A Cynic’s View of Sea World
I’m pretty sure that uneasy feeling I got started when I saw a majestic, white-as-the-driven-snow beluga whale being ridden by a trainer.
That beast of the sea tamed and emasculated ridden like a mule. This bipedal human as comfy and cozy in the whale’s domain as if she were a sea mammal herself.
As my day at Sea World wore on, the feeling that things were not right grew. Maybe it was the half-dozen dolphins jumping on top of each other to eat small fish from our hands … after, of course, they got close enough to pet.
It was possibly seeing the orcas doing flips out of the water and splashing spectators with walls of disgusting faux sea water with their tails.
It might have been the barely existent educational programs and materials.
After the second lap by the beluga, however, I felt guilty. It didn’t feel right and I really wanted A) one of the sea mammals to purposefully drown a trainer (which I feel is a mere job risk) or B) to go all Free Willy. (By the way, has that movie ever been broached between Michael Madsen and all his Quentin Tarantino buddies? I wouldn’t care about the paycheck. If I were Madsen, I would have turned it down. Principles.)
A buddy summed it up well. Zoo animals are spectacles, but there is ample education going on. Plus, if a lion wants to sleep all day, he sleeps. If he wants to mess around on the rocks, he messes around on the rocks. There’s no trainers, no tricks, no splashdowns. It’s you and a lazy-ass lion.
Furthermore, I urge you to read up on orcas in captivity. Much to my surprise there is no “Shamu.” There was one 25 years ago and he/she died. Every Sea World has a stable of orcas and they perform as part of the “Shamu” show but each has his or her own names.
The list of orcas to die in captivity and the amount of stillbirths is alarming. Maybe this is the same rate as the wild. Maybe not.
Why are we OK with this?
I’m as much of a left-leaning tree hugger as I am a shoot-a-socialist-first-ask-questions-later right-winger. I am proud to sit snug in the middle (as you all do … you just don’t want to admit it).
I’m pro-zoo. Anti-Sea World.
For one, the Sea World you might have known as a kid has changed. It’s far more amusement park than staging for future marine biologists. (How many friends growing up did you know that wanted to be a marine biologist? I can count six off the top of my head.)
If it looks like an amusement park, then sea lions acting in a fish caper skit make sense.
I think the main reason is largely sub-conscious: The animals look like they’re having fun.
The structures of marine mammal mouths make it look like their smiling. Dolphins. Orcas. Sea lions. The “Shamu” performers roam around the giant pool splashing crowds with those mischievous smiles. We see their smiles and we assume their having a good time.
I would like to place a disclaimer here: I’m sure Sea World’s research/educational programs are superb and that they take in animals that, for one reason or another, couldn’t survive in the wild. And I have no doubt that the trainers love the crap out of those animals.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but think there was a better, freer destiny for these dumb animals.
– Mad Dad