Boycott SeaWorld!

30 to 50 years. That’s the average life expectancy of a wild Orca and this can even reach up to 100 in many.
Orcas in captivity, on the other hand, have a median age of just 9.
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When someone says the words ‘killer whale’ to you, what thoughts come to mind? The name does give off a very strong first impression. Even the first ever written description of these animals was negative. Roman author Pliny the Elder described them like this. “Orcas (the appearance of which no image can express, other than an enormous mass of savage flesh with teeth) are the enemy of other whales... they charge and pierce them like warships ramming.” It may surprise you to know that out of all recorded incidents between these animals and humans such a small amount actually occur in the wild. I should also point out that none of these have been fatal. In fact the killer whale –or orca- isn’t quite as deadly as its name implies. They are in fact very intelligent animals and are aware of their surroundings. This brings me on to what I am going to talk about today. SeaWorld. The whole idea behind it is an oceanarium, sort of like a larger scale aquarium. I’m sure that the whole idea of watching shows where marine animals, such as these precious Orcas, do tricks with their trainers for our entertainment seems absolutely thrilling. I’m sure that many people with the chance to see a live Orca up close and personal would accept without a second thought. But I’m also sure that very little people proceeding to go on these trips to SeaWorld are aware of not just what captivity is doing to these whales, but how they have been treated in the process.

As aforementioned, surely these animals aren’t really born killing machines? The answer to that question really comes down to the nature vs. nurture argument but when you really look into the lives that these Orcas have to lead it does make you wonder. If you had to live in a bath tub for the rest of your life I’m sure that you too would get agitated? So is it really a question as to why these animals are lashing out at their trainers. The size of their tanks would mean they would have to swim the pools circumference a massive 1900 times a day to get the equivalent amount of exercise as they would have done in the wild.

On February the 24th 2010 it was reported that experienced and well-loved trainer Dawn Brancheau was grabbed by one of SeaWorlds largest Orcas Tilikum, who weighs in at 12,000 pounds. When they were able to retrieve her body it became clear that she had been both drowned and scalped. SeaWorld covered up the whole incident, explaining that the mistake was the trainers rather than it being Tilikums actions causing her death. They claimed that she had been pulled into the water by her ponytail and that it had caught on Tilikums teeth. Witnesses of the event have since come out and stated how Dawn was in fact dragged into the water by her arm and that rather than Dawn being at fault it does seem that the blame rests in the hands of Tilikum. But the whole idea behind SeaWorld is too make money. It is clear that these whales have some form of psychological problems for them to be acting out in such a way.

To understand why these events, although covered up, still occur it is necessary to go back to the very beginning. Most of the Orcas seen at these shows have either been bred in captivity or were captured. Fishermen would hunt these animals down but rather than kill them they would be stripped of all dignity and taken away to perform for the public. Their most favoured techniques was to separate the children from their mothers. Under-water explosives were also used alongside nets and boats. They would tear the new-born Orcas away from their family and home before shoving them in small boxes and transporting them to wherever necessary. Tilikum in particular was left for almost a year in a cement holding tank before he was transported to a marine park. This meant all he was able to do was float around aimlessly. These conditions in comparison to the extensive amount of water and freedom that the ocean offers would have done little good for him. When he was eventually given a home the parks closure each evening would mean him and two other female orcas would be restricted to a pitch black metal module that stretched only 20 feet across and 30 feet deep. Even if the performing every hour, eight times a day, 7 days a week hadn’t left its mark, the two female orcas showed dominance over him and he was regularly attacked. This was only the start of Tilikums life, the start of the ill-treatment and constant performing and the start of what many have described as a psychosis.

These incidents don’t just occur with Tilikum though. He may be the most well-known due to the death of Dawn but as I hunted through internet pages I found that there has been another 138 incidents involving captive Orcas that places like SeaWorld have chosen to cover up in order to save their skin. It’s not their skin that needs saving, it’s the skin of these poor animals.

The size of the tanks is likely a large factor in the deterioration of these killer whales. The deepest tank at SeaWorld only reaches a depth of 40 feet and there is no protection provided to prevent sun burn. These Orcas spend a large percent of their time floating around doing little else. Orcas in the wild, on the other hand, spend 95 percent of their time submerged with shade in the depths of the Ocean. In captivity if you look at pictures all of the male orcas have a collapsed dorsal fin- the fin on the top of their backs. If you go for a talk at SeaWorld they will tell you that this is a common feature of many orcas and that if you look at wild orcas the majority have this condition too. What they fail to tell you is that only 1 to 5 percent of wild orcas in some populations have collapsed dorsal fins and it is mostly due to unnatural environments an lack of exercise. If you look at pictures of SeaWorld in San Diego you can see that the size of Orca pen is so much smaller than the size of the car park.

One of the most disgusting aspects to what goes on behind the scenes at Sea World is how they proceed to breed the whales. Orcas there are bred far too young and a lot of inbreeding takes place. Tilikum is the father of a whopping 21 of SeaWorlds orcas and in doing this these calves are likely to have received his violent tendencies genetically. Because wild orca capture is now illegal trainers are forced to pick out these male orcas and make them produce their genitals in order to store the produce and then insert it, with a camera, into the female whales. Although this doesn’t harm the whales it is highly unnatural. This also leads to a high number of still-births and many new-born calves are separated from their mothers who are heard screaming in search of their child for days after. The bond between an orca and its calf is very similar to the bond between a human mother and her child so why is it wrong to do it to one and not the other.

I can sign petition after petition and I doubt that I will have much effect on the situation as a whole. That doesn’t stop me believing that this is unfair and needs to be seen to. It needs to be looked over. It needs to be stopped. SeaWorld makes profit over keeping these Orcas in such horrible conditions.  We need to make a stand and we need to pledge that is isn’t something that can go on unnoticed. Boycott SeaWorld. Empty the tanks! 

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This is a speech I have written recently for my GCSE English Language Speaking and Listening examination. Lately, I have become very interested in the welfare of killer whales kept in marine parks like SeaWorld and as I delved deeper and deeper into the mass of information on this subject my views became stronger and stronger. As you can tell from the speech above, I am very anti SeaWorld. I believe that these animals shouldn't be living in such conditions and should be allowed to live undisturbed in their natural habitats. I do hope you enjoyed this
speech-turned-blogpost and have had an insight, small or large, into the subject of Orca captivity. If you would like to make a pledge and join me in the small action of boycotting SeaWorld then you can do so by clicking here.
I'll love you and leave you with a quote about these animals from the director of Blackfish, which if you haven't heard about or seen I very much recommend you take some time to sit down to watch it when you have a spare moment and learn something more about this subject as a whole.
"I think the most amazing fact I learned was that they have a part of the brain that we don't have- a part that we can't even identify. This suggests that they sense, understand, and even feel more than we do. It still blows me away to think about it." --- Gabriela Cowperthwaite


2 comments

  1. :O I am finding words very difficult to convey the level of horror & revulsion I feel about the way these animals are being kept in "cages" too small for them

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    1. I understand exactly where you're coming from, it upsets me greatly to even think about it. The fact they are so intelligent is what gets to me the most because they must know that they're so restricted!!
      Katie

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