For over fifty years now, SeaWorld has hidden under the guise of being a research and rehabilitation institution to great success, up until this past decade. In 2013 a documentary film, titled Blackfish, brought the truth about SeaWorld to light on a large scale reaching an audience of 21 million people. Public opinion shifted fairly quickly, lowering SeaWorld’s attendance and revenue, going as far as leading to legislation in California and on a federal level to ban whale captivity for entertainment as well as allocating more money into research on captured whales. It is now a common opinion that SeaWorld facilitates an inhumane use of orcas and beluga whales in ways that completely diminish their research and rehabilitation. Research shows that orcas and beluga whales are some of the smartest animals alive, being as social as us humans and needing exposure to a stimulated environment like us and other animals. Being forced into an extremely small enclosure compared to their original home and forced to do ridiculous entertainment shows takes an extreme toll on these fascinating creatures, causing them to be depressed and miserable. SeaWorld has promised to stop breeding and capturing orcas but to this day still hold the orcas they had as well as still breed and hold beluga whales. These animals do not deserve to be reduced to cheap tricks for the entertainment of humans and SeaWorld must rehabilitate these animals to prepare them for the wild and release them.
Orcas and beluga whales are easily some of the worst animals to keep in captivity and the terrible consequences are very apparent. As said previously, these animals are extremely social and curious like humans. Also like humans, these whales require open environments full of stimuli. Orcas have it genetically ingrained in them to migrate and eat over immense distances in the ocean, swimming nearly forty miles a day on average. When orcas and beluga whales are kept in a pool far from their actual home with no where else to go, the animals can suffer immensely. Anyone can realize the torture they must go through if they were to simply put themselves in the shoes of the whales. Imagine only being able to walk around in your house and not be able to leave for your entire life, in some cases from the day you were born. Evidence of this torture is seen in action of the whales that are captive. Depression and even lashes of attacks from the whales are very common in those that are captive, especially SeaWorld.
The captivity of whales for what is really just a cash grab is such an apparent atrocity that a former employee of SeaWorld, John Hargrove, has called out and bashed the company for its practices. In his interview with National Geographic, John retells the aggressive and deadly incident with the orca Tilikum and his trainer Dawn. His account is gruesome and graphic, but really shows what that environment can make a wild animal do, especially one that is an apex predator. From his account and to everyone’s surprise, Tilikum actually had a great relationship with his trainer Dawn and yet still dismembered her. This goes to show that even if the animals are treated nicely, they can attack and be unpredictable. For this reason, orcas and beluga whales should absolutely never be subjected to captivity much less be involved in acts with humans.
Killer whales are exactly what their name reads, predators that are unpredictable especially when subjected to being in extremely small locations which cause them to be depressed. Just the fact that these animals become extremely depressed and live for far less time than their wild counterparts —nearly half their natural lifespan— should motivate SeaWorld to rehabilitate and release their whales. SeaWorld claims to care for their marine life and to respect them, however if this were the case they would put the livelihood of their animals over their profits and work to get these animals back to the wild which would be totally feasible for a large corporation.