A new film has moms everywhere talking about whether they’re going to ever take kids to SeaWorld. It's called Blackfish, and it tells the story of Tilikum, the orca whale that killed Dawn Brancheau, a Sea World trainer, in 2010. At the time, her death was blamed on her decision to wear her hair in a ponytail. I don’t think that’s the reason…
I’m not an animal rights person. I eat meat. I own vintage fur coats. I think hunting can serve a purpose. Animals aren’t people. However, I don’t think beating a dog or cat is ever OK, zoos creep me out, and I think keeping whales and other long-range cetaceans inside tiny pens is absolutely cruel. Whales are meant to range long distances, thousands of miles. Cetaceans, like orcas (killer whales,) travel hundreds of miles in pods made up of females and their offspring. Some pods have several generations of mothers and children traveling together.
I’m not an anthropomorphizer (one who puts human emotions onto animals) but when orca calves are removed from their mothers, they cry for months. The mothers go listless (if the mother wasn’t killed trying to protect her baby from being captured.) Tilikum, removed from his mother at the age of 3, was put into a marine park in Canada (not affiliated with SeaWorld,) where he was penned with two older females who bullied him, and food withheld if he didn’t perform tricks. After he and another orca held their first trainer underwater until she died, that marine park closed and SeaWorld “rescued” him.
I haven’t watched Blackfish yet (or even Free Willy.) The documentary has been waiting for me in my DVR since it aired last week on CNN. Even without seeing the movie, I really question whether it’s ever appropriate to hold animals that are meant to range across the world inside tiny pens and make them perform tricks for our entertainment.
SeaWorld says that they serve a significant purpose: raising awareness of our oceans’ plights, connecting the public to animals they might never see otherwise, and donating their proceeds to conservation efforts. All that may be true, but I, like a growing number of moms, don’t want to spend my money and take my children to see animals held for sport and entertainment. Orcas, and other cetaceans, aren't toys. It doesn’t pass my gut test.
If you watched The Cove a few years ago, a documentary on the capture of baby dolphins and the slaughter of their parents (who are illegally sold for meat) in Japan, you might also feel sick when you see those “swim with the dolphins” exhibits. I don’t think it’s right for us to disrupt eco systems because we think animals are playthings for our amusement. And it’s really not right to keep animals in tiny pens in proportion to their natural range.
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I’m beginning to feel the same about SeaWorld, and that goes double for the other sea marine parks that don’t meet SeaWorld’s admittedly higher quality. At what point do you stop supporting organizations that keep and use animals in this way, even if they say it's for a greater good? And I'm not alone. Other moms are starting to question whether or not we should bring our children to see these exhibits and participate in these enterprises. A few quotes from other moms on our Facebook page:
" I will never take my children to these type of animals-as-entertainment venues. All the former SW trainer who spoke out against the mega-powerful SeaWord Corp cannot be praised enough. When we know better, we can do better -- and Blackfish is powerful, gut-wrenching instruction."
"After watching The Cove, my vision changed 100%. I will do everything possible to make sure my kids see these beautiful animals in the wild and not in cement bathtubs doing flips for tiny fish snacks. It's not just Sea World that is to blame either. There are many zoos & aquariums that keep gorgeous dolphins & beluga whales, hostage too. It's not okay. When you know better, you do better."
"As an advocate for animal rights and lover of all things aquatic I feel terrible for taking my child to Sea World...however I do know through personal experiences that Sea World is not necessarily the problem. I believe this sort if thing happens in all industries of business."
What do you think? Have you seen Blackfish? Are you OK with SeaWorld? Do you disagree? Should we stop taking kids to SeaWorld?
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