Tag Archives: captivity

The next Free Willy?

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Californian assemblyman, Richard Bloom, has proposed a ban on orca captivity in the Californian state to take place. The bill would make it illegal to hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performance or entertainment purposes.” It also would ban artificial insemination of captive killer whales and block the import of orcas or orca semen. After controversial documentary ‘Blackfish’ by Gabrielle Cowperwaithe highlighted the alleged abuse on orcas at SeaWorld there has been a lot of support for this bill to be passed. However, there are many who claim that this bill is irrelevant and could potentially be dangerous for the killer whales.

This proposal for the law to be passed was after the wake of controversial documentary on SeaWorld ‘Blackfish’. After ‘Blackfish ‘was released it went global after originally only been shown at five cinemas in Canada after the Sundance festival. This has sparked major backlash on SeaWorld and many are demanding the orcas be released. Richard Bloom has stated: ‘There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes. These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete pens for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement.”

This is not a foreign concept at India, Croatia, Costa Rica, Hungary and Chile have banned cetacean captivity and Switzerland have banned dolphin captivity. Under this law there would be 10 orcas that would be released from SeaWorld in San Diego ranging from wild caught orcas such as Corgi aged 36 and captivity bred orcas such as Kastaka.

Green Peace member and active petitioner, Oskar Bindere, stated:

‘I am in full support of Bloom’s movement. I feel that orca captivity is outdated and barbaric. Not only orca captivity but a lot of captivity for animals, it is unfair and unjust.’

When asking Bindere how he felt towards the documentary, Blackfish that led to this proposed law he stated:

‘I did watch Blackfish. I have mixed feelings towards the documentary. On the one hand, I understand where the documentary comes from and they’re not untrue ideals they have presented. On the other hand I do feel like the truth has been twisted slightly to fit their point. That is something I do not agree with the truth speaks for itself.’

The proposal has shocked the captivity world. There has been positive and negative feedback on the proposal. However, after the proposal was made there was a reported drop in SeaWorld stock.

When Bloom was speaking with takepart.com he stated that captivity was not on his radar before watching the chilling documentary Blackfish.

Bloom states:

‘I’m not a big fan of extremists in any form. This bill came about as a result of my involvement in the issue. No one had influence over me, other than my having seen Blackfish and contacted scientists.

As for their second argument, I completely understand the economic value and jobs that SeaWorld provides. But I don’t think anybody would ever argue that we can justify jobs by supporting bad conduct.’

If the bill is passed it is reported that SeaWorld will be the ones to do the clearing up. They will have to relocate the orcas whether that be releasing them into the wild or sending them to sea pens.

After receiving word of the proposed law SeaWorld’s lobbyist released a statement saying that this is the doing of “extreme animal activists” some of whom “partnered with PETA in bringing the meritless claim that animals in human care should be considered slaves under the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — a clear publicity stunt.’

Another critic towards the idea is Marine Mammal Parks past President Billy Hurley. He stated:

“It’s very easy for some of the extremists to say things like, ‘Oh, if we had a sanctuary, if we had a sea pen, it would just be so much different.’ And the reality is that if you had a sea pen, you would still need veterinary care, you would still need qualified people to take care of the animals, you would still need to be careful about those types of environmental changes that could occur while the animals were in those conditions. The list goes on and on.’

Personally, I am for Bloom’s proposition and I am very intrigued as to what will happen when the bill is passed. However, I am very aware of the fact that there are both pros and cons.

I am aware that orcas have sensory deprivation in captivity and their lives are being shortened. However, a lot of whales will die if they are released back into the wild. I do believe that captivity led to the killer whale Tillikum’s psychosis and that eventually led to Dawn Brancheu’s death.

Orcas are intelligent creatures and, in my opinion, there is no valid argument to capture these mammals and make them perform for entertainment and money.

Whale of a time?

Killer Whales or Orcas are portrayed as cute and intelligent mammals that do backflips on cue to music and are man’s best friend of the sea.

However, after the gripping documentary Blackfish by Gabrielle Cowperthwaite, I do feel guilty calling a documentary during which three people die gripping but it’s true, many views across the globe have changed. The documentary, described as ‘chilling and haunting’,  connected with audiences on an emotional level causing petition pages to spring up left, right and centre like an Orca at SeaWorld. One example is the ‘Save the Whales’ page. Why does this documentary cause such a sense of sadness and rage for Killer Whales in Captivity?

My theory is that throughout the documentary you begin to understand the whales. Experience their torment and abuse, especially Tilikum, the Orca that the documentary is based on. When  audiences see the obvious cruelty the whales are subjected to we feel rage and injustice, not because it’s happening just for cruelty but because they’re being forced to entertain for us.

The documentary begins with showing whales being hunted by SeaWorld, ripped away from their families while the families stay and communicate to the young whale being, essentially, kidnapped. This is when the audience begins to humanise these mammals. You can see their grief and then begin to understand their family bond is similar to human. That is when the audience becomes gripped. What happens after is what causes the audience rage.

The large male, Tilikum, is the ‘star’ of the documentary. He is the epitome of the abuse that happens in captivity. Locked into a tiny box with other whales that ‘rake’ their teeth off his skin due to their frustration, having food witheld and forced to perform everyday to a crowd of oblivious spectators, I believe we feel angry throughout this documentary is because at some time or another, we or someone we know was that oblivious spectator. Happily laughing while  a Killer Whale splashed us in our seats saying ‘Oh my God they’re so smart.’ However, everything turns sinister when Tilikum kills young Keltie Burns at Sealand of the Pacific after she slips in the pool. This is when the media cover up begins and you begin to see the corruption of SeaWorld. Sealand shuts down and the whales are put up for sale. SeaWorld buys Tilikum and this is when our ‘villian’ of the story enters.

SeaWorld attains Tilikum and do not tell their employees that he killed Keltie Byrne, blaming it on the other two Orcas at Sealand. This is when the audience begins to understand the corruption of SeaWorld as they lie to their trainers. Throughout the documentary trainers, John Hardgrove, Samantha Berg, Marc Simmms and more, begin to tell their story of the questionable ethics of SeaWorld. They highlight that Tilikum was alone for most of his life in SeaWorld, away from the other whales and also other tragedies that happened in the mega corperation. John Hardgrove stated his eyes began to open to the abuse at SeaWorld ‘when we started separating moms from their calves.’

‘Contrary to what SeaWorld’s carefully prepared statements that they put out saying they’ll never separate moms from calves unless it’s medical, that’s bullshit. Total bullshit. I can give you so many examples that that’s not true. And not just my opinion that it’s not true — it’s not true. I was there for those, and I know the exact reasons we moved those whales, and it was because we had a need in another park for that particular animal, whether it was a juvenile male or a juvenile female, or a female that knew all of the water work behaviors, or a dominant female, or whatever.’

You see the female whales grieving for their young. It is heartbreaking. However, the attitude of SeaWorld was to move on and perform. The documetary continues to lead up to when Tilikum kills Dawn Brancheau in 2010, causing such horrific injuries infront of a horrified crowd. However, none of the trainers blames the whale Tilikum, they said it was SeaWorld’s actions that led to his ‘psychosis’.

After the documentary was shown at the Sundance film festival it went viral. There was a lot of backlash towards killer whales in captivity. However, there was also a lot of backlash towards the documentary itself, being described as ‘dubious’ and being one sided. Which, to a certain extent it is. It is a fact that I can’t argue against, it does only concentrate on the negative. For me personally, I do believe that the bad outweighs the good when it comes to this documentary. I understand that people believe that these mammals should be kept in captivity for educational purposes but I can’t help but look at that whales, ripped from the families, forced to perform and harming trainers as anything but barbaric.

You may or may not agree with me, you can say that these are just animals and we should worry about humans more and I do agree but I don’t see why animals have to suffer at the hands of humans and we should be okay with it because it’s entertaining. Please tell me your thoughts and if you do agree with me, please sign this petition Release the Whales. I have no romantic ideas that everyone will sign this and suddenly the whales will be free but it is start.