LittleBear has expressed two preferences for his holiday this year (other than, of course, the long-standing request to go back to the Isle of Wight and find fossils). Firstly, he would like to go on holiday to the Atlantic. After dinosaurs, oceans and their associated life-forms are his favourite thing. And he has been mesmerised by a documentary series about the Atlantic. Secondly, he would like to go to "one of my favourite countries. Russia or Spain." The geographically inclined amongst you will spot that it is slightly tricky to find an intersection between Russia and the Atlantic, but that Spain presents distinct possibilities.
Our current plan is to go to the Canary Islands. Atlantic Ocean? Check. Spain? Check. Sand for digging in? Check. Volcanoes? Check. And then I got really excited, because I discovered there's a really big aquarium on one of the islands, and if there's something I know LittleBear will love, it's a big aquarium.
And then I looked at their website.
And my heart broke.
They have captive orcas and dolphins, who they've trained to display.
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that LittleBear would love to see an orca almost more than anything else in the world.
But I also know that there is absolutely nothing that will convince me to support the captivity of such intelligent, beautiful, powerful, social animals. And I want LittleBear to know that, one day. But not today. Today, I don't want to try to explain to him how awful it is to keep these extraordinary creatures confined and trained and imprisoned. I don't want to explain the cruelty, the suffering, the pain, the boredom. There are only two possible outcomes - either he wouldn't understand and he'd be heartbroken not to see them, or he would understand and be heartbroken that anyone could do that to an orca. He loves orcas. And I don't want to be the one to break my four year old's heart. He cried when David Attenborough said all the plankton would die during winter. I can't imagine how upset he would be to discover someone was hurting an orca.
And, the terrible truth is, there is some part of me that is a 4-year old child still. I would love to see an orca. I wish I could not know that captive orcas are suffering. I wish I could not realise that their treatment is awful. I wish I could go and see them, filled with naiveté and wonder, without knowing that I'm supporting something horrible. But I can't. And though I know LittleBear could, I can't let him. And that makes me sad too. Sad that there is something he could and would love, but that I will deliberately keep from him, because it's the right thing to do. It's the first time I've faced that situation, and thought it indubitably won't be the last, I'm not relishing it.
So now, I face the challenge of taking LittleBear to a group of islands that have captive orcas, where they will indubitably be advertised, and try and hide their existence from him. Or find some creative and yet plausible explanation for what a poster with a picture of an orca is doing there... Creative and plausible. That's what I'm looking for folks. Creative and plausible....