A recently introduced California bill might mandate SeaWorld to discontinue the use of orcas as part of their shows. Set forth by a Californian state legislator, the bill seeks to ban the capturing of killer whales for entertainment purposes. The legislator clearly stated that the motive is not to harm SeaWorld’s business but to preserve declining orca population.
The bill was set into motion ever since CNN ran the documentary titled Blackfish. The documentary mainly focused on the treatment of marine animals for the purpose of entertainment by SeaWorld. The ocean life themed tourist spot has been a target of much scrutiny by many animal rights activist who accuse SeaWorld of mistreating the many whales and dolphins at their facility. It was the documentary by director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, originally released in January 2013 but featured by CNN in October, that really challenged SeaWorld’s claims of being animal friendly.
The documentary closely looked at the life of Tilikum, the killer whale involved with in the deaths of three individuals, and the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity. The documentary also sought to prove that Seaworld’s statement about captive and wild killer whales having the same lifespan was false and inaccurate.
Captivity might drive a killer whale to insanity; this is what the director of the documentary set out to prove. It argues that the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum was the result of psychological trauma the orcas faced while in captivity.
A majority of the proponents of the bill have themselves at one point or the other been whale trainers at SeaWorld. These included Cowperthwaite and Santa Monica democrat Richard Bloom. Bloom said that it was about time that everyone realized that such malpractice must end and that it must not be allowed to continue. Their notion was also accepted by former whale trainer John Hargrove and numerous other animal rights activists.
SeaWorld, however, did not let the accusation pass and were quick to provide a counter statement. They called the documentary completely biased and argued that the director failed to keep a neutral perspective. SeaWorld spokesperson Becca Bides criticized the legislation against them and called it flawed. She hoped that those in charge of accepting or rejecting the bill would recognize the flaw and vote against it. Bides added that those campaigning against the use of killer whales were well known animal rights extremist and for that reason documented a view that was created to reflect just one idea.
If accepted, the bill would limit any and all performances that make use of killer whales in California. Programs that focus on captive breeding would no longer remain active and all existing orcas would be transferred to available sea pens. Permission to display whales would still be granted as long as they are not used for performance purposes.
This bill would only take effect in California and so would not alter practices or programs in any other states. For that reason SeaWorld would still be allowed to showcase killer whale performances at their San Antonio site in Texas. The bill might have devastating repercussions on SeaWorld’s financial standings. Bloom however is adamant that the legislation does not aim at damaging SeaWorld’s monetary value but instead is keeping the well being of all the captive killer whales in mind.
By Hammad Ali