DEATH AT SEAWORLD “is a groundbreaking scientific examination that exposes the dark side of SeaWorld, America’s most beloved marine mammal park. From the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, to other, less-publicized violent incidents, journalist David Kirby puts these brutal animal-on-human attacks in context and explores the controversial and even lethal ramifications of keeping killer whales in captivity. It introduces the real people taking part in this debate, from former trainers turned animal rights activists to the men and women that champion SeaWorld and the captivity of whales. Kirby follows the story of Naomi Rose Ph.D., marine mammal scientist for The Humane Society of the United States and senior scientist for The Humane Society International, whose warnings against keeping killer whales in captivity fell on deaf ears. He also covers the media backlash, the eyewitnesses who come forward to challenge SeaWorld’s glossy image, and the groundbreaking OSHA vs. SeaWorld case. On May 30, 2012, the judge ruled on this case, stating that trainers performing with huge ocean predators need to be protected by physical barriers, or some other means providing the same level of safety. The strict standard could effectively prevent SeaWorld from ever allowing its trainers to get back into the water during shows with the whales.” (Source)
Thoughts on Death at Sea World:
With the upcoming release of the new documentary Blackfish, I decided to finally read Death at Sea World. Simply put, it is an inspiring, heartbreaking, thriller, that provides significant insight into the lives of Killer Whales in captivity. Kirby takes you through a gripping investigation that is hard to put down. The book in the end, is an eye opener to Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity.
The chapter entitled Capture, which is told from Tilikum’s perspective, is absolutely heartbreaking. It is hard not to view the capture of Tilikum as similar to that of a child being taken away from its mother at such a young age. Especially considering that male killer whales spend most of their time by their mother’s side from infancy through old age. While they may swim off for a few hours or days to mate with females from other pods, at the end of the day they always come back to their mother. As Kirby puts it, “in other words, male resident orcas are the planet’s ultimate mama’s boy.” Here is a little excerpt from the chapter “Suddenly you are snagged in another, smaller net. You cry out in shock and fear, calling for your mother. You feel the net being pulled through the water toward the boat. Your heart races and you surface to breathe, quickly and with difficulty. What is going on? Where is your mom? Then you hear her. You have never hear this wretched wail before: mournful, ragged, spiked with rage and terror. Now your other relative have joined the awful remonstration. You answer their panicked cries with your own chaotic vocalizations as you’re hauled from the water on a canvas sling.”
Interestingly enough, no killer whale had been reported to have killed a human in the wild, or even seriously attacked a human in the wild, and no killer whale had ever been known to be killed in a fight with another whale. All three of those things have happened in captivity
According to Kirby there are two vital questions:
1) Is captivity in an amusement park good for orcas: Is this the appropriate venue for killer whales to be held, and does it somehow benefit wild orcas and their ocean habitat, as industry claims?
2) Is orca captivity good for society: Is it safe for trainers and truly educational for a public that pays to watch the whales perform what critics say are animal tricks akin to circus acts?
Clearly my answer to these two questions is no, but what would your answer be?
After reading Death at Sea World, this what I can say with certainty: 1. I will continue my pledge to never visit Sea World or anything similar 2. I will be a voice for the voiceless by informing others of the brutal reality of captivity for Killer Whales and other cetaceans, 3. The only place I ever want to see Killer Whales is in their natural environment and thanks to David Kirby I hope to one day travel to Johnstone Strait and Telegraph Cove to do so.
That being said, I urge each of you to pick up Death at Sea World by David Kirby and sit down and read it. I guarantee you that it will completely change your outlook on Sea World and the Killer Whale captive entertainment industry. Secondly, if you haven’t already heard about the new documentary Blackfish, then view the trailer below and check for local screening times on the website http://blackfishmovie.com/
Interested in reading and learning more:
- Sea World’s Dark Secrets revealed in Blackfish (voicefortheblue.com)