While SeaWorld announced today that it would immediately cease breeding killer whales and not obtain them from other sources, bowing to mounting criticism by animal rights activists, regulators and lawmakers over the treatment of the marine mammals in captivity, Friends of Animals believes this PR stunt doesn’t even scratch the surface of putting an end to the sordid history of the captive whale and dolphin display industry.
We are hoping Americans will not get duped by SeaWorld’s PR stunt and by the Humane Society’s pathetic stamp of approval and start flocking back to SeaWorld parks. SeaWorld claims that its $50 million, five-year partnership with the Humane Society of the United States will improve its educational programs, teach visitors about animal welfare and conservation and expand advocacy for marine wildlife. But if you truly want an education about animal welfare and marine wildlife, just watch the documentaries A Fall from Freedom and By All Rights, which provide the truth about SeaWorld and it’s profiting off of captive cetaceans.
Before CNN’s Blackfish, FoA sponsored the production of the documentary A Fall from Freedom. Directed by Stan Minasian, the film reveals that Sea World promotes and funds Japanese fishermen’s dolphin drives, where thousands of dolphins are driven to shore and killed, to provide Sea World with dolphins for its marine parks and aquariums. The film also covers how there is no educational value in having whales or dolphins in a captive environment; that the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums has worked tirelessly to reduce government oversight on the health of captive whales and dolphins; and how Sea World reps have claimed that whales and dolphins are not highly intelligent, sophisticated and social animals.
We couldn’t disagree more.
That’s why FoA also supported the making of Minasian’s latest film, By All Rights, which was released in February and boldly makes the case for providing whales and dolphins with legal personhood status, a case that takes into consideration their culture, intelligence and their many similarities to humans.
Such a change in status would allow lawyers to sue on behalf of these autonomous mammals when they suffer harm from such human activities as the use of sonar, captivity and ocean pollution. Now that would be something to celebrate, but Sea World’s latest PR move, which only addresses killer whales and not all the other cetacean species held in a captive environment, is not.
While Minasian was elated by all the attention Blackfish got, he was a little surprised.“All this information has been out in the public domain for quite some time. Where have people been? … I think A Fall from Freedom revealed a lot of things that people were in denial over, but Blackfish hit on one point real hard; hard enough where it was impossible to ignore it any longer. There should be a film on belugas too, and bottlenose dolphins and any cetacean species held in a captive environment. ButBlackfish might have lost its luster had it gone into other species.”
If you think Blackfish delivered a blow to the captive dolphin and whale industry, Minasian’s By All Rights delivers the knock-out punch. It will leave you with the nagging question: How come whales and dolphins don’t have legal personhood status when corporations do?
If Seaworld truly cared about its cetaceans, it would be asking itself the same question, and perhaps using some of the millions of dollars it’s made exploiting animals over the years towards building sea pens (like Keiko had in Iceland from 1998 to 2002), which would provide a more natural environment for the orcas they are no longer breeding and phasing out of shows.
“If we took a segment of average Americans and brought them in to hear the arguments for personhood—the moral arguments, legal arguments and biological arguments for personhood for corporations and personhood for whales and dolphins, I really believe that a majority of those people would come out with a strong preference for personhood for the whale and dolphin versus the corporation,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program.