The National Baltimore Aquarium: Are aquariums ethical?

February 1, 2017


Everyone loves going to the aquarium and walking around with their family, looking at the exotic fish from different parts of the world and watching the trainers do tricks with dolphins, but how do the fish feel? Do they enjoy being ripped from their homes and their families, being placed in a small cage on display for the rest of their lives?

As of now, scientists are not sure whether small fish realize they are in captivity, but they have theories. PETA, the world’s largest animal rights organization, believes that “fish are intelligent, sensitive animals, who think and feel the same way cats and dogs do”. Their article Fish in Tanks, describes how “fish are living beings, not artwork”, and are not around simply for our entertainment. Is it really worth ruining another creatures entire life just for a few hours of entertainment?

Do you think the concept behind aquariums is ethical?

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In 2012, the scientists at believed that fish did not feel pain the same way humans did. Most people do not believe fish have emotions and can feel pain, and now scientists are not sure. What they are certain of is that the larger animals, such as dolphins, whales, and sharks, have very strong feelings.

The Baltimore Aquarium has no whales, but they do have exibits including sharks and dolphins. Sharks are used to swimming miles a day, but in the Baltimore Aquarium, they have one ring to swim around repeatedly, so small that it takes less than two minutes to walk around. A shark’s life span decreases 50% when in captivity, and show signs of depression.

The dolphins are kept in a large tank, with bleachers set up to watch them do tricks. Dolphins are highly intelligent, so they are very aware that they were separated from their family and are now only around for entertainment. Out of the 8 dolphins, only 1 was not born in captivity, the other 7 have never seen the ocean or the sun.

The Baltimore Aquarium is planning to make a change. By the end of 2020, they said they will have moved the dolphins to a seaside ocean refuge. According to the aquarium, the dolphins will be cared for in a location that is next to the sea, in much more open waters.

Click here to find out more about their plan for the dolphins.

The Baltimore Aquarium making this change is extremely positive, and will hopefully show other places what to do. Unfortunately, places like SeaWorld, who harbor giant whales keep them in horrible conditions, are not being shut down anytime soon. After they see the Baltimore Aquarium taking these steps, maybe other places will catch on, and stop treating these animals like their lives are worth nothing.

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