Young Jillian Thomas’s dream was to be a dolphin trainer, so her parents took her to SeaWorld Orlando to see some dolphins. But when they paid extra to feed dead fish to the dolphins, Jillian got more than she’d bargained for.
Everything was going fine until Jillian moved her paper plate that held the fish, and a dolphin tried to grab the plate and bit the girl. Her father was taking video and captured what happened:
“I accidentally held it up,” Jillian told reporters. “The dolphin jumped up and ate the carton and bit my hand. I was thinking it was going to haul me into the water.”
Jillian’s mother, Amy, said that SeaWorld staff tried to create a distraction.
“A SeaWorld attendant quickly came up and said ‘Let’s take the kids to a positive dolphin experience.’ And we told her our daughter needs first aid. … They did not tell us to look for any signs of infection. They rinsed it out with Bactine. We had to ask for Band-Aids.”
Jillian’s dad said: “They told us to make sure the paper plate stays on the wall but we really didn’t know why. We didn’t sign a disclaimer. There were no signs on the wall that says the dolphin could bite your hand or there is a level of risk with this attraction.” “The dolphin jumped up and ate the carton and bit my hand. I was thinking it was going to haul me into the water.”
SeaWorld issued a statement that “Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of …” etc. etc.
Sure. Like the health and safety of the three people killed, so far, by Tilikum the killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando … like the many other trainers killed or injured at these marine zoos over the years … and like the dozens of dolphins, whales and other animals who have been killed or who died prematurely from conditions related to their being kept in the tiny concrete tanks that serve as “stadiums” for the whale and dolphin shows.
Like young Jillian, people who go to SeaWorld think they “love” dolphins. But love is not expressed by taking these super-intelligent, self-aware beings into captivity and forcing them to do tricks for our entertainment.
To her credit, Jillian said she hopes the dolphin wasn’t harmed by eating the paper plate she’d been waving at him. But the truth is that all these dolphins have already been harmed. They’re all being held in captivity, and as long as marine zoos like SeaWorld have their way, none of them will ever know what it’s like to live free in their own world.
We hope that Jillian learns an important lesson from this interaction: Dolphins belong in the wild, not in concrete tanks. Love is letting them be who they are, and in their true homes. Love is wanting what’s right for them.
Message to Jillian and all these young people and their parents: If you love dolphins, stay away from SeaWorld. Do them a favor: Don’t buy a ticket.