SeaWorld animal mistreatment requires action

SeaWorld animal mistreatment requires action

Illustration by Grace O'Malley

Lilly Ludwig, columnist

To be honest, I was thoroughly unimpressed when I saw Shamu live. I recall telling my parents that Clifford the Big Red Dog was bigger and then suggesting that we get snow cones instead of watching. However, there is one factor even more significant than the fact that a fictional red dog is clearly superior to Shamu; something about seeing such a gorgeous animal debased to life in a swimming pool bothered me.

In recent years, movies like the documentary Blackfish and campaigns like “SeaWorld Of Hurt” run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have worked to expose the cruelty behind SeaWorld to the public. These groups have done an incredible job supplying evidence to prove that these animals are neglected and mistreated; they are viewed as objects of entertainment rather than living, breathing creatures with their own sets of needs.

With all the negative light that has been shed on SeaWorld lately, it astounds me that people are still boarding planes bound for Orlando to see big, depressed fish swim around a bathtub. I just don’t think entertainment is worth compromising your morals.

A prime example of this abuse is in Blackfish, which states that almost all orca whales at SeaWorld have collapsed dorsal fins due to depression, a sign almost unseen in the wild. SeaWorld has responded to this assertion with the argument that this happens to all orcas as they age, though biology proves otherwise.

The truth is that wild animals want to live in their natural habitat. That’s where they’re happiest, and statistically that’s where they live the longest. Unfortunately, institutions like SeaWorld tell the public whatever it takes to keep customers filing in, even if it means telling a lie.

So then people believe that the purpose of these places is to educate the public, or my personal favorite, that they are “saving” wild animals. I think people forget that real wildlife rehabilitation centers are run by biologists and wildlife veterinarians, not entertainers.

It’s important that people care about animals, because they don’t get a say in any of this. It’s their world too, and they don’t deserve a lifetime of captivity just because you want to see Shamu do a flip.

My question to those who counter the idea that animals have rights with, “Well they’re just animals!” is this: why should we put a limit on compassion? If all the world valued the life of an animal as much as they value the life of a human being, there would be no limit on the capacity of compassion and humanity we show to each other. Compassion matters, and sometimes it starts with even the smallest creatures.

There are loads of festivals, parties and shows to enjoy this summer that don’t involve encouraging animal abuse. Stick to your values, South. They’re much more important than that trip to SeaWorld.