A recent essay by Susan Orlean in the The New Yorker really resonated with me. She confessed that, despite her belief that people have no business capturing orcas for their own entertainment (the validity of which became abundantly clear after an orca at Sea World killed a trainer last week), she loved seeing orcas perform there. She also acknowledged that she'd begged for the opportunity to pet another orca, Keiko, while researching a story about him a few years ago.
I can relate -- because ever since I can remember, I've wanted to meet dolphins. Every time I hear of a program that offers an opportunity to even just sit on a platform and see a dolphin up close and personal, I consider signing up. My most recent fantasizing in this regard took place only a week ago, when my family and I booked a short trip to Bermuda for later this year. At the island is a facility called Dolphin Quest that I've known about for years, so after we flexed some plastic for our plane tickets and hotel, I logged over to the Dolphin Quest website. There I read the description of the program and decided that I could somehow justify paying a few hundred bucks for one of the cheaper packages. Then I read the guest reviews.
Some people raved about the experience, but plenty of others complained. Some simply said that they didn't get much dolphin contact for their money. But others reported that the dolphins are kept in very small tanks. I could just see myself plunking down the money, getting to the facility, bursting into tears when I saw those tanks, and high-tailing it out of there. I've had a similar reaction every time I've considered doing such a program. If the size of the tanks doesn't worry me, it's my thinking that I can choose to see the dolphins but the dolphins have no choice with regard to seeing me. Either way, I'd be setting myself up to feel guilty, all to satisfy a selfish fantasy.
That's why my efforts to find a guilt-free dolphin encounter program for the masses are at an end. For me, I don't think there is such a program. On the other hand, I'd love to do this.
Susan Orlean's article is here.