SeaWorld tragedy shows Shamu life is sham

SeaWorld has recently experienced a tragedy. Tilikum, an orca living at SeaWorld Orlando, killed his trainer, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau, earlier this week, according to the Associated Press. While the death of a trainer is certainly newsworthy, not to mention very sad, so is the nature of marine parks in general.

SeaWorld should be ashamed of itself.

In fact, any organization that forces wild animals to perform like circus freak spectacles ought to be shut down.

Some might object to the accusation that marine parks, such as SeaWorld, participate in morally questionable practices. After all, according to their Web site, SeaWorld parks are primarily designed for education. But is that really why park-goers visit these places?

Most people are thrilled to see the ocean life housed at marine parks up close. But would places like SeaWorld be able to charge $68.95 for children and $78.95 for adults if all they did was “educate”?

I seriously doubt that.

But people don’t mind shelling out nearly $80 to watch these poor captive animals balance balls on their noses and perform tricks for fish.

Park-goers want to be entertained. And somewhere along the line, the park industry, with the approval of the public, decided that degrading the lives of our aquatic counterparts to whistle blows and beach balls constituted amusement worth paying for.

These animals are circus attractions, forced to perform mindless tricks that are insulting to their intelligence and wild instincts.

That is not education.

Education addresses such topics as behavior, habitat and conservation. While information pertaining to those subjects may be mentioned in passing, or even dedicated to a class, it should not be at the expense of a few unfortunate animals captured and exploited for monetary gain.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, the animals in marine parks are often wild and taken from families at a young age.

Because orcas and other marine mammals breed poorly in captive environments, young animals are removed from their tight-knit family groups in the wild and then submitted to a life of monotony and imprisonment. According to a “Frontline” summary, this is true for Tilikum, the orca who recently killed his trainer.

Surprisingly, this practice is legal under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, provided the display is for educational and conservational purposes.

What a sham. The very laws that are in place to protect these species allow for companies to profit from shamefully exploiting them. Considering the lifespan curtailment and slew of ailments orcas endure in captivity, it’s astonishing that their capture is legal at all, let alone supported under the guise of education.

It is time for the public to stand up and demand better.

This weekend, the Shamu Believe show resumed, according to the Associated Press. Despite a trainer being killed, despite the obvious flaw in the marine park industry and despite the cruel and insensitive methods by which marine mammals are acquired in order to entertain us, SeaWorld and other marine parks will move forward, continuing to profit off their unethical practices.

Reach Becky at rrubens1@asu.edu


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