Down With SeaWorld and Their Blood Money

Emma Garcia, Online Editor

It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t seen, or at least heard of, the documentary Blackfish. There has been plenty of debate about SeaWorld and the treatment of their animals. Since the airing of the documentary in 2013 on CNN, ticket sales have dropped, entertainers have canceled appearances, and widespread boycotts of the park have occurred.

The main question in this issue has been this: how much of the documentary actually occurred and how much was exaggerated or changed to simply make good TV?

According to SeaWorld, all of it was. Videos were taken out of context and the featured interviews were either from people who had only worked at the park a short time and had no relevant experience or people who hadn’t worked at the park in years and had no way of knowing the park’s current treatment of animals.

Even if it turns out that enough things were taken out of context that Blackfish is more fiction than non, which I doubt, something to keep in mind is that these accusations had to come from somewhere. If there wasn’t at least one case of a separation of a mother killer whale and her calf then Blackfish would’ve been a very different documentary. People can’t just make up accusations as specific as these.

It is a horrible tragedy when someone dies in the manner that trainer did but it is something that could be expected in a place such as SeaWorld. Killer whales are wild animals, whether they were born in captivity or not. Like humans they have natural reactions to aggression. The trainer’s death was such a reaction.

At the time of the accident, SeaWorld played defense, citing the trainer’s ponytail and employees not following safety procedures as the reasons for the accident, keeping them from receiving any blame. But if a small ponytail is the cause of a killer whale turning from an entertainer to a vicious killer then why does this not occur more often?

I visited SeaWorld a few years ago, and I doubt I ever will again, and every woman trainer during the orca show had a ponytail. It made sense, they were going in and out of the water. It can be assumed they wear a ponytail whenever they’re working in the water or even working at the park at all. So if a ponytail was the so called cause of the accident, why did a similar tragedy not occur when I was watching the show? Why has a similar tragedy not occurred everyday trainers are working with the animals?

That’s because a ponytail does not cause a killer whale to kill someone. The treatment of the animal and the triggering of the animal’s natural reaction to aggression cause tragedies such as this.

Then there’s the separation of mothers from their calves. According to SeaWorld, they have only removed calves from their mothers under certain situations. Such as, they have separated mothers and their offspring only after the offspring is no longer depending on the mother for food or if the calf is disrupting the social structure of the group of animals.

It is hard to judge if separating an offspring from their mother when they’re becoming a danger to themselves and the group of animals is abuse. It could be judged as abuse to the calf but keeping the calf in that environment could be considered abuse to the other animals.

But what isn’t hard to judge is the separation of a mother and her calf even if the calf is no longer receiving food from the mother. SeaWorld says that they only separated a mother and her calf when the calf was more than twelve years old, which to them is perfectly okay.

The definition of abuse to animals in captivity, to me at least, is when the animals are forced to go against their natural; behavior in the wild. Of course there’s many things that change about an animals life if they are brought into captivity but the separation of a mother and her calf should not be one of them.

SeaWorld claims that the separation of that particular mother and calf was okay because the calf was grown. In the wild a mother killer whale would never separate from her calf. So by my personal definition of animal abuse, SeaWorld did just that.

Can SeaWorld eventually change their ways and someday become a place that families could visit without anything weighing on their conscience? Possibly. But it’s going to be a long time before I will want to enter those gates again.