So SeaWorld is pushing to create a more ‘naturalistic’ setting for their orcas. Big celebrations all round! Seemed like good news at first right? But something seems a little fishy, SeaWorld’s business model is as about as unnatural as bubble-gum flavour! So what is happening and why?
Well, of course, Black Fish started the ball rolling. SeaWorld’s animal welfare issues were splashed across our screens catching our attention and began a movement that engaged the world. It is important to remember that SeaWorld would still be making huge profits doing the same shows in the same tanks if it had never been filmed… And so the driver for Sea World’s naturalistic setting is really a huge PR stunt. A clever twist using carefully selected words to make you believe the guys in suits have the orca’s well-being closer to their hearts than their pockets. The fact is, SeaWorld is really struggling and their hand has been forced.
84% of SeaWorld’s profits have slipped down the plug hole and audiences have dwindled. They are simply trying to find a way out of their very slippery hole that continually caves in on every route they take. As a way out they are now looking towards the middle east for new investment opportunities, but still they are faced with fresh campaigns. PETA launched a campaign which has reached close to 100,000 signatures and recently the California Coastal Commission stopped their breeding program! (Not sure if this is based on facts, but I have seen suggestions that this park was intended to supply their Middle East projects)
So where do they go next? The news that a more ‘naturalistic setting’ was released quite recently with plans for ‘Project Blue World’. This was only recently given the all clear on the condition that they stopped their breeding program. Essentially, Project Blue World means creating larger tanks as seen below.
The idea is to ‘offer park guests unique killer whale encounters, inspiring generations to come’ and ‘to advance global understanding of these animals, to educate, and to inspire conservation efforts focused on protecting killer whales in the wild.’ But, surely they are still offering a tank, so much more can be learned by seeing orcas in the wild. Although the tank is huge for humans it is decidedly tiny for an animal that can travel up to 100 miles a day…. and wait… is that a performing arena? Of course, performing comes naturally to orcas, no training required…
Without a breeding program, SeaWorld has now been backed into a corner with nowhere to go apart from a major overhaul of their business model. They are pretty stuffed! However, Sea World has many parks and will not go quietly. They will fight this decision and released this statement;
‘a natural, fundamental and important part of an animal’s life and depriving a social animal of the right to reproduce is inhumane’.
A very odd thing to say when their orcas are artificially inseminated. According to Sea World life expectancy for a female is 30 years and a male is 19 years in the Pacific Northwest. A quick search suggests that the life expectancy actually averages 50 years, with a maximum lifespan of 90 years. I would happily bet on SeaWorld’s life that this drastic difference is a direct relation to the animals’ captivity, so in fact is it really humane to breed orcas in these conditions? It doesn’t seem very ‘natural’ for orcas to die so young!
After listening to Chris Butler-Stroud on radio 4, I couldn’t believe that SeaWorld is expecting their Orcas to still jump because this is ‘natural’ behaviour? ‘Natural’ is SeaWorld’s new rhetoric and I bet it will be heard more and more as the court cases rage on.
So whats the real change and what is all the fuss about? A larger tank, unfortunately, is something that can never be ‘natural’ no matter how big it is…..