Editorial: SeaWorld’s watershed change of heart on orcas
The company announced Thursday morning that the breeding program would end immediately. The company also announced a partnership with the Humane Society.
SeaWorld’s decision this week to stop breeding killer whales at all its marine parks is a smart, humane change. So is its move to stop forcing them to perform in shows, doing tricks in response to cues from poolside trainers. The company had already announced that it would end the shows at its San Diego Park, home to 11 of SeaWorld’s 29 whales. Now, the shows will be phased out over the next three years at its parks in Orlando and San Antonio.
The parks’ remaining orcas — most of which were born in captivity — range in age from one to 51 (a female, Corky, in San Diego) and include a pregnant whale in Texas. They will all live out their days at SeaWorld parks. That’s for the best: It’s not prudent to release them into a wild ocean that they didn’t grow up in and are, most likely, unequipped to handle. As long as they live, these creatures will still be on exhibit, preferably in a more naturalistic setting along the lines of a contemporary aquarium.
It’s dazzling to watch an orca up close, and SeaWorld is due some credit for increasing the public’s appreciation for and wonderment at the fearsome predator. But, as SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment CEO Joel Manby acknowledged in an op-ed in this paper and in a news conference, society’s attitudes have changed dramatically. People are now deeply aware that it is inhumane to confine these animals. SeaWorld has made the right change for whales and for the public.
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