Imagine being taken against your will, locked in a tank and forced to entertain visitors. That is the argument of the thousands who have signed petitions against the proposed dolphin park to be built in the north at Pigeon Island.
When I first heard of the development, I wondered: Why would we want this kind of attraction here? On this island we are blessed that we can go out on the waters to view dolphins in their natural habitat. These gorgeous mammals will happily put on a show for you, of their own free will; no coercion, no space limitations.
As I started investigating the proposed development, voices similar to my own stood out. Most memorable, an open letter from the Devaux family, part of which reads: “To address the animal rights issue, keeping dolphins in captivity is inhumane. Worldwide public opinion has turned against tours that feature captive wild animals. Leading tour companies like TripAdvisor and Virgin Holidays have pledged to stop selling this type of tour as a result of pressure from animal advocacy groups. The negative publicity surrounding the proposed facility at Pigeon Island will not be good for St. Lucia’s image.”
Saint Lucia relies on tourism. With increased awareness through international animal welfare organisations of (wild) animal cruelty, I share the point raised by the Devaux family: How many travellers will boycott Saint Lucia if this project goes ahead?
“To continue to compete as a tour destination, we have to set ourselves apart by offering something that no other destination has,” the Devaux letter continues. “A dolphin facility does not distinguish us (Dolphin Discovery alone has at least 20 facilities around the Caribbean basin). The only thing we have that makes us unique is our heritage: our natural heritage of mountains, beaches, and landmarks; and our cultural heritage of history, customs, and people. Without that heritage to differentiate us, visitors would have no reason to choose St. Lucia over any other island.”
Pigeon Island is a national landmark, rich in history and beauty, for the enjoyment of locals and visitors. If the dolphin facility goes ahead, it is worth questioning whether it will in fact, as stated by the Devaux family, “destroy the essence of Pigeon Island” by interrupting the tranquillity, the unspoiled beauty, and the ambience.
There is no shortage of ideas that can be formulated to boost our tourism but cruelty should never enter the equation. Saint Lucia is a beautiful, unique island and no other can compare. Let’s keep it that way.