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SeaWorld’s cancellation of orca breeding program makes history

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SeaWorld’s cancellation of orca breeding program makes history

It's not such a fun show to watch once you realize the pain of the creatures performing.

It's not such a fun show to watch once you realize the pain of the creatures performing.

Leea Ivanel

It's not such a fun show to watch once you realize the pain of the creatures performing.

Leea Ivanel

Leea Ivanel

It's not such a fun show to watch once you realize the pain of the creatures performing.

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“Empty the tanks!”

“SeaWorld is SlaveWorld!”

The cries of animal rights activists have been strong for decades, and they have finally been heard.

On March 17, SeaWorld announced the cancellation of its orca breeding program, making this generation of orcas the last to live in captivity at the parks.

SeaWorld’s orca breeding program started almost 40 years ago, but not before capturing  five younglings from Puget Sound, Wash. and separating them from their mothers. When all of the orcas died prematurely due to stress and poor conditions, Washington sued SeaWorld in 1976 and won the case. 

Wallie Funk
In 1970, a pod of orca whales were held captive in Penn Cove, Wash. Several of them were captured, including five younglings that would spend the last years of their lives in SeaWorld.

With the capturing of wild orcas outlawed, SeaWorld had to turn to other means — breeding the orcas in captivity. As it turns out, this program differed little in cruelty from the capturing of the whales.

“Whales were becoming baby machines for profit. Inbreeding started becoming common: SeaWorld had a male, Taku, who bred with his own mother, Katina, resulting in the birth of a calf named Nalani. They also cross-bred the orcas, making hybrid species,” said John Hargrove, one of SeaWorld’s past employees, who quit after 12 years of being an orca trainer.

The horrors of the breeding program do not stop there. According to Hargrove, the calves are often separated from their mothers and shipped off to other parks when they are as young as 20 months old. In the wild, orcas spend their entire lives traveling the seas with their families, making SeaWorld’s separation of whale families all the more cruel.

The way that SeaWorld was breeding orcas is just one part of what makes their orca program truly unethical.

SeaWorld’s parks currently house 23 orcas, all of which are kept in tanks much too small for creatures their size. For example, Tilikum, the largest orca in captivity, lives in only 0.0001 percent of the quantity of water that he would travel in a single day in nature.

However, if it were not for SeaWorld’s mistreatment of the whales, they would actually have many more than 23 orcas. As of 2014, 37 orcas have died in captivity at SeaWorld, many of them prematurely, at an average of 13 years old. Orcas live an average of 50 years in the wild, and can even reach 100.

Despite all the years of abuse, SeaWorld continues to defend its orca program, arguing that the orcas have helped inspire over 400 million guests to see them as the fascinating creatures they are.

SeaWorld was one of the first places I visited when I moved to America in 2010, and seeing the orcas was like a dream come true. They were big, powerful, intelligent, and utterly breathtaking. Tilikum, up to that point, was the biggest creature I had ever seen.

DSC00605

Vlad Cardei
I was quite entranced to see the orcas at SeaWorld back in 2010. However, when I look back on those memories, I feel nothing but sadness and anger. The whales were kept in small tanks and circled around aimlessly in boredom, obviously in distress due to the massive amount of people.

SeaWorld achieved its goal of inspiring me to love these creatures. Ironically, that is exactly why I believe that SeaWorld is a marine park that is ultimately harming these beings for the sake of profit, keeping them in small tanks and forcing them to entertain their guests, causing them to suffer from devastating health issues and live under constant stress.

Plus, the happiness and dreams of a 10-year-old are not worth the lives and misery of another being that should be free in the wild instead of in an iron-barred tank.

Overall, it is wonderful news that this generation of orcas will be the last to ever live in the cruel and inhumane conditions that the park’s 23 whales are currently enduring. However, these remaining orcas will spend the rest of their lives in the park, as they most likely cannot be released into the wild.

There must be something done to make the lives of these remaining 23 orcas as comfortable as possible.

Changes must be made to better accommodate them such as bigger tanks, netted-off coves, and the termination of shows for the sake of the entertainment.

For all the money that the orcas have made SeaWorld over the past 50 years, it is time for SeaWorld to give something back to them.

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About the Contributor
Leea Ivanel, Staff Writer

Leea Ivanel is a senior from Romania; she likes writing, debates, small fluffy creatures, art, and getting enough sleep (which never happens). I'm Scot...

2 Comments

2 Responses to “SeaWorld’s cancellation of orca breeding program makes history”

  1. Charlene on April 23rd, 2016 10:49 am

    For anyone reading this and don’t no what is going on please watch BlackFish and The Cove then you will understand why no one should ever visit SeaWorld “SLAVEWORLD” or any parks that keep poor animals as slaves to make loads of money because let’s face it if there was no money in it they wouldn’t do it would they they don’t keep them out of kindness just money could you imagine been ripped away from you child or mother or dad or watch them be kill infront of you please take a second to imagine the worst thing in life that’s what these poor animals have to go through daliy my heart just brakes

  2. Stephen adamo on April 25th, 2016 9:42 am

    I question the position that these remaining 23 can’t be released. They are smart, adaptable and can defend themselves. Even if they perish is it not better to do so free. Free the 23 !!

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SeaWorld’s cancellation of orca breeding program makes history