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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Does SeaWorld’s move to stop breeding orcas right its past wrongs?

SeaWorld’s agreement to end live orca shows, as well as end the captive breeding of orcas, marks one of the most critical decisions made since the birth of wildlife parks in the United States. While they were not made as soon as they should have been, these decisions will hopefully fuel a shift in human understanding and respect for the incredible creatures we share this planet with.

Likely inspired by the release of “Blackfish,” a documentary directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, SeaWorld has felt the pressure from newly-enlightened Americans to change its ways. The message the parks were receiving was quite clear: either change your ways or close your parks. While the average person with a moral compass could hope SeaWorld’s industry-changing decision was mostly sparked by the want to act humane and ethical, other factors were likely still at play in this agreement.

Since the release of “Blackfish,” SeaWorld has rightfully experienced a decline in attendance rates as well as an over 50 percent drop in stock price. For this reason, and for the fundamental reason that American corporations tend to be largely motivated by relentless greed, SeaWorld clearly did not make this decision purely out of altruism.

MORE‘Blackfish’ makes compelling argument but falls short on objectivity

Even with this commendable decision, it is difficult to overlook SeaWorld’s past 57 years of deceit and secrecy. One does not even need to look at outside criticisms such as “Blackfish” to remember how persistent the company was and still is in defending its old ways. One can simply recall SeaWorld’s own words.

SeaWorld stated that “Blackfish” is propaganda, not a documentary. The company still asserts claims arguing “life at SeaWorld is harmful for killer whales and for trainers working with these animals,” and that “SeaWorld has attempted to cover up the facts surrounding the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, as well the history of Tilikum, the killer whale involved in that accident,” are totally false.

However if those arguments about SeaWorld’s lack of morality and compassion really were false, there would have been no reason for this new agreement with the Humane Society of the United States and with the California Coastal Commission.

Orcas — and any wildlife kept in captivity for human entertainment purposes — are not inherently murderous toward humans. Instead of taking some of the responsibility for the welfare of both the animals and trainers, SeaWorld placed the blame on the trapped animals rather than the people who threw them into that situation in the first place. This was the first mistake. Conditions could only worsen for both the animals and people working with them, since animals cannot be expected to magically solve the problems surrounding their own imprisonment.

Fortunately, this recent agreement shows promise of a change in that mindset. The people of SeaWorld have realized that humans cannot make life-changing decisions for animals and expect not to be held accountable for whatever repercussions result.

Observing and appreciating animals through wildlife parks is more than a privilege. Maintaining and protecting the integrity and morality of them is a responsibility. SeaWorld’s recognition, acknowledgement and acceptance of this responsibility demonstrates promise of better days for wildlife everywhere.


Follow Jessica Suriano on Twitter.


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