The World’s Saddest Dolphins

Me: Are whales endangered?
Mother: Yes.
Me: They’re my favorite animal!
Literally, that’s how I fell in love with whales. Driving in the car, a passing conversation– bam.
(In my defense, I was probably five then. The prosecution, however, will likely add that I am still in love with them eight years later so that’s not really an absolving fact.)
I saw my first cetaceans in New Zealand as spurts of water from a helicopter. Then, up close, I saw sperm whales diving deep into the ocean. They splashed everyone gathered at the railing as their tails flicked down, and I promptly hurried inside.
I saw blue whales in Sri Lanka. They were–
Ok, fine. I lied to you. I saw my first cetaceans in Ocean Park, Hong Kong, in the form of captive bottlenose dolphins. I loved them. I loved watching them. They were just, frankly, very, very cool. But I never really counted them, though, when I listed all the whales I’d seen. They were more of an addendum– yeah, I saw dolphins in captivity, but that doesn’t count. Because that’s not their natural habitat. Those dolphins were wrenched from the sea. They live in chlorinated pools. They are played with by tourists. Those are not “real” dolphins. They live, breathe, chatter, but they are not “real”.
A few years ago, I went back to see the show. It had changed significantly. The seals were given protracted appearances and the voiceovers were done in Cantonese. The dolphins jumped high and dove low and pleased the audience but not me. There was a distinct sense of artificiality about the whole thing. Around a year later, ACRES’s (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) World’s Saddest Dolphins campaign was launched. By then, I had already vowed never to see cetaceans in captivity again but that sealed it. In seventh grade, I wrote a persuasive essay about whales, and made a video in accompaniment, but I was still shocked by the number of people who went to see the dolphins, and regarded it as something fun, something cool.
For my eleventh birthday, my mother asked me whether I wanted to ‘play’ with the dolphins for my party. My answer was an empathetic no, further solidified by having recently watched The Cove. We went to a theme park instead.
What’s your answer?

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