“Cut me in half; it says “SeaWorld” all the way through…”

Somebody shared this with me and I just gotta do this…..Obviously I don’t want to…oh, hang on…actually I do…..

     “A Former SeaWorld Employee’s Response to “Blackfish”.”

“I’ve been asked often and recently about my opinions towards this “amazing documentary” that “just came out” on Netflix called “Blackfish”. Having worked for SeaWorld for a few years, people are always curious as to what my opinion is.”

Oh, that’s good. It’s nice to meet open minds…..

 “…have you seen it? What do you think?”

“Yes. I have seen it, multiple times. My opinion of it is this: I completely respect and agree with the underlining message- whales do not belong in captivity… but neither does any other animal (more on that later). I do, however, find the movie’s portrayal of SeaWorld to be horribly offensive and misleading. SeaWorld is not a monster”

This started so well didn’t it? Darn right they and all the others don’t belong in captivity. What a smart cookie you are! Oh, hang on a minute “offensive and misleading”, that doesn’t sound so promising. “SeaWorld is not a monster”, very not promising. The capture protocol of only taking the young ones from their family? Offensive. They utterly disrespected the memory of Dawn Brancheau? Offensive. The monstrous way they ship orca around the US and overseas to suit themselves? Monstrous. The horrendous AI procedure? Offensive AND disrespectful. There is so much more I can add, which is horrible in itself. Anyway, moving forwards…

 “SeaWorld uses animals for entertainment purposes, isnt (sic) this wrong?”

“Thank you, PETA. Yes, SeaWorld is an entertainent based (sic)  industry. People all over the world come to see these marvelous animals up close, eat a churro, and then ride the latest roller coaster.”

PETA? What on earth does PETA have to do with it? PETA are not the only organisation for animal welfare who advocate against using animals for entertainment. For goodness sake!

I am grateful for the insight as to why people from “all over the world” visit SeaWorld. It’s all about entertainment. See the orca up-close, eat some processed crud-inna-bun and then take a white knuckle ride. So much for the “magical bond” these animals are meant to inspire. Sound more like something to do before lunch, just to fill in the time. Not entirely sure I’d want to spend hundreds of my national currency watching one of the most intelligent species on the planet (“up close”, obviously) “entertain” me while the queue at the churro stall gets a bit shorter. Never mind the fact that I’d probably get to see the churro again after the “latest roller coaster” ride….Yeah, that’s what I call a “Grand Day Out”. Not.

“But before you go all animal activist on me, think about what your (sic) saying. Have you ever been to a zoo? Aquarium? Pet store? All of these animals were placed there to entertain, excuse me, educate you. And they dont (sic) quite do it to SeaWorld’s standards (Ill get to this later).”

Sorry, but I AM an animal activist. I don’t think I am the only one here who needs to think about what I am saying. Animals in zoos aren’t there to entertain. Fish in an aquarium generally aren’t there to perform back-flips for the churro-hungry punters. Animals for sale in a pet store have never entertained or educated me. I watched a stick insect for a while and it was the most boring thing I have ever seen. Unless it really was just a stick…

 “…SeaWorld took these whales out of their natural environment”.

“False. The majority of the whales at SeaWorld were born in the park. Yes, a few were captured more than 35 years ago, but that is how animals were acquired those days.”

“A few? A FEW?? Are you pulling my tail-feathers here or what? The SRKW’s are endangered because of SeaWorld’s aggressive attitude towards capture. They took almost an entire generation away from the pods, either by stealing them as they did with Tokitae or killing them and then trying to hide the evidence by filling the dead bodies with rocks and dumping them back into the ocean. Tilikum was captured in November 1983 that’s how many years ago? Hazarding a guess here, but it is LESS than 35 years ago, isn’t it? By about 5 years…..

“And frankly, where do you think the animals at your favorite zoo came from? Contrary to popular belief, these animals are not usually “rescues”.”

Did I already mention I am an animal activist? I don’t have a favourite zoo. Why would I? 

“And to be even more frank, how many of you have a home aquarium??? Where do you think these fish came from? That’s right. They’re captured from their native environment, oftentimes shocked, meanstwhile depleting coral reefs in hopes that these stressed fish might make it to your aquarium, where, lets face it, they usually die.

Not me, Frank. Although I have heard of marine fish farms, but they might just be an urban myth…

…”the tanks the whales are in are like bathtubs”

“Ugh. This one gets to me the most. At least use your own wording! Yes, the exhibits the whales are in are no where close to being the size of the ocean. But they are VASTLY larger than the size of most animal enclosures. True, these animals can swim hundreds of miles a day…. but think about other enclosures. Elephants can walk up to 40 miles a day and yet I rarely see an enclosure larger than 2000 ft.”

OK…you got me. The largest animal needs the largest enclosure, so an orca pen SHOULD be bigger than that for an elephant. Because an orca is bigger. Orca also have this wonderful ability to dive. Elephants, whilst excellent swimmers, don’t need the actual depth to their dry enclosure so that they can dive under the water. That they don’t have. Or need to survive. You really need to see more elephant enclosures.

 “And bird cages? Fish tanks? Why is it that no one is offended by any of this?! It’s okay to put a goldfish in a bowl but not okay to have whales in a 60 million gallon environment? An enclosure that SeaWorld has spent over 70 million dollars to improve?”

Did I already mention I am an animal activist? Why would I put a fish in a bowl? Additionally, this $70 million of which you speak has done what for the orca? A new sound and light system? Lovely, I’m sure they just go crazy over brighter flashier lights and even louder music. Oh, wait didn’t they just install a new rising floor in some of the tanks? Wow, I just know how much more exciting and enriching that must be for the orca….I wonder how much it costs to build a bigger puddle for them to swim in?

 …”these animals are forced to perform shows. They’re slaves.”

“Inaccurate. The whales at SeaWorld are never forced to do shows. They get an alloted amount of restaurant quality food based off of their fitness level, size, and metabolism. And they are fed regardless of if they do a show.”

They get restaurant quality herring? I am clearly patronising the wrong restaurants. I wonder if I still have Gordon Ramsey’s number….he needs to change his menu. “I’ll have whatever Tilikum’s having please waiter”. 

 “…it’s cruel to force these animals to do “tricks”.

“These “tricks” are actually positively reinforced behaviors that the whales have learned through positive interactions and operant conditioning. Studies have shown that learned behaviors like this actually increase an animals mental health prolonging their fitness and increasing quality of life.”

Did we just pull a Christmas cracker and this was the joke that fell out with the paper crown and plastic toy? “Positive reinforcement” or, to put it another way “bribery for food” the food that is necessary for an animal to survive. We know that animals have been starved in the past and had their food with-held as punishment and for an animal as smart as an orca it isn’t going to take very long for them to make the connection. Plus the fact that performing circus tricks “actually increase an animals (sic) mental health” means that the daily cocktail of anti-depressants isn’t really necessary for them then? I wonder if  human suicide rates would drop if we all did a “pec wave” every day…I might be on to something there….

“But whales dont (sic) do flips in the wild”

….and your dog doesnt naturally give you his paw when he wants a treat, but he is capable. Training behaviors like this, once again, encourages mental and physical growth. If the whales were incapable, they wouldnt (sic) do it. 

A dog “giving paw” is generally accepted as meaning that the dog wants attention. Orca don’t “do flips” for the same reason. They do flips because they have been trained to. A dog doesn’t necessarily have to be trained to “give paw”.

“Cant they just stop making the whales do shows?”

“Sure, but there is no positive reprocussion to that. Without enrichment, whales would resort to common boredom behaviors seen in zoos and institutions around the world. Plus, the interations the whales have with the trainers is a form of bonding for the whales. If they suddenly discontinued, the whales would display depression behaviors. I dont know about you, but I am highly against intentional depression.”

 Did I already mention that they are fed anti-depressants? 

“Cant you release them? They’ll be happier”

Look up the story of Keiko, the whale from “Free Willy.” That’s what happens when you release a captive killer whale. They are not equipped to live in the open ocean environment anymore.

I did. Keiko swam 100’s of miles, interacted with wild orca and lived a better, fuller and longer life than he would have in captivity.  That’s what happens when you release a captive killer whale.

“Okay, what about a seapen then? Its bigger and the whales would be interact with their natural environment”

“These whales currently thrive in multi-sourced continually filtered water environment. These means they are never exposed to pathogens, parasites, or heavily contaminated water. Putting them in a sea pen would expose them to a variety of potentially killer organisms. Not only that but they would be exposed to countless amounts of new sights, sounds, and vibrantions, (sic) causing an immense amount of stress.”

The orca live in a chemical stew for the most part. It’s where parasites and pathogens go to die.

“…there is absolutely no benefit to having these poor creatures at SeaWorld.”

“SeaWorld has impacted the lives of over 400 million visitors over the timespan they’ve been in business. That is 400 million people that have been affected by the beauty of not only the killer whales, but of over 6000 species of animals they would not come in contact with on a normal basis.”

…and the benefit to the orca? 

“SeaWorld is not educational”.

“Excuse me? The top leading research done on both killer whales and other cetaceans comes from SeaWorld sponsored research. Most of what we know today about these animals has been learned from animals in captivity.”

Excused. Most of what we know today about these animals comes from hard graft out in the field. Much of it, ironically, comes from J, K and L pods aka the SRKW’s, the orca community decimated by…..You Know Who.

“Cant we learn simply by observing them in the wild?”

Theoretically, sure. But any scientist (or grad student) will tell you how difficult it is to study animals in the wild. You can sit and observe 24 hours a day and only witness about 15 minutes of usable data.

And good luck funding that research. It’s an unfortunate fact that people do not support things that do not benefit them directly. SeaWorld contributes millions upon millions of dollars to variety of conservation programs in the wild, including the Marine Mammal protecion act and Sea Turtle conservation. Finding funding from a private, independent source is unlikely and unreliable.

I can’t believe this nonsense. You want everything on your plate, don’t you? In order to learn and appreciate anything in this life you have to go out there and find it, work for it, otherwise you have learned nothing and appreciate it even less than nothing.

“Okay… well… umm… what about the dorsal fin thing?”

“Dorsal fins are made out of cartilage, a flexible structure that makes up your nose and ears. The size of the dorsal fin is cause by a multitude of things, including genetics. Many of our whales come from a similar bloodline (not crossbred) and therefore have larger dorsal fins.

Although not common in the wild, a whale’s dorsal fin, especially larger ones, may bend. This may be an effect from more surface exposure combined by genetics. There have been no indications that this affects the animals well-being in any way. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes we get droopy body parts too….”

Ok….now I’m confused and a little scared. Does this mean my nose and ears are going to get droopy? Or only if my mom’s does? Or only if I expose the surface? Hard not to though. Unless I wear a burka. I know my boobs might sag…..but this? 

“Why can’t SeaWorld just go to be all educational? Obviously people would respect it more.”

“Nature Centers and educational facilities are amazing ideas and do many great things. Unfortunately, not many people go out of their way to visit them and they can go out of business (Chula Vista Nature Center…anyone?). People, unfortunately, are selfish beings. They want to be entertained, not lectured. So although the conservation message is taught at many of these amazing facilities, they are not affecting as many people as you would think.

SeaWorld’s message is this: to celebrate, connect, and care for the natural world we share through the power of entertainment. People come into the parks with an expectation and leave with an appreciation of marine life they’ve never had before. I cannot begin to tell you how many kids Ive heard say that Shamu changed their life. That they want to stop polluting the ocean. That they want to save the sea turtles. SeaWorld is a memory that they will have forever and oftentimes changes their entire outlook on life.

So, before you boycott SeaWorld, realize that you’re not boycotting the evil corporation “Blackfish” makes it out to be. You’re boycotting Bruce, the 80 year old sea turtle who was rescued not only once, but twice after being shot in the head and left for dead by people who didn’t care. You’re boycotting Iris, the rescued seal who was found stranded and blind and then rereleased, able to see again. You’re boycotting the 650 juvenille sea lions rehabilitated and taught to eat after they were stranded on the Pacific Coast. You’re boycotting the baby emperor pengiuns, just hatched, ensuring the future families of penguins to come. You’re boycotting the hundreds of dogs adopted from shelters thanks to Pets Rule. You’re boycotting the group of high schoolers collecting trash off the shoreline after talking to the veterinary department behind the scenes and seeing the effects of trash in our ocean. “

Because the whole wide world lives in spitting distance of SeaWorld. So people from all over the world don’t visit then? Make up your mind! Of course people travel “out of their way” to visit places. You Americans even have a word for it. “Vacation” I think it is. Anyone who boycotts SeaWorld is generally boycotting because they hold orca captive, have no intention of releasing any and breed them like rabbits for profit. Please don’t even go anywhere near the emotional blackmail with penguins and high-school students thing.

“If you need a summary of what SeaWorld is today, I ask you to look at me as a reflection. To look at the 1500 zoological team members that provide the upmost care to these animals. SeaWorld is one of the worlds most respected zoological facilities, setting the bar for husbandry standards today. We are SeaWorld. We are the people who cant drive by a lost dog on the street. We’re the people who stay awake overnight, waist deep in frigid water carrying a stranded dolphin that wasn’t strong enough to swim. We’re the ones that cry the moment a sea turtle swims off into the ocean water after being hit by a boat. We are the ones whose heart rate accelerates the moment a mother gives birth to a beautiful calf. We’re the ones whose muscles ache after scrubbing oil off of birds trapped after a spill. We’re the ones hand feeding that abandonded baby otter in the wee hours of the night.

So once again, don’t believe everything you see and don’t assume you know everything because a “documentary” tells you so. Educate yourself. SeaWorld is not the enemy, there are bigger evils in the world. We do not go out of our way to torture and “enslave” animals. We love and know more about those animals than “Blackfish” would ever care to let you know. It is because of SeaWorld, and places like them, thst you even care about these animals in the first place. I am very proud to be a part of the SeaWorld family and always will be.”

I hate to break it to you, but you don’t have the monopoly on caring. No-kill rescue centres can’t drive by a lost dog either. Respected marine mammal NPO’s spend hours of their own time and buckets of their own dimes rescuing and rehabbing dolphins for release. They do it with turtles too, because they just can’t stop giving back to nature. Oh, yeah and oil-spill casualties too. They just don’t know how to say no.

Now then, let’s get to the nitty gritty. I stand up and advocate peace and freedom for captive animals of all kinds, as I think has been made abundantly clear. Dolphins are extra-special. But here’s the real left hook for you. I HAVE NEVER SEEN ONE. It is because of naturalists and scientists and books and TV and my own research that I care about these animals. Hell, we don’t even keep them captive in my country!

If SeaWorld is so wonderful and you are so proud to be a part of the “SeaWorld family” why are you an EX-employee?

There. I did it.



2 responses to ““Cut me in half; it says “SeaWorld” all the way through…”

  1. Sorry, I don’t debate with people who can’t refrain from name-calling.
    Guess that what happens when you are, what did you call me….oh yes, “a close-minded ass”. Your maturity just oozes from from every word……not.

  2. Just wanted to let you know, that you’re a closed-minded ass. 🙂 I respect SeaWorld’s decision to keep Dawn’s death private. She was a loved part of Orlando’s family, and how dare YOU mock it.

    The practice of “filling the orcas with rocks” was not to hide the bodies as you say. Its so that other boats and scavangers didnt get hit while their carcasses were on the surface. Idiot.

    The whales get a variety of fish including herring, mackeral, salmon, bonita, ladyfish, and squid. Do your research.

    Postive Reinforcement isnt just food related. Google a seaworld training session. And antidepressants? Please direct me to a link that shows me this. That pharmaceutical company must be reeling in the dough.

    I’m sure the author used an example of a “dog” because it was the most relatable. There are thousands upon thousands of journal articles that demonstrate the benefits of training animals.

    You can sit on that high horse of yours all day, but the truth of the matter is that people are selfish beings. They only care about what they are taught to care about. So although there are few people like who can care about something without ever seeing it, most people wouldnt give too shits without SeaWorld. Just like people dont give two shits about the situation in Africa. Or Russia. Or the melting ice caps. Or the hundreds of marine animals that go extinct every day.

    Also, finally, just because someone leaves a place doesnt mean it’s for a negative purpose (how about some optimism here?) I left college and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

    If you would stop being so blind and be willing to be communicated with (instead of being so defensive) maybe the rest of the world would join you in this “advocacy”. Until then, enjoy your bubble.

    Oh, one last thing. Florida recently banned manatees from being displayed outside of their native state, and many were released back into the ocean. In the year 2013, over 30% of the national manatee population died and they continually decline due to pollution in their environment and being killed by humans driving boats. That’s what happens when you take animals out of captivity.

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