Monday, November 14, 2011

A Shadow Over Switzerland

Switzerland has had a long history of neutrality in times of conflict. It has not entered an international war since 1815. Its government is actively involved in peace keeping missions around the globe, and it is the birthplace of the Red Cross. And yet with such an impressive record of non-aggression against humankind, it is hard to understand how the Swiss government, and the Swiss people, can allow the inhumane treatment of another species that comes closest to man in terms of intelligence, sentience, and non-aggression; the dolphin.

Two hours by train outside Basel is a fun park called Conny Land that boasts of having Europe's finest open-air dolphin lagoon. Claiming to offer fun and entertainment for the whole family, the park's owners fail to mention that over the past three years seven of their dolphins have died; and the circumstances of the most recent death are particularly distressing. Over the objections of German animal activist organizations, ProWal, and The Whale and Dolphin Protection Society, the owners of the park allowed a two-day techno rave to be put on within yards of the dolphin lagoon. Animal experts believe this resulted in the death of an eight year old dolphin that had been healthy up until the rave. It also likely caused unknown and unknowable distress to the other dolphins in the lagoon.

Certainly the veterinarian and trainers at the park know that dolphins have particularly acute hearing; not only through their internal ears but also via their complex echolocation capability. And yet they allowed the rave to take place anyway. ProWal recorded noise levels of over 100 decibels outside the park; clearly beside to the lagoon it would have been much louder. Moreover, sound travels 4.5 times faster under water than in air, so for two days these poor creatures were subjected to what for us would be like standing beside a roaring jet engine for 48 hours.

Such cruel disregard for the dolphins' well-being goes beyond the pale and the Swiss people should be ashamed. Ironically, the name that had been given to the dolphin that died was Shadow; and that is exactly what has fallen over that otherwise peace-loving nation.

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