Animals Are Better Than Humans Essay Contest

Sharon Banta | Kathleen D'Aquila & Julia Perri | Laura DeSantis | Ariella Grinberg
Kathleen D'Aquila and Julia Perri tied for second place in the grades 6-8 category. Read their essays below.

I agree with people who believe marine mammals should be kept in captivity. My first reason for wanting marine mammals to be kept in captivity is when they are out in the wild they are killed by poachers for their body fat and other natural resources they supply, or caught in fishing nets, etc. They are also killed by diseases. It is not fair for the marine mammals to be killed for human use. All marine mammals have a right to live. If they are kept in captivity they could have a chance to live because no poachers would try to go after them. Also when animals are kept in captivity they can get vaccinations for the diseases and diseases can also be prevented by the people who care for these marine mammals and get excellent care by professionals. My second reason for wanting to keep marine mammals in captivity is if they are an endangered species we can breed them and increase their population. When they are in the wild it might be hard for them to find a mate. But when they are in captivity their professional caretakers will help increase their chances for mating and increase their population. Finally, my last reason for keeping mammals in captivity is scientists can do research on marine mammals and learn about them so they could maybe help the marine mammals to survive in the wild. For instance, let's say there is a marine mammal that is endangered because they were losing a food source. As a result of scientists doing research on these marine mammals in captivity they would know how to fix the problem and find a new food source. Scientists may also learn from the marine mammals information that will help not only their species but the human species.

I understand the arguments against keeping marine mammals in captivity. For instance, poor sanitary conditions, but in some present natural environment pollution is a major problem. Another argument might be abuse from their caretakers. But there are laws to prevent this from happening and they should be enforced. Also tourists who come to see these animals may treat them inhumanely, but employees of the facilities are ever vigilant and prevent harm coming to these animals. As I have noted I think marine mammals should be kept in captivity. I hope after you have read this essay you too will agree with my reasoning.

Kathleen D'Aquila

In my opinion marine mammals should not be kept in captivity for the sole purpose of entertainment for us humans. I think marine mammals should be kept in captivity in only some instances. I am sure that all those who are interested in marine mammals have their care and well-being foremost in mind concerning this topic.

First, I believe marine mammals should be kept in captivity for only some specific reasons. If the animal is hurt and definitely won't survive in the wild, then, by all means, put them in captivity. It has to be done right, however; the marine mammals need to be built up so they are fully prepared for the wild when they are released. For example, Ken Norris, the biologist who set up Long Marine Lab, captured two dolphins and kept them for about two years. He was successful in returning the animals back into the environment where he had captured them. Also, if a species of marine mammals is endangered or near extinction, it makes sense to put them in captivity in order to breed them. However, it's important to breed them correctly. There need to be large populations to avoid inbreeding and significant numbers lost due to accidents and disease. For instance, fewer than 100 Chinese River dolphins are left. They will all become extinct within 10-20 years if we don't do something about it. The dolphins have to be captured and bred carefully as though they were in their natural environment.

Second, I don't think marine mammals should be kept in captivity for the sole purpose of entertainment. Humans don't need zoos and aquariums and neither do healthy marine mammals. Some marine mammals, especially open-ocean species, don't adapt well to captivity. They sometimes crash into walls of their pen because they are not used to boundaries. As evidence, the British Born Free Foundation has documented "neurotic, self-destructive" captive animal behavior and even "self-mutilation." I don't think it is fair to put animals in captivity for our entertainment and enjoyment when things like this happen.

In conclusion, I am not saying that we should keep marine mammals totally out of contact with us, just that we should not exploit them. I feel that marine mammals should be kept in captivity only when they are hurt, endangered or near extinction, not for entertainment purposes.

Julia Perri

By Roberta Israeloff

The PLATO High School Essay Contest gives students the opportunity to engage with timely and timeless philosophical issues and improve their academic writing.  It’s open to all U.S. high school students, and the winners receive cash prizes; in addition, winning essays are published in Questions, PLATO’s official journal.

Some of the questions on which students have been asked to write include:

  • Do people have free will?
  • Is friendship a more important value than honesty?
  • How can you figure out, in a museum devoted to contemporary art, whether the fire extinguisher on the wall is part of an artistic installation or, simply, a fire extinguisher?
  • What is the moral status of non-human animals?

The contest was devised to give young philosophy students an opportunity to learn the skill of philosophical writing.  Many of those lucky enough to encounter philosophy before college are familiar with the community of inquiry model – in which students and discussion facilitators sit in a circle and discuss topics that are suggested by the group.  Some students engage with philosophy for the first time through a high school ethics bowl, during which they discuss and analyze timeless and timely ethical dilemmas.  The essay contest gives students more inclined to express themselves through their writing the opportunity to wrestle with texts and construct good written arguments.

The question posed each year is buttressed by a scenario to give students a context in which to consider their answer.  For example, here is the prompt from this year’s question:

Sarah and Mike, two friends who met in an art class, spend the afternoon in MassMoCA, a museum in North Adams, MA, that features installations of contemporary art that are sometimes very large and often unusual. In one gallery, they stop to look at a pile of sticks placed in a corner. In another, they watch an endlessly looping video of a person sitting in a chair. They aren’t sure what to make of these exhibits. Finally, in one of the museum’s wings, they find a variety of large, colorful abstract shapes drawn right on the walls. “Now this looks like art!” they say to each other. The artist’s name is Sol LeWitt. But when they read more about him and his work, they learn that the shapes on the wall weren’t actually painted by LeWitt. Instead, his assistants painted them according to his very detailed written instructions.

“This stuff isn’t really art,” Mike says. “It’s all a scam!”

Sarah isn’t so sure. “Well,” she says, “it’s in the museum, which means someone decided it should be here. So it must be art.”

To write the 2,000-word essay, students are encouraged – but not required – to use outside sources, some of which are listed as suggestions.  Students also learn to use MLA style for citations.

The contest, in its fourth year, is open to all US high school students. The PLATO Awards Committee comes up with each year’s question – as well as guidelines and suggested outside readings – and all submissions are graded by a panel of high school teachers and philosophers.  Cash awards are given to the three best essays.

Participating in the Essay Contest can prove a valuable experience for many students, including one who wrote an email describing its impact on her:

After my school participated in our local high school ethics bowl, I decided to write a philosophy paper for the PLATO essay competition.

I am writing with sincere gratitude for having been awarded the PLATO Essay Prize. I was so happy to learn I was selected. It is a great honor, I am grateful for the award and prize money. I designated the money specifically for Philosophy book purchases. So far I am enjoying:

  • A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell 
  • The Philosophy Book by Will Buckingham
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl 
  • The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell 
  • The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle 
  • The Republic by Plato 
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius 
  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

I am grateful that I won, but I especially appreciate how the process of learning critical thinking positively affected my life. Philosophy writing helps me to articulate my points… Since so many ethical dilemmas are at our doorstep today, understanding philosophy seems more important than ever. 

Roberta Israeloff directs the Squire Family Foundation, which advocates for more philosophy in more K-12 classrooms, now in its tenth year.

This post appears as part of our partnership with PLATO.

Categories TeachingTags Editor: Jeremy Cushing, essay contest, high school philosophy, Jana Mohr Lone, Plato, pre-college philosophy, teaching


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