California Proposed Bill: An end to cetacean circuses?

There’s been quite the buzz around the
cetacean scene lately; OSHA denying Sea World’s appeal for trainers
to return to water work, the International Court of Justice declaring
that Japan’s “scientific whaling” is no longer authorized in the
Southern Ocean, and legislation in California is seeking to ban the
captivity of orcas for entertainment purposes.
This bill(AB2140), which was proposed
by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, is aimed at ending the use of orcas for
entertainment, specifically at the Sea World park in San Diego and,
if passed, Sea World’s famous killer whale shows would come to an
end. Although voting has been postponed until 2015 as the committees
involved take a step back to learn more, the “educational” whale
circuses could very well be tanked(pun intended). In California at
Sea World lobbyist, Scott Wetch,
implied that if the bill were to be enacted, the whales would be
moved to different locations outside of California, not released into
sea pens. Wetch seems to be under the impression that release into
sea pens would mean “certain death” for the whales. I wonder what
he thinks of the multiple death of orcas that have lived at Sea
World parks? Perhaps he’s forgotten that concrete tanks aren’t the
natural environment of whales and dolphins nor would release into a
sea pen come without an in depth rehabilitation plan. Indeed, not
every orca in San Diego is eligible for complete release, but the
alternative is release into a netted off cove or bay. The public
could still visit them, but they would be in their natural
environment and not be coerced into doing circus tricks. But as Sea
World is constantly reminding us, their facilities are state of the
art; although that cannot be denied, one must ponder whether a cage
that is gilded is any less of a cage?
In a release from his office, Bloom
stated, “There is no justification for the continued captive
display of orcas for entertainment purposes. These beautiful
creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined
in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives. It is time to end
the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement.” The
Orca Welfare and Safety Act would eliminate performance-based
entertainment and the captive breeding of the whales with the end
goal being killer whale captivity being phased out of California
The legislation comes in the wake of
the release of Blackfish, the controversial documentary depicting the
events that lead to the death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau in
February of 2010. Since the documentary has been released, the public
has grown more and more aware of the sheer intelligence of cetaceans
and exactly how self aware they are. Blackfish remained disciplined
in it’s exposure of Sea World, but the events depicted in the
documentary were enough to spur public interest and many have sought
out answers to their questions on their own, pulling the dark history
of Sea World even further into the light. Despite desperate claims
from the marine park that captivity is necessary for cetacean
conservation, it would seem that people are finally coming to the
realization that the time for orcas and other cetaceans to be used
for entertainment should be left in the past.
In my perfect scenario, the passing of
this ban would jump start Sea World into being what they claim to be:
an educational powerhouse at the forefront of marine conservation,
minus the corruption and exploitation of sentient beings. If they
want to return to being the poster child for family joy and
education, perhaps they should start listening to the indignant cries
of the public before they sink even further into the pit of being
Public Enemy #1. In case they haven’t dug the cotton out of their
ears yet, I suppose I could spell it out:
-There is nothing educational about
cetaceans beaching themselves on slide outs or doing tail walks like
a synchronized swim team.
-It is incredibly behind the times and
in denial of modern research to claim that a tank is an enriching
environment for a whale or dolphin.
-The wool can no longer be pulled over
anyone’s eyes. The truth has come out. The public is waking up.

And I, for one, hope they never fall
back asleep.