SeaWorld enslaves animals in tiny, concrete tanks at marine abusement parks around the country. Often housed in lonely isolation or with incompatible tankmates, dolphins, whales, and other animals at SeaWorld are regularly drugged to manage stress-induced aggressive behavior and relieve the endless monotony of swimming in circles. They break their teeth chewing on the metal bars and concrete sides of their tanks, and they’re forced to perform tricks for tourists in exchange for food—all in the name of “entertainment.” It’s a business built on the suffering of intelligent, social animals who are denied everything that is natural and important to them. As a result, animals imprisoned by SeaWorld often die prematurely from stress and other captivity-related causes.
SeaWorld, which owns all but one of the orcas held captive in the U.S., has a long history of mistreating animals. In the wild, orcas are intelligent predators who work cooperatively in search of food. They share intricate relationships in a matrilineal society. In some populations, orcas rarely leave their mother’s pod, but at SeaWorld, they have often been separated. These attributes, along with wild orca pods’ unique dialects, are considered a form of culture that is unrivaled by any species other than humans. Free orcas are among the fastest animals in the sea, and they swim as far as 100 miles every day. But at SeaWorld, they swim in endless circles in small barren concrete tanks.
It’s not surprising that these captive animals do not live as long as their wild cousins. While wild male orcas live an average of 30 years and up to 60 years and females an average of 50 years and up to more than 100, 38 orcas have died on SeaWorld’s watch at an average age of only 13. Not one has reached the maximum lifespan of an orca in nature. More than 100 other dolphins have also died, alongside countless other animals.
Although SeaWorld touts its conservation efforts in advertisements, it spends only about 3% of its profits on conservation. It’s a business first and foremost, and it chooses profit over the best interests of marine mammals. Animals who are members of endangered species are no happier in cages and tanks than are animals who aren’t endangered. The ultimate hope for those animals lies in protecting their habitats, not in life sentences in a tank.
PETA is employing a variety of tactics to help the animals held captive and forced to perform at SeaWorld’s parks, including public education and demonstrations, complaints to law-enforcement officials, corporate negotiations, shareholder activism, litigation, celebrity engagement, and more. PETA and many others are urging SeaWorld to modernize its business by ending the use of all animals and retiring the orcas, dolphins, and other animals to seaside sanctuaries, where they can thrive in the enrichment and diversity of the sea while still receiving care, feeding, and veterinary support.
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