Equity in Animal Rights

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JOSE ESQUER ROMEROJose Esquer-Romero is a freshman business administration major.

Animal rights activists have applauded SeaWorld’s decision to phase out its orca show in favor of a more naturalistic show which will display killer whale behavior in the wild. This comes as a result of the backlash the theme park has been receiving after the release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish.”

While this may be a period of momentous change, protesters and activists are forgetting about the multitude of other animals that SeaWorld and other animal-oriented theme parks hold in captivity across the globe. The theme park uses other mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians in their exhibits and attractions. However, the difference that we, as humans, notice is the threat they pose to our lives. There have never been any notable incidents involving any animal within SeaWorld Parks besides the orca whales, where 40-year-old female trainer Dawn Brancheau was pulled into the water by a whale named Tilikum and drowned.

These incidents were the source of public outcry against the family entertainment company. Ever since then, many have boycotted the famous parks for the unfair treatment they’re imposing on these majestic orcas. However, they fail to recognize that other animals within these exhibits and shows undergo the same unjust treatment. No one wants them out of the park. Why? Because as long as they’re not hurting us, the paying customers, then it’s absolutely fine to watch them from behind a glass panel or pet them in a shallow tank.

The abuse that dolphins, walruses, and other animals in the park suffer does indeed happen, but it is not as highly publicized as the suffering of gargantuan show-stopping killer whales. Samantha Berg and Carol Ray, former employees of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, were interviewed by Blue Freedom Foundation in 2012, an organization dedicated to freeing marine mammals from captivity. Berg described her uncomfortable position in the dolphin “petting pool” and how “kids and clueless people would often try to stick objects in the dolphins blowholes”. These violations of the rules continued and one dolphin happened to die from zinc poisoning because she would eat the coins thrown into the pool. Not only are the animals victims of visitors’ abuse but are also at the mercy of their caretakers. Ray spoke out on the food deprivation techniques they used to force animals to perform tricks. Normally, this was used when an important person or group of people were present during a performance, but that does not justify the abuse.

The question of whether animal captivity is an ethical practice or not seems to be relative to whether the animals in question have been violent to human beings. Brancheau passed away more than five years ago at the hands of the animal that she trained and performed with, and only then did people finally begin to notice the injustice of orca captivity and abuse. However, the same cannot be said for the many other animals who haven’t posed danger to visitors or trainers but are still subjected to the similar conditions that killer whales live in. If we wish to consider ourselves respectable and humane beings, we must look past the consequences that they pose on our lives and rather focus on the effects of our actions on their lives, that could be
seen as provoking these dangerous attacks to begin with.

Photo courtesy of Milan Boers/Flickr

1 COMMENT

  1. With all due respect, I don’t think anyone has ‘forgotten’ the other animals. Not even for a moment. If you look at the overall picture you will see that in order to help all, you must first start with one. So why not start with the biggest, most famous of them all. I could start a campaign to help Opie the Otter or Clyde the Sea Lion, but they aren’t the faces of SeaWorld. I hope you understand, for the majority of us in this fight, it IS about all the animals, not just Tilikum and has NOTHING to do with violence towards humans. The tragedy surrounding Dawn’s death simply gave a louder, larger platform to raise the real issues, CAPTIVITY KILLS! No animal should suffer in a cage or tank for human profit and entertainment.

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