Petition – “Tell SeaWorld to stop being hypocrites and end all orca shows!” – Phoebe Goldstein
On Saturday, 7 May across the globe, protestors (“Empty the Tanks” – Earth Race Conservation) took to the streets to protest the on-going absurdity of cetaceans taken from the wild, or bred into a life of captivity for human ‘entertainment.’
The London “Empty the Tanks” event involved a march from Cavendish Square to Leicester Square in Central London (pictures from the day at the foot of this article).
The ‘movement’ to disband this barbaric and outdated treatment of intelligent sea life was pioneered by Ric O’ Barry’s Dolphin Project.
Ric is a former dolphin trainer (1960 – 1969) of ‘Flipper’ the dolphin fame, but Ric realised that the captivity and training was not conducive or healthy for the cetaceans concerned……….he has campaigned tirelessly ever since, bringing the horrors to light of the way in which dolphins are taken into captivity, such as in Taiji (Japan) (and elsewhere) in the seminal 2009 film, “The Cove.” For every one dolphin taken into captivity, fourteen are brutally and crudely slaughtered in a blood stained cove, away from prying eyes…..
Image of Ric O’ Barry – Dolphin Project
The captives cetaceans often live shortened (compared with a wild existence) and stressful lives, deprived of natural behaviours and social interactions that they would enjoy in the wild – for example:
- A captive dolphin’s sonar cannot be used with the confines of its concrete tank/prison cell, the sonar wave rebounds and reverberates leading to painful distress – a “scream” echoed in the loneliness of the tank and mirrored back at the captive ten-fold. Dolphins always appear to be smiling, but that is just a dolphin’s natural look, which humans interpret as a sign of happiness – a stressed, or dead dolphin still has the same illusionary ‘smile.’
Image courtesy of onegreenplanet.org
- An orca (a creature of 5.5 – 9.8m in length, weighting 2.3 – 8 tonnes), used to swimming 100 miles a day in the wild, is restricted in captivity to a holding tank too shallow (6m) to dive in, too small to swim freely within, often exposed to the sunshine (in SeaWorld’s Miami Florida park’s 90 degree heat) where the ‘pool’ becomes a lukewarm soup, filled with chlorinated water burning the captives’ skin……not a natural habitat in any shape or form (orca are most numerous in the Arctic, the Antarctic, and areas of cold-water upwelling) and certainly not a ‘caring’ approach whatsoever.
Image courtesy of Peta
Despite SeaWorld’s ongoing deluded hype and CEO Joel Manby’s cynical rebranding attempts, Joel ‘’believes” that the “animal activists” (on which SeaWorld has admitted spying) are appeased by SeaWorld’s incomplete orca ‘retirement plan’ by 2019 and are not worried about SeaWorld’s ongoing abuse of dolphin and beluga whales. Joel is truly deluded if that’s what he believes…….from the “animal activists” I spoke with on Saturday, 7 May, no one is going to rest until SeaWorld and its ilk are shout down in entirety and all captives given sanctuary (hopefully, at the abusers’ enduring expense).
Image courtesy of Banksy
SeaWorld has reported a staggering Q1 2016 loss of $84m USD, as ticket sales fall and the ‘hype’ no longer overrides public awareness of the ‘entertainment reality’ of SeaWorld’s so-called shows and self-proclaimed ‘conservation’ credentials.
But still it seems more aquarium parks based on animal exploitation spring forth, with a ludicrous planned “dolphin attraction” in the Arizona desert by Ventura Entertainment – “NO!”
Petition – “A Big “NO” to Captive Dolphins in Arizona!“
The plight of the creatures taken from the wild, or bred in captivity to ‘perform’ is highlighted in the harrowing 2012 film “Blackfish,” with the story of Tilikum, an orca killer whale stolen from his mother’s side in the wild (in the seas close to Djúpivogur off the east coast of Iceland) 9 November, 1983.
Tilikum is not in good health at present, he has suffered during his captivity both mentally and physically.
In the summer of 2010, Dawn Brancheau, a reknowned SeaWorld trainer, was killed by Tilikum. At the time SeaWorld tried to blame Dawn (posthumously) for wearing a ponytail and claimed the latest incident had nothing to do with Tilikum’s years of abuse and frustration!
In March 2016, SeaWorld announced that its orca shows will end by 2019, plus no more captive orca breeding (Note: though SeaWorld did not confirm if this breeding moratorium encompassed artificial insemination products held in stock, such as Tilikum’s sperm stockpiles ‘taken’ by SeaWorld). SeaWorld fell short of committing to any sort of dignified retirement plan for the orcas it holds captive, including Tilikum, plus the ‘retirement’ of any other cetaceans held captive.
Vancouver could be the site of the world’s first sea pen sanctuary for cetaceans. Why has SeaWorld not explored such sanctuary building? Why is SeaWorld planning to let Tilikum (retired already from active show participation) be held in a bathtub until he dies, with no plans mooted to gain sea sanctuary for him (and all others so held) after years of abuse in the name of profit/’entertainment?’
The Whale Sanctuary Project (Announcement, 5 May 2016), shows that there is intent and backing to create “seaside sanctuary where cetaceans – whales, dolphins, and porpoises – can live permanently in an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible and with full support for their well-being.“
The Whale Sancturay Project has been backed (with a $200,000 donation) by global baby-product company Munchkin, Inc., which, in 2015, launched its “Orcas Live in Oceans” campaign to raise awareness of the plight of captive orcas. SeaWorld had previously rejected Munchkin’s $1 million offer to release Tilikum to a sanctuary, an offer that PETA matched. But still SeaWorld continues with its cynical rebranding exercise.
Corky, a female orca was captured from the wild in 1969 (taken from what is known as the “A5 pod” of 18 orcas off of British Columbia, Canada). Corky has now spent some 46 years in captivity (under SeaWorld’s ‘care’) and survived the ordeal of her captivity strewn with many incidents, but she has been deprived of interaction with her kin. Isn’t it high time Corky was released into a sea sanctuary, where she might just be able to re-establish some communication with her lost family?
The list of tragic stories of the other 27 orca in SeaWorld’s ‘care’ goes on……..so to with the dolphins and beluga whales in SeaWorld’s ‘care.’
What can ‘we’ do?
- Fortunately, the United Kingdom no longer has captive whales and dolphin shows, but there are plenty of shows abroad (United States, Mexico, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, China) – attending any such show, supports the continuation and potential expansion of the industry;
- Do not participate in any dolphin attraction, including swimming or human interaction with captive dolphins etc.
- Whale and dolphin watching can be conducted from shore (where the potential negative impact on the observed creatures is lessened), but can also be conducted from professionally organised sight-seeing boats, including from the shores of Scotland (United Kingdom) where whale sightings are most likely.
- Speak out, attend rallies and protests; Keep an eye out for ‘Whale Fest‘ events;
- Ask travel and tourism agents not to advertise and support such shows, but adopt a code of ethics that does not include captive cetacean shows within its portfolio (to date, only STA Travel is believed to have adopted such a policy);
- Support conservation societies campaigning against the abuse;
- But above all, care about all wildlife abused for mankind’s ‘needs’ and spread the message that such abuse is unacceptable.