When I was little, I went to SeaWorld all the time. (I know, I know. But I got woke. Read my emo blog about it.) Some of my favorite animals there were the dolphins—partly because of their big “smiles.”

As I got older, I realized that the dolphins at SeaWorld weren’t smiling. They weren’t glad to be there. Promoting the idea that those amazing animals were happy while imprisoned in tiny tanks was SeaWorld’s strategic way of anthropomorphizing them in order to drive up ticket sales.

The truth about the dolphins at SeaWorld is much darker than the cheery fake smiles that the company sells to the world. Here are a few reasons why SeaWorld is a living nightmare for these animals:

1. Some of them were abducted from their homes in the wild.

Imagine swimming in the open ocean with your family and suddenly being captured by humans who have been hunting you. This nightmarish scenario has been the reality for some dolphins who’ve suffered at SeaWorld. Those like Betsy were kidnapped from their ocean homes at a young age and separated from their families, never to see them again.

2. Dolphins at SeaWorld spend their days swimming in circles.

SeaWorld, San Diego (300443) | Robert Linsdell | CC by 2.0 

Dolphins who were born into captivity suffer, too. In the wild, these animals swim vast distances with their families, playing and exploring new territory together every day. But those trapped in SeaWorld’s tiny tanks are often so frustrated or depressed that they swim in circles or float listlessly all day.

3. Being imprisoned in tiny tanks is hell for them.

Commerson's Dolphin | bfurlong | CC BY-SA 2.0 

Dolphins at SeaWorld are confined to cramped tanks and see very little each day other than the same concrete walls. Keeping them in tanks is like keeping humans in jail cells. Sounds horrifying, right?

4. Some dolphins have been injured, and one even died, after being forced to perform.

In 2008, Sharky, a captive dolphin at SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida, was fatally injured while performing an aerial trick. He died after colliding in mid-air with another dolphin. And in 2012, at SeaWorld’s San Antonio facility, two dolphins performing a jumping trick crashed, ejecting one from the tank onto the concrete walkway below. The animal lay bleeding and helpless as guests looked on.

5. Captivity often drives them to insanity.

Captivity can drive dolphins to become stressed, neurotic, and even aggressive. This endangers not only other dolphins but also humans—including children—who are allowed to interact with them. Just look at the girl who was bitten by a captive dolphin at the park. That dolphin has zero chill. Thanks for nothing, SeaWorld.

6. Weird incest occurs inside SeaWorld tanks.

This is so sad and twisted. Ringer, a Commerson’s dolphin at SeaWorld’s Aquatica water park in Orlando, has been pregnant several times, and all her babies have died.

At least one of her pregnancies was by her own father, and there’s a good chance that her last baby was inbred as well. Of the three male dolphins Ringer lives with, one is her father and another is her half-brother. Seriously, WTF!?

You can help dolphins at SeaWorld!

There’s no question that SeaWorld’s cruelty goes beyond the way it treats orcas. Confining dolphins to tiny tanks is totally unacceptable. Make sure that you share this post with everyone you know, and urge SeaWorld to retire its animals to seaside sanctuaries.