Swimming With Dolphins: Freedom, Captivity, and Our Many Interconnections

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Leah Lemieux is the author of the book Rekindling the Waters: The Truth About Swimming wtih Dolphins. Leah has lectured, written about and worked on dolphin protection, education and conservation issues for twenty years, collaborating with individuals and NGOs from a number of countries, including the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots Environmental and Humanitarian program. Most recently she has contributed an essay on Cetaceans and Eco-tourism for The Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships.

In our interview, Leah explains the dark side of the increasinly-popular tourist activity of swimming with dolphins, and touches on the shared issues of captivity that plague humans and many other creatures. We talk of this issue's connections with the capitalist system that forces most of us into some form of captivity, and the conundrum of people engaging in destructive activity in order to feed their families and pay rent and mortgages. Leah sees it being all connected, and thus anything we are doing to help in turn supports other issues for freedom and justice.

Dolphins in particular are a powerful species, who have had brains proportionally bigger than our brains for 15 times longer than us. Once living as land-based mammals, about 50 million years ago dolphins went back in the water, and have evolved to have an amazingly complex social system. In many ways dolphins are more communicative and social than humans (or at least industrialized and civilized humans; those still living with a semblance of tribalism may be a different story).

Leah has had the fortune of interacting with wild dolphins in a mutually voluntary setting, where the dolphins were actually there because they want to be, not because they were forced to. It is these voluntary interactions with wild creatures that can touch something deep inside of us, a part of us that has been smothered with layers and layers of disconnection. Leah ends our interview with her vision of a path towards a solution, which includes several steps:

realization of what's going on, taking responsibility, reconnection with our surroundings, including people and place, and restoration, and getting active.

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