Is It Time To Forgive SeaWorld

It’s easy to cast SeaWorld as the villain but are they just supplying what the market is demanding?

Blackfish and It’s Impact

I would imagine that if you’ve stopped to read this article you’re already familiar with the 2013 documentary Blackfish. No need to go into depth. But I will say that after watching the film I was like many others, outraged by what it relieved about SeaWorld’s policies of collecting and caring, or lack of, for Orca (Orcinus orca).

And obviously, most of the public agreed. The company disputed many of the film’s accusations of animal abuse and neglect. Shortly after its release SeaWorld’s stock price and park attendance plummeted. It ultimately led to the resignation of CEO Jim Atchison.

Atchison was replaced by Joel Manby who announced, “We are going to end our orca breeding. … Obviously, that’s a very difficult decision for us, but we feel it’s the right one for the future of the organization,”

He also added SeaWorld would phase out their theatrical shows. “So it’ll be more naturalistic show and environment for our orcas, and we’re going to teach all of our customers about the plight of them in the wild,” Manby said.

Go or No-go

Given all the above, I was torn as to whether to go or not. On the one hand, it felt that a betrayal of my beliefs in conservation. On the other, I was curious to see first-hand if SeaWorld had indeed make changes and to what degree.

There was also the added component that in the past, as I kid and young adult, I had loved going to SeaWorld and every other marine park that was in driving distance. To be honest, I have no doubt that it was the exposure to the marvels of the undersea world that help seed my love of the marine environment. Remember I grew up during the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.

In the end, we elected to go and spend the day.

It’s easy to cast SeaWorld as the villain but are they just supplying what the market is demanding?

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My Thoughts

So here’s what I observed and the conclusion I reached.

The quickest way to see what SeaWorld true message was to check out the numerous, and I do mean numerous, souvenir shops. Everything piece of clothing, water bottle, refrigerated magnet stressed the importance of RESCUE, REHAB, RETURN.

Every reader board near an animal display informed the public of the current issues what that animal and the ever-changing environment and stress placed on the species by man. I thought this very commendable and I liked the message. And what a platform to reach a young audience.

The park attendance was light that day, but it seemed like the kids had the adults outnumbered somewhere around 2 to 1. As we sat in the bleachers waiting for the Orca show I looked around at them. The anticipation and excitement was palpable. It reminded me of me when I was their age and that was when I had an epiphany.

SeaWorld really wasn’t to blame for their outdated policies. They were bringing us what we wanted at the time. They were merely a tool providing what we as a market were demanding.

As we became more educated about the world around us, our attitudes and marketing demands changed and to their credit, SeaWorld met those demands.

Bottom line is that we all share the burden of the treatment we’ve dished out to Orcas, so yea, I think it’s time to forgive SeaWorld.

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