To the editors:
The Reader's usual quality and diligence was evident in the November 5 article about the Shedd Aquarium. It is impossible to cover all aspects of a controversy this complex, but Grant Pick did a better job of it than I would have previously thought possible. Both Pick and photographer John Sundlof were extremely proficient, dedicated and likable.
One point I would like to add is the alternative plan CHARC has repeatedly proposed to the Shedd Aquarium, and which the Shedd has repeatedly refused to acknowledge: that of converting the Shedd from a prison to a hospital. This would truly serve both the public and marine life.
Many, many marine animals die every year from man-made disasters, and there is a desperate need for marine rehabilitation centers. If the Shedd truly wanted to educate and sensitize people to the wonder as well as the plight of marine animals, what better way to do that than to bring in victims of drift nets, pollution, boat accidents, groundings, poaching, etc? Other aquariums and marine parks have been doing this in part for some time. The Shedd claims that they did this with their sea otter "collection." However, this was only done as a public relations ploy, and to make more money. As with the other prisoners of the Shedd, they will never be released. Only with release is the rehabilitation complete, and only then is there room for more patients to come in and receive care.
CHARC believes that if people could see animals that are actual victims of man-made disasters, they would have first-hand understanding of the effects of our collective carelessness in nature. This would inspire many to work to make positive change, as opposed to simply watching captives doing stupid circus tricks.
It is painfully obvious that the current Shedd administration only wants visitors to be thrilled and titillated. The dolphin show is careful to steer clear of the real issues, as one of those would be the inherent cruelty of life-long incarceration of captive performers for casual entertainment and profit. When the tuna industry was slaughtering millions of dolphins, the Shedd's circus act never included information about what people could do to stop it. The Shedd never tells visitors that these animals can travel over 100 miles a day, as this might cause people to ask why Shedd's prisoners are now restricted to swimming circles in little tanks. And of course no true environmental organization would invest millions of dollars in major corporate polluters, as the Shedd has.
Hopefully, the retirement of Shedd director William Braker will result in a more responsible and enlightened administration that puts the importance of compassion and conservation ahead of profits. If that happens, I suspect both the attendance and profits will skyrocket, and then and only then will the Shedd's detractors disappear.