As a child, growing up in one of the beach cities of Southern California, I vividly recall the trained seal shows that were offered in many places to draw in tourists. This was before Marineland and Marine World and their huge tanks for dolphins and orcas, so seals (actually sea lions) were the big draw. The trainers would parade them out on the stage and they would clap their flippers and bark on command in an effort to get a dead anchovy thrown to them. It always seemed to me to be degrading to this beautiful animal that was so well suited to a life on the coast where they swam, fed, played and basked on the beaches and coastal rocks. Thankfully, this activity dissipated as other technological activities (massive roller coasters, etc.) became more and more popular and the massive aquaria (now in decline) took away the excitement of it.
I’d almost forgotten about the trained seal shows until this morning when I watched the Donald Trump rally in Montana on the morning news. I became aware that in this State, one of our largest but more minimally populated (a state that appears to pride itself by “still maintaining the values of the old American west” ), had latched onto some of the aspects of sea lion training that had long ago disappeared here in California. Of course, not having access to a sea coast, obviously Montana had to improvise. Luckily for them there was a significant element of registered Republicans to count on and when they applied the tried and true techniques developed by the old seal trainers on the coast to party members, having them to bark and clap on command from specific words (Obama, Hillary, etc.) and hand signals by a lead trainer, they responded brilliantly. Of course their incentive was the hope of getting that anchovy snack tossed their way but, as yet, it really hasn’t come. Lots of promises and only a few inedible packages of paper towels have been thrown out to any clapping/barking crowds, but they are trained well and anticipate that someday the anchovies will fly through the air in abundance.
What is truly surprising to me is that there are, within this crowd of trained seals, a number of those who currently have more anchovies than they can possibly eat…refrigerators not only full of anchovies but salmon, scallops and king crab, some of it already past the time for consumption. Yet these people for whatever reason believe they deserve more and willingly clap and bark in the hopes of getting it, buying more and more refrigerators for storage (and more and more guns to keep others from pillaging it!)
I’m glad that the trained seal shows have disappeared from the coast and I certainly wouldn’t want to live in Montana where they have just now been discovered.