SeaWorld gives up orca breeding and theatrical shows
March 31, 2016
After over six years of battling over collapsed dorsal fins and Shamu splash zones, SeaWorld officially stopped breeding orca whales Mar. 17, 2016.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby, in an open letter published in the Los Angeles Times, said that the orca breeding program at SeaWorld is over, and the parks are gradually ending theatrical orca shows. In addition, the company is teaming up the the Humane Society to fight against commercial whaling, ocean pollution and animal endangerment.
Manby attributes the public’s love for orca whales to SeaWorld’s display of them, but realizes it’s time to listen to the public when it comes to orcas.
“We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world’s largest marine mammals,” Manby said. “Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create — which is why SeaWorld is announcing several historic changes… Because SeaWorld hasn’t collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades, this will be the last generation of orcas in SeaWorld’s care.”
Junior Samantha Cannon, a young animal rights activist, thinks the parks have done more damage than good in their time.
“After Dawn Brancheau’s death, they should’ve wrapped their heads around the fact that orcas are scientifically proven to be more aggressive in captivity than in the wild,” Cannon said. “ I think there are so many other ways to show people that they’re beautiful creatures [like] documentaries, billboards, internet campaigns, etc.”
Because Cannon’s family goes to the beach every chance, she’s grown up interacting with sea creatures, and she loved every part of it: “swimming at sunset while horseshoe crabs come out during mating season and cover the beach, dolphins riding waves with surfers; sea turtle eggs marked for hatching; being stung by jellyfish; all of it.”
Cannon believes sea creatures have much to teach people about the ocean and components of biology humans haven’t been able to fully explore. Cannon finds that she, herself has learned from these animals already.
“[My experiences have] taught me to think so deeply and just be more thoughtful in general,” she said. “Sea creatures are nothing like we know. I spend a great deal of time reading National Geographic articles, checking the news, reading controversial marine life posts that others have shared on different websites and having discussions about marine life with anyone I can find. It’s what I love, you know? There isn’t a day that goes by that i don’t think about them.”
Senior Taylor Aamodt feels the same deep connection with sea creatures, which brought her to SeaWorld as a child.
Aamodt visited the park when she was young and loved getting to interact with animals she felt akin with. However, during her second time visiting, earlier this March, Aamodt had a very different experience.
“It was alright, but we went to the orca show, which made me really sad,” she said. “They all had flopped dorsal fins and that’s no good. I was underwhelmed and I wish the animals had more space.”
According to Manby, the group of people who agree with Aamodt’s beliefs is expanding. He thinks the recent legislation proposals and documentaries, like the noted Blackfish movie, show the public’s changing views on orca captivity. Some of these views, however, Manby finds unrealistic.
“Some critics want us to go even further; they want us to ‘set free’ the orcas currently in our care. But that’s not a wise option,” Manby said. “If we release them into the ocean, they will likely die. In fact, no orca or dolphin born under human care has ever survived release into the wild. Even the attempt to return the whale from ‘Free Willy,’ Keiko, who was born in the wild, was a failure.”
Although she sees the end of orca breeding as a positive step for SeaWorld, Aamodt thinks SeaWorld will continue biting off more than they can chew.
“I honestly think getting rid of SeaWorld entirely would be a good solution,” Aamodt said. “They keep taking on these big animals without considering the risks and say that they are saving them. Rehabilitation so animals can survive in the wild is very important, but taking them on as your own isn’t natural.”