Dolphins are not healers

| 24/06/2013

(aeon): Dolphins are smart, sociable predators. They don't belong in captivity and they shouldn't be used to 'cure' the ill. Imagine this. Jay, an eight-year-old autistic boy, whose behaviour has always been agitated and uncooperative, is smiling and splashing in the pool. A pair of bottlenose dolphins float next to him, supporting him in the water. Jay’s parents stand poolside as a staff member in the water engages him in visual games with colourful shapes.

She asks him some questions, and Jay, captivated by his surroundings, begins to respond. He names the shapes, correctly, speaking his first words in months. With all this attention Jay is in high spirits; he appears more aware and alert than ever before. A quick, non-invasive EEG scan of his brain activity shows that it is indeed different from before the session.

Jay's parents, who had given up hope, are elated to have finally found a treatment that works for their son. They sign up for more sessions and cannot wait to get home and tell their friends about the experience. They are not surprised to find that dolphins have succeeded where mainstream physicians have not. Everyone believes that dolphins are special — altruistic, extra gentle with children, good-natured. And any concerns the parents might have had about the welfare of the dolphins have been allayed by assurances from the trainers that they are happy and accustomed to the role they are playing. After all, as the parents can see for themselves, the dolphins are smiling.

‘Jay’ is a composite character drawn from the dozens of testimonials that appear on dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) websites, but stories like his, stories about the extraordinary powers of dolphins, have been told since ancient times. Much of our attraction to these creatures derives from their appealing combination of intelligence and communicativeness, and the mystery associated with the fact that they inhabit a hidden underwater environment. Dolphins are the Other we’ve always wanted to commune with. And their ‘smile’, which is not a smile at all, but an anatomical illusion arising from the physical configuration of their jaws, has led to the illusion that dolphins are always jovial and contented, compounding mythological beliefs that they hold the key to the secret of happiness.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    As a dolphin, I can confirm that we are not as nice as some people think we are but our IT skills are much better than you think.

  2. Anonymous says:

    People are also not healers.  Dogs, cats, bugs, and fish also.  But they all can be used (and the key word is USED) to heal and to educate.  If you don't like seeing anything behind bars or glass just don't go to a zoo, aquarium, or dolphin park.  Don't look at pictures of them and stop thinking you need to change it so no one else can.  Millions of other people use them every day to educate themselves and their kids about animals they would otherwise not see.  There should be a balance in how you see things.  The rights of all the animals you have eaten for food could not have entered your thoughts right?  Where you drew the line is your problem.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree and now that we just figured all of that through scientific testimony. We should stop pretending to the cows,chickens,horses,dogs,cats, aquarium fish,gerbils,hamsters etc,etc. that we get a good feeling with them either. Come on do you think your dog or cat really like you or are giving you some feeling in your brain thats going to make you feel better from depression? Get real , they love you for food and a place  of security. Isn't that true? 

    Well its the same for dolphins. I will never forget when off of casa bertmar I use to feed waldo and other moray eels and a baracuda 2 black groupers almost everyday. We had a bad northwester and was not able to go and feed them . The sea was too rough. When the sea calm down I jumped off the dock and the moray eel was there He quickly wrapped himself around me and stuck his head through my horse collar BC. We both had our head through the same opening. I never had any feeling of love and I'm sure he didn't either . But when people saw it they of course said "he knows and loves you " I of course said yeah he knows I'm bringing food, to myself.Thats what he loves.

    Is men or women any different? The relationship goes both ways. Sometime we want people around us sometimes we don't. Sometimes dolphins want us around them sometimes they don't.

    • Anonymous says:


      • Anonymous says:

        Tue, 06/25/2013 – 18:19 you have a good right to poke fun at this "Caymakind" foolishness that the Dept of Tourism has come up with. Who ever concockted such a term really need their just reward …. and it would not be funny … Caymankind …. smh ..  Caymanians have traditionally been kind, friendly and caring people and to ttry to use such a made up word to capture that spirit is a nonsense and an insult.

        • Anonymous says:

          Having travelled the world, I think it is wrong to identify any society as kinder than others.  People are people.  I found the Caymankind campaign naive and offensive.

    • Anonymous says:

      Perhaps you should try and find some love in your heart, give some love and you may receive some love and not sound so empty.  Yes, I love my dog and my dog loves me! 

  4. The Spin cycle says:

    One of the most common justifications used by dolphin business people to excuse keeping these creatures in captivity is that the dolphins actually enjoy "interacting" with humans. Following their logic, however, it would make sense to leave the gates to their pens OPEN on the off chance they sometimes get tired of all that interacting.

  5. Carn I. Vour says:

    So I was at a restaurant in Cayman a while ago and they were serving dolphin.  As a firm believer that there's plenty of room in the world for all of god's animals, right beside the garlic-mashed potatoes and veggies, I ate Flipper.  Freakin' delish…   Later on I was at some place in Cayman where they were selling dolphin rides, so on I got and helped Flipper grow some muscles.  This in the firm belief that stronger muscles make better burgers.  It was a buzz.  Now if I were to look at it from Flipper's perspective, I'd say better to be rid on than ate.  But hey, that's just me.  By the way – what I said about the veggies?  I lied.  Veggies aren't food.  Veggies are what food eats.  I'm just sayin'.

    CNS: You didn't eat Flipper, you ate dolphin fish (Coryphaena hippurus), otherwise known as mahi-mahi.

    • Anon.....(and on and on) says:

      Dear CNS, you may have the solution in your clarification.  If we all start eating Flipper (Cetacea Delphindeaa) we can convert the "Attraction" into a Gov funded "Flipper Farm".  That way the enterprise will be losing so much money, so quickly, that we will have a DOE / DOI initiative to deport all marine mammals back to where they came from before you can say "Do you want tartare sauce with that?".  

      We will need a "tradition" and "heritage" angle to get the Flipper Farm of the ground.  Will simple avarice do?

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS i think this is something they call satire?

      • Anonymous says:

        But it only works if "dolphin" on the menu is the sea mammal which it is not.  

        • Anonymous says:

          Correct. It’s not satire at all, it’s someone trying to be funny and failing, really quite badly. I couldn’t care less about dolphins, but I do get cross with crappy writing.

          • Yup says:

            Now what you wrote – THAT's funny.

          • Bert says:

            Not happy about the dolphin story?  Don't care about dolphins? Mad at the writer?  Sounds like depression, or perhaps an itch that's been neglected just a little too long?  Maybe a nice dolphin ride would help!  You owe it to yourself to be happy.

          • Just Commentin' says:

            Hmm…? If crappy writing gets your knickers in a knot then why the hell are you here? Earth to Cross Person with knotted knickers: seems to moi you got kinda lost on the Net and wound up here while looking for epic literary craftmanship. I hate to be the one to break the news to ya, but this ain't Harper's.

        • Carn I. Vour says:

          I thought it worked anyway.  The underlying criticism is directed at the attitudes of human animals toward non-human animals, specifically the view that they are ours to ride or eat, or to ride on and then eat, without any significant reference to their interests.  The overlay of feigned ignorance regarding the difference between the mahi-mahi fish and the dolphin mammal in my view speaks to the blatant disinterest of human animals regarding non-human animals, other than and only as far as they might amuse us or feed us.  I don't think we have to actually eat Flipper for the described ignorance to illuminate the disinterest.

          Either that or I just screwed up.  I hear eatin' fish makes you smarter.  I best go lookin' for Flipper's cousin now.  It's burger time!

          • Anonymous says:

            The joke's on you when you confuse the two – it is a parody of yourself.

            We are at the top of the food chain – what do you expect? Do you think that the bat is concerned about the interests of the mosquito? Or the whale about the interests of plankton? Or the lion about the welfare of the gazelle? It is not only the 'disinterest' of human animals regarding non-human animals. It is called survival of the fittest. Why do you want to interfere with nature? 


            • Carn I. Vour says:

              Look crabby crappy knicker knots, I expect reason, ethics, rational purpose of action, and kindness. You are a rude bore, so it’s understandable that you are having difficulty here. Good luck in life bat-brain.

              • Anonymous says:

                If you "expect kindness" why are you so rude?  Is it because you are full of crap?

            • Carn I. Vour says:

              PS – the bat doesn’t have the capacity to destroy the ecosystem of the Earth through thoughtless blundering, but we do. Think like a rational person and not a bat.

    • Anonymous says:

      You haven't lived until you have tried whale with a topping of shredded puffin.

  6. Truth says:

    But keep on subsidizing the Turtle farm RIGHT?  What is it now?  A million a month with 2 months thrown in for FREE!  Thanks to CIG!  I guess its because it is that is still "appetizing" and not "sickening to many here.  And apparently very easy to get.

  7. Anonymous says:

    So true. Psych-babble and flawed science used to extract money from the naive, stupid or desperate. And how about dolphin midwifery?

  8. Anonymous says:

    well said….. the fact that these prisons use the plight of the sick and disabled for their own barbaric agenda is truly sickening……..

    boycott the dolphin prisons!

    • Anonymous says:

      We're getting a bit too anthropomorphic here. "Prisons"? Dolphins are not people.  I suspect the more sentimental among us would have us love them because they squeak and "smile" and gambol around like huge great slippery teddy bears. But in reality they are wild animals and there's no reason to treat them differently from any other species. They used to be caught and eaten by sailors. That's fine by me, but why nowadays does that cause more revulsion than doing the same with, say, a snapper? What's the moral difference between penning dolphins in and keeping a zoo, or a fish in a bowl or a bird in a cage? Or swatting a bug, come to that? "Truly sickening?" Come on…