It’s only been about one day since the filmmakers behind “Blackfish” and the team behind “The Cove” (i.e. the Oceanic Preservation Society) challenged SeaWorld to a public debate. And, to really no one’s surprise, SeaWorld has already said “no.”
Pretty fast turnaround, eh?
As the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) said in a press release, “We welcome an open and honest discussion with SeaWorld. There are millions of families across the globe who have choices about where to spend their vacation dollars. Parents want clear answers about how all aspects of the captivity industry work, including animal welfare and employee safety.”
This is a pretty inviting sentiment, and an open discussion would allow both sides to have their say, so, SeaWorld, why are you really afraid of a public debate?
Could it be because many of your claims regarding animal welfare are dead wrong? Let’s just take a look back for a moment, shall we?
For one, SeaWorld consistently tells the world that they do not separate orca mothers and calves – except for circumstances that would place a family unit in danger. However, as this timeline clearly shows, there have been 18 orcas at SeaWorld parks that have been separated from their mothers. It’s highly doubtful that all 18 of these orca mother-calf pairs would have placed family units in danger – but it would make it a whole lot more difficult to accommodate certain performances, right?
What’s more, SeaWorld insists that their care of orcas somehow benefits those in the wild, referencing “controlled research” studies of their captive killer whales. But how exactly do controlled research studies like one examining the resting metabolic rate of Tilikum help animals in the wild?
Captive animals and wild animals have completely different lifestyles, feeding routines, and even lifespans (though, on this last item, SeaWorld also wants us to believe that captive orcas have similar lifespans even though most captive orca whales don’t live longer than a nine year average, as compared to up to 90 years in the wild.)
Moreover, in SeaWorld’s recent open letter calling “Blackfish” activist propaganda, they say that Tilikum was not collected by the company, and while he may not have been captured by the marine park first-hand, as the letter later states, SeaWorld still “acquired” Tilikum. So just as long as someone else does the dirty work, it’s okay to bring in a wild orca into you facility? But, oh, it’s for conservation, right?
Yet, this argument cannot hold since, last we checked, forcing animals to do tricks for audiences and keeping them cooped up in concrete pools is not conservation nor is it beneficial to wild orcas.
And even if the whales, Tilikum included, are treated like “royalty” as former SeaWorld trainer Mark Simmons states in a new video created by the company, how does this make their captivity okay? Does this mean that as long as we supposedly treat an animal well, we can then keep it confined for the rest of its life?
But, this is all just a bunch of activist mumbo-jumbo, right, SeaWorld?
Fred, Jacobs, Vice President for Corporate Communications at SeaWorld, said via Chron, that the open debate challenge is “little more than a publicity stunt” and the company has “no interest in helping promote a film this dishonest and manipulative.”
Bridgette Pirtle, a trainer at SeaWorld San Antonio, also voiced similar sentiments, stating, “It is a predictable activist move to challenge SeaWorld to a public debate forum, one that undoubtedly allow the anti-captivity speakers to further push their radical agendas.”
Wait – let’s get this straight – people who are anti-animal captivity are now radical? People who long to see animals back in the wild and free are radical? But capturing (oh, sorry, “acquiring”) a wild-caught orca, and placing them in a tank is not radical? So, you are pro-captivity, SeaWorld? Is that what you mean?
Honestly, we’re not quite sure what you mean at all, SeaWorld, but perhaps if you’d seriously consider sitting down for an open debate maybe we won’t be so confused, or quite so angry. Maybe, just maybe, an intelligent and fact-based discussion could take place and perhaps even some kind of agreement would be reached, because, SeaWorld, no one would be mad if you turned into a real open sea pen sanctuary. In fact, most would probably rejoice, and your orcas would, too.
Image source: Josh Hallett / Flickr