As one of the founders of a sanctuary in the 1980s, I’m reminded that arguments leveled against whale and dolphin sanctuaries in a Baltimore Banner article have all been tried and disproven over many decades.

In the past half-century, sanctuaries have been established for land animals of all kinds that suffer from exploitation. For example, elephants who had been housed in the cramped compounds of zoos or in trucks being shuttled from town to town to dance and do handstands at circuses are today free to roam the pastures of sanctuaries such as the Performing Animals Welfare Society in California and the Global Sanctuary for Elephants in Brazil. Instead of being “tamed” into submission with bullhooks, they can now snooze under trees and stroll down to lakes and ponds for a cool summer bath.

As the stories of their new lives reached millions, public opinion demanded an end to the shows and the confinement. Eight years ago, the world’s largest circus, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey, bowed to slumping ticket sales and announced an end to its animal acts. Then the Greatest Show on Earth returned in 2023, committed to drawing big audiences again with new approaches to its performances and spectacle — but with no wild animals.

Authentic sanctuaries demonstrate how we evolve from outdated attitudes toward our fellow animals and give back, as best we can, the life that has been taken from them. They are also centers of gravity for the host of welfare programs they generate around themselves. Think of Farm Sanctuary, which, since its beginning in 1986, has become the heart of the movement toward a more plant-based lifestyle. The Best Friends Animal Society began as a small sanctuary for homeless pets in Southern Utah and now manages hundreds of volunteer programs nationwide to bring an end to the killing of dogs and cats at shelters.

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By caring for the most physically and emotionally deprived animals, sanctuaries promote an ethic of compassion toward captive animals and of non-interference in the wild.

As for the suggestion made in the article that captive-born animals cannot adjust to a more natural life, you have only to watch the heart-touching video of a group of chimpanzees, formerly caged at a research laboratory, stepping ever-so-tentatively onto the grass at their new home before hooting with delight and dancing ecstatically in the sunlight.

And then there’s the tired old money argument: “The annual cost of caring for one animal … would be better spent on helping wild cetaceans and improving their habitat,” which depends on your believing that there is some limited pot of money that cannot serve both sanctuaries and their related programs. It also suggests that an intelligent donor can’t support both a sanctuary and a conservation program. In a famous example, renowned animal protector and game show host Bob Barker donated $750,000 to transport three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to the PAWS sanctuary in California. He also was giving millions more to conservation, advocacy, spay-neuter and adoption programs.

The National Aquarium is to be applauded for leading the way in developing a new 21st century paradigm for aquariums.

Michael Mountain, Little Silver, N.J.

Michael Mountain is the former president of Best Friends Animal Society and a paid consultant to the Whale Sanctuary Project.