When we think of dolphin exploitation, we typically zoom in on the cruel capture and slaughter of wild dolphins in Japan’s now-infamous Taiji cove or the pitiful lives these highly intelligent beings endure in marine parks, hotels, and swim-with-dolphin programs around the world. Unfortunately, the list of ways humans exploit dolphins does not end here as dolphins have been used by both U.S. and Russian militaries for years.

Adding to the ongoing tensions in Crimea, Ukraine, Russia recently seized Ukrainian naval ships in Crimean harbors along with the Ukraine’s dolphin navy. According to The Voice of Russia, the Ukrainian Navy had “revived a Soviet project that trained combat seals and dolphins for maritime missions” in 2012 after Russia’s plans “had been mothballed for over a decade.”

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Known as “battle dolphins,” these marine animals were being trained to perform a number of naval tasks, “including patrolling open waters with detection devices, defending against mines or enemy divers, and even attack missions,” reports ABC News.

While this may seem like Russia now controls the world’s largest fleet of military-trained dolphins, the United States has also built up quite the dolphin navy. Both Russia and the U.S. began training dolphins for military use starting in the 1960s in what has been called a “dolphin arms race.” The intent of these programs was to use the dolphins to detect sea mines and potentially for other missions that involved attacking enemy divers.

While these dolphins might be trained to stay a safe distance from mines, the fact remains that these wild animals have their freedom taken away and are forced to perform unnatural behaviors just like in marine parks. Simply because we slap “military” onto this form of exploitation does not make it any more acceptable.

It’s time for us to realize that, just because we share our lives with other beings, it does not give us full reign over them.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons