One of the most memorable, enjoyable and life-altering childhood experiences I recall having was the first visit my family took to California’s Marine World, located a short distance from the East Bay neighborhood of American River Canyon in Vallejo California, an animal park mirroring SeaWorld and Marineland, providing mystery, awe, and amazement to my baby sister and me, prompting my childhood fantasy of one day becoming a marine biologist. I hoped to have the ability to successfully perform for my meandering, ungrateful and apathetic genealogy, a synchronized routine as finely practiced as the ones I remember from my childhood, where I orca and dolphin shows. It was pretty standard in the 80s to take excited children to animal parks, foolishly believing that sea animals performing in these shows are at a minimum, well treated and cared for, in a disillusioned but heartfelt attempt at educating their children about sea mammals. Think about it; of course the public believes these amazing creatures are revered and highly respected; they are the performers – no different than Miley Cyrus or Justin Timberlake as children – bringing in billions of dollars in annual revenue for the heartless shareholders; surely they are treated in only the most humane and ethical manner possible. Right?
Think again. There are many legitimate reasons why sea parks are increasingly being called upon by animal rights groups and animal rights loving public alike, to release these sea mammals to oceanside sanctuaries, a cruelty-free and safe alternative to releasing them directly into the open ocean, which they are no longer accustomed to or able to inhabit. So where are they used to living?
Orcas, or killer whales, live in pools no bigger to them than a bathtub, a living space so small and cramped that these beautiful, amazing, and highly intelligent mammals suffer a variety of major problems, such as dorsal fin collapse, a condition which has been found to be directly linked to killer whales being deprived of swimming in the open ocean; orcas in the ocean swim distances of up to 50 miles every day. How far do Orcas and dolphins swim, compared to those in their natural habitat? Sadly, a minimal amount. Being held captive in such undersized spaces is not only unhealthy for orcas but can lead to depression, high levels of anxiety, and even repressed anger–which has led to the deaths of orca trainers at sea parks many times the last few decades. Do you remember the death of Dawn Brancheau, a SeaWorld, Orlando, orca trainer who was literally ripped to shreds in 2010 by the same orca she had trained for fifteen years? An orca which was implicated in the deaths of two other trainers in two decades at two different sea parks, yet continued being held captive.
This orca was obviously expressing great displeasure with its living conditions and surroundings by acting out. Orcas do not attack humans out in the ocean, and why would they? Irrelevant is the fact that they are the deadliest living creature on earth. They are not a threat to humans, anywhere but in sea parks that is.
Another major concern for sea mammals in captivity is the inhumane training methods often employed. One such method is the withholding of food by trainers in order to force the orcas and the dolphins to perform as expected. Although there are federal standards in place governing the minimum amount of food that sea parks are required to give sea mammals on a daily basis. The problem lies in the amount they are typically given, as opposed to what they consume in their natural habitat. Not to mention how they are given dead fish; quite a contrast to their non-captive counterparts.
Let’s discuss dolphins in captivity. Their plight is far more disturbing. It’s common knowledge that dolphins have an amazing and largely misunderstood ability to communicate with each other using sound waves. They are extraordinarily sensitive and receptive to the sound waves they sense while in the ocean. Think of the many loud and disruptive sounds heard at amusement parks: talking, laughing, eating, rough play, performances via loudspeakers, firework shows, screaming, crying children. What happens to these sounds? Well, they continually enter the water tanks and bounce off the edges of the pools, then bounce off the buildings, trash cans, the seating area of each stage; in fact, the sounds reverberate by bouncing off every inanimate object present in an amusement park, causing the dolphins to be in constant discomfort, plagued by irritation and frustration, the never-ending sounds making them crazy. Making these beautiful mammals so agitated and off-balance that they are unable to cope, after which they will do anything to stop the sound waves, even ram their heads into the sides of the pool in an effort to deal with the dizzying sound waves experienced every single day.
I am beyond words as well as disturbed, by the inhumane and unethical conditions experienced by mammals in captivity, particularly orcas and dolphins, at animal parks. I’m saddened that animal rights laws haven’t tightened, or more effectively protected animals from inhumane living conditions which allow sea mammals to be forced from their natural environments – well before they are developed enough to properly survive without their mother. And for what purpose?What benefit is there to sea mammals? What payment are they provided to justify their forced performances? Dead fish? Ever wonder how mammals respond to being fed nonliving fish? Orcas, dolphins, sharks and sea lions can’t properly digest dead food, causing them to regurgitate the dead fish, causing health problems such as ulcers, damage to their stomach lining, weakened teeth caused by corroding from the acid content in regurgitated food.
As an advocate for mammals in captivity by inhumane and cruel sea parks, I want to see the immediate release of these mammals followed by their safe transportation to oceanside sanctuaries, where they can be publicly viewed in their natural environment, improving the quality of life for all sea mammals. Furthermore, animal parks like SeaWorld need to be held accountable for their lawbreaking and unfair labor practices – essentially abuse and neglect – including fair sentencing, taking into account the devastating and long-term effects it has had on mammals.
What possible recourse exists to adequately or fairly compensate the thousands of severely malnourished, emotionally damaged mammals that have to been subjected to these horrors? What is fair to them? Should their accountability include pain and suffering proportional to what they endured? What realistic consequences exist which serve to have equally damaging effects, both acute and chronic, on the physical, emotional and psychological health of countless captors? How can there possibly be a punishment which makes up for all of the unnecessary pain and suffering endured by captive sea mammals by the greedy, selfish sea animals parks, not looking out for the sea mammals at all, but looking out for their pocketbooks>? Sea animal parks should be forced to close their gates permanently. More and more people throughout the world are becoming educated and are educating their children about the dangers, as well as the many problems inflicted, as a result of having sea mammals in sea parks; the more people realize how terrible the conditions are for these creatures, the less visitors there will be to these sea parks. These mammals are much too intelligent and emotionally sophisticated to be forced to inhabit bathtubs and eat dead fish.
I urge you to complete your own research on this serious animal rights issue and to educate your children, family and friends as well. Most importantly, refrain from visiting sea parks of any kind to show your support of the releasing of sea mammals from all sea parks.
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