Friday, February 26, 2010

Not the First and Not the Last

Two days have passed since the tragic death of the trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, and park management has stated that it was an accidental drowning involving Tilikum pulling the woman’s ponytail, while eyewitness accounts seem to contradict that. Regardless, it was not the first time a captive Orca has attacked a human (as the list below shows), and sadly, it will likely not be the last.

SeaWorld, San Diego/ 1971/trainer attacked by an Orca.
Sealand of the Pacific, Victoria B.C./1991/ trainer killed by Tilikum.
SeaWorld, Orlando/1999/ homeless man found dead in Tilikum’s tank.
SeaWorld, San Diego/1999/trainer attacked by an Orca.
SeaWorld, San Diego/2006/trainer attacked by an Orca (allegedly the 2nd attack in two weeks although park denies it).
Loro Parque, Tenerife/2009/trainer killed by an Orca.
SeaWorld, Orlando/2010/trainer killed by Tilikum.

Proponents of keeping Orcas in captivity say that these attacks are isolated incidents that must be viewed in the context of the thousands of hours during which Orcas have performed over the past forty years, and the millions of people who have enjoyed these performances. What a self-serving and patently mercenary argument. 'The parks make millions, the public is entertained, and the harm to trainers is collateral damage.' As well-intended and sincere as SeaWorld's employees may be, these parks are profit centers pure and simple, and Orcas give them an unlimited license to print money, no matter what SeaWorld's articulate CEO may say.

Meanwhile, the Orcas themselves are doomed to lead shortened, mindless lives in tiny concrete pools, as their dorsal fins droop and the free spirit that was hardwired into their DNA at birth slowly flickers and dies. People, listen to me: these magnificent beings know all too well their fate, and the mental torment that it generates in all of them will continue to be vented by a few in future attacks. This is as much of a stone-cold certainty as are the profits that the parks will continue to drop to their bottom line.

I will be traveling for the next ten days and will not be able to post. But I think it’s better that I do, to allow my disgust with the spectacular cruelty that you humans are inflicting upon my kind to dissipate before we speak again.

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