A proposed animal rights bill seeks to ban the inhumane orca shows in California. If it passes, performance-based entertainment will come to an end for all orcas at SeaWorld. Richard Bloom, a democrat from Santa Monica, says it is time people put an end to keeping orcas in captivity for human amusement. Bloom spoke Friday at a press conference at the city’s oceanfront pier. He was joined by CNN’s Blackfish director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, along with many Seaworld Trainers and activists.
John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld orca trainer, said the corporation is about greed and exploitation of both the whales and the trainers. Currently, there are no laws prohibiting the captivity of orcas, but there are federal laws governing the care that is mandatory of all killer whales in captivity.
The Blackfish documentary, produced by Magnolia Pictures and acquired by CNN Films, tells the story of the 2010 death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was well-respected in her field. The whale that killed her was named Tilikum and was a bull weighing well over 10,000 pounds.
SeaWorld provides the public with orca shows at SeaWorld locations, including in San Antonio, Texas, which would not be affected by this legislation.
Since the release of this film, controversy has been spreading. SeaWorld defends itself against allegations of cruelty, calling the film a biased mischaracterization. SeaWorld spokeswoman, Becca Bides, criticized the bill Friday. She says the proposed legislation is extremely flawed on many levels. Its validity is not only questionable under the United States Constitution, but also under the California Constitution as well. She also pointed out that those who sided with Bloom were radical, one-sided animal activists.
Bides claims that many of the animal rights supporters were those who worked with PETA, who once attempted to bring a “meritless claim” that animals in human care should be considered slaves under the 13th Amendment. She says SeaWorld provides well-orchestrated orca performances and practices that are responsible and reflect the values all Americans share.
The bill will also prohibit the export and import of genetic material or orcas themselves, and prohibit captive breeding programs. The proposal would retire all captive orcas to “sea pens” (if available), but would allow retired orcas to be on display, but not to perform. The interaction with humans will be limited.
Bloom had written a report comparing orcas to elephants, saying that such an intelligent animal needs more space and must be able to have a social structure similar to those found in the wild. Most importantly, orcas need a healthy, happy life with their own family network. Bloom also cites 10 captive killer whales currently within the state, seven of which were born in captivity.
Fourteen killer whales have died in California within the past 50 years. Some speculate that these whales would have lived many more years, maybe even decades longer, if they were in their natural home environment.
Grey Stafford, an animal trainer from Arizona, says people need these captive whales in SeaWorld because, otherwise, they will be “out of sight” and “out of mind,” which would possibly allow the species to become endangered in the wild. However, most marine biologists who observe endangered species do not observe these animals at SeaWorld, but rather study aquatic life in their natural habitats. Human entertainment facilities have never been pertinent for this particular research. It will only benefit the captive orcas to end their inhumane captivity for performance-based entertainment in SeaWorld.
Opinion by Lindsey Alexander