Orca Welfare and Safety Act: It's Time To End The Cruelty

By Francine Fluetsch on April 7, 2014

image via gifts.worldwildlife.org

It’s crazy to think that everything you love about something can be based on a lie. You know what they say: the more you tell a lie, the more you start to believe it yourself. SeaWorld used to be one of my favorite parks to visit. Watching the trainers do mind boggling tricks with the orcas made me want to be a trainer too. I wanted to have that special bond with the animals and know that I was doing some good by taking care of them. But SeaWorld is built on a fragile bubble of lies, and it was only a matter of time before something came along and burst it for the world to see. That something was Blackfish.

If you haven’t seen the documentary Blackfish, you need to get on your Netflix account ASAP because it is definitely worth watching. The truth is ugly, and what Blackfish exposed about SeaWorld made people fight back. Blackfish has inspired the making of a new bill, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, which to SeaWorld’s dismay, is backed up by many. The bill was introduced by State Assembly member Richard Bloom, D–Santa Monica, and if it passes, it will make it “illegal to hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performance or entertainment purposes.”

David Kirby, Professional Journalist and author of “Death at SeaWorld,” said in this article that the bill would also ban “artificial insemination of captive killer whales in California and block the import of orcas or orca semen from other states.”

image via thebroccolibulletin.wordpress.com

The documentary is making people realize how cruel it is to hold these animals captive in tiny pens for their whole lives. They aren’t meant to perform little circus tricks for our amusement; they are meant to swim miles and miles in the ocean and be free. I mean, how would you like to be ripped away from your family and then stuck in a tiny bathtub your whole life?

Bloom said “There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes.” That’s the thing about the truth: you can’t un-hear it, no matter how much you wish you could.

Luke Siller, a second year biotechnology student at Palomar College, said “the whales at SeaWorld live in non-natural conditions such as being held in a cramped dark tank until needed or even stripped of some of their teeth to protect the trainers.”

So then we have to wonder, why did it take a documentary to make us see what we all knew was wrong? Michael, an analyst for the Department of Defense, said “SeaWorld was established as a haven for injured or displaced animals, reminiscent of a rehabilitation center (Conservation).”

Like many others, I always assumed that all of the animals were rescued, so I was able to reason in my head that they were only in captivity because they weren’t fit to go back to the wild and they were having a great life performing and feeling better. But that is the façade, and exactly why this captivity of the animals has been going on for so long. As long as we can hold on to the lie, why question it?

According to SeaWorld’s company spokesman, Fred Jacobs, SeaWorld has “assisted whales many times, including killer whales,” when they were lost or stranded. But as Kirby mentions in this article, “in at least three cases, SeaWorld seemed more interested in sending these orcas into a life of captivity to entertain tourists, rather than releasing them back into the ocean.”

That’s the problem. SeaWorld could keep us as pawns in their spiel because we never saw the aftermath to what they were doing. We just heard that they were helping the animals, and we felt good paying the overpriced park tickets and parking fees because we knew that it was all going back to the animals.

image via www.pinterest.com

So now that people are fighting back, what will this mean for the whales that are currently at SeaWorld?

When I first saw Blackfish, I was pissed, and like many others, wanted the whales to be released immediately. People think that if the bill passes that all the whales will be set free, and this is sadly not the case.

Seven of the ten whales currently at SeaWorld in San Diego were born in captivity and therefore would not be able to survive in the open sea. The best alternative for these whales would be a sea pen sanctuary that people would be allowed to visit, but no tricks would be performed.

According to this article by Kirby, “As for the three wild-caught orcas, it could be that only one, Corky, is a viable candidate for release—and even then, only after an intensive period of rehabilitation, in which she would need to relearn how to catch fish.”

Corky is the main potential candidate because she still might remember her pod, which whales need to be in to survive.

“The ‘Free Corky’ page at Whale and Dolphin Conservation reads, ‘She visibly shook and vocalized poignantly when a tape recording of her family’s calls were played to her in 1993,’” Kirby said.

But what about the others? Would sea pens be the answer?

“Realistically, the answer to the problem is to stop the breeding program and ensure that the animals are taken care of until the end of their lives,” Michael said.

So it could be argued that if SeaWorld were to agree to certain terms of agreement, that maybe it would be okay for them to keep the whales they have, but not capture or breed any more.

image via niagaraadl.com

Even though some people may fail to see it, these animals have feelings, a sense of self, are intelligent, and deserve to be treated as such.

Cruelty ends now. Are you in?

Hi! I'm Francine and I'm a fourth year Creative Writing major at UC Santa Cruz. I am one of the Campus life columnists on Uloop's National Team and also the campus editor for UCSC. I enjoy reading, writing, and taking selfies with my cat.

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