It wasn’t until this summer that I happened upon a striking documentary on TV entitled Blackfish. It wasn’t until I watched this documentary, twice, that I actually thought about how SeaWorld and other companies treat their entertainment animals. It wasn’t until I won potential tickets to SeaWorld last month that I really thought about and realized the impact of everything I had seen online and in this documentary.
Blackfish is a film that investigates and exposes the deadly consequences of keeping killer whales in captivity. In this film, many deaths at SeaWorld are investigated and are broken down into fact verses press release. The film chronicles the violent and depressing behavior of the Orca Whales, and shows, undeniably, that holding these whales in captivity in concrete tanks causes them physical and mental stress.
I am going to admit, going to SeaWorld has always been something I wanted to do. I have always wanted to go see the whales and other animals and experience one of the shows, but no longer. Who wants to go see sad, possibly unhealthy, whales? Who wants to go see a whale with a drooping fin? Who wants to give money to a company who is not protecting their animals and who is abusing these creatures? Although my opinion on this matter seems to be behind the times, I obviously am not the only one with this view. In fact, a year after the film’s release in 2013, SeaWorld’s park attendance dropped by 4%. In addition to this, the company’s stock fell by 40% and has not fully recovered since.
Now, we should all be aware of the protests and lawsuits put on by PETA and other activists, and that keeping animals in an unhealthy captive situation is wrong.The question that everyone should be asking is, “what is SeaWorld going to do about it?” In January 2015, SeaWorld detailed the renovations at their San Diego Park; they are to undergo a massive expansion of the Orca’s habitats. Nearly doubling them in size, they expect these new tanks to plunge to the depths of 50 feet and will include “a fast current whale treadmill.” They expect this to be completed by 2018. Not to mention the company threw an easy $10 million to fund killer whale research and is now focusing their attention on ocean health. No wonder PETA set up protests again, this time with signs reading, “A bigger prison is still a prison.”
I am a supporter of animal rights. But, my question here is, with all the talk of releasing whales and giving them freedom, how do we know these whales would even survive? They have been held in captivity their whole lives now. Many are born and raised in captivity, so how are they expected to survive in the wild? Should SeaWorld make either drastic changes, or just stop breeding and getting more whales? Yes. Should they release the ones they already have? I’m not sure.
There have been cases in the past where whales and dolphins who have been held in captivity are released into enclosed sea pens and rehabilitated for the wild. Once released, it is under strict guidelines that whales and dolphins must be put in close range of a population they would naturally be a part of. However, sometimes after long term captivity, some whales may be even too scarred mentally or physically to survive without human care according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group. Shouldn’t these animals at least then be given the option to live out the rest of their lives in a safe enclosed area of ocean or a natural cove/bay?
Even recently, while under similar animal rights pressure, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey announced that they would be phasing out the use of endangered Asian Elephants in their shows. It will take them three years to complete this and send all their elephants to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation, but at least that’s a start.