Opinion: SeaWorld continues to mislead public about killer whales

Tilikum, in captivity at SeaWorld, died at 36.

THE Washington Post reported today that SeaWorld eulogised Tilikum, a beautiful Orca, of having a “long and enriching life” that “inspired millions of people.”

A long and enriching life.

Tilikum died at age 36. This was not a long life. Granny, a wild and free Orca in British Columbia waters, died recently at age 103. Whales in captivity tend to have their life spans cut in half. A 36-year-old Orca is in the prime of its life.

And there was nothing enriching about Tilikum’s life. He was driven insane by captivity. There is not a single documented case of a wild Orca killing a human being yet Tilikum killed three people.

The captivity of this one Orca is responsible for the tragic death of three human beings.

There was nothing enriching about spending more than three decades in a concrete pool.

There was nothing enriching about three decades of eating dead thawed rotting fish.

There was nothing enriching about having humans masturbate him to collect his sperm.

There was nothing enriching about having his teeth ground down to nubs by biting repeatedly on concrete walls.

There was nothing enriching about being sunburned and plagued by horse flies with no means of finding shelter from the sun and parasites.

There was nothing enriching about having every sound he uttered echoed back at him from the concrete walls of his prison.

There was nothing enriching about being forced to be a circus performer to entertain humans for profit.

This one statement by SeaWorld reveals just how much in denial these captivity profiteers are about their cruel exploitation of these magnificent self-aware, highly-intelligent, and highly-social, sentient beings.

His life was not long and his life was not enriched. What SeaWorld is saying is a self-serving lie. They want the public to believe that they loved Tilikum. They didn’t. They want the public to believe that they did everything in their power to save Tilikum. They did not.

SeaWorld managed to manipulate the Humane Society of the United States into supporting their Orca program. HSUS switched from condemning the suffering experienced by the Orcas in their pools to proclaiming that the Orcas were now being treated “humanely.”

HSUS transformed from being genuinely concerned for the conditions at SeaWorld to proclaiming that the conditions were suddenly “humane.” And both HSUS and SeaWorld attempted to bamboozle the public with shallow pledges to oppose the slaughter of dolphins in Japan and the killing of seals in Canada, a pledge they did not pursue after their original announcement.

The dolphins in Taiji are being killed and captured because of facilities like SeaWorld.

SeaWorld has always been, and continues to be, part of the problem that sees thousands of dolphins slaughtered every year and the slave trade in small cetaceans spreading internationally.

Is there anything at SeaWorld condemning Japanese whaling and dolphin slaying? Is there a single educational exhibit condemning the massacre of pilot whales and dolphins in the Danish Faroe Islands? No, because SeaWorld has never been an educational facility.

Tilikum was a captive slave and his entire life was one of misery from the day he was viciously kidnapped from his mother near Iceland until the day he ignobly died in a tiny pool in Orlando, Florida.

All his life he was deprived of the taste and the feel of the ocean. All of his life he was deprived of a diet of real live fish. All of his life he was deprived of the freedom to roam the sea, to dive and to socialize with wild Orcas in a vibrant Orca culture.

Every single person who has bought a ticket to SeaWorld or any other Orca and dolphin slave facility, and remains unrepentant, must share the responsibility for the suffering and premature death of Tilikum.

We asked SeaWorld to let Tilikum spend his final days in a sea pen where he could experience the ocean once again, where he could dive deep and swim for more than a few hundred meters in a straight line.

They refused. They chose to let Tilikum suffer in isolation in one of their aquatic cells.

To SeaWorld, he was property. He was insured and they will be compensated for his death. He was a commodity, an investment and nothing more and any tears being shed at Sea World are for the loss of a profitable piece of property and not for Tilikum as a sentient being.

One SeaWorld defender sent me a message today saying I was ignorant for saving that Tilikum died because of captivity. “He died from a lung infection, not captivity.” she said.

Yet there are no documented observations of an Orca in the wild dying of a lung infection. It was captivity that caused the lung infection and it is captivity that causes captive Orcas to live half the life span of Orcas in the wild.

Marine Aquariums are evil places, places of misery, places of cruel prolonged suffering, places of death. They have no redeeming educational value and they are an embarrassment to all of humanity.

Tilikum suffered and died for our sins.

And the fact is that Tilikum is dead now because of SeaWorld and only because of SeaWorld.

SeaWorld killed Tilikum just as they have killed so many Orcas over the years.

Captain Paul Watson is President, CEO and Founder of Sea Shepherd, a world-renowned global marine conservation organisation.