This article in Outside Magazine is about as heartbreaking as it is eye-opening. If you have any doubts about freeing Orcas from captivity, you should read it.
Here are some stats from the article:
- There are 42 orcas alive in parks around the world today.
- SeaWorld owns 26 of them.
- Over the years more than 130 orcas have died in captivity.
And this is a particularly horrible description of how Orcas were treated in a low-rent version of SeaWorld — Sealand:
Sealand’s owner, a local entrepreneur named Robert Wright who’d captured his share of Pacific Northwest killer whales in the early 1970s, worried that someone might cut the net to free his orcas, or that they might chew through it themselves. So at 5:30 P.M., after the shows were over, the orcas were moved into a small metal-sided pool that was 26 feet in diameter and less than 20 feet deep. The trainers referred to it as “the module,” and the orcas were left in it for the next 14 and a half hours.
According to Eric Walters, who was a trainer at Sealand from 1987 to 1989 while working toward a bachelor’s degree in marine biology at the University of Victoria, the module was so tight that the orcas had difficulty avoiding conflict, and their skin would get scratches and cuts from rubbing against the sides. About once a week, Walters says, one or more of the orcas would simply refuse to swim into the module and would have to be left in the performance pool overnight.
The orca show was performed every hour on the hour, eight times a day, seven days a week. Both Nootka and Tilikum had stomach ulcers, which had to be treated with medication. Sometimes Nootka’s ulcers were so bad she had blood in her stool.
Imagine spending your life confined in a bathtub; that’s what these animals — some of the most intelligent mammals on this planet — are forced to endure. And even under these circumstances, they perform for us, again and again.
There is the argument often used that children need to see Orcas, that there is some educational component to these shows they put on every day. But I think children would be better served to see them where they live. It’s a lot more educational to see them swimming freely and knowing that they can travel a hundred miles a day. In other words, they need their space.
And, more important, it’s important to know that no orca in the wild has ever killed a human.