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U.S. Navy to Exploit Sea Lions, Dolphins in Black Sea Exercises

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

Photo by U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate First Class Brien Aho

U.S. military officials are planning to send 30 animals to the Black Sea this summer to test various equipment and undergo training.

The Wire is reporting that “according to a report from the Russian newspaper Izvestia, the United States Navy’s marine mammal unit will be deployed to the Black Sea,” where “dolphins will be testing a new anti-radar system” and “sea lions will be trained to ‘look for mines and naval divers.'” 

The Wire’s report indicates that “according to (Izvestia), they also allegedly plan to test out new dolphin armor developed at the University of Hawaii. This will be NATO’s first use of militarized sea creatures. This trip could also mark the first meeting of Russian and American sea creatures. Russia and the United States are the only countries known to have militarized dolphins at this time.”

The individuals who run the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program would like us to believe that the animals who “serve” in that unit are in good, caring hands. A “Health Care” page on the NMMP’s website tells us that “the primary focus of the health care program is to keep the marine mammals healthy and fit for duty.”

Language on another page of the NMMP’s website boasts that “the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program is an accredited member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.”

That distinction is shared by a host of marine prisons including facilities operated by SeaWorld.

According to language on its website, “the Alliance is the first and largest organization in the U.S. or abroad dedicated to the concerns and issues that affect the public display of marine mammals.”

Just as animals are considered attractions by those who operate zoos and aquariums, they are considered equipment by the men and women who conscript them into military service.

Back in February, I published a commentary about a military dog who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. In that commentary, I cited a National Geographic article that quoted a gunnery sergeant named Kristopher Knight as saying, “Dog handlers do their best to abide by the military’s edict that a working dog is just another piece of equipment.”

(Let’s not forget that the U.S. military has been known to butcher animals alive during medical training.)

The NMMP’s website explains that “just as the dog’s keen sense of smell makes it ideal for detecting land mines, the U.S. Navy has found that the biological sonar of dolphins … makes them uniquely effective at locating sea mines so they can be avoided or removed. Other marine mammals like the California sea lion have demonstrated the ability to mark and retrieve objects for the Navy in the ocean. In fact, marine mammals are so important to the Navy that there is an entire program dedicated to studying, training, and deploying them.”

In my above-mentioned commentary about the military dog who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, I wrote: “Just because dogs are capable of things that humans aren’t doesn’t give us the right to exploit those abilities. It’s entirely fair to describe that kind of forced ‘service’ as slavery.”

The dolphins and sea lions who’ll be “deployed” to the Black Sea this summer are being used, just as animals at SeaWorld and other aquariums and zoos and expected to perform. We hear all the time, particularly from those who have an obsession with American exceptionalism, that the U.S. military is the greatest of its kind on the planet. And that sounds an awful lot like the disgusting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey tagline, “the greatest show on earth.”

Using animals does not make men innovative. It makes them assholes. In my opinion, the most advanced military in history, one that polices the world in the name of freedom, ought to make due with the men and women who serve by choice.

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