Thursday, August 1, 2013

Should SeaWorld be Shut Down? Animal Rights in Full Swing.

Recently I have written an article entitled The Stupidity of the Blackfish Trailer: Anti-Seaworld Documentary. Excuse the hyperbole of that description, but I have been following anti-cetacean captivity sentiment and the resulting arguments since last summer, and certain aspects of it cause me certain distress. Now, I didn’t expect this article to make an impression, no, I presumed it would die a swift death view-wise with maybe one share from one of my few followers on Hubpages which would garner it some limited attention with pro zoo-minded individuals. Instead, however, this thing has become my most viewed article by far. I’ve gotten some praise, but the response was mostly overwhelmingly negative. Many posts called me an idiot, ignorant, and I even got one racist comment referencing the film’s title. Amusing stuff.


Regardless, SeaWorld is amassing heaps of negative backlash these days. Seaworld is mostly attempting to ignore its hellish July, including the release of the well-reviewed documentary Blackfish, two controversial Youtube videos showing alleged neglect of beached dolphins, and sold out copies of David Kirby’s Death at Seaworld on Amazon UK. Many animal rights activists are jumping for joy.


Now let me be clear on one particular thing. Being against the captivity of orca whales in no way inherently makes a person a supporter of animal rights, and by animals rights I mean animal liberation, which is an end to the use of animals for any form of human benefit. There are irrefutable issues that captive killer whales face which I consistently acknowledge, such as in this article (regardless of the title). I believe that social strife is the biggest issue with captive orcas, and the relatively small tanks exacerbate the problem (oracs unable to flee or resolve conflict). This is something that we can easily offer most land animals in zoos.


Britt Reints CC BY 2.0


I have spoken to many zoo supporters (and zoo workers even) who expressed that orca whales do not belong in captivity because they are simply too large for us to accommodate.


Completely fair observation. But.


The captivity of killer whales being such a hot button issue opens the door for more severe animals rights movements to push their philosophies and future plans such as the Non-Human Rights Movement, a movement that is being promoted to legislators by individuals like Dr. Lori Marino, who constantly shows up in anti-captivity documentaries and news stories to pretend she is merely an objective, well-respected neurologist.


 It is amazing how killer whale captivity can make people unwittingly profess validity to pure animal rights ideology.


Take for instance, the viral video posted by Youtube user Carlo De Leonibus. He claims to be a recent ex-Seaworld supporter after his trip to the aquatic zoo for his daughter’s birthday left him witness to a distressed, beached, pilot whale (of which an anti-captivity ex-Seaworld worker has said was “in no physical danger) that did not receive assistance for 30 minutes. This user is now actively advertising for anti-Seaworld efforts such as Death at Seaworld and The Cove, and appears to have morphed full swing into an anti-captivity activist like a perfect fantasy for people of this mindset. His video is now on an ‘approved comment’ setting (a recommendation from PETA and the HSUS?).


One particular thing caught my eye. On PETA’s video of another dolphin lying on the ground, this user made this comment:

“This is so sad. I am glad you guys got this video and posted. Another reason why animals do not belong in captivity.


Now animals do not belong in captivity? Animals, not just orcas, dolphins, and cetaceans. I don’t believe this was a slip of the keyboard. To be frank, I’m highly suspicious of the convenience that this scenario provides for animal rights efforts, but I’m evidenceless, so I’m not getting into that.


Based on what I’m seeing, activists have turned a once ‘ignorant’ SeaWorld customer into a full-fledged animal rights supporter who is now praising PETA and pushing anti-captivity rhetoric to the public. The fact simply remains that many animals thrive in captivity, and others do reasonably well, regardless of not having ‘freedom’. I can easily cite (and I frequently do) the many conflicts of the universally accepted captivity of animals like dogs and existence of any animal, including those in nature, is 100% rosy. 


Sue Talbert (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Animal captivity, whether it is pets or zoos, is not a simplistic subject by any means. Does an unexplained video of a dolphin lying on the ground ‘prove’ that no animals should be in human care? That logic is not valid.

Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has said that she doesn’t want SeaWorld to be shut down, but that she wants it to change. If she is being honest, I agree (as long as these changes don’t include converting SeaWorld into a museum with non-live animals). But her film (and other sources) seems to be promoting anti-captivity rhetoric that is damaging, misleading, and overtly, and perhaps intentionally, simplistic. 

People need to not lose sight of exactly what we’re dealing with here due to the captivity of 45 animals. They are certainly not the only animals whose welfare needs addressing, yet such issues can be considered without caving to animal rights ideology (this is why I chose to comment on the trailer). In addition, SeaWorld should be more forward with some of their inevitable non-successes…all zoos have them. The captivity of orca whales is a little over 50 years old, and we have yet to see what the future will bring.

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