SeaWorld: Is Orca Captivity Just?
Debate Rounds (4)
Killer whales are one of the ocean"s most recognizable creatures. With vivid black and white markings, every person who has had a chance to lay their eyes on such a magnificent creature is left in a state of awe. In the wild, they are observed in pods, gladly socializing with one another as they swim the great seas. Unfortunately, most who have witnessed these beings have watched them perform for tricks at SeaWorld.
Orcas are, in fact, a member of the dolphin family and the largest by far. These extraordinary mammals can grow up to 32 feet and weigh as much as 6 tons (1). In order for these large animals to swim their average distance of 75 miles (2), they must circle their tank at SeaWorld about 1,400 times (3).
Killer whale captivity started back in 1961. They were taken from their natural habitat and placed inside small tanks for the public"s amusement. They were forced to do tricks and perform for their daily meal. Since then, 150 orcas have been detained and 127 have died. This might not seem like a big deal, however, female orcas can live up to 90 years in the wild and male orcas can live to as much as 60. In captivity, these numbers are cut in half (3). SeaWorld tends to say the opposite. They "reassure" the public that the lifespan is the same for both orcas in captivity and the wild.
SeaWorld does contribute a small amount to ocean welfare groups which they proudly flaunt to anybody who questions their company. However, if we look at the amount they earn versus the amount they give away, it seems like mere pennies. According to this article, they have given only 6% of the 9 million dollars that they raked in from 2004-2012 (4). Yes, they do donate money to the research and conservation of wild dolphins and whales, but not nearly enough to justify keeping these amazing creatures in captivity.
Being social animals, orcas swim with the same pod that they have known since birth. Young calves are separated from their mothers almost immediately at SeaWorld. Either they are shipped off to another park or they are kept in a separate cage. This causes great stress for both mom and baby and reports have surfaced of the mother actually calling out for her young one.
In conclusion, orca captivity is falling out of style fast as many people are starting to realize the cruelty that hides behind the big posters and flashy commercials. These magnificent creatures don"t belong in bathtubs. They belong in the wide open ocean. Hopefully, SeaWorld will be forced to close within a couple of years and, although their current orcas aren"t fit to be released into the wild, we can keep them from breeding and catching new ones.
I agree with your point that it is good for people, especially kids, to go see these magnificent creatures. However, there are whale watching trips and other opportunities to go see them in the wild where they truly thrive. I suggest that SeaWorld starts promoting these tours and selling packages where people can travel to the coast and experience wild orcas first hand. Do they really need to watch these exploitative shows in order to feel attached to them? Or maybe they can witness the close, human-like relationships they share with their fellow orcas within their pod in the wild.
The "bonds" that the trainers say they have with the animals are mostly because of the food that they give to them. There have been numerous reports of attacks or acts of aggression against these trainers (1). Take Dawn Brancheau"s death for example. Tilikum (a favorite amongst the SeaWorld trainers) decided to take her life in such a violent manner that it shows symptoms of stress or even boredom. It also wasn"t this orca"s first lash out either. He has had a history of violent attacks and even killing someone before Dawn"s death (2). In the wild, however, there is not a single report of a human ever being attacked by these docile creatures (3). So then why do they attack once inside a tank? Boredom perhaps. While hunting, orcas tend to "play" with their food, tossing seals and other prey into the air with their flukes (3). This behavior has been seen with the trainers who have been chosen as unfortunate victims.
Let us not forget that the trainers are also in danger at SeaWorld. SeaWorld knew about his previous violent behavior and still decided to throw the trainers into a small tank with him. According to an article by Discovery, Dawn"s death was a result of Tilikum"s possible isolation and mating frustrations. Experts say that Tilikum did not kill for food, as I previously stated, but out of stress and raging hormones (4).
Even though trainers are no longer allowed to perform with Tilikum, he is still kept around and used for breeding. Many calves have relations to "Tilly" even after SeaWorld saw the actions he was capable of performing. They literally milk him for the money.
Orcas also terrorize each other within these glass walls. In the wild, orcas share close bonds with everyone in their pods. They rarely viciously try to kill one another and, if there is a fight, there is plenty of space to escape. However, at SeaWorld, there is nowhere to go. If there is a confrontation, one can"t get away. They slam each other into walls and bite ferociously. Some will die due to the acts of a fellow cellmate.
Although education is extremely important and everyone should have the chance to see these magnificent creatures, the torture that these orcas have to endure just for our entertainment is not justified.
If you do find me sources, then explain to me why we humans thought it was a good idea in the first place to take these creatures from their homes? Did they calculate the possible risks not only to the orcas themselves, but to their trainers?
The way they plucked these orcas from the oceans is cruel as well. If you read this article, you can see the violent and disrespectful ways they have captured these mighty beasts. Harpoons have been used as well as tranquilizer darts and many orcas have been killed during these harvests. They have herded pods into coves and have taken the youngest calf aboard, leaving the poor mother alone and terrified. (1)
If capturing them wasn"t bad enough, the breeding of killer whales have also left protestors angry and fighting against the pointless practice. As I mentioned earlier, they take away the calves from their mothers at a very young age when born in captivity. In the wild, these calves stick with their mother for years. Back in 2015, there was an agreement that SeaWorld could expand their tanks, however, they would have to cease their breeding program. This shows that even the state government believes that the practice needs to come to an end. (2) At first, SeaWorld complied. Back in December, they fought back, calling the condition "unprecedented". (3) Luckily, SeaWorld has stopped their exploitative shows after finding out visitors prefer to see the orcas acting naturally. Even their own trainers, who opposed the famous Blackfish movie, have told SeaWorld that using orcas for shows is pointless and inhumane. (4) Even people previously INVOLVED dislike the practice.
SeaWorld is also known for straight up lying to their visitors. There was a lawsuit against them for false marketing in San Diego. Not only do they know that what they do isn"t justified, they are forced to lie about it in order to keep people coming back. The suit includes their statement about their orcas being "happy, healthy orcas". (5)
These "happy, healthy orcas" (5) that SeaWorld flaunts are not actually happy because they love being in cramped little tanks. This company has been caught feeding drugs like Valium and Xanax to their inmates. There are vet records that show that they are given psychotropic drugs to keep them from acting aggressively towards one another inside the tanks. (6) Is it justified to keep these large creatures in these prisons and to drug them in order to keep them from killing each other? Is that what kids really want to see? And yet SeaWorld still calls their practice "humane" and their orcas "happy".
Riddle me this, does all of this seem justified to you? Do we really need to keep these magnificent creatures inside this cruel environment just for our entertainment?
I will admit that back in the day, the research being done on orcas was new at the time. They were just beginning to explore the details of what makes these gorgeous creatures tick. However, that is obsolete now. With all of the technology we have and the knowledge that we have gained, having "research" as one of the reasons why we should keep them in custody is just absurd. Plus, observing orcas in the wild is key to seeing how they interact with one another. Watching them from behind a glass wall is counter-productive, as captivity changes the behavior of the once-wild creatures. How would stopping the breeding and capturing of these beasts force us to lose all of our past research? That doesn"t seem to make sense.
Also, according to an article, there are no recent studies to be found that have been done by SeaWorld in the recent years. Nothing has been published or even attempted. SeaWorld also admits that their research is not available to be viewed by the public or reviewed by their peers (1). How can they support their claim about doing valuable research for the marine biology community?
Of course we would know how they act in the wild! It"s obvious that their behavior changes once they enter captivity. I highly doubt scientists would turn to SeaWorld in order to see what orcas are really like. With the doing of SeaWorld, it might encourage people and scientists to really observe and experience the mammal"s playful and social side.
In conclusion: Keeping these gigantic creatures inside these small glass enclosures, is not morally justified. If you can put yourself into Tilikum"s blubber and see everything from the other side of the tank, you can see all of the flaws with SeaWorld. They"ve lied to their customers about the health and well being of their inhabitants. The only points you have brought up in favor of keeping SeaWorld afloat is for the sake of marine mammal research and so young kids can see and experience their grandeur. Also, you have not used many reliable sources and did not have a lot of evidence to back up your claims.
Although these orcas cannot be released back into their natural habitat, local outcry can keep this company from stealing or breeding more and this inhumane practice can be made obsolete.
Lastly, thank you for accepting my debate.
djslone123 forfeited this round.
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