Saturday, April 11, 2015

SeaWorld: From a glamorous fantasy to the dark reality.

This was originally written March 30, 2015.

I live on the Space Coast of Florida. I'm on the east coast and what some consider Central Florida, which is the surrounding area of Orlando.

Captivity never made much sense to me, but I didn't give it much thought until a friend enlighten and educated me. At that point, I was reminded about The Cove and started following Ric O'Barry. When I found out that the Sea Shepard's Cove Guardians were actually on the ground in Taiji and actually Live Streaming during the six month drive hunt, I was glued to them. I couldn't believe this was still going on after all these years! As many of you who follow me know, I was watching the live streams on my cell phone, sometimes very late at night and in bed, and posting 'red cove' and 'blue cove' days. I have to tell you, I don't know how these people do it day after day for six months, but I have the utmost respect for them... I was going a little bit crazy by the end of the 2014-2015 season.

I am still in the process of reading Death At SeaWorld by David Kirby. I am learning a lot about the wild orcas... and maybe I haven't read enough yet.

Although I do not outwardly support captivity by going to circuses, zoos, SeaWorld or Marineland, I've always wondered. Yes I have gone, but I don't any more and I have discouraged others from going.

I have always wondered especially about SeaWorld. Could they really be that bad? After all, living in Florida, they are practically rammed down your throat as to all the good they do as far as rescue and release. On the other hand, living in Florida, why would I need to go to SeaWorld to see marine mammals in captivity when I can drive 5 minutes (for free) and see wild dolphins frolic in the water? I have sat at the waters edge, in pure amazement and joy, and watched a mother swim with her baby, watched a dolphin chase a group of fish against the sea wall and jump to catch one trying to get away and just swim free.

I can drive 5 or 10 minutes and watch manatee families stick their noses out of the water and lift their heads to look at you looking at them. I've sat and watched mother and babies side by side eat the vegetation on a quiet day. I've seen big ones just hanging out and not as big ones slowly move around.

To me, these are the enjoyable and unforgettable moments with nature... not the blaring music of “let me entertain you” show of dolphins and orcas behaving unnatural. There is something to be said about being one with nature.

So anyway, back to “it can't be that bad”. Yes it can and it is.

I was living in Florida when Dawn was killed by Tilikum. It was horrible news. But once again, our local news accepted SeaWorld's explanation of the pony tail and to me, it was kept pretty much brushed under the carpet. Instead of 50 Years of Caring, SeaWorld should do something about the 50 Years of Lies... some outright lies, half lies, lies by omission and some even pants on fire! They even were caught in lies in court after Dawn's death, about her death and other incidents.

Yes, I watched Blackfish. To me, it was the story, a very sad story about a whale, who like others was ripped from the sea to become a circus freak and sperm bank. Anyone that knows anything about breeding any kind of animal will tell you his sperm is not the sperm you want to use repeatedly for your gene pool. I guess after 50 years of research and education, SeaWorld didn't learn that in biology yet.

So although I continue to follow postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, things have been kind of quiet. Until one day, SeaWorld starts making a camotion with #AskSeaWorld, You Ask, We Will Answer campaign. {I did ask, they haven't answered.} I found it odd that they started this campaign at this time because I actually thought they would be waiting for any changes for when their new CEO starts in April... BUT oh my goodness... a book is being released! Not a book by SeaWorld (although I wish they would, but they won't) but by an ex-Ocra trainer!!

BENEATH THE SURFACE THE WHALES, SEAWORLD, AND THE TRUTH BEYOND BLACKFISH by John Hargrove was released on March 24th, 2015. When I went to to pre-order my copy, I was totally amazed at the negative comments already made for a book yet to be released. Sometimes this is a good sign that the book is about to make some pretty big waves! And it has. Can SeaWorld be that bad? YES it can!

I can understand John's desire to be a trainer. I grew up watching Flipper and always wanted to swim with the dolphins but instead I get just as much pleasure watching them swim in the wild and play and forge for fish. Some boys want to be firemen, John wanted to be an orca trainer. It's fine when you are in your 20's and 30's but the hazards of the job catch up with you, the older you get, and I am sure never one is ever really explained that to you at entry level. I don't know about you but most 20 year olds tend to think they are pretty much invincible. In both cases, you pray and are lucky to get out alive.

There is something to be said about loving your job. To be able to wake up every morning and go to a place where you know you are good at it, enjoy being there and enjoy doing what your doing. While you are doing it, you can block out any negativity around you for awhile... but compound it with injuries that are less forgiving and a realization that some policies aren't cutting it anymore, it becomes time to leave.

John didn't have a pet during those years. It made sense. With the crazy hours he kept, the traveling, it made sense BUT his pets were the orcas he worked with day in and day out. I understand the sense of loss he felt leaving them behind. A few years back, I had to give up my dog who had rescued me, traveled with me and started a new life here in Florida together. I understand the hole you have not seeing them again.

I was appalled at the rate of pay trainers received to work with these beings. I made that much in a career of retail and know others who made more. These under-paid trainers were the ones who were to control the orcas so veterinarians could preform exams on the orcas and you know the veterinarians made more.

Through John's daily experiences and insight into the world of captive orcas, you see that things inside this world are not as they seem.
  • A company that holds threats over your head of not only a job,but of the welfare of its orcas in your care, has something very wrong with their corporate mentality.
  • To continue to isolate orcas and keep them in pools that are undeniably too small, day after day, year after year, is nothing more than animal cruelty.
  • To deprive them of fish?! Abuse!
  • To shuffle ocras by airplanes across country and around the world is unnecessary stress. If you don't need that whale at the park why are you still breeding????
I have to say, I loved Jon Stewart's question to John Hargrove on the Daily Show. When discussing calves being taken away from their mothers, Jon asked, well, couldn't they be studying abroad?

This became longer than I expected. I just want you to know that I highly recommend BENEATH THE SURFACE by John Hargrove. I appreciate reading what it's like under the canopy of the fantasy and have learned a lot. I have a new found respect for the trainers, the captives but not SeaWorld. I don't believe, after 50years, SeaWorld has done anything right for their trainers or whales, and all it other captive animals.

New York Times Best Sellers List- Gold Seal

I believe Maya Angelou when she says when you know better, you do better.

1 comment:

  1. Just now reading this. The saddest day of my life was when I learned and realized everyone does not automatically do the right thing. Facing the cruelty in humans is a painful thing to do. (And daily fighting against the potential inside our self is at times difficult. But strive we must.) We want to be able to take for granted that owners and caretakers of captive animals "care". But then, many humans treat other humans worse than animals... so in the end it's a silly assumption. Sad state we are in for sure.


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