Thursday, February 25, 2010

Whale kills trainer at Sea World; I feel bad for the whale

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 8:31 AM

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Catherine Durkin Robinson is a handful creating quite a scene over at Out in Left Field.

I feel bad for the whale.

An experienced trainer was killed at SeaWorld in Orlando on Wednesday. The 40-year-old woman, Dawn Brancheau, was taken underwater, thrashed around by the waist, and killed before a horrified audience.

Why was the audience horrified?

Killer whales, or Orcas, are intelligent and social creatures that swim thousands of miles every day. Their families are the most stable of any animal species, especially if we’re counting all my cousins in West Virginia. They also have a sophisticated way of talking to and behaving with each other.

Mother whales and their children stay together all their lives, and sometimes up to four generations travel side by side for decades at a time. In the wild, they are not dangerous to humans and feed on fish, dolphins and other whales. Their songs fill the oceans with beautiful calls to mate, hunt and play.

And yet Sea World’s founders and employees, including the dead trainer, have always believed that it’s perfectly acceptable to take these beautiful creatures from their homes and families, their natural environment, and put them in a small tank, withholding food until they perform.

The audience paid money to see a captive animal, abused and mistreated simply by virtue of its presence in a theme park instead of the Arctic Ocean, because they, too, believe that animals are put here on Earth for our entertainment.

I feel bad for the whale.

Sea World has been investigated in the past for animal attacks and animal deaths. They have been known to use cruel methods of withholding food and playing whale calls underwater that sound like authentic mating songs to get the whales to swim faster and perform for longer periods of time.

Organizations like the Humane Society have documented the neurotic and sometimes dangerous behavior aroused in animals held against their will. Who can blame an elephant or whale or sea lion for retaliating after years of torture and abuse?

In the past, I’ve spoken out against the circus, Sea World and dolphin petting pools. How many more of these tragedies need to happen before people realize that watching captive animals is not wholesome family entertainment?

I wonder if officials will euthanize this beautiful creature instead of letting him go free. Within a week, Brancheau's family will bury her, mourn for a period of time, and then Sea World will go back to business as usual. A public with the collective memory of a goldfish will assuredly line up for more.

Like I said, I feel bad for the whale.

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