A Case against SeaWorld and its Captive Killer Whale Program

SeaWorld is famed globally for its animal theme parks and marine enclosures with a wide array of sea mammals on display. These parks are known for their zoological exhibits that feature dolphins, sea lions and killer whales that serve as a source of entertainment for families looking for thrilling weekend. Trainers at the parks have honed skills that enable them to instruct these sea creatures to perform tricks that marvel all their audience. All this looks fun and entertaining from the outside, but an in-depth examination reveals a can of worms. The killer whales, for instance, are a universal attraction at these areas but it is essential to acknowledge that these are wild creatures forced into captivity (Hargrove and Chua-Eoan 21). They lack the freedom they would typically enjoy in their natural habit and the primary reason why their confinement has led to heated debates over the efficacy of these parks. Scrutiny is on the rise, primarily due to the release of Blackfish, a 2013 documentary that was produced after a killer whale killed one of its trainers. In this essay, I will provide reasons as to why it is wrong for SeaWorld to keep killer whales in captivity and the adverse effects that trend has on the creatures.

Keeping the killer whales at SeaWorld is a form of enslavement for the animals. These large mammals are confined to tiny tanks in the park that is nothing like the open sea. Housing the killer whales in separate containers is a standard feature of these amusement parks. The primary reason for making this choice is to avoid any conflict that may result from altercations that are all too common, considering the size of the concrete tanks. In time, these loners live a solitary life and increasingly become incompatible with those around them. Most of these animals often succumb to stress and depression, which, from a SeaWorld perspective, is bad for business. There have been widespread reports of handlers drugging the animals to manage their aggressive behavior that results from the monotony of having to swim in circles for days on end (Hogenboom). Moreover, there have been numerous reports by tourists about killer whales chewing the concrete sides of their tiny tanks due to starvation. They are forced to perform by the trainers who then offer them a reward in the form of food for “entertaining” the crowds. In all honesty, SeaWorld is a business that thrives on the suffering and exploitation of sea animals that are otherwise intelligent and have been denied the right to lead free lives.

The SeaWorld business is also responsible for mistreating the killer whales under their care. In the wild, killer whales live in specific family groups known as ecotypes. These family pods are multigenerational and consist of members from the same matrilineal society where they cooperate to hunt particular foods. Some choose salmons, other seals and scientists have proven that these animals never interact with others from different ecotypes while in the wild. At SeaWorld, these captured individuals are fed haphazardly without considering their specialization (Kirby 14). Most of the new arrivals die soon after because they have ostensibly been forced into a new environment devoid of their natural prey and the family units that they identify within the wild. Furthermore, SeaWorld is responsible for putting together killer whales that would under normal circumstances never meet in the wild which often leads to fights. The aggression witnessed in captivity surpasses the threshold of rational behavior and often leads to serious injury on the animals involved. Killer whales are known for the long distances they travel and have been said to go for about 140 miles in a single day. They are capable of moving from the Antarctica Peninsula to Brazil and which is part of their regular regimen when in the wild. Confining them to a tank is, therefore, a form of abuse as it fails to simulate their natural habitat.

In its defense, SeaWorld argues that their facilities are beneficial as they enable researchers to study the sea mammals. The trainers also play a significant role in the lives of the killer whales as they train them to cooperate and coordinate with others while in the enclosures. The argument, therefore, is that scientific researchers have a unique opportunity to study these animals and monitor them through every step that they take. Nonetheless, it is vital to acknowledge that killer whales behave differently whenever they are in captivity as compared to their counterparts in the wild. The repetitive behavior that they are forced to adopt soon creates a habit loop that makes it, even more, trying to release them back into the wild. SeaWorld also argues that their marine parks are meant to increase the public’s knowledge of the killer whales, but in reality, they view these animals regarding ticket sales (Nibert 123). As a result, money comes first, and the orca’s well-being comes last. Evidence also reveals that survival rates for killer whales in captivity are much lower than of wild ones which also bolster’s the notion that SeaWorld does a great disservice to these majestic creatures.

In conclusion, SeaWorld is responsible for an atrocious program that prevents these substantial sea mammals from leading an ordinary life. They suffer in the hands of their trainers who view them as money-making schemes rather than nature at its most elegant. It is time SeaWorld brought this “abusement” park to an end to allow nature take its course while contributing in the rehabilitation of their captives.

 


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