By Courtney Purdin, Guest Writer
A new California bill that prevents orcas from being used for performance or entertainment purposes may blow SeaWorld out of the water and raise further questions about the zoo industry.
Since 1964 SeaWorld has dazzled visitors with displays of orcas, or killer whales, leaping from the water, interacting with trainers and even waving to the audience.
For years this has been both a source of entertainment and education for the general public.
However, according to USA Today, a California bill to “eliminate performance-based entertainment and captive breeding of the whales” could bring these shows to an end.
The goal of this bill is to release all orcas held in captivity in California back to the wild and ultimately end the captivity of killer whales.
The bill itself states that in California, it would be unlawful to breed, capture, hold or use orcas for performance and entertainment purposes.
If passed, this bill would mean an early “retirement” for 10 orcas held at SeaWorld San Diego.
According to California assemblyman Richard Bloom, “these beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives.”
This bill comes after the 2013 release of the documentary “Blackfish,” which claimed that SeaWorld mistreats orcas. The documentary details the events that led up to the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, an experienced SeaWorld orca trainer.
It argues that orca whale should not be held in captivity on the grounds that life in an artificial environment is unsuitable for an orca’s physical and mental health.
According to The New York Times, critics call the California bill an “emotional response” to this documentary.
SeaWorld has responded to the documentary by launching the “Truth Team” campaign, aimed at repositioning SeaWorld as a company dedicated to research and proper treatment of animals.
In an open letter, SeaWorld states that it hasn’t captured a killer whale from the wild in 35 years because of the success of its breeding programs.
They also said its “research has led to a much greater understanding of whales in the wild, giving researchers important scientific insights surrounding marine mammal reproduction.”
David Koontz, a SeaWorld spokesperson, said in a written statement, “We engage in business practices that are responsible, sustainable and reflective of the balanced values all Americans share.”
Despite the controversy, SeaWorld reported fourth quarter 2013 earnings only had “a loss of 13 cents a share and revenue of $272 million,” according to Yahoo Finance.
Still, California lawmakers’ decision could prove to be a barrier to a major component of SeaWorld’s income.
Furthermore, this law could prove to be the first of a movement of laws limiting animals allowed to be held in captivity, which could ultimately harm to zoo industry as a whole. ◼︎