Empty the Tanks | Teen Ink

Empty the Tanks

April 1, 2015
By woodland GOLD, Los Osos, California
woodland GOLD, Los Osos, California
14 articles 9 photos 3 comments

SeaWorld should be banned from keeping whales and large sea mammals in captivity. Every day, hordes of tourists flock to the aquarium turned theme park. Children gape in wonder at the giant killer whales, jumping in perfect arcs, following exuberant animal trainers. However, organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and movies such as Blackfish have exposed the scary but true side of the popular park into public attention.

Children adore the named whales, and love to learn about the magnificent creatures. However, the way SeaWorld keeps their whales causes them to develop violent behavior and aggression towards trainers. Several trainers have been killed by the whales. You may say this is normal for an orca whale. After all, their nicknames are “killer whales,” right? Well, that’s not quite the case. According to an article written in 2010 on Livescience.com, at that time there were no reported deaths of humans caused by wild orca whales. The whales at SeaWorld have a long record of biting, ramming and endangering their trainers. According to news reports by CNN, video footage, and autopsy reports; one trainer named Dawn Brancheau was killed by her trainee, Tilikum, who remains at SeaWorld. The whale grabbed hold of her ponytail and dragged her under the water, drowning her.

After many accusations for mistreating their animals, SeaWorld released entire new pages of their website talking about how much they care for their animals. Some people may be content with what they have told the public, but they haven’t taken into account what SeaWorld won't disclose to them. Scouring the official website for the exact dimensions of an orca’s tank results in finding that they have not released a statement saying the measurements. Contacting SeaWorld through their “ask us questions” email address yields no response. Orca whales are huge, usually 32 feet long, and weigh around 18,000 pounds according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An orca whale usually swims around 100 miles daily. A creature that big should not be in a tank, no matter what SeaWorld says.

Looking at a picture of some SeaWorld orcas, it is apparent that the dorsal fin has collapsed. Many people listen to SeaWorld’s claims that this is normal. Yet according to many sources, including globalanimals.org, dorsal fin collapse has been observed in less than one percent of wild orcas. A wild orca often swims far and fast in deep water. The water puts pressure on the fin, keeping the tissue inside healthy, and causing the dorsal fin to stay straight. This collapse can be caused by dehydration, stress, and swimming in the same direction for too long, according to Jennifer Kennedy, a marine mammal expert. SeaWorld has been accused for lying in released documents as they have stated that the dorsal fin collapse is natural. People should know that this condition is not regular, and is a sign of a mistreated animal.

Despite all the above, some may insist that SeaWorld is still a good corporation and is saving the orcas. SeaWorld says they have donated over 10 million dollars to save the animals since 2003. Still, SeaWorld owns and is affiliated with  many parks and companies not related to protecting animals or marine life. A water park open in San Diego holds captive flamingos and turtles, but other than that has no connection to marine biology, and uses the money for who knows what. In an interview with National Geographic, a former orca trainer, Bridgette Pirtle, tells, “It was disappointing to me to see more money spent on parts of the park that didn't benefit the animals. They'd spend millions of dollars renovating a children's play area or revamping the sound system.” If SeaWorld really cared, wouldn’t they mainly be caring for the animals that they hold in captivity?
No matter what an individual says, there will still be a ton of people who claim that SeaWorld is completely ethical. They haven’t captured a wild orca in 35 years, and support the family bonds in orca pods. If that is true, why do they continue to breed the animals and keep them in captivity? They do not need more whales trapped in their tiny pools. They already have 30 whales in various parks, according to their website. With less than 50,000 wild whales, orcas are considered endangered species and are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, (Information from Defenders of Wildlife website) which approves the conditions in which SeaWorld keeps the whales. On the website, SeaWorld says that if the whales aren't in tanks, people will pay for whale watching boats to come up close to the whales which may imperil the whales. Instead of solving this by keeping the whales confined, why can’t they spend their money preventing the killing and endangering of the whales? This can be compared to an overprotective pet owner. If a person were to buy a dog, but never let it play with other dogs, and keep it confined in a house, then of course the dog would be out of harms way. However, the dog would be unhappy. Though the whales in confinement aren’t being attacked, they are not as happy or healthy as the ones in the wild.

SeaWorld claims that they are saving the animals by giving large amounts of money towards protecting orca whales, but in reality have no need to keep the whales captive. Whales should not be a source of entertainment for people. If we really cared for the animals, we should be helping protect them so they can stay wild. Saving the whales means letting them remain in the ocean, swimming freely and hunting with the large pods they form close bonds with. By smothering the once aquarium in rides and overpriced merchandise, SeaWorld is receiving the 2 things all corporations want- money and supporters. If SeaWorld is prohibited from keeping whales captive, all animal lovers can be happy knowing no more whales must spend their days performing unnatural tricks for our amusement. With the emptying of the tanks will come more support for the wild whales, and an amazing leap in the equal treatment of animals.

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