The Battle Over Killer Whales


If you want to know how vehement and even hostile people are in opposition to SeaWorld, just read the comments at the end of the recent editorial in the LATimes, What to do about SeaWorld’s captive killers.
The State of California was considering a bill that would phase out killer whale shows, an idea that has gained greater popularity thanks to the 2013 documentary Blackfish, but the bill did not pass because it went “too far too fast” according the editorial.
 The article seemed pretty even-handed to me. “Legislators,” it warned, “should keep in mind that requiring SeaWorld to suddenly shutter its signature attraction could destroy the rest of the marine park’s business. Though animal rights activists might think that’s fine, SeaWorld has invested heavily in its killer whale program and done so legally. In the absence of documented animal abuse, the company shouldn’t be stripped of its most valuable assets overnight.”
One of the problems I see in the arguments over killer whales (as well as apes and elephants) in captivity is that there doesn’t appear to be any room for compromise. While there are legitimate concerns over welfare of killer whales and I might even be convinced they should not be kept in captivity, that does not mean we should eliminate places like SeaWorld. The amount of good done for wildlife by zoos and aquariums is immeasurable. The ultimate irony in all of this is that people wouldn’t even care about killer whales if it wasn’t for the work done by SeaWorld.
People need to lighten up on their attacks on SeaWorld and on zoos and aquariums in general. And zoos and aquariums may need to listen to the people. “The next step, according to the editorial, “might well be the prohibition of captive breeding as well as a ban on bringing new killer whales into the state. SeaWorld would have years to devise a new headline draw while continuing to show its existing whales, but the public would know that, at least in California, an outmoded way of viewing the magnificent marine mammals is coming to a close.”
Seems like sound advice. I wonder if anybody is listening.

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