A few weeks ago, SeaWorld has decided to stop breeding orcas. SeaWorld stated in a news release that it is moving away from theatrical shows and toward bigger and better things.
CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby said that the company is “introducing all new, very inspirational orca encounters [while] phasing out [their] theatrical shows.”
These new shows will highlight orcas in the wild. The SeaWorld Cares website claimed that the company is “proud of the steps [it] is taking for the future of SeaWorld, and wants fans to know how hard these decisions were and why [it] made them.”
Since public opinion about animals under human care has changed, SeaWorld needs to change with it.
This is a gold-star decision for SeaWorld, since our current society will benefit more from learning about how an animal lives than how high it can flip in the air.
Children’s love for Shamu begins early, with their first trip to SeaWorld. They see Shamu swim, wave at the crowd and do tricks with the trainer. From that moment, children live in awe of the large mammal’s power.
As this generation of children grows up, there seem to be two responses to SeaWorld. They either continue to believe that SeaWorld’s orcas are fun, or they believe that SeaWorld is abusing its animals.
This latter movement began with the documentary “Blackfish,” which told the story of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who died due to an incident with the orcas, and how SeaWorld has portrayed the situation to the public since then.
Unlike others my age, I never became swept up in this movement. I never wanted to re-watch someone’s death in a movie, and I did not want to hear about all the ways SeaWorld abuses its whales. However, while I have not seen the documentary, I do believe that whales, and animals in general, should not be held in confinement instead of their natural environment.
“Blackfish” reacted to SeaWorld’s statement by posting on Facebook a link to the breaking article with the caption, “They heard your voice!”
Former TV star Steve-O, who spray-painted a freeway sign to say “SeaWorld Sucks,” posted his reaction on Twitter by quoting a tweet about the statement and adding, “Yeah dude!”
While some are happy to see the whales go, some aren’t so excited.
APU sophomore psychology student Ashley Steimer stated, “Even though it’s not right [to keep] the whales in captivity, I’m still sad about it, because it was my favorite childhood memory to go to SeaWorld with my family and see Shamu.”
This begs the question: Did SeaWorld make a good decision? How much influence did “Blackfish” have in SeaWorld’s decision to stop breeding killer whales?
If one documentary can shape public perception of a large company like SeaWorld—to a point where the company decides to end all breeding—what else are “Blackfish” producers capable of? Do the producers have too much power in this situation?
This was only one animal.
SeaWorld still contains sea lions, dolphins, sharks and many more. Not only SeaWorld, but the Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Zoo have wild animals like elephants, lions, various species of monkeys and others.
What will happen if the “Blackfish” producers decide to make a documentary about these other animals—will the public react the same way?
Other documentaries may be coming our way, attacking other wild animal parks with the knowledge that they once succeeded in getting a company to heed their demands.
With the knowledge that producers now have the power to change things, other companies may soon find themselves at their mercy.