Via Mashable I saw that SeaWorld made a rather unexpected announcement today. They’re going to put an end to their live killer whale shows at their parks. This was no doubt in response to the relentless pressure they’ve been under ever since CNN released their documentary, Blackfish. (San Diego Union Tribune)
SeaWorld intends to phase out its longstanding killer whale show at its San Diego park next year as part of a comprehensive strategy unveiled Monday to re-position the embattled company amid persistent criticisms of how it treats its orcas.
In its place would be a new orca experience debuting in 2017, described as “informative” and designed to take place in a more natural setting that would carry a “conservation message inspiring people to act.” The announcement is contained in a company document posted online in advance of a webcast this morning in which SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby and other senior executives will unveil their vision for the company and its collection of 11 parks.
The company is replacing some of the space allotted for a previously planned Orca cage expansion with a new resort hotel chain in partnership with Evans Hotels. What the new “informative Orca experience” is going to be they’re not saying, but I assume it’s not having the killer whales jumping over sticks in a pool and splashing tourists.
Frankly, I’m glad to see the shows go. This may sound out of character for me since I’m not a believer in “animal rights” on the same level as human rights, but I also don’t like to see animals – particularly the really smart ones – being abused for no reason. I feel the same way about big cats and other predators being kept in zoos. I don’t even go to the zoo any more because it’s just too sad to see them sitting there, penned up, bored and miserable looking. If SeaWorld was gathering up these Orcas to sell whale steaks that would be one thing, but this just seems like torture to me. I’ve been to see the killer whales and they just seem… there’s no other way to put it. Those beasts are smart. They have a language like dolphins and large whales. They show a lot of emotion. And they are just too damn large to pen up in the equivalent of a puddle when they were clearly built to be out there roaming over thousands of miles of oceans.
They’re also fairly ornery creatures with a bit of a temper. They’ve killed or maimed more than one handler already. This apparently still managed to come as a surprise to some of the park management even though they were sending their handlers in to swim with something named… Killer Whale.
I don’t go and protest the zoos and I didn’t protest SeaWorld. This is their business, after all, and the whales are their property. But it’s still very off putting to me. Of course, if they don’t plan on releasing the whales I’m not sure how much better off they’re going to be, but perhaps if they can’t run these big circus shows with them they’ll eventually cut them loose. The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.