Remove enough links and a chain
will break. Remove enough cards and a house will fall. Remove enough freedom
and an orca’s wellbeing will crumble. SeaWorld has kept whales within their
concrete walls for decades now. These whales are “trained” by the employees to
tourists. If SeaWorld wants to take a step towards the right side of history,
they should release these whales from captivity immediately.
horrific effects of captivity first take their toll on the whales’ bodies. Due
to swimming around at the surface for hours at a time in shallow pools, orcas
experience dorsal fin collapse as gravity pulls their fins down.i
Orcas have also been known to suffer severe tooth damage in captivity. They
start to gnaw on the concrete walls out of sheer boredom and as a result, their
teeth are withered down and have to be cleaned daily to a void infection.ii
SeaWorld makes claims to the public that these symptoms are completely normal
for killer whales. Research shows however that less than one percent of orcas
suffer dorsal fin collapse outside of captivity.iii
There have also never been reports of dental issues this bad in wild orcas so
the idea that captivity is helpful for killer whales or even safe is a myth.
deterioration of the whales’ bodies continues, their minds follow suit. Orcas in captivity have been known to develop severe depressioniv. This
manifests itself in abnormal behaviors including swimming the length of a pool
upside down or self-inflicting harm scratching itself against tank walls.v The
famous orca Tilikum has been known to violently attack trainers such as in 1991
with Keltie Byrne who he drowned by biting her foot and pulling her down to the
bottom of a tankvi and
in 2010 with Dawn Brancheau who he grabbed by the ponytail and dragged
Oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau has likened the captivity of orcas to “a
person being blindfolded in a jail cell.”viii
Killer whales are beings that were meant to swim for hundreds of kilometers in
the oceans so only having a 350-foot-long tank to swim around in will
inevitably cause them to act out in subtle or even violent ways.
When an orca is removed from its pod, that pod now has the
potential to fall apart. Often times the leader of the group is taken and as a
result the rest of the orcas are unsure of where to go for food and are more
susceptible to other predators.ix The
capturing of one orca can start a chain reaction that not only kills one orca
but several others in the process. Some subspecies of orcas such as the
Southern Resident Killer Whales have even become endangered as only 78 were
sighted as of 2016.x It
is very much possible that the captivity of killer whales could lead them into
It is absolutely imperative that we take all orcas out of
captivity. Captivity’s effects result in physical harm to orcas including but
not limited to dorsal fin collapse and tooth damage. This then escalates to
mental illness such as PTSD or depression. Outside the cage, pods fall apart
due to the loss of important members and the orca species falls further into
extinction. If we know what’s best for orcas, we’ll return them to their homes
once and for all.
i “The Fate of Captive Orcas.” WDC, Whale and Dolphin
Conservation, WDC, us.whales.org/wdc-in-action/fate-of-captive-orcas.
ii Jett, J, et al. “Tooth Damage in Captive Orcas (Orcinus
Orca).” Archives of Oral Biology., U.S. National Library of
Medicine, Dec. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28992601.
iii Meyers, Cara. “SeaWorld Lies About Research: Killer Whale,
Orca Dorsal Fins.” Global Animal, Global Animal, 28 May 2014, www.globalanimal.org/2014/05/28/seaworlds-lies-sink-to-new-low/.
iv Bekoff, Marc. “Captivity Drives Killer Whales Crazy:
SeaWorld Fights Fines For Placing Profit Over Safety.” Psychology Today,
Sussex Publishers, 20 Sept. 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201109/captivity-drives-killer-whales-crazy-seaworld-fights-fines-placing.
v “A Summary of the Effects of Captivity on Orcas.”
vi Kuo, Vivian. “Orca Trainer Saw Best of Keiko, Worst of
Tilikum.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2013,
vii Mooney, Mark. “SeaWorld Trainer Killed by Whale Had
Fractured Jaw and Dislocated Joints.”ABC News, ABC News Network, 31 Mar.
“Aquariums and Marine Parks.” PETA, PETA,
ix McCormick, Mark. “What Taking Orcas From the Ocean for
Captivity Does to Wild Pods.”One Green Planet, 14 Jan. 2017,
x “Southern Resident Killer Whales.” EPA,
Environmental Protection Agency, 11 July 2017,