The LGBT community must unite against SeaWorld’s oppressionBottom Highlights, Politically Aware Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
As a member of the LGBT community, I found it disturbing that Nicole Murray-Ramirez would try to persuade us – a group that knows all too well the pain and frustration of being denied rights – to support SeaWorld, a corporation that deprives orcas and other animals of their fundamental rights as well as everything that is natural and important to them.
Captive orcas and dolphins are not given the opportunity to make a single decision about their own lives. They can’t explore new and interesting places, interact with members of a pod, enjoy the bonds of a family hierarchy or even choose their own mate. Confined to cramped tanks and forced to perform demeaning tricks in front of screaming crowds, it’s no wonder that most captive marine mammals become depressed, anxious and neurotic.
A PETA Foundation veterinarian recently visited SeaWorld’s facilities in San Diego, San Antonio and Orlando and documented that the animals held captive in these facilities float listlessly and are so stressed out that they’ve destroyed their teeth by chewing on the sides and bars of the tanks. Their bodies are riddled with scars and lesions that are likely the result of attacking one another out of frustration. In the ocean, orcas can swim away from aggressive encounters, but those trapped in SeaWorld’s tanks are unable to escape. I can’t imagine the terror of having no way to escape from a tormentor.
SeaWorld spends only a paltry 1 percent of its annual profit on studying orcas in the wild, but it doesn’t take a special study to realize that no tank would ever be adequate. In the vast ocean where they belong, orcas dive deep and swim up to 100 miles a day, often at high speeds. Even in SeaWorld’s planned “expanded” tanks, orcas would have to swim more than 1,500 laps each day to do the same.
All captive adult male orcas, along with some adult females, have collapsed dorsal fins – an aberration that almost never occurs in the wild. If given the choice, orcas usually remain in their extended family pods for life, but SeaWorld routinely separates terrified offspring from their distraught mothers and ships them off to other parks. Former trainers describe these separations and the cries of the anguished orcas as gut-wrenching.
After seeing how SeaWorld mistreats animals, many trainers have quit in disgust and even spoken out against the company, which seems to care as little about the safety and well-being of its employees as it does about the orcas it exploits.
Even after experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by Tilikum the orca, the company fought hard to keep trainers in the water with the animals. A top executive at The Blackstone Group, SeaWorld’s largest shareholder at the time, even tried to blame Brancheau – who by all accounts was dedicated to her job and extremely competent – for making mistakes that caused her own death.
SeaWorld was cited and fined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for exposing employees to life-threatening hazards. According to one OSHA official, “SeaWorld recognized the inherent risk of allowing trainers to interact with potentially dangerous animals. Nonetheless, it required its employees to work within the pool walls, on ledges, and on shelves where they were subject to dangerous behavior by the animals.”
Everyone deserves the right to pursue what makes them happy. But the orcas, dolphins and other animals trapped in SeaWorld’s tanks never enjoy such freedom. As a community that has struggled long and hard to overcome oppression and disrespect – the very things that the captive animals at SeaWorld are constantly subjected to – how could any of us ever feel that SeaWorld is worthy of our support?
Gray Caskey is a senior director at PETA.
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