The Dolphin Dilemma 

Animal welfare activists have been pushing to ban amusement parks from exploiting orcas, and they say dolphins deserve the same protections.

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Performing in shows isn't a fundamentally bad thing, Rose said, since it keeps the animals occupied and staves off boredom. "What's bad about it is that it's not natural. It's a circus act and that's bad for people."

"We're teaching children all the wrong things," O'Barry added. "It's the children who watch these stupid anthropomorphic dolphin shows ... we tell them they have to be in captivity so people can save them ... we think they're smiling back at us."

But dolphin trainers contend that human interaction with the animals creates an important bond. "I was really nervous that it wasn't everything I thought it was going to be. But it is. Working with these animals, it's awesome," said Six Flags trainer Rutan after a dolphin show.

Rutan talked about her experience swimming with the dolphins, training them, even "surfing" them around the pool. She said it was amazing.

Meyer, the trainer intern, said she had wanted to work with the animals since she was a little girl. Both seemed genuinely excited about their work and expressed deep care and enthusiasm for the dolphins.

But from the perspective of former longtime dolphin trainer O'Barry, the Six Flags workers are not being completely honest. "If they think dolphins are better off in captivity, they're just trying to keep their exotic job," he said.

Still, he noted that it's difficult to convince some people that using animals for human entertainment is wrong. "It's very hard to see the problem — the problem is actually hidden by an optical illusion. The tank's got this beautiful turquoise-colored water. The dolphin is smiling back at you. So people ask me, 'What's the problem, O'Barry?'"

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