In (Partial) Defence of Marineland

There have been news reports on abuse of animals at Marineland, mostly bad water conditions, and at least one case of bad judgement in not separating weak animals from aggressive ones.

That said, the calls for Marineland to stop all its animal acts is, imho, a bit over the top. It takes a great deal of patience to teach an animal a new behaviour. Nobody has complained that this is animal cruelty. I am not sure that it is. The animals are generally taught with “operant conditioning“, where successive approximations to the desired behaviour are rewarded.

(I note that, with this technique, a chicken can eventually be trained to peck out a sentence on a keyboard. First, reward approaching the keys. Then reward pecking any key. Then reward getting closer to T. and so on. It takes a lot of time but it does work. The psychiatrist (?) who worked this out had it done to him by his own students: when he moved toward one corner, they looked up attentively; when he moved elsewhere they chatted and dropped pencils. He found himself cornered without realizing why. I suspect it is done to us all, all the time, especially in commercials featuring attractive members of the opposite sex.)

I think Marineland should be coerced, by law or by demonstrations, to clean up its act with regard to the living conditions of its animals. Water quality is a huge problem; large public aquaria have far more water “in the back” than you can see, by factors of forty or a hundred. I suspect marine mammals are just as likely, pound for pound, to foul their own water, as fish are, given the higher metabolic rate associated with homeothermy. If Marineland did not figure this out when designing the animal enclosures, shame on them, and they should be coerced to fix it now.

And, I don’t think they should be expected to simply close all the animal acts. It is a source of revenue, and represents an investment. They are entitled to a return on an investment that they legally made.

That’s a partial defence of the animal acts.

Failure to clean up the animal’s living conditions would be indefensible.

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