Emma Grace Fairchild:
On March 17th, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby penned andeclaring the end of the orca breeding program at SeaWorld as well as the decision to phase out the famous orca shows. Manby declared that the orcas living in the parks today will be the last generation of captive orcas; however, with a life expectancy of 30-50 years (and longer in the wild), there still will be orcas living at the SeaWorld facilities for many years to come. This may have influenced the decision to also phase out the theatrical orca shows, yet the living orcas may still be performing for audiences for the time being. However, as soon as 2017, the shows will be changed to for the orcas.
The announcement also describes the efforts SeaWorld has made over the last 52 years to change the public perspective of orcas, from being feared and hunted to the beloved animals of today. The company has undeniably contributed to the popularity and research of sea mammals, especially orcas, but has faced public pressure for years to reassess the treatment of captive animals.
This decision comes after years of controversy, especially after the documentary profiled the male orca Tilikum, responsible for the death of three humans (and seriously questioned decisions to take animals such as from the wild). Animal rights activists, companies, and the general public withdrew support for SeaWorld, resulting in since the film was released in 2013. Along with the decision by the California Coastal Commission which approved the expansion of the orca enclosures under the condition that the orca breeding program would be ended, it seems that SeaWorld didn’t have many options other than to adjust to changing attitudes towards orcas in captivity. Subsequently, since the announcement of the end of the captive breeding, SeaWorld
So, while it seems SeaWorld may not have had much of a choice, they can be commended for listening to the demands of the public with regard to the captivity of killer whales. There still are things to criticize about the organization, but for many activists and animal lovers, this decision is a step in the right direction for the humane treatment of wild animals. The announcement is in line with other changes enacted to limit wild animals being used solely for entertainment purposes (for example, the Ringling Bros. Circus and their elephant performances). Also worth considering is the possibility that some animals will not be able to survive in the wild in the future; and sanctuaries, zoos, or facilities such as SeaWorld can redistribute their resources to aid in the study and conservation of animals facing extinction. By ending the orca breeding program, SeaWorld can better focus their energy on wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.