SeaWorld has come under a whole lot of criticism through the years, largely due to its whale breeding program and whale shows. In addition to this, questions about the conditions in which the animals are kept, trained and even obtained have been raised. Despite all of this, each year plenty of people from all over the world visit the multiple SeaWorld parks and pay very good money to get through the door. With all the bad publicity, SeaWorld has made changes to its practices slowly over time, but it begs the question if they are doing enough. The argument is that whales belong in the ocean and not in captivity. When you are used to a vast ocean as your home, there is not a tank large enough that will not seem cramped.
SeaWorld trainers obviously love the animals and do not have bad intentions when working with the animals. But this does not mean that the practices of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is the right thing to do. But whether or not you agree with these animals being kept and trained is not the point. These images and video clips and the details surrounding them were very shocking. They raise a lot of questions for sure and they are most definitely not images that the owners of SeaWorld want you to see!
15 Girl Bitten By Dolphin
What could possibly go wrong when a child holds up an entire tray of fish to a dolphin? In this particular photograph, a young girl did exactly that and received injuries from the experience. While visiting SeaWorld Orlando, a girl participating in the dolphin feeding program held the tray up to the dolphin (which guests were warned not to do) and the dolphin ended up biting the girl’s hand. She received minor injuries, but was definitely afraid at the time. Besides some initial shock and three small bite marks, the girl was thankfully okay and was more concerned about the dolphin’s health after eating the tray. The video was captured on YouTube and has received a great deal of national attention. So much that the Orlando SeaWorld location has stopped the feeding portion of its dolphin encounter.
14 Whale Aggression
Aggressive behaviors between whales is not uncommon. All animals (including humans) have a tendency to establish themselves as being dominant over another. When you weigh a few or more tons, this aggression can get kind of intense. Killer whales (more often called orcas) have a natural habitat of a vast ocean. If an orca becomes aggressive, the other has the ability to flee from the aggressor and get to safety. At SeaWorld, the holding areas for the orcas may as well be a goldfish bowl compared to the ocean. Unfortunately, images like above do happen when they become aggressive in captivity, which seems happens more often than SeaWorld would like you to think. Unfortunately, during a show, this incident occurred, leaving the orca bleeding badly and shocking all the guests.
13 Dolphin Escaping Tank
This is a private video that was uploaded to YouTube by a SeaWorld guest. There is not a whole lot known about the backstory associated with this video, but it is pretty clear that this is not something SeaWorld wants the public to see. They only want to portray images of happy dolphins playfully swimming and enjoying the guests of the park. Instead, this video shows a dolphin laying on the ground beside the water, struggling and clearly out of place. No one from the park seems to be rushing to assist the dolphin, or return her to the water. I don’t know what the correct method is for dealing with something like this, but it is very clear that this is not the type of footage the park wants circulating.
12 Collapsed Dorsal Fins Are Not Normal
If you look in this picture, you’ll see a collapsed dorsal fin on this orca. This is a somewhat controversial topic, as SeaWorld experts would have you believe that the collapsed fin has nothing at all to do with the health of the whale and is completely normal. Consider that all of the orcas held in captivity (that’s 100 percent) have this collapsed fin. Orcas in the wild typically do not, with only a small percentage having a collapsed dorsal fin. It has been suggested that this collapse comes from being in a poor or inhospitable environment that is not natural. While this is a debatable topic, just looking at the whale with the flopped over fin almost gives the appearance of a frown. SeaWorld certainly doesn’t want any of its animals to look like they are frowning.
11 Damage and Injury to Orcas
Cramped spaces (for an orca, that’s anything less than an ocean) can lead to a lot of added injury. When the orcas begin to show aggression and assert their dominance, it can get a little rough. More than just cuts and bleeding, ramming into other whales causing injuries like in this picture are not only possible, they are somewhat common. Over the years and even recently, cases of orcas beaching themselves purposely to get away from this aggressive behavior has been observed and recorded by guests at SeaWorld! When you can no longer swim miles away to escape a bully, your only option is to get out of the water! Images like beaching whales and collapsed jaws like this are the last thing the executives at SeaWorld want you to see!
10 Dolphin Aggression
Orcas are far from the only aggressive species held in captivity at SeaWorld. Dolphins are among the most intelligent beings on the planet. They are also every bit as social as humans and exhibit many of the same characteristics, including different personality types. Dolphins will also show aggression or try to assert their dominance over other weaker animals. If you were to put a bully in an elevator with a few other people, it would not likely end well. Of the same mind, dolphins in a tank often do the same thing. Images like this show how aggressive dolphins can be and how they tend to rough house with one another. If this is the case, it is not only dangerous for them, but for trainers and guests as well.
9 Dental Health of Orcas
The question about the teeth of the orcas at SeaWorld has been ongoing for years. Photos like this show broken and missing teeth. This comes from biting at the gates and enclosures, as well as other concrete and steel structures in the pools. These animals have a tendency to get very bored and chomping on available things besides food is just due to boredom. In their natural habitats, there are no steel gates. They can find adventure in a variety of ways and locations, but this is not the case at SeaWorld. Beyond this, to keep infection from occurring in teeth, a drilling procedure is done on the orcas that is somewhat painful or uncomfortable for them. If they were not held in captivity, this would not be necessary. Indeed, the dental health of orcas in general often leads to a decline in their overall health and wellness.
8 Tiny Holding Areas
Just the idea of having a whale for the purpose of amusing humans is somewhat sickening. No one would deny that seeing these majestic creatures in person wouldn’t be spectacular. I also believe that the trainers and the public that comes to see these animals have a love for them and a true respect. But when one stops and thinks about what the orcas are going through, it seems very unfair. The holding area as shown in this photograph is certainly not the permanent location where they are kept for hours at a time. It is however an obviously tiny and cramped space for such a huge creature. It is very much like stuffing a bear in an elevator. SeaWorld’s executives only want the public to see them swimming in the huge pool, doing tricks and seemingly having a blast. They don’t want anyone looking at or noticing the cramped holding areas where they are kept.
7 Collecting Dolphins
Pictures like this one represent the highly controversial practice of dolphin drives in Japan. To be clear, SeaWorld does not obtain dolphins using this method. But once upon a time, the company did purchase dolphins in Japan that were captured using this method. What makes this method so horrible is because of the incredibly painful and brutal way they kill the dolphins. The dolphins are herded into coves, trapped and then killed off individually. The best looking dolphins are kept alive and sold to entertainment parks as attractions for humans. While SeaWorld is smart enough to condemn these drives now, they have not always. They claim that they rescued dolphins from being killed, but in actuality, they purchased them like any other theme park or entertainment venue. The practice of importing animals into the United States using vendors conducting these drives is now illegal.
6 SeaWorld’s Impatient Tweets
We all get a little hot under the collar from time to time. While this is understandable, when you are representing a massive entertainment empire known the world over, it’s probably a pretty good idea to take some breaths, go for a walk or count to ten rather than posting to social media on behalf of the company! The company thought that using the hashtag #AskSeaWorld would give people an opportunity to ask questions about their practices and policies. This came after the release of the movie Blackfish (more on that later) in 2013, which caused a massive hit to ticket sales to SeaWorld. Instead of lots of questions, they got a lot of people using the hashtag to chastise them further for their practices. SeaWorld opted to post a series of Tweets with pictures including this one, calling these people trolls and bots. Way to keep it classy, SeaWorld.
5 Less Dignified Whale Shows of the Past
We can at least credit SeaWorld with updating their orca shows over the years to something a little more sophisticated. Now, they are ending their theatrical shows and focusing on educating their audiences about orcas and showing more of the jumps and behaviors people may see in the wild. This has not always been the case however. Historically, the earliest years of SeaWorld made the shows a little more theatrical and something like you may see in a circus side show. With the bad publicity SeaWorld has received in recent years, they would most definitely rather the public forget all about the old days. In an effort to save face, SeaWorld is phasing out the shows altogether and ending its breeding program. We can definitely give them credit for smart decisions in that regard.
4 Oversized Goldfish Bags?
Part of the inhumane treatment of whales is the transport of the animals themselves. Truthfully, there is not a good way to do it that would make the whales comfortable, but just looking at this picture makes people wonder if transporting out of water is even worth doing. When you look at the photo, you are automatically made to think of winning a goldfish at the carnival! Well, with a giant bag, full of water, this is essentially the same thing. These poor whales likely will not be here long, but if they were kept in the ocean where they should naturally be, this would not have to happen at all. SeaWorld certainly does not want this photographed and shown to everyone, but the world needs to see this part of whale captivity.
3 Trainer Injury
Over the years, a number of injuries have occurred as well as deaths to trainers that work with orcas. In this video, taken in 2006, SeaWorld trainer Ken Peters was dragged down under water by Kasatka, a female adult orca. The incident came after Kasatka’s young calf began to cry out from a tank in the backstage area from the arena. By all indications, Kasatka was feeling some irritation and wanted nothing to do with the show. He was dragged underwater multiple times and very narrowly got to safety upon surfacing. This went on for fifteen minutes, with Peters suffering several wounds from the bites and a broken foot. He claimed after this that he would not swim with Kasatka again. This is one of many trainer injuries that SeaWorld would prefer that no one ever know about.
2 Blackfish Movie
The 2013 documentary film Blackfish has been quite a thorn in the side of SeaWorld. It centers around the orca Tilikum, that was involved in the death of three people throughout his life including two trainers and one man who trespassed onto the park after hours. Since its release, increased awareness of the concerns related to orca captivity have brought lower revenue for SeaWorld and changes to the way they do business. To be fair, not everything SeaWorld does is bad, but many of their practices needed to change. As a result of the major attention Blackfish got, many musical artists canceled appearances at the parks and negative publicity went through the roof! Documentaries are rarely blockbuster entertainment pieces, but they can do amazing things to bring about change in the world.
1 Stuck in Gate
One advantage that oceans have is that they are huge and they don’t have metal gates that orcas have to worry about. This picture shows sadly the image of an orca that is stuck in the gate between tanks. Unfortunately, these captive orcas live in these tanks and suffer a variety of injuries as a result of hitting the steel and concrete, fighting with other orcas and simply accidental mishaps like this. SeaWorld wants everyone to think that these orcas live better lives in captivity and are given a far better life than they could live in the wild. Unfortunately, this simply is not the case. While they are loved by the trainers and well fed, they simply do not and cannot have their natural environment as they would in the ocean.
Sources: National Geographic, CBS News, Decoded Science