given much thought.

Animals are people too.

People are animals, too.

You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals

So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel...

u doodz shud give it sum thot. thun u kin git a hi hurs 2

ugh, stump. you absolutely kill threads with that holier than thou attitude.

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