Petula Dvorak pits Flipper fans against the Free Willy crowd to ascertain the generational gap in opinions about captive marine animals.
Prompted by Baltimore Aquarium’s announcement of its intent to retire their captive colony of dolphins to a new marine sanctuary, The Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak examined the morality of keeping animals captive for entertainment. During a recent visit to the aquarium, the writer divided marine animal spectators—her family—into two generational categories: Flipper fans (Dvorak’s father) and Free Willy lovers (the writer’s two young daughters). While the new conservation-focused dolphin show prompted grandpa to state, “It’s like propaganda written by PETA,” the younger generation appeared to be more in tune with the moral shortcomings of keeping dolphins captive. “I’d hate to be locked in my room my whole life,” Dvorak’s 8-year-old daughter said. After examining recent events such as SeaWorld’s announcement to end orca shows and the retirement of elephants from Ringling Bros. circuses, Dvorak concluded the feature with the question: “Will we look back 50 years from now at the way we’ve treated animals and realize that we were the real monsters all along?”