Image: SeaWorld San Diego orca Nakai (age 11 at the time) missing a “dinner-plate sized chunk” of skin and flesh just under his mouth.
SeaWorld, a marine theme park that claims to be at the forefront of animal conservation and rescue, strongly asserts that we should protect and preserve the ocean and its inhabitants. A point we can all agree on.
It is ironic, then, that the marine park caused the Southern Resident population to become endangered, causes the needless suffering of captive cetaceans - many of which have killed themselves, tank mates, or trainers - and causes the dolphin slaughter in Taiji to occur today because they refuse to demand that WAZA and IMATA deny aquariums who rip dolphins away from their families.
SeaWorld teaches children and all who flock to the park that it is okay to kidnap an intelligent being (even though they no longer capture cetaceans this lesson is still learned), that it is okay to masturbate an orca to keep your captive stock up, that it is okay to teach children that nature is ours to use and abuse, that it is okay to lock up dolphins and other whales in a tank vastly insignificant compared to the ocean.
So then why do they parade around social media and their parks in orca costumes claiming otherwise? Simple. Throughout history, those who are poisoned by greed, fear, hate, and Nazism cover up their horrific actions in an opaque veil of lies and misinformation. They attack others, pointing the blame, so the world kills each other while they are off wreaking havoc throughout the world.
SeaWorld, and its supporters at Stand with SeaWorld and Awesome Ocean, reveal their true colors by attacking an activist who not only fights for cetaceans, but to end all forms of animal cruelty. One who has been an activist her whole life, one who is compassionate and understanding, and one who fights endlessly to bring peace and justice to the animal kingdom.
In an interview I conducted in April for the OB Rag, Ellen Ericksen said that SeaWorld can become a much better leader in animal welfare and conservation. She adamantly believes the marine park should change its business model, ending the use of captive orcas – and all cetaceans – for entertainment and releasing those currently held captive into sea pens. She did not state directly that SeaWorld should be shut down, but since the park refuses to change, their ship is sinking.
SeaWorld, according to Ericksen, can still provide an educational environment for children that actually portrays the animals in their natural habitat, instead of performing tricks for a crowd.
“I think most people come to SeaWorld because they love the animals,” Ericksen said. “They’re not thinking, ‘Oh, let’s go to SeaWorld and see animals who are being abused.’”
Instead of this abuse, SeaWorld could display IMAXs, have trips to the tide pools, have their own whale watching boat for visitors, and still keep their rides and benefit the city from their sales and minimum rent of $10 million each year. They could become a true leader in rescue and rehabilitation, and finally speak out against the slaughter in Taiji, instead of remaining silent.
“It’s time for them to change,” Ericksen said, angered and restless.
But in the past few months since the interview, SeaWorld has only pushed aside the real problem. "Bigger" tanks are not a solution. In fact it is SeaWorld displaying to the world their facilities are inadequate, and still will be even if these changes are made. It is SeaWorld obscuring and distracting people from the real problem - the unethical treatment of cetaceans in captivity - in attempts to boost their ever-plummeting stock.
Dr. Naomi Rose, a cetacean scientist and ardent SeaWorld foe, states on her FaceBook page (in response to SeaWorld's Blue World Project) that "the problem with concrete enclosures for orcas is that they are monotonic and artificial substrates, which in no way fool this highly intelligent creature into 'feeling' like he or she is in natural habitat.
"The real worry, of course, is that SW will simply breed the animals more readily if the tanks are bigger, increasing its 'collection' size and in the end providing each animal with about the same volume of water to call his or her own as now."
Another veil placed by SeaWorld is that their breeding program could help wild populations in the future. This, for several reasons, is not true. For starters, most whales imprisoned at the marine park are inbred and mixed with different geographic populations that would never come into contact in the wild. Second, it is highly unlikely that captive-born orcas would survive on their own in the wild (which is why sea sanctuaries are a much better alternative) and be incorporated into a pod, so release is most likely unfeasible.
But even if it was, shouldn't we be stopping the decline of wild orcas in the first place, instead of letting their numbers decline (again I emphasize SeaWorld caused the Southern Residents to become endangered from their captures)? Why are we not emphasizing on the overfishing of salmon in Puget Sound? The oil and fracking industries polluting the ocean? Fukushima? The captures in Russia? Why hasn't SeaWorld done anything? The slaughter in Taiji? Faroe Islands? Antarctica? Solomon Islands? Peru? Nope.
Actions speak louder than words. And true activists get out and get stuff done instead of remaining on their computers all day. Thus the trending term actionist. And most actionists I know are involved in many different causes. I went down to Costa Rica this summer to protect Olive Ridley Sea Turtles from poachers, saving over 1500 eggs and placing them in a hatchery (where there is an 80 - 90% hatching rate once the turtles are released to the ocean).
So why then is Awesome Ocean bashing someone who is fighting for all of these things and more when the very corporation they stare at, drooling with googly eyes, fails to do so? Sure they have saved the lives of other species, but is it right to sacrifice one species for the benefit of others? Is it right to subject cetaceans to immense cruelty and stress? How would you feel if you were locked up inside a concrete box?
Orkid, one of the captive-born orcas at SeaWorld San Diego, has attacked trainers on multiple occasions. According to the Vindicator, a newspaper in Liberty, Texas, she had to watch her mother, Kandu V, bleed to death 24 years ago when she was less than a year old. Kandu attempted to rake Corky II and fractured her jaw, severing several arteries. Kandu and Corky were both captured from different geographical locations and behaved poorly towards each other.
According to Dr. Rose and John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer, “these incidents [orcas attacking trainers] occur not because captive orcas are crazed killers, but because captivity puts trainers in unnatural proximity to the ocean’s top predator, in circumstances where these intelligent animals become frustrated and bored.”
For weeks after her mother’s death, Orkid circled around the pool, calling out and vocalizing in distress. Yet in shows after the incident the crowd clapped and cheered as she performed without her mother, as if her death was completely forgotten. But Orkid, one of the smartest cetaceans currently held in captivity (in terms of learning trained behaviors), still remembers.
The Nazis hid their true intentions behind the claims of purifying the world, of needing living space, of escaping depression. America hid its true intentions regarding slaves by claiming it provided economic foundation for the nation. Do any of these things make their actions okay? NO! And SeaWorld hiding their abuse behind a few good deeds creates no excuse for their wrongs.
Awesome Ocean Editor-In-Chief Eric Davis claims that Ericksen, and all activists, "say anything to get you to conform to their world view." Interesting. Does SeaWorld not do the same? The company who is undergoing several lawsuits as we speak because they lied about attendance rates? The company who lies about the lifespan of orcas in captivity? About separating mothers from their calves? The company who takes credit for the rescue efforts of other institutions to boost their status? If you think Blackfish uses music to butter people up, look at SeaWorld's promotion videos.
Like all evils, SeaWorld tries to hide itself beneath a blanket of lies and benign actions. The emperor in Star Wars restored peace to the galaxy, did he not? Or did he enslave the universe in ever-expanding chains of oppression?
Well guess what: the truth is out and SeaWorld is sinking. The public is no longer buying into their lies. I for one, like Ericksen stated, think the park can change for the better, but as foretold in the formula of history they are too consumed in their pride to do so.
Awesome Ocean, you only revealed the truth even more by bashing Ellen Ericksen. You want to talk about being misled? Look at yourself. Your research on Ericksen was incredibly biased and used only to prove your agenda. We may have disagreements concerning SeaWorld, but bashing somebody as you did is TOTALLY uncalled for. We should be working together to make this world a better place, instead of bashing and blaming each other (in this article I am only pointing out the truth).
SeaWorld is a devil hiding in plain sight, yet some people are still obscured from the truth. It's time for mankind to wake up, empty the tanks, and stop treating the planet like - there's no way to euphemize it - shit.
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