I believe there is a misconception, or misunderstanding, about cetacean advocates' relationship with SeaWorld. We do not single out SeaWorld specifically. Every institution that holds cetaceans in captivity is held to the same scrutiny. This is not a witch hunt ot a smear campaign of the SeaWorld staff. Rather, it is a call to open our eyes as a society to what many have known for some time: that cetaceans are not suitable for captivity. Our harsh attitude toward SeaWorld and other dolphinariums is not ill will towards the trainers themselves. I do believe they do everything they can for the animals in their care. The problem lies in that no amount of care will be enough. We cannot give these animals what they require to thrive. Survive they mostly can, but at this juncture it is becoming more and more evident these marine mammals are not thriving (see links at the end of this post for more information on the specific problems inherent in captvity).
My journey to this revelation began at birth. Always shy, I sought companionship with non-human animals, and it was through this experience that I began to see the intelligence and the emotional ability of all animals. At the age of sixteen I made the leap to forgo consuming meat. Growing up in a small town in south Louisiana, this was not a 'normal' decision. Many were not respectful of my decision, but almost ten years later I remain a vegetarian embarking on the journey to veganism. This all to explain how I became sensitive to the possibility that we are not as intelligent a species as we would like to think. True intelligence is more than the ability to use tools or colonize the Earth. It is also the ability to be cognisant of the other beings with which we share this planet. Consider for a moment that there have been no reported Orca attacks on humans in the wild. Dr. Ingrid Visser frequently swims with them off the coast of New Zealand. The same record of peace cannot be said of our species. There are numerous accounts of wild dolphins coming to the aid of humans and we repay their friendship by taking them from their rightful homes to live in concrete enclosures. We teach them to perform tricks in return for dead fish in a one-way interchange. There are many things we can learn from cetaceans, and few things in captivity.
It is with all of this in mind that I present my visual account the 2014 Empty the Tanks protest at SeaWorld Orlando.
Read THIS PBS interview of Dr. Naomi Rose on cetacean captivity to understand a bit more about the psychological and physiological effects of captivity.
The Oceanic Preservation Society has written this press release on captivty as well.