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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Should Sea World Be Shut Down After Trainer's Death?

On Wednesday, February 24th 2010, forty year old Dawn Brancheau lost her life while working with one of the Orcas at Sea World. There are differing versions of how she died, but her death was nothing less than tragic. From what has evolved about this story, we have heard Dawn became interested in her career at a young age. She knew, as a little girl, she would someday be involved with a facility such as Sea World. If there is any consolation, it would be that she died doing what she truly loved.

Many people have been quick to jump to conclusions, condemn Sea World and other similar facilities and demand they be shut down. Has it occurred to anyone that these facilities bring more attention to the plight of these magnificent creatures than any animal rights protests? Not only do these facilities display the natural jumping and swimming abilities of these creatures, but they also provide an enormous amount of education about marine life and the animals that live there.

When children have the opportunity to interact with whales, dolphins, sea lions and other aquatic mammals, they become more aware of these animals’ right to exist. Children and adults can’t wait to pet these creatures, as if they were puppies or kittens. Like it or not, this interaction brings increased awareness, understanding and develops the next generation of animal rights activists.

How is keeping a whale in captivity so different from keeping your dog or cat in captivity? Nature says animals should keep their genitals intact, but we humans arbitrarily neuter them at will. We tie them up with cables, keep them in cages, pamper them with obnoxious clothing and trinkets, leave them out in the cold, build them dog houses and let them fend for themselves. In sheer numbers, we are much more abusive to our smaller captive creatures than the likes of Sea World. In the true sense of freeing Willy, we should also consider freeing Fido, Miss Kitty and all the other creatures we are fond of capturing and containing.

Read An Update Of Sea World's Decision At Huffington Post


  1. bullocks. sea world is not upfront about how they handle business at all. there was literally an audience present when the attack occurred and they're acting as if there's not a single witness-they're playing stupid and you're falling for it.anything that's in the country/world's spotlight will come with lies. thousands of ears are listening. don't be a sucker. "sea world, where do you get your animals?" and they're reply would be vague and roundabout (same findings on the internet)if what they were doing wasn't tainted they would boast about it- to make even MORE money. as for the animals' well being...BIG problem. keeping animals in the tanks is like humans being kept in a white room with water on the outside x 3(we can swim..can they easily get around on land?). I can't believe someone who was working with these animals for so long would stay in la la land ...this woman was 40 years old, a senior trainer, and didn't realize that she got to go home everyday and her smart animal "friends" did't/don't- that or she didn't have a problem with it. The guy who worked with flipper, Ric O'Barry, realized it. don't go walking around thinking it's not bad to do these things because you can find petty reasons to falsely justify what messes people make. dogs and cats can run away these animals don't even have a chance at that.

    this battle is between
    greed/ ignorance and the seemingly permanent hubris of humans


    nature/ honorably taking the responsibility that comes from the power of attaining and utilizing knowledge/pure connection with life

    be the better person, help this world move forward. see past the acts, lies, media blackouts/'re eating out of the palm of their greasy fat hands.

  2. Miranda, you raise some good arguments, but I have to wonder why there is never outrage at how humans treat other animals. I never hear protests about birds, such as cockatoos, parrots or parakeets. Imagine the life of these birds of flight and being confined to a very small cage all their entire lives.

    There is an entire wealthy pet industry dedicated to the capture and containment of animals, strictly for our own selfish amusement and pleasure. Where is the outrage? Only certain animals deserve freedom and not others? Where are you drawing the line? Which animals have you chosen as acceptable captives and which animals have you selected for freedom?

    As far as I'm concerned, it is alright to be outraged at Sea World, but it is hypocritical if you think it is okay to cage our personal pets. You shouldn't be able to have it both ways. If you truly care about animals, then you care about all animals, not just the convenient ones.

  3. I agree, it's conveniently ignorant to raise a fuss about the confinement of whales and dolphins while purchasing 'pets' from puppy mills and pet shops and eating fried chicken that comes from factories in which the chickens never see the light of day and can't walk a couple feet without falling over. This is the world we live in, I love animals just as much as I love humans; but change will not come from freeing a couple of whales. Billions of animals in the U.S are in the same boat as these sea creatures. In an ideal world, everyone and thing would be free. Ideal, not reality. Animals AND people are not 'free'. It has never been a free world. The overwhelming vast majority of Americans want their entertainment, therpeutic comfort, and their cheap food. I have no problem saying we are a selfish nation, progressively selfish and there is no way any politician would touch it (in the respect of releasing animals and stopping the factories completely). The idea of 'animal rights' does need to come under review and improved; but I really don't think there is even a 1% chance of whales and dolphins being released back into the wild.

    Some people may say, well whales and dolphins are very smart, endangered, and dangerous to humans.

    So only the smart animals deserve rights? What kind of wizard gets to draw the line there? I cringe at the idea of discrimination of animal rights by intelligence. If we are operating by that clause, should we put special needs children in captivity and take away their rights? Actually, doctors used to advocate sterilization of autistic children but that is off topic. For me, this would have to be an all or nothing kind of deal, and that's just not going to happen.

    These animals are endangered, so this is my grand idea. I would be thrilled to see a law which prohibits the capture of these animals in the wild. We have so many of them in captivity, that we should just continue to mate them with each other. If over time, they die out, that's our own fault and the law stays in place. Also, no foreign exportations of these creatures. You can not release captive bred animals back into the wild. Let your dog go in the woods and see what happens. Furthermore, these animals really do have a lot to teach us about ourselves, our interactions, and it does raise empathetic animal awareness. Studies have even shown that dolphin human therapy has significantly improved the well being and overall functioning of children with special needs. These changes were maintained over time.

  4. As far as the danger clause, this is true with any animal but is especially true for whales, snakes (but those are household pets!?), elephants etc (btw elephants have killed WAY more people than whales have). Whales who come from the wild are especially dangerous. To my knowledge, every whale attack incident came from a whale who was captured and taken from it's pod. So, their instincts and behavior patterns are different and more unpredictable than a whale born into captivity. The Whale that killed Dawn is responsible for two other deaths, which accounts for almost half of all of the incidents in the US combined! So the whale attack stats are skewedby this one whale. Killer Whales are very picky about what they eat, and there is no documentation that a killer whale as ever attacked a person while in the wild or tried to eat a person. They are VERY social animals and they really love their trainers; because the trainers are part of their 'pod'. The trainers at sea world are top notch, and they are always stimulating and attentive to the animals. They use operant conditioning, positive reinforcment. No starvation, isolation, or this to the animals who suffer from REAL abuse. When these animals attack these trainers, it is because they are playing, have a disease that has not been discovered, or in a very rare occasion it involves dominance issues when they are mating. If you look at the media of these attacks, the whale NEVER bites when it can easily snap a person in two. Instead, it drags it's trainer around above and below water, instead of pinning the trainer underwater for a mere couple of minutes. The attack of Dawn may have been different, the reports conflict but all say that the trainer had the closest bond with this whale. Anyway, the whales hold their trainers just like a dog will play bite his owner but never apply force. BUT there are exceptions to that, some dogs do bite to hurt, but we never look at why that is. No dolphin or whale has ever done that. We can't assume that ALL the whales and dolphins are slaves to sea world. The odds are, most of them love it and it is home to them because at this point most are captive born and there home is all they know. Their trainers are their family members and they are empathetic enough to feel the tremendous love that their trainers have for them. Dawn is just another trainer who chose to enhance the lives of the whales she served. They would have remained in captivity with or without her, so it's tremendously disrespectful to turn her death into a free the whales rampage.

  5. I agree with Miranda; and I'd like to point out that "freeing Fido, Miss Kitty, and all the other creatures we are fond of capturing and containing" is hardly an accurate statement. Dogs, cats, canaries, goldfish, hamsters, rats/mice, gerbils, guinea pigs and rabbits were BRED to be domestic and live with us in our homes, while marine mammals were not. An orca in a tank is not the same as a fish in a bowl. We've become so, as I call it, "adore-ified" by this whole captive animal industry that we've completely forgotten that these creatures possess strength and ingenuity beyond our comprehension, and we're only reminded of it when something like the Tilikum incident occurs.

    Now I'm not a total captivity abolitionist; that is I don't believe that we should release all captive creatures into the wild just like that. In some cases wildlife rehabilitation is a feasible option, but might not be in the case of those animals which have spent prolonged time in or were born into captivity. In their cases, it would appear that the best option would be mercy euthanization unfortunately.

    As for Anonymous, I'm well aware of the exotic pet trade and I'm just as opposed to it as I am towards marine mammal display. It isn't right for ANY previously wild creature to be wrenched out of its habitat and condemned to a slow death in an unfamiliar environment. I'd also like to bring up those who think that by taking animals out of the wild and forcing them into captivity we are "saving" them from the destruction of their habitats and poaching. The reason why we have conservation in the first place is to preserve wild creatures and their habitats so that they won't have to be preserved ex situ (off site). I believe that bringing wild creatures into captivity as a means of saving them from extinction should only be used as a last resort, when all other attempts have proved unsuccessful.

    Now I do admire the breeding and educational programs that many captive animal facilities sponsor, and the singular oppurtunities they give visitors to have personal encounters with these wonders of nature. In fact, I had such an experience at a young age which in turn persuaded me to pursue a career in ecology. I'm all for educating the public about the plights that wild animals face at the hands of humanity, AS LONG AS THE NEEDS AND SAFETY OF BOTH THE ANIMALS AND HUMANS ARE ADEQUATELY MET. In this incident with Tilikum, neither were present.

    If an animal requires needs that are beyond the reach of a captive facility, then the animal should either be rehabilitated into the wild or put out of its misery.


  6. FX said..."Dogs, cats, canaries, goldfish, hamsters, rats/mice, gerbils, guinea pigs and rabbits were BRED to be domestic and live with us in our homes, while marine mammals were not."

    Do you really think this is what nature intended?

    We breed mice and rats to become pets and food for snakes. We breed chickens to become food for humans. In Asia, they breed dogs and cats for human food. Are you okay with that?

    An animal is an animal, whether it was birthed in the wild or birthed in your home. Nature intended for all animals to be free. Humans selectively change the rules and when things run amok by trying to domesticate lions or tigers, they change the rules.

    I'm a pet lover and try my best to make each of their lives comfortable and pleasurable. I am offended when the self righteous start preaching that only certain animals deserve the best treatment.

  7. I realize my mistake, and I apologize for being so explicit. I was only trying to point out that some animals are more tolerant of captivity than others.


  8. No need for apologies FX. Pets do so many wonderful things for humans, it would be awfully hard to imagine a world without them.

    I am critical of those who think only the whales or certain other creatures should be kept from captivity. I believe the few whales in captivity bring an abundance of education and awareness to the species. The more educated the public, the less likely future generations will stand idly by while other countries massacre the remaining marine mammals.

  9. Any animal taken out of the wild is not fit for captivity. Yet, over time we bred and manipulated their evolution so that they would be fit for captivity. This is the case for any animal, ever.

    So, no, they should not be held in captivity. However, we need to realize that this is what we have always done and will always do....because we can't force our morals onto people just like we can't force religion (or lack therof) onto people.

    Also, some whales/dolphins/seals thrive in captivity and some just aren't fit for it. Some of them are maladaptive. Those who are maladaptive are usually taken from the wild while the adaptive ones were bred. See the trend or the big picture. Over time, the adaptive ones will be bred and the dangers will decrease. So, I think the next best step is to outlaw wild capture and foreign inports.

    We can breed the sea mammals we already have to be domestic, for educational and therapeutic purposes only. Sea World needs to get with the times and change the nature of their 'shows'. They remind me of chuck-e-cheese and the loud music they play during the shows can't be good for the animals, sound is MAGNIFIED AND LOUDER in water. Anyway, there are no needs for absolutes and it is counterproductive. Animals will remain in captivity, some animals adapt and some dont. We should be accountable for ensuring that we do not impede of the lives of these creatures but continue to enhance the lives of the animals we already have and ensure that they have the upmost respect and care. Every issue has two sides, and I hope both sides look at this issue both realistically and holistically.

    euthanization of a healthy endangered animal who is well cared for and is probably captive born, captive bred, and happy? That is animal cruelty.

  10. You provide good insight Jaymi. I understand that captivity is a good means to educate the public about conservation and that some animals are happy and lead perfectly healthy lifestyles in captivity. Perhaps I should have just referred to those few individual cases where captivity just doesn't work out. If an animal can't be rehabilitated but obviously isn't doing well in captivity, then you ultimately have to decide what would be best for that animal. Now when I say all this I am referring to certain individual creatures, not a species as a whole.


  11. Amen, Miranda. But keeping an Orca in a swimming pool is more akin to keeping a human in a bathtub their entire life than in a room. It's flat out cruel to take an animal whose home range is literally hundreds of square miles and put them in an environment like this. And, unfortunately, it often leads to serious mental instability in these stressed out animals.

    SeaWorld is an abomination and should be put out of business. BOYCOTT this exploitative organization a.s.a.p.!


  12. What an interesting concept. Conflicting comments on a blog without vulgar language and name calling. Nice to see some civility.

    I think most agree captivity isn't always in the best interest of animals, especially the larger ones. Those who have been to Sea World have seen larger whales in quite small tanks. While nothing compares to the natural habitat, do you think it would be feasible if Orcas could be safely housed in a much larger facility? It would have to be a pool at least several acres in size.

  13. Thanks FX, you do as well. I don't buy the whale in a bathtub bit, just by size ratios. Humans also travel great distances but we are able to adapt to small environments as needed, we adapt. Unless we have some sort of small space phobia, which some of these animals may have as well. It really is case by case.

    I LOVE the idea of much larger pools for them. Even better, make these HUGE pools mirror images of a real ocean habitat, complete with schools of fish and other crustaceans. That is something I could rest easy with, no shows, just well placed but select viewing areas and no one is allowed to touch the tanks' walls and no shows are allowed. The animals would still need caretakers and human contact though, they are tremendously social.Think about all the research and education this place would yield! If it really thrived, we could help replenish the population of whales and dolphins!

    I had planned on being a part time whale trainer and part time psychologist once I finished school and got my liscense(in a year). Once I heard about this incident, I changed my mind and looked into some other areas. I talked to the founder of human dolphin therapy and I am seriously considering that. They take special needs children and put them with therapists and use the dolphins as motivation and reinforcment. There is something about dolphins that really inspire people, it's so moving. SO, these animals really can help us if we let them, and make it their choice. This incident has really taught me the difference between responsible captivity and irresponsible captivity. I also saw that animatronic dolphins yield the same positive results that real ones do. The fake dolphin is 45k; but someday I hope to get one and open my own therapeutic facility for special needs children, without endangering the animals OR kids.

  14. These animals do not belong in captivity-I don't believe any do, even humans but it's how life came to be and I'm not in a position to change that yet.

    Household animals do have deep problems. how they're born, family, instincts vs learned, space/freedom, I know...but- I don't have an animal simply because I don't have the means to give it the space and life it needs. If I purchased a bird, 1. I would make sure I had the means to take care of it 2. I wouldn't by it from a mill or just any old place looking to make an easy buck through the sake of animals. I would do research beforehand. Ideally, a previously injured/recovering animal who can't fend for themselves or an animal who will be terminated. SEA WORLD gets a number of their dolphins from murderers. They pay them for it- so not only are they supporting the murder of 25,000 dolphins annually-they're not telling anyone about it( / The Cove- Ric O'Barry guy who worked with dolphins in tv series Flipper now fighting for free dolphins bc of his experiences). 3. I would not be ok with a cage. I would put forth the money and time into heightening and covering my future backyard* depending on the health of the bird/my location...this is just an example of MY PERSONAL STANDARDS as an animal caregiver and friend/family. It's up to the owners really to give their animals the care and good life deserved. We humans are still animals, some of us can't really tell what the right course of action would be. Yet we still tinker with the power we've been given(power to befriend, capture, kill, exploit, etc animals) and we must face that responsibly. and the bottom line is Sea World is a bad pet owner. They don't care. They just want to keep shoveling in the naive families into their parks. All animals deserve to be treated better but- these incidents are too much for me to handle. sea world, a company and name so known,- if they get away with this it would really put the people who have the power to change it in a really bad light- putting the human race in bad light, yet again. Turning the other cheek to a huge company you hear about left and right-that would just make us look so lazy and ignorant if nothing changes.

  15. In the end the question(s) that need to be answered are:

    Which takes precedence over the other, ethics or education? Is it more important to teach the public so that they can understand more about and care for these animals, or to respect their (the animals') rights as fellow sentient beings?
    If you asked either of these questions to someone who works closely with a captive animal, you would probably either not get a straight answer or they would avoid the topic altogether. That only leaves us to figure out what the answer is on our own, and because we are all entitled to our opinions it's hard to come up with a conclusion that leaves everyone satisfied.