Last year, a 103-year-old orca whale nicknamed “Granny” was spotted off Canada’s western coast. Granny stands out as an impressive feat of nature, but for SeaWorld, she represents a threat to their credibility. For many years, SeaWorld has maintained that the life expectancy of an orca whale is unknown, but as all animal welfare advocates know, that’s just their way of defending their practice of keeping them cooped up in tanks.
On average, orca whales born in captivity only live for around four-and-a-half years, and many captured whales die within less than two decades. Because of this grim reality, SeaWorld’s orcas are forced to breed at younger ages than they are expected to naturally (the right time for an orca pregnancy is usually at around 14.9 years old), and many orcas that are bred have been known to have a history of violence, a textbook sign that the whales have been maladjusted to their environment. And that’s not all. Many of the orcas born in captivity were born through orca inbreeding, and some are stillborn calves, meaning that they die at the moment they’re born.
In the tanks, the orcas are kept alive on a sea of drugs, and many of the drugs are so powerful that they put the trainers at risk as well. The contraceptives given to whales to regulate pregnancy have been known to potentially cause sterility in female orca trainers. The whales are constantly on antibiotics, and there is some testimony that indicates that the whales’ gills are stuffed with antibiotics, antacids, vitamins and other drugs. The male whales who are sexually mature are given drugs designed to reduce their testosterone levels, in addition to the benzodiazepines all the whales get to keep them calm in the tanks.
The conditions of captivity leave the imprisoned orca whales banging their heads against the tanks, grinding their teeth against the walls, floors and bars, and often fighting each other. This is the whales wanting to be free, but the sad irony is that the captive whales are so maladjusted that they cannot be released into the wild. A wild orca whale could literally kick a SeaWorld whale to the curb and it wouldn’t even be a fight. Also, the wild whales are used to swimming at greater distances and speeds than the SeaWorld whales, despite SeaWorld’s claim that they do not need to regularly swim hundreds of miles in the ocean. If released back into the whale without rehabilitation, want kind of a life would the orcas be given?
Obviously people have had enough. Across America, people have opened their eyes to the atrocities SeaWorld commits against its animals. In California, there is a bill in the works that would stop SeaWorld from being able to keep orcas in captivity. However, all the cries of protest don’t seem to have swayed SeaWorld. In spite of the lawsuits and protests they’ve faced, their bottom line remains entertainment and profit. They have a huge team of high-priced lawyers at their disposal, and they’ve used them to silence former trainers who speak out against them. As long as there is no law against holding orcas in this manner, nothing has changed.
Prior to hearing of this, I had no opinion on this at all, but now I’m very firmly against keeping orca whales captive in tanks for entertainment. I feel that the way SeaWorld imprisons the orca whales is perhaps the most damning symbol of mankind’s arrogance in thinking nature is to be conquered. Through the actions of people willing to go against SeaWorld, by voicing their objections and campaigning against them, I remain adamant that SeaWorld will not be able to continue doing this. Eventually, I think that we as human beings will do the right thing, and when that happens, we will prove that we still have some respect for nature, and all the splendour it offers.