Life can be challenging. Having role models to inspire us can help. A while back I did a blog series on inspiration. One of my featured role models, who radiates the trait of endurance, is Tilikum. Tilikum is the orca who inspired the award winning documentary, Blackfish, and resides at Seaworld.
When news broke a few days ago of Seaworld’s decision to end their captive orca-breeding program, I was overjoyed and deeply saddened at the same time. Tilikum is a hero-his story changed the way many of us viewed having animals captive for our amusement. He himself, however, will most likely never return to the sea as he reportedly has an antibiotic resistant infection and failing health.
So, is it time now to return to Seaworld? I say, “Yes”. Yes?! Some of you may be saying. Yes, in my opinion and I will share with you why. But first, let me fully disclose that after Seaworld’s announcement I made a small investment in Seaworld’s stock (Note: I have sold these shares as of June, see below why). I did this for several reasons. First, I believe people will return to the park and caring for the animals there is not cheap. Second, it gives me a voting stake in their company; a strategy Catholic nuns have long been using to forge social changes. Third, if indeed there is a profit, I can donate to a cetacean welfare cause.
So, back to why to return to Seaworld. As Dr. Chris Parsons wrote in Southern Fried Science’s blog, Seaworld will also be instituting several other changes including focusing more on rescue and rehabilitation of animals, food courts that serve only food from sustainable sources and more vegan and vegetarian options (I hope they also use plastic free serving items), and a list of other initiatives. Seaworld is partnering with the Humane Society, who I believe will help keep them honest and further their humane thinking and strategy going forward.
Seaworld is also an iconic global brand. Brands like this can yield great influence and spur change. As I wrote in a much earlier blog, Seaworld actually has a great opportunity to grow and help heal our environment, something all of us living beings greatly need right now.
We need Seaworld to succeed and flourish in the wake of their announcement because Russia and Asia have followed in Seaworld’s captive footsteps at an alarming rate. They are actively kidnapping orcas, whales and dolphins from the wild and using them for profitable entertainment. Hopefully, Seaworld will somehow engage with these countries and stop this practice.
Is Seaworld exactly where most people would like to see it? No, but it is a big step in a much better direction. In time maybe they will apply their new orca guidelines to the other cetaceans in their care. Perhaps they will take another look at the possibility of releasing or transferring some of the whales and dolphins to the sea or sea pens. After all, as Dorothy so wisely concluded in The Wizard Of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”
Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comment section below. Will you go to Seaworld?
Susan's novels weave issues that affect whales and dolphins. They are available on most online book retail stores.
Update: I later sold my shares in Seaworld for a few reasons. One: After seeing orca, Morgan, breach herself repeatedly on a platform at a Seaworld owned park and cetacean experts reporting this was a move to escape bullying that was occurring in her tank, I watched to see Seaworld's response. Unfortunately, Seaworld claimed this is normal behavior. Two: Seaworld's refusal to consult with experts trusted by the public is a real problem, in my opinion. This also is the issue when it comes to the new Whale Sanctuary initiative created by scientists who were featured in the movie, Blackfish. Again, Seaworld, thus far, refuses to acknowledge sea pens as an option for their captive cetaceans. Since Peta is already a shareholder and proposing that Seaworld consider the sea pen option, I have decided to focus my time and effort on plastic. Three: Plastic is one of many issues threatening our oceans and cetaceans.
Seaworld, does seem to be moving in a better direction as evidenced by their tweets including the issue of marine debris and a recent statement that they are looking at new technology to replace keeping animals captive. I hope, however, they will at least discuss a trial release of some of the cetaceans in their care to sea pens.