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SeaWorld's profit from captive animals leads to problems

By Stephen Pelletier
On March 2, 2010

On Feb. 22, Tilikum  the killer whale pulled Dawn Brancheau, an experienced SeaWorld trainer, into the water and held her under long enough to drown her. 

The incident took place in front of a crowd of spectators. Since Brancheau's untimely death, SeaWorld has been taking time to investigate the incident as well as honor their fallen comrade.  But one question remains.  What will happen to Tilikum? Orca whales have a dangerous size and aggressive nature. The real culprit may not be Tilikum, but instead the exploitation of Tilikum and the exploiters themselves, SeaWorld. 

It is hard to blame Tilikum, who has been incarcerated since he was captured in 1983 near Iceland.  It must seem pretty obvious to assume that it would be a pretty traumatic experience for a 12,300 pound whale to be taken out of his natural environment where he could swim up to 100 miles a day.  Tilikum was put in a small pen in Canada where he had a role in a trainer's death. That is when he was transferred to SeaWorld.  Tragedy struck again when a man who had snuck into SeaWorld at night had been found the next day dead on Tilikum's back.  Now, Tilikum has killed an experienced trainer. 

There is no doubt that Tilikum has made quite a bit of money for SeaWorld.  But it is unfortunate that Tilikum has now spent more than 25 years trapped performing for SeaWorld visitors.  Does any animal deserve to be in captivity for so long?  What gives SeaWorld the right to continue to hold their animals captive for such a long period of time?  Many zoos claim that scientific research is the basis for the captivity.  But Tilikum's main job is to splash kids with water and do tricks.  I wouldn't call that science.

SeaWorld is all about the attraction The experience is what they sell and that is how they make a profit.  Regardless of SeaWorld's efforts to promote animal rights, their main goal is to make a profit.  Tilikum is part of SeaWorld's profit-making scheme and that is why they are still not willing to let him go.

He has also produced 17 calves, all of which have also been used as exploited animals throughout the world.  It is completely unethical that SeaWorld continues to use this whale. Not only is this unethical, but in light of recent events and prior incidents, it seems that it would be common sense to let Tilikum go free. 

SeaWorld has a couple of options.  The best option would be to send Tilikum to a coastal sanctuary.  Brazil and Chile are only two countries that have recently developed these sanctuaries for whales and other animals such as Tilikum.  The other option would be to keep him at SeaWorld where he will forever be associated with the accidental death of the trainer as well as continue to be unfairly held for silly purposes. 

Tilikum has spent more than a quarter-century as part of a system of exploited animals that has gone too far, and now has resulted in yet another human life lost.  It is time to put restrictions on this profit-making system.  Whales such as Tilikum should be only allowed to spend up to 10 years at a place like SeaWorld, and then sent back to a wild habitat or a coastal sanctuary.  It is common sense.  People's lives as well as animals' can be helped.  The reality is that some killer whales kill, so let's give them the right to live free and away from humans. 

 


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