You may have seen a post making its way to the general public about an eighth-grader who stopped her entire school from visiting SeaWorld. And you may be thinking, “what kind of devil is this girl?” But the real question is: Why have we allowed institutions like SeaWorld to keep wild animals in a prison, especially when it has resulted in three human fatalities since 1991?
“Blackfish,” a documentary exposing the truth behind SeaWorld’s innocent facade, seems to have instigated an uprising against SeaWorld. Several complaints have been filed against SeaWorld in the year since “Blackfish” premiered. These complaints – such as concern over scars and lesions on marine mammals – have all been related to the conditions in which these defenseless animals are kept, and have resulted in public outrage from both supporters and opponents of SeaWorld.
Now, you may be thinking, “oh, this girl is just another crazy animal lover.” I would challenge you to try living in your bedroom for the majority of your life, maybe moving to the kitchen every now and again, or to a small room so that your area could be cleaned. Oh, and let’s not forget that the only way you will get fed is by begging your keeper for food and doing tricks to “deserve” your food.
Animals kept in these conditions show signs of stress. Orcas at SeaWorld swim around and around in circles, probably because they would have to swim almost 2,000 laps around the SeaWorld pool to swim anywhere near the distance they would swim in the wild. Elephants in zoos begin to rock from side to side, tigers walk around in circles and fall asleep, monkeys and apes give themselves bald patches and broken skin by over-grooming themselves, too.
David Nibert, professor of sociology, said, “Keeping other animals – free-living, exotic or not – is an oppressive practice. This is true whether the other animals are orcas, or chickens confined in battery cages, or cows confined to fenced areas before they are dispatched to the horrors of the slaughterhouse.”
While all of these behaviors are sad to watch, it is even worse when we realize that these animals and their offspring will never be able to be released into the wild. They have adapted traits to their captive environments since they were small, which means that they lost traits detrimental to surviving in the wild, and these new traits will be passed onto their offspring. Even if they had all of the necessary skills and traits to be released into the wild, most populations of animals we see in the zoo have very tightly-knit groups with very specific cultures within these groups. Putting a captive-raised orca into a wild group would be like putting an average American citizen into Sparta in 650 BC: not exactly my dream.
So, why should you care? Wittenberg classes have taken trips to zoos and aquariums around Ohio. I am proposing that if your class has planned a trip to a zoo, see if you can stop it. If an eighth-grader can do it for an entire school, we can do it for one class. There are many sanctuaries for animals in Ohio that you can visit instead of a zoo, or maybe just not go at all.
If you are not in a class that goes to the zoo or SeaWorld, you can still make a difference. There are thousands of petitions against SeaWorld and zoos in general on Change.org, and all you need to do is click a button.
I realize that I may be an extremist, and that institutions that house animals in captivity may stimulate our economic situation, and that these institutions are not all bad, but the truth is that they are hurting animals, animals that have no voice and no way to escape, animals that show their frustration by attacking trainers and each other. I am not proposing a full-on riot, or that we go break into zoos and set the animals free, but that we take away our support of zoos and aquariums, and show them that we know they are in the wrong.