7 Compelling Reasons to Rethink Aquarium Visits with Your Kids
A family trip to an aquarium or SeaWorld can seem like the perfect activity for a warm summer’s day and maybe even be an educational experience. However, while your family may have a great time marveling at the amazing creatures of the deep blue, the same can not be said for the beautiful animals trapped in their unsuitable perspex aquariums.
Read on to discover 7 reasons why you need to avoid aquariums this summer, and check out the great activities you can do instead to teach your little ones about marine conservation.
7 Reasons to Avoid Aquariums
1. Questionable Treatment of the Animals
Aquariums and especially SeaWorld have previously come under fire for their poor treatment of their animals. These controversies have included various aspects of their operations from breeding programs, to abuse at the hands of staff, for example in 2017 when this Florida employee withheld food from the animals.
2. Touch Tanks are Inhumane
Touch tanks are popular exhibits at aquariums as guests get to interact with animals they would likely never come across. There are smaller tanks with colorful fish, stingrays, starfish, and more for children to touch and pick up. While this seems like a fun way to teach children about wildlife, kids can introduce harmful bacteria into the tanks causing the animals to become sick! Also, your children could become sick from the poor quality water and unhealthy animals.
Touch tanks are also awful places for the animals to spend their days. The tanks are normally tightly packed with animals, they don’t mimic their natural habitats, and are incredibly stressful for the animals. People banging on the tanks, splashing around, and poking the animals is stressful for them and can lead them to become sick.
3. Animals Have Shorter Lifespans in Captivity
Animals kept in captivity, such as dolphins and whales, often experience significantly shorter lifespans compared to their wild counterparts. The stressful conditions, confinement, and limited space in aquariums contribute to health problems and premature deaths. In the wild, orcas and dolphins can live up to 50 years. In captivity, their lifespan is cut in half. As well as that, dolphins born into captivity have a high risk of dying within their first year of life. Likely due to horrible conditions and poor care.
4. Entertainers are Not Animal Specialists
Often at larger aquariums you will see animal shows, where animals such as seals or dolphins put on displays for large crowds. These are entertainment shows run by entertainers. The entertainers have no idea how to properly care for these animals. They will not have degrees in animal care or a good understanding of what these animals need to thrive. They are there to put on a fun show and make money, often at the expense of the animals.
5. You Will Not Learn Conservation
Despite claims of promoting conservation, aquariums often fall short in truly educating visitors about the importance of marine conservation. The emphasis on entertainment and performances overshadows the critical message of preserving natural habitats and protecting marine life. Oftentimes, not only are aquariums not promoting conversation but they are actually hurting conservation efforts. For example, many aquarium fish are captured from the wild and to capture them a chemical called cyanide is used. This is destructive to habits and causes natural populations to decline.
6. Animals are Stolen From The Wild
Many of the animals you see in aquariums will have come from the wild. Not only are toxic chemicals used to capture these animals, taking animals from the wild is horrible and disruptive to delicate ecosystems.
For larger marine animals like orcas and dolphins who live in large family groups, losing family members to captivity is horrible to think about. Many of the animals taken from the wild will die on the journey to the aquarium.
7. Animals are Kept in Inappropriate Habitats
Dolphins can travel an impressive 80 miles a day in the wild. The small tanks they are kept in are not big enough nor deep enough to house these animals. Some animals will suffer from sunburn as there is nowhere deep enough for them to hide from the sun. If you visit an aquarium you will see creatures of all shapes and sizes sitting listlessly in the corner, caused by boredom, incorrect food, and toxic chemicals in their water.
Going to an aquarium is unethical and will not teach your children about marine conservation & learning respect for animals. Instead you could send your kids to a marine sanctuary where marine wildlife is rehabilitated to be sent back into the wild.
Or go rock pooling and see how many amazing creatures your kids can discover, just make sure to never pick them up!
If you live close to the beach, a lovely thing you can do as a family is participate in a beach clean up to protect marine habitats from harmful human waste. If it’s a rainy day and you can’t make it to the beach, watch a marine documentary. The Blue Planet collection by the BBC and narrated by the fantastic David Attenbordough is suitable for the whole family.
Aquariums are not the fun family day out they say they are. Instead of giving your money to these institutions try out alternative activities to really teach your children compassion for marine animals.
We have two wonderful books for children which aim to help them on their journey to understand animal welfare and farming – 100% of our proceeds go towards animal rights organizations (yes, we do this for love, not money!)
The second in a trilogy of beautifully illustrated children’s books, this story about the compelling journey of a young chicken named Cluck, told by a sage parrot.