The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Editorial – SeaWorld makes important first steps

Recently, SeaWorld said it will discontinue its captive orca whale-breeding program and phase out theatrical orca shows at all its parks.

Amanda Boyd/The Collegian
Amanda Boyd/The Collegian

Since the documentary Blackfish was released in 2013, SeaWorld has gotten much-needed negative attention for the treatment of orcas in its parks. The documentary chronicled the deplorable captive conditions of the orca Tililkum and the preventable death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau as well as its shady aftermath.

SeaWorld’s park attendance has dropped as well as the company’s stock, which has plummeted by more than half. In an attempt to absolve its sins or to bolster profits, the park has changed its earlier business model.

The company says its current captive orcas and any naturally born offspring will live out their days at the park, and “guests will be able to observe these orcas through the new educational encounters and in viewing areas within the existing habitats” rather than in shows.

After hearing the recent news, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement applauding SeaWorld’s actions but also asking that the current orcas in captivity be placed in sanctuaries.

The news came soon after Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus said it would retire its elephants from shows and place them in animal sanctuaries.

In recent years, the public has noticed that the handling and care of animals in captivity isn’t the best, and putting animals in deplorable living conditions and forcing them to do tricks for profit is immoral and detrimental to their health.

Former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove told the news website Vox about a number of disgusting things that forced him to resign from the park. Referring to the breeding program, he said “whales were becoming baby machines for profit” and even noted one instance of inbreeding between a mother and son, which is unnatural in the wild, as well as the company’s common practice of separating calves from their mothers at an early age.

Some distraught whales would chomp at their steel enclosures and destroy their teeth. Others would float motionless for hours at a time out of boredom, according to Hargrove. Administering a cocktail of drugs was not uncommon either, he said.

“Antibiotics to treat chronic infections, medications to treat ulcers and fungal infections, drugs to treat epilepsy,” Hargrove wrote. “I even gave whales Valium when we would do an invasive procedure, take a calf away from its mother, or move whales from one park to another.”

Consumers should continue to question how their entertainment is brought to them, especially when living creatures are said entertainment, instead of being distracted by the fancy costumes and tricks.

“What we’re seeing is the Blackfish effect,” PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange told CNN. “The public has completely changed its opinion on exploiting and killing animals for entertainment.”

What was once “fun for children of all ages” and “the greatest show on earth” is now barbaric and cruel.

Hopefully, this will be the first step of many toward more humane treatment of animals at wildlife parks and nature conservation as a whole in our society.

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