Sigh. SeaWorld is at it yet again.
First, the entertainment giant launched a massive PR campaign against the hit 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” stating, among other twisted facts and out-right lies, that it does not separate orca mothers and their calves, despite clear evidence to the contrary.
A “SeaWorld Cares” website was launched, open letters were penned, newspaper ads were released, and videos were uploaded to YouTube all in an effort to discredit “Blackfish” and all subsequently released information about SeaWorld’s shady business.
Shortly after these shenanigans began, nonprofits approached SeaWorld to hold a public debate on the topic of orca captivity, and, not surprisingly, the company quickly wimped out, stating that the debate was “little more than a publicity stunt.” An open, honest public debate MUST be a publicity stunt, but open letters, ads, and YouTube videos are not — right, SeaWorld?
What’s more, a current SeaWorld San Antonio trainer called this public debate challenge a way for “anti-captivity speakers to further push their radical agendas,” yet it seems that SeaWorld really needs to look in the mirror and see that what they are accusing others of doing is in fact a mere reflection of their own actions, as proven further by their recent public comments in response to San Diego’s now pending AB 2140 also known as the “Blackfish bill.”
This particular bill was introduced in March 2013 by state Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and it aims to make orca performances for entertainment purposes illegal.
Naturally, SeaWorld has jumped in to lobby against this bill since it would be a big blow to their company. In a recent meeting about the bill at the California state capitol, SeaWorld came to speak out against the bill and tried to prove that its business is actually beneficial for its resident orcas.
“From the whales’ perspective, the whales actually anticipate doing the shows and like doing the shows,” said SeaWorld Animal ambassador Julie Scardina. “We create an environment that is interesting and stimulating and fun so the whales want to participate.”
Woah, now – we, as human beings, are able to see things from the “whales’ perspective?” THAT’s pretty amazing. So if that is indeed the case, their “perspective” must be that they “like” doing shows and performing for humans instead of say, living out in the wild with their families? Yep, that sounds about right!
Scardina continued, stating that these shows and the relationships SeaWorld builds, “creates a day that is full of variety, both physical and mental, for the animals.”
This statement harkens back to SeaWorld’s attempts to show that they are providing good “care” for their wild orcas and the millions it spends doing so. Yet, our question has always been: how can a life of forced performance and captivity ever provide the real physical and mental variety these whales need and would receive from their wild homes?
SeaWorld’s supervisor of animal training, Lindy Donahue, even went so far as to say that their orcas would “rather be in the show than out of the show.”
“They are so stimulated every day,” she said. “They want to interact with us, and the level of care is so high it’s almost hard to describe.”
Assuming that orcas would rather perform in shows is quite a stretch. How would SeaWorld, or anyone for that matter, know this?
To top things off, Dr. Chris Dold, SeaWorld San Diego’s vice president of veterinary services, stated that orca shows are “a net benefit to the animals” and to SeaWorld visitors since apparently SeaWorld’s mission is to “inspire people to do something about the ocean, to see these animals, to be awed by them, to be excited about them, and to learn more about them and hopefully that will extend to their stewardship of the ocean.”
I’m sorry, but “hopefully?” “Hopefully” the captivity of orcas will inspire people to care about the oceans? So keeping orcas cooped up in small, concrete pools is all hinged on the “hope” that people may start to care about marine life and their ocean home? Now that seems rather extreme, SeaWorld, not what us “anti-captivity” activists are proposing.
Further, if SeaWorld was seriously interested in inspiring people to care about the oceans and its many amazing inhabitants, then why are they keeping these very same inhabitants in pools that restrict their natural behaviors?
What’s more, the “awe” that Dr. Dold speaks of is human-manufactured. Visitors are looking at tricks these orcas have been taught – not their stunning, natural movements, meaning that visitors are in fact learning nothing of great consequence about these animals. Instead, visitors are soaking in the idea that keeping wild animals in these sorts of confined environments is acceptable, fueling the captivity industry rather than real conservation.
SeaWorld is going to try its very, very best to protect itself against the facts and any “Blackfish backlash,” yet we, too, must fight back. As pressure mounts, perhaps SeaWorld will rip a page out of one of these amazing marine organization’s books and seriously look into becoming the organization it only now claims to be.
Lend your voice to orcas today by sending letters to members of key San Diego policy committees in support of the “Blackfish bill” or AB 2140. Visit The Dolphin Project’s take action webpage for more information.
Image source: Tammy Lo / Flickr