Doesn’t A Killer Whale Suffer in Captivity?

» January 5th, 2014

In the course of researching killer whales for what I hoped would be several Forbes.com posts, I put the above question to SeaWorld spokesman, Fred Jacobs. Here is his answer:

“There is . . . no truth to your claim on stress.  We have displayed killer whales for nearly 50 years.  In that time our trainers have interacted with them hundreds of times a day, every day.  Literally millions of safe interactions with these animals.  SeaWorld is an accredited and respected zoological institution that operates under multiple, overlapping federal and state animal welfare laws.  The overwhelming majority of killer whales in our parks were born in our parks.  They adapt very well to their environments.  Our standards of care are the highest in the zoological community: ample food, clean and chilled water, exercise, mental stimulation, veterinary care and the company of other members of their species.”

Needless to say, I sense something fishy in this answer. So I turned to Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist known globally for her work on orcas. She generously addressed Mr. Jacobs’s response point by point in an email. Here it is:

FJ: There is no truth to your claim on stress.  We have displayed killer whales for nearly 50 years.  In that time our trainers have interacted with them hundreds of times a day, every day.  Literally millions of safe interactions with these animals. 

NR: [T]his claim, which SeaWorld has been making ever since Dawn Brancheau was killed (the company relied heavily on it in the first OSHA hearing), is misleading at best and simply incorrect at worst. The correct metric to determine the safety of interacting with this species is not the number of interactions but the number of whales involved in injuries and deaths.

SeaWorld has held approximately 60-70 whales in its history. Of these, at least 10 (and frankly it’s been more, but these are the ones I know for certain) have been involved in interactions that resulted in people’s injuries or deaths. THAT’s the relevant metric. An analogy would be if there was a car model that had a design flaw that will eventually result in brake failure in some percentage of cars. One might drive any such car hundreds or even thousands of miles before the failure, but eventually the brakes will fail in some percentage of cars because of this flaw. So the relevant metric would be not how many miles one drives before the failure, but the number of cars that eventually fail. If only 1-2% of cars of this model experienced brake failure, they would be recalled.

In SeaWorld’s case, at least a sixth of its whales have “failed” – that’s a double digit failure rate, which in any other industry would result in a recall.

 FJ: SeaWorld is an accredited and respected zoological institution that operates under multiple, overlapping federal and state animal welfare laws. 

NR: The fact that SeaWorld is accredited is irrelevant if the accreditation process itself is flawed, which I argue it is. But regardless, there are not “multiple” federal and state animal welfare laws under which SW operates – this is just a strange claim altogether. SW operates under only two federal laws (there are no state welfare laws that apply to marine mammal display) – and only one of these is significant. The Animal Welfare Act sets care and maintenance standards for captive marine mammals, but has been under fire for years for being out of date (its enclosure size standards, for example, haven’t been updated since 1984). The Marine Mammal Protection Act addresses only one element of captive marine mammal display – education. However, the MMPA requires that a marine mammal display facility only meet professional industry standards for education, so this element is self-policed and in essence means that educational standards have no outside oversight.

 FJ: The overwhelming majority of killer whales in our parks were born in our parks.

NR: This is true, but it’s because almost all of the wild-caught whales SW once had have died. They only have five left, out of 31 total (so 26 wild-caught whales have died over the years at SW). Arguably ALL of those whales should still be alive, since the oldest of them would only be in their 50s or 60s (and orcas can live to be 60-90). But even more charitably, at least half of those 26 should still be alive.

 FJ: They adapt very well to their environments. 

 NR: This statement has absolutely no meaning. This is the very debate we are having in the scientific and public communities. SW obviously believes this, but it has very few data to back it up. I have a lot more data to support my position that they do NOT adapt well at all to their “environments” in captivity. They die young, they have poor dental health, many new mothers do not nurse their calves properly (some outright reject their calves, a very rare phenomenon in the wild, if it occurs at all), they are abnormally violent toward each other and they have injured and killed people.

 FJ: Our standards of care are the highest in the zoological community: ample food, clean and chilled water, exercise, mental stimulation, veterinary care and the company of other members of their species.

 NR: Fred’s claim here is actually completely accurate – SW’s standards of care are the highest in the zoo and aquarium world. But that is not the same as being comparable to natural habitat.

Food at SW is ample, but it is limited in diversity – SW’s orcas are fed fish species that are not necessarily preferred in the wild and some of the whales SW has held were mammal-eaters and had to adapt to eating fish. Frozen fish usually have lower nutritional value than fresh, so most captive orcas have to receive vitamin supplements. Same for water content – frozen fish have lower water content (whales and dolphins get their water from their food – they do not drink) and therefore some captive orcas need water supplements in the form of gelatin.

The clean and chilled water is unnatural – it is “too” clean (even pristine ocean water is not as clean as tank water, which is nearly sterile). It is also often artificial (only SW San Diego uses natural seawater – San Antonio and Orlando use artificial seawater). The methods to keep it hygienic do not allow any fish or algae to be placed in the tank (and such additions would also interfere with visibility during the show). In short, while water quality at SW is the “best in the business,” it compares poorly to natural habitat.

To claim that captive orcas get adequate exercise is simply illogical. These are animals that never stop moving in the wild – even when resting (they do not sleep the way we sleep) they slowly swim forward. In captivity, they can spend hours “logging” (remaining motionless at the surface). This is the epitome of unnatural behavior. Captive orcas are the equivalent of couch potatoes. Some are more active than others, but none are as active as they are in the wild. They almost certainly have health issues that are related to this lack of activity, just as with humans – it is certainly one easy explanation for their shortened life spans in captivity.

As for mental stimulation, I consider that an illogical claim as well. Orcas are not naturally diurnal – that is, they are not active in the day and inactive at night, as humans are. They rest when they are tired, whenever that may be. They are active when they need to be. Daylight means less to them than to land mammals, as they are often at depth where it is always dark (they “see” with sound – echolocation – and their vision is less dominant as a sense than their hearing). So the diurnal cycle they are forced to adopt in captivity is actually completely unnatural, meaning they spend at least 8 hours – during the nighttime when the park is closed – inactive, which is not normal for them. In short, I think boredom is actually the most significant stress they face in captivity – their tanks have no variety, no diversity, no CHANGE. Their environment never changes and they spend a lot of time (unnaturally) inactive.

As for veterinary care, the simple response to that is, wild orcas don’t need veterinary care. Also, as Dr. Chris Dold (the lead vet at SW) testified in court at the OSHA hearing, orca veterinary science is still largely an ART, not a science – they still guess a lot about diagnoses and treatments and often guess wrong.

Finally, while SW orcas do have the company of their own species (which is more than Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium has, for example), they do not have family. SW often separates family members – this is a species that probably has the strongest family bonds of any mammal in the world, including humans. SW’s habit of moving calves to other facilities – sometimes when they are younger than two years of age – is perhaps the most damaging thing that happens to orcas there. Captive orcas are not socialized properly, because they are removed from their mothers far too young. This may be one of the reasons they exhibit unnatural levels of violence toward each other and toward people (the same thing has been observed in elephants – orphans of culls, who are raised “without adult supervision,” are often unnaturally violent when they grow up).

61 Responses to Doesn’t A Killer Whale Suffer in Captivity?

  1. hashimoto koichi says:

    I LOVE THE PEACE

  2. Wade Gonsoulin says:

    Excellent response from Dr. Rose. I’m waiting to see who argues against it here. The captivity of these intelligent, self-aware beings is simply cruel and unethical and humanity needs to evolve past its desire for it.

  3. Deb Sedam says:

    One of the best articles I’ve ever read concerning the issues. Thank you.

  4. Kevin Flynn says:

    Can you see the difference between arguments written by a scientist, to those written by a PR agent? Rock crushes scissors.

  5. Ziggy Pope says:

    Since Sea World is owned by an international capital venture firm, who’s business is PROFITS, I would expect them to spin their deplorable treatment of these magnificent creatures, to strictly advantage their bank accounts.

    The fact that the same firm owns Forbes, and had a critical op-ed piece about Sea World, pulled down from their site, says it all…they have much to hide to protect their money making machines called orcas. It is, however, a perfect example of the cowardice and dishonesty in media today.

    • Mountain says:

      Why do people have this mystical fear of PROFITS?

      This is the exact type of answer people get when they ask the NSA about their spying programs. Start with a big lie, then support the big lie with statements that are either misleading or irrelevant. It’s disgusting, it’s weasels all the way (no offense to non-human weasels), but it isn’t about profits. It’s how professionals talk when they have something to hide.

      • Ziggy Pope says:

        At the expense of living beings, it is wrong. Ethically and morally wrong. These orcas are not on earth to be tortured make a very few, more wealthy.

        • Mountain says:

          Right. But it’s the captivity that’s wrong, not the profits. SeaWorld could be a non-profit (paying its executives hefty salaries) and its treatment of orcas would still be wrong. In fact, many zoos and aquariums are non-profit, and their keeping animals in captivity is still wrong. When the government keeps animals in captivity or (like the BLM with burros) kills them, it’s wrong even though there are no profits.

          It isn’t about the profit; it’s about the behavior. Good behavior is still good, even if someone makes a profit from it. Bad is still bad, even if it’s done by a non-profit or a government.

          • Julie says:

            I think Ziggy is just saying SW’s greed blinds them to any humanity. Ethical capitalism is preferable.

          • mynamefluffy says:

            Also, to jump off Julie’s point, Sea World’s profit is what drives their existence. They are not a charity – they do not (despite their protestations) care about “saving the whales.” They exist to make money. That goal is paramount and it drives all their behavior. I do agree with Mountain, though, that improper nonprofits can do as much damage to animals – they just aren’t rewarded financially for it.~Linda

          • Robin says:

            Excellent point, spot on! We focus on the profit making when yes, it is the deplorable behavior that is the issue.

      • Lisa LeBlanc says:

        We’ve adhered to an ancient cultural myth that the guy with the most is Da Winnah. Profit, property, slap-down of indigenous personnel…it doesn’t matter, just as long as it results in the Most.
        Except sometimes shouldn’t ‘enough’ be enough?
        SeaWorld’s reputation as anything other than canned entertainment is shot. Rather than scramble for excuses and justifications, perhaps it’s time to embrace their own self-perpetuating tripe and move forward – beyond the ‘captivity’s good for them’ line o’ crap and focusing that massive profit margin on real education or preservation of these animals in the wild. Or hey!! How ’bout a rehab program that would allow these animals some form of freedom in their natural environments?
        The days of captive animals for entertainment are coming to a screeching halt; zoos and circuses are being realized for what they are and what they do, and no amount of media spin is un-ringing those bells. Better to make the best of what’s left, save a little face and Do Some Good.

        • Kristin says:

          YES!! Say it sister!! They could actually save some amount of face by acknowledging the realities and trying to walk the talk of “caring for the animals”. The gig is up — but they are desperately clinging desperately to their profits. There is a window of opportunity opening for them to actually do the right thing. As a small child who was once awed by Sea World — its heart-wrenching that they truly care so little about these majestic creatures.

      • marybeth says:

        Mountain, FYI: Naomi Rose, Phd, is a Marine Biologist who has studied Orcas extensively for years. In 1993 she was hired at Humane Society United States as a marine mammal biologist generally and marine mammal captivity specifically. SeaWorld & marine aquariums aren’t about profits? 85 bucks one adult admission? PROFITS drive the BUSINESS of animal captivity and abuse. Bloody money paid by our sentient companions on this earth.
        I would think our species civilized enough to share the benefit of animals, rather than exploiting them for profit. SeaWorld and other Marine Aquariums are the driving force behind the 8-month long slaughter of dolphin in Taiji Japan. ‘Fear of profits’? Not quite. Fear for humans and fear of the horrendous scourge upon this earth we have become.

        • Mary Finelli says:

          Dr. Rose is now with the Animal Welfare Institute.

        • Mountain says:

          I think Naomi Rose is awesome, and I enjoyed her takedown of SeaWorld’s PR flack. But that’s beside the point.

          Of course, SeaWorld is profit-driven; they’re a for-profit business. My point is that, when it comes to organizations confining and killing animals, profits are irrelevant. Most zoos and aquaria that confine animals are non-profit. I assume that Green Mountain College is non-profit. Most of the universities conduct research on animals (and serving meat daily in their cafeterias) are non-profit. The Bureau of Land Management, which kills thousands of burros and wild horses every year, is part of the government, and therefore non-profit. And that’s just organizations that have been mentioned on this blog in recent months.

          I’m not saying profits make an organization less likely to abuse animals (they don’t), just that they’re irrelevant. Which is better for animals: a for-profit veganic farm, or a non-profit teaching farm that slaughters animals to teach about the history and culture of farming?

  6. Emma Lou says:

    The vets at SW compare the examines and Orca’s to that of taking care of “dogs”, so it obvious they do not hold the education of the science to properly care for such mammals, and this is why the attacks are going to become more often, as their understanding dwindles even after 50 years of exploiting these Orca’s, they admittedly still know nothing about them, proving their purpose is to make them “cash cows”, rather than educationally founded.

  7. Dave says:

    Let common sense prevail. Its all self explanatory. Stone age or modern age. Now its up to the spectating people to choose.

  8. Rebecca Stucki says:

    That last sentence is very important – offspring without parents, of all species (including humans) who normally raise their young, do poorly when they grow up without that natural family unit. This to me is one of the greatest crimes humans perpetrate against animals who are bred and “managed”as food or entertainment.

    • Mountain says:

      And it’s one of the greatest crimes we commit against the poor. With the massive incarceration of poor young men due to the war on drugs, and the welfare policies that subsidize single-parent families, we end up with generations of poor children raised without two parents. And shockingly, those children grow up to have (and suffer from) much higher rates of violence.

  9. Nicole says:

    It’s quite terrifying how many organisations are profiting from this type of thing. Does no one individual in SW stand up and disagree with what is happening? I can’t imagine working for an organisation like that knowing what was going on.

    • Llee says:

      Ive talked to a few SW employees and they’re completely brainwashed, won’t even watch or hear about Blackfish

      • Ziggy Pope says:

        Many people do not want to look at the abuse, of humans or animals and allow it to go on. Look how many animal control people do nothing when call upon to end the torture of a dog, cat or a horse. We see it far too much in the rescue world. Animal control often stand in the way of saving lives.

    • Mountain says:

      The individuals who disagree with what SeaWorld is doing leave the company, or never work for them in the first place.

  10. Jeanette Jordan says:

    FREE LOLITA! In fact, free them all.

  11. Llee says:

    Thank you so much for your scientific approach on debunking SW’s lies!

  12. There are many former trainers who have left SeaWorld and similar businesses when they finally woke up. They are now actively trying to end orca captivity. If you’ve not seen the move “Blackfish”, do; if you’ve not read the book, “Death at SeaWorld”, do, and then pass it on. Discourage everyone you know from attending SeaWorld and similar prisons like the Miami Seaquarium where Lolita languishes, alone. Her mother is still alive and visits Puget Sound regularly. Miami Seaquarium is a special case of inhumanity on its own. Its corporate board holding company consists of the shareholders who profit from Lolita’s lonley suffering. See orcanetwork dot org for more background.

    • Kristianna Evans says:

      Thank you Will so much for bringing light to Sea Aquarium as well. I wasn’t even aware of this facility until your post. Inhumanity is right, this is one of their claims on the website and Seaaquarium is poud of this: “The first facility to synchronize female dolphin’s reproductive cycles for potential artificial insemination.” So mind boggling to me that this mistreatment of animals is happening all around us in the US, where we as Americans thrive on our freedoms! Sad. Any petitions or organizations focusing on closing Miami Sea Aquarium. Please post if you do. This needs to end:)Kindly, Kristianna Evans

      • Hi Kristianna,
        I’d start with http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/index.php?categories_file=Lolita and then pay attention to the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) website since Dr. Rose has moved there from HSUS. Many petitions and websites exist. What needs to happen is a national campaign that is led by a nonprofit or coalition of nonprofits with the resources (there is capacity but not yet willingness) and willing to work in unison as partners with other organizations capable of generating overwhelming public support. After return to her birth waters, she will need ongoing support in a large sea pen where she will have opportunity to hear and see her natal pod and mother who is still alive.

        Green Vegans dot org will be posting a plea for such a campaign in general by Wednesday morning to see if deep-pocket donors will step up to fund a multi-organizational effort. Don’t get your hopes up about this as many have tried. Lolita remains imprisoned.

  13. Tara says:

    Great article with lots of good information but I wish it didn’t end so abruptly. I felt like she had a lot more to say but ran out of room or something.

    • Larry says:

      There was a LOT more she wanted to say, but she has to be careful. The more she says, the more potential for inadvertently angering others who may be paying your bills. Short, brief, on point, professional and leave it at that.

      • James says:

        Let me add how grateful I am for Dr. Rose’s willingness to take the time to respond on very short notice. The response to her response has been overwhelming.
        James

  14. joep says:

    Great Response from Dr. Naomi Rose!

    Just one comment on the age of the Orca, in which it is stated that Orca’s can live up to 60-90 years of age, but does not say what their average life span is. In fact, this is not their average life span, in which there is also a difference between males and females. The average age of Orca’s is yet unclear, but is been roughly thought to be around the 50′s (depending on sex).

    Nevertheless I strongly oppose the retaining of Orca’s!

    • mynamefluffy says:

      I think the point was that SeaWorld tried to pretend that the life span of orcas in the wild was the same as orcas in captivity. They repeatedly told that lie. In fact, orcas live much longer in the wild but die younger in captivity due to the stress and abuse of their lives. And since many people who visit SW don’t know, they sadly believe it and think orcas every where are dying at 30. ~Linda

    • Robin says:

      Actually the ocean research in the wild puts Orca life span for either sex at close to 100 years.

  15. Sharon says:

    I, for one, am very disappointed that information such as this is not getting into mainstream media (such as Forbes). So often, it seems that our AR voice is just preaching to the choir.

  16. Arc says:

    Excellent post, very useful and timely information.

    All this self-exculpation and rationalization sounds like what slaveholders (of human slaves) might have said in response to similar accusations during the nineteenth century, cloaking abhorrent cruelty with a veneer of humaneness and scientism.
    So PETA got it exactly right and the Non-Human Rights Project is right on target.
    It is slavery pure and simple. But separating mothers from their babies is the absolute ethical nadir.
    How will our species ever redeem itself?

  17. Mary Finelli says:

    Well that blows Sea World’s spokesperson out of the water, Naomi. Great point, counterpoint. I’ll be posting the link to this blog post around.

  18. Ted says:

    SeaWorld is in the wrong. It knows its in the wrong and its solution is to stack public polls, lie to everyone that asks, and to cover its profit margins first and foremost.
    It claims it does “conservation”.. 1 million a year is nothing to its profit margin… you can’t hardly call it a major thrust of their existence…
    Its a business. A bad business and needs to be shut down. In India they banned all captive dolphin and whale amusement and even dared to suggest that not only are whales and dolphins very intelligent (as SW likes to boast all the time) but they deserve legal protections as nonhuman beings (something SW DOESN’T want to promote)….
    SeaWorld has built an industry on the backs of slaves and doesn’t deserve to continue.

  19. Larry says:

    Hats off the Dr. Rose. SW’s biggest problem here is they flashed a rubber knife and were met by a gun wielding professional. They’d be better off to fall back and take a SERIOUS analysis of the problems, and their inept approach to this problem.
    SW won’t change, they won’t do anything that will adversely affect their bottom line. They’ll deny, they’ll shift blame, they’ll re-direct.
    Keep turning up the heat on SW. Sooner or later, they’ll be forced to cater to those who have a sincere interest in the welfare of Mammals, or more likely, the Blackstone Group will put SW on the auction block to get out from under the losses. Those Capital Venture Groups care absolutely zero about animal welfare, jobs or anything other that pure profit potential. When SW falls below the minimum profit return threshold that Blackstone expects, they’ll shut it down, pink slip everyone, sell the inventory and cut their losses. And someone in their suit group will probably ask “Is there any market profit potential for Orca meat?”

  20. Elaine Livesey-Fassel says:

    This knowledge is PRICELESS!! Thank you so much for a factual account that we can distribute to any person or group interested in the reality of this situation! And we WILL!!!

  21. Laura says:

    You, sir, are an excellent human being. I cannot tolerate even reading one sentence of such industry PR fluff; while you read it, examine it, and effectively prove it wrong. Thank you, will share.

  22. Thomas says:

    I would have to say that I think most of Slaveworld’s inaccuracies are by design. I think they are forward thinking enough to realize that their business model is unsustainable, but they can hold out the longest . Should the law or public outrage change, Slaveworld can argue [because they do move calves and they do use unnatural fish} that their animals could not be released to sea pens simply because they do not recognize their family structure

  23. Claudia says:

    I wonder if it might be time to stop adding to zoos when an animal passes? Maybe allow the exhibit for that animal go? Do we need to see animals enclosed in a zoo? There are many wonderful nature programs to watch on PBS and other nature channels and the internet. Perhaps it isn’t necessary to see them in person? I understand that when you see a wonderful wild animal in person you tend to develop more of a bond with the animal but, if you asked the wild animal, they might prefer to sacrifice that bond in order to be free and live a normal life in a land they normally live in and with their families. Most people love and care deeply for their animals, and all animals. We are caring more and more about animals and want to see more protection laws to punish abuse, which is very good. We want to see better living conditions and treatment for our food animals, which is also very good. I believe people must decide if they want to ‘enjoy’ watching a caged or enclosed animal…living their life. It is a decision we all must make.

    • Elaine Brown says:

      There are some facilities that “save” wildlife and take in wild animals that cannot be returned to the wild. If they did not exist, their occupants would die. In my area we have an organization called The Wildlife Way Station. They struggle to raise sufficient funds to stay open and get harassed by the county that has jurisdiction over them. If we moved forward to help them with dollars for maintenance, they could be open to the public for display and still serve as a place where these orphans, rejects, confiscated from private owners, and disabled can live out their lives. This might be a win-win situation and should not be likened to Zoos or Circuses.

  24. Carolle says:

    Absolutely fascinating response from Dr. Rose. Thank you for sharing.

  25. I would add to Dr Rose’s observation that, while SW may well have the best ‘care in zoological parks’ for their Orcas this does not resolve the issue of stress. A human can be well fed, have great medical care etc but if they are kept in a 6ft box with people they don’t get on with they WILL be stressed.

    SW’s biggest problem at the moment is it’s complete and utter failure to recognise these animals as sentient, emotional and highly intelligent beings. Science (medical care, physical exercise etc) is only half the issue. If SW were to read this they’d almost certainly claim I’m being anthropomorphic – in response to that I’d say I’m not projecting my human feelings, emotions on to another being, I’m RECOGNISING the sentience of another being!

    • Amber says:

      It’s amazing to me that what is put forth as evidence that the whales are not suffering stress is the “fact” that they seldom harm people. Wha?? Please show me a study, SW, in which a lack of human predation or injury has in any way been linked to a state of psychological well-being in a large predatory species! Intelligent predators forced to live in close proximity to humans learn pretty quickly who holds all the cards, and if SW was actually concerned about the emotional well-being of the animals in their care they would understand that floating motionless for hours, crying for days, stereotypies, inappetence and other symptoms are what they really ought to be noticing and tracking.

  26. mynamefluffy says:

    Sea World is clinging to a slippery branch in the middle of a hurricane. It’s over. I believe within a generation (hopefully sooner) we will see the end of these “parks” exploiting sensitive creatures for profit. It’s already happening with marine parks and circuses in many other places in the world. But once again, US obsession with greed and profit stalls forward ethical progress. And in this case, yes, the greed and profit is exactly the problem, because it is driving the behavior. Take away the profit, take away the motivation. Just like human slavery – it’s all about the money. ~Linda

  27. Katie says:

    An excellent response by Dr. Rose.

    On another subject, I have concerns. The present backlash against SeaWorld and other international aquaria will lead to more people participating in whale watching tours to view wild whales. Whale watching is itself an incredibly problematic industry– whales are hounded from sunup to sunset, and are deprived of the right to feed, rest, socialize and breed. There is nothing normal or natural about this kind of interaction between whale watching vessels and orca whales.

    The resident orcas of SW British Columbia and the NW United States are a critically endangered species. In BC, they are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, The Endangered Species Act and the Species at Risk Act, yet the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is chronically understaffed and ill-equipped to prosecute individuals and businesses who break these laws.

    I just want to let people know that whale watching tours are not a reasonable alternative to places like Sea World. If you ARE looking for an alternative, please consider onshore whale watching. There is less of a guarantee that you will see whales, but when you do, I promise you it will be much more emotionally and intellectually fulfilling. An additional bonus is that you may see the whales from much closer-up (marine vessels are supposed to stay 100m from marine mammals). Please do the right thing for orcas. There are many places along the British Columbian and Washington Coast to view these animals humanely –and similarly, I’m certain there are many places across the globe where you can view them from onshore.

    • suesita says:

      I agree that hounding whale is a bad thing. WA state law is now set a 200 yards viewing distance for whale watching and other crafts.

  28. Michele Jankelow says:

    Sound and researched comments from Dr Rose. Unfortunately SW is protecting investment not environmental realism.

  29. Brandie says:

    Wow! Such lack of knowledge on Sea Worlds part. Are they really that dumb to think we are gonna buy into that crap?

  30. Aurelia says:

    And as per usual absolutely everyone has missed the only valid point in this whole debate. It doesn’t matter whether the initial capture of these Orcas was ethical, it doesn’t matter that Seaworld makes a profit through keeping them in captivity, it doesn’t even matter that keepers and carers have died as a result. All that actually matters is the ongoing care of these animals. The Orcas that were captured from the wild were taken at such a young age that they cannot possibly have learnt the necessary survival skills from their mothers. The rest were bred in captivity so have absolutely no chance of having learnt how to hunt or in anyway shape or form take care of themselves in the wild. This automatically means that there is no way they can be released to the wild as so many idiotic activists are calling for. Keiko is a perfect example of this, he died of pneumonia in a bay in Norway where he stayed after he stopped feeding himself. So what should we do with them? I doubt anyone will disagree that Seaworld has the best facilities for housing captive orcas in the world. So why is everyone calling to boycott them? If Seaworld doesn’t have enough money coming in the animals will suffer, they’re not cheap animals to care for, tonnes of fish alone to feed them. By slating Seaworld you’re not helping the animals but potentially hurting them.

    • Wade Gonsoulin says:

      Aurelia, I understand and respect what you are saying. It’s well-known to many, many activists that not all captive whales are viable for rehab and release. But their containment should, at the very least, be expanded to sea-pens that are many times larger than the concrete they are currently enduring. Would there be risk of contaminants? Yes. Would it be expensive? Of course. But I believe the whales would be genuinely better off, and the expense is our penance for enslaving them in the first place. SW does not have adequate facilities to keep these animals from suffering and decaying, mentally. Cetaceans are too intelligent and self-aware.

      • Aurelia says:

        There is a massive risk of contaminants in sea pens, bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal, it goes on. I don’t really understand this obsession with ‘natural = better’, it’s not necessarily true. It’s possible that putting cetaceans in sea pens where they can see the sea but never reach it is more cruel to those who long for it, or conversely terrifying to those born in captivity and have no idea what’s out there. There’s also the temperature factor to consider; there is very little control over the environment in that kind of situation which, for animals who have spent most if not all of their lives in controlled environments, the shock to their systems could well be too great. SW has the best available facilities for captive cetaceans, everyone is kicking off about them but no one seems to care that the Russians captured two new babies for the winter Olympics. Wild capture is a terrifying ordeal and many cetaceans end up dead or damaged by this process yet all people want to complain about are majoritally captive bred animals who don’t know what they are missing in terms of the open ocean. They are certainly not anywhere near as badly treated as factory farmed animals but because we assume they’re ‘more intelligent’ it becomes a travesty to keep them contained at all? It’s speciesism to the highest degree of hypocrisy.

  31. Wade Gonsoulin says:

    No one seems to care about the wild-caught baby whales? I’m not getting that. Who exactly are you referring to. Who is “no one”? Why the hell would we be so pissed off about the whales born into captivity and not be concerned about the ones that are yanked from the ocean? And as for farm animals, I’m completely against that as well. Most of us are. Speciesism? You should watch where you fling that accusation. You know I’ve been to and organized a number of protests on this issue. What do I get the most from the public? Exactly what you are giving now….. The obligatory shifting of subject. This is where I bow out.

    • Aurelia says:

      All anyone is banging on about are the cetaceans at Seaworld yet hardly any fuss has been made about the fact that the Russians extracted to young Orcas from the wild to parade during the Winter Olympics. There is no shifting of subject, I’m merely pointing out how hypocritical it is to make such a huge deal out of keeping cetaceans in clean enclosures where they have good medical care and are fed correctly when there are animals in the world that are being treated horrendously but hardly anyone gives a shit. For Seaworld all the part time ‘armchair activists’ suddenly come crawling out of the woodwork to vomit their opinion all over the internet. You won’t see any of these people buying humane food options or cleaning/cosmetics products that aren’t tested on animals but they get all upset about the thought of an orca living in a tank which may be small but is still plenty big enough for them to swim round in as opposed to many animals that are trapped in cages so small they can’t even turn around. I’m not changing the subject, I’m giving it perspective.

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