I’ve been watching those TV commercials by SeaWorld. You have probably seen them. There is a veterinarian and a caretaker talking about how they do not harvest whales from the wild anymore, their Orcas live as long as their wild counterparts and their whales are content.
So I’m guessing somewhere things are being said causing SeaWorld to pull out the old PR handbook, not that they don’t believe what they are saying. Any of us can rationalize most everything thing we do under the guise of some worthwhile cause, just as SeaWorld is doing. I have no doubt that they believe their breeding program and research of Killer Whales justifies holding a wild animal meant to swim hundreds of miles in what amounts to a bathtub.
My point is not so much what they are doing but more about using them as an example of how we can take any situation and rationalize it to fit our needs. And it often involves our animal companions. Take the breeding game, of which I am a part or at least was until recently. Here we have a precious little baby dog followed by, sometimes, pages of contracts. And it is justified as ‘good business’. Maybe contracts are needed, but the issue occurs when something outside of the contract happens and the right thing is not done because it isn’t in the contract. The breeder of the litter (or guardian of the puppy) justifies not doing the right thing because it is not in the papers. (And yes, I used contracts for awhile myself until I realized it didn’t mean anything when it came down doing the right thing.)
And that is the rub. Deep down, we all know what the right thing is, but we can rationalize how not to chose it under the guise of business or betterment of something. ‘I have bears so I can educate people about them and in that way I am keeping them safer in the wild.’ Really? I am fairly sure I person can be educated about bears without having one penned up in one’s backyard. And the bears would no doubt be happier in the place they were meant to be. Just as SeaWorld’s whales would be happier in the actual sea. They would have an actual life, not an existence.
My Ammulett did not like children and many people had an opinion on how best to help her adapt, I even had a behaviorist for awhile and a life-like ‘dummy child’…which my behaviorist friend thought Ammulett did great with. (Of course she didn’t take into account that Ammulett knew the difference between plastic and a living organism.) Ammulett would get stressed every time we would practice being around kids until finally I asked myself, ‘Is this really helping her or am I rationalizing that it is for her own good when in fact it is for me? Am I a little disappointed in what people will think of me if she is known for not liking children?’ Doing the right thing became obvious to me. She never did like children…babies and old people she loved but not those eye level kids. So I didn’t put her in those positions. It was, for me, the right thing to chose when I stopped to consider her position and not mine.
If SeaWorld used the same technique in the choices they make for their whales, would they still consider those choices justified? I don’t think so.
We make these decisions for our companions every day, some more difficult than others. In every situation there is a right thing to do and only one right thing. We can create another choice by rationalizing our actions because we can make any answer fit if we work it hard enough, but that does not make it the right choice.