No more elephants in the circus, no more whales at SeaWorld San Diego.
I’m a conservationist, not an environmentalist. They are very much two different things. As a conservationist I care very much about animals and feel that human beings have a obligation to utilize them in what can be considered a reasonable and proper manner. But I very much feel humans have dominion over the animals.
Obviously we keep them for food and the end result of that is their death. Such deaths should be quick. Over the millennia of animal husbandry the best methods have been developed for this.
I believe we can use animals for labor. But in so doing we must not overwork them and must keep them well fed and in conditions likely to maintain their natural lifespan and health.
I believe we can keep them as pets and in zoos. But similar to keeping them for labor we must make sure they are maintained in optimum health. For most animals this is fairly easy to do actually. Even though lions might roam in the wild, that doesn’t mean they have to or that they prefer to. They do so for food. If food is plentiful they don’t roam so far. Most zoos keep them well. Same for monkeys, snakes, and zebra.
I’ve seen the SeaWorld whale show. It’s incredible. If you have seen it then you know it’s a moving and nearly spiritual experience. Creatures like whales are so incredible that it’s totally understandable that people would want to see them, to study them, to be close to them. Due to their immense size and higher intelligence I do wonder if keeping them in captivity can be done right. Surely a massive pool, massive in scope, could work. The kind that is actually just the ocean walled off.
But I don’t feel that the choice to keep them or not should be made by mob rule. Protesting their keeping because you feel it might not be right isn’t my style.
So a documentary came out?
Watching a documentary can be interesting. I like them and watch quite a few of them. All kinds of subjects interest me and a documentary is a quick window into that subject. But I realize that it’s just a quick window. I don’t believe for one moment that watching a documentary makes me any kind of expert on the subject. Blackfish came out and convinced a lot of people that keeping them was wrong. But of course many experts pointed out that there are quite a few flaws in the documentary and that it’s one sided. That, of course, is one of the flaws in documentaries. They are normally made with some point in mind and some story to tell or keen insight to reveal. Of course that insight is the one the film maker wants to reveal and often the very reason the film was made in the first place.
Take this quote for example, “The trainers aren’t safe, and the whales aren’t happy,” Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of Blackfish, told CBS News. The whales aren’t happy? Can whales be happy? Perhaps. But the truth is we don’t know. When I saw the show the whale didn’t look stressed but I can’t say it looked happy either.
It’s not a surprise of course that SeaWorld didn’t agree with the conclusions of the film.
We object to Blackfish because its two central premises are wrong: (1) that life at SeaWorld is harmful for killer whales and for trainers working with these animals, and (2) that SeaWorld has attempted to cover up the facts surrounding the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, as well the history of Tilikum, the killer whale involved in that accident. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To make these ultimately false and misleading points, the film conveys falsehoods, manipulates viewers emotionally and relies on questionable filmmaking techniques to create “facts” that support its point of view.
Of course we expect them to say that but it’s also in keeping with the many documentaries I’ve seen.
But, it seems SeaWorld San Diego has decided to shut down the show. At least that’s what all the headlines are saying. A victory for animal rights activists and the job of the documentary done!
Not quite. SeaWorld is replacing the show but not the whales.
“No longer a theatrical show, this live presentation will have the feel of an engaging documentary centered on the orca’s natural behaviors, physical attributes, intelligence, social structures and unique relationship with mankind,” according to a statement from the park.
In the end, having seen the whales and the show, I think keeping them is worth it. Much conservation is promoted by the keeping of captive animals. Zoos and zookeepers like Jack Hanna have done a lot for the conservation of animals through education. I think whale shows, be they flashy or educational will do the same.
The show that featured killer whales cavorting with trainers and leaping high out of the Shamu Stadium pool will have its final performances on Sunday.