Family Fun and the Feeding Frenzy
It’s a very unnatural occurrence when the predator becomes the prey. The hunter becoming the hunted, the victim stalking the killer. It crams individuals into a category they don’t fit into, they are forced to adjust or else they die.
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are one of the most powerful predators in our ocean. NECSI describes predator/prey relationships, “Predator and prey evolve together. The prey is part of the predators environment, and the predator dies if it does not get food, so it evolves whatever is necessary in order to eat the prey.” Orcas have evolved to be sophisticated strategists and dedicated hunters. Orcas stick together in pods, consisting of up to 40 killer whales. They communicate with each other when prey is spotted, detecting the prey with echolocation, determining the size and location. Depending on the prey, they deploy intelligent designs of tactic based on species, their strategy is effective and deadly. With razor sharp teeth and dozens of killer whales, the odds are in the orcas favor.
Predators, such as orcas, in an ecological sense are defined as being larger than their prey and killing their prey. Predators and prey are a part of the same environment and evolve together. The predator evolves to kill the prey; meanwhile the prey evolves to avoid being killed by the predator. Both are key to each other for survival. The categorizing of predator and prey relationships is defined by consumption, who is eating who.
Predators rise to the top of the food chain because of certain skills or characteristics they maintain. Most predators are stealthy, they approach an attack with careful precision. Predators have dominating physical features, their size is typically larger than their prey along with their sense of sight, smell, and taste that must be greater than their prey. Bradford in her Live Science article establishes,”They weigh up to 6 tons (5,443 kilograms) and grow to 23 to 32 feet (7 to 9.7 meters). That is almost as long as a school bus.”
But outside of the animal kingdom, predators are still lurking in the shadows waiting for the right moment to pounce on unsuspecting prey. In society we categorize pedophiles as child predators. They are larger individuals waiting to feed off a child’s innocence, killing their purity. We can see government as a dangerous predator with all the power. The citizens are the pawns, individuals are so easy to sweep away and stomp out. Predators are killers, feeding off the prey.
When a pedophile is arrested and locked away in prison they are no longer a predator. They are confined behind concrete walls and shackled; they are cast away from their community. They were caught and imprisoned; the predator then becomes the prey. The predator than becomes the prison guards or the criminal justice system or their fellow inmates. The pedophile’s fate is determined by the criminal justice system that sends him to prison. The pedophile’s fellow inmates could have a distaste for perverts and beat him until he dies; he came the prey.
So, when orcas are captured and locked within concrete enclosures they are no longer the predator. They’re ripped away from their food chain and placed in an entirely different environment. Once at the top of the food chain, they plummeted to the bottom. Their fate lies in the hands of SeaWorld. They rely on their kidnappers for their survival.
But SeaWorld doesn’t become the predator. SeaWorld is something different entirely. SeaWorld wouldn’t benefit from killing their prey. SeaWorld needs to feed off their prey and reap the benefits for as long as possible. SeaWorld is a parasite.
Parasites leech onto their host, either clinging to the body or digging their way inside. They feed off their host, stealing from them. NECSI explains to us the parasite and host balance, “A parasite and its host evolve together. The parasite adapts to its environment by living in and using the host in ways that harm it.” Parasites harm their hosts, or prey, but rarely kill them. And if they do kill them it wasn’t intentional. They can cause sickness in their hosts that can ultimately lead to their death. Tapeworms, for example, live within the intestines of their host. They feed off the partially digested food, robbing the host of that nutrients. Ticks dig their heads into their host and stuff themselves full of blood.
The Toxoplasma gondii, also known as the mind control bug, infects, most commonly, rodents. It infiltrates the brain, erasing the fear of cats from the rodent’s brain. This then causes the rodent to be captured and killed by the cat. Toxoplasma godnii can also infect humans. In severe cases, brain and organ damage occur.
SeaWorld leeches onto the orcas and refuses to let go. True to parasite nature they cling onto their hosts until they, themselves, are exterminated or until their host dies. SeaWorld, the ultimate parasite, opts for the latter. They ignore any suggestions of seaside sanctuaries where the orcas can live free. Because without their host, they wouldn’t survive.
Like Toxoplasma, SeaWorld, slithers into the host’s brain and takes control. It overrides the hosts natural instincts, instead, they insist on unnatural performances.
Parasites can cause several alarming symptoms in their host. They can cause abdominal pain, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dysentery and weight loss. Parasite’s are detrimental in the health of their host.
Orcas suffer from poor dental health from chewing on cement walls and metal gates. Closed quarters lead to fighting among the orcas , which can cause raking (teeth on skin) marks. They offer suffer from poor eyesight, due to increased light sensitivity. Collapsed Dorsal fins due to restricted diving capabilities. And to their demise orcas easily develop pneumonia in their lungs due to their chemically treated water and insufficient diet. Orcas suffer greatly as the parasite continues to gnaw on their cash “cow”.
SeaWorld digs into the orcas, draining them of any nutrients they can. The only nutrients SeaWorld needs are the crisp dollar bills lining their pockets. They push the orcas to perform tricks for audience members. They even force conception so that more baby orcas can be apart of the SeaWorld cult. SeaWorld’s best interest is to keep the orcas alive so that they can benefit from them. They showcase the orcas and open their parks so that people can witness the blood sucking frenzy disguised as a family friendly marine park.
There is a player we didn’t factor into the game; the audience. The killer whales once predators now the prey. SeaWorld, a monstrous company, is the parasite feeding off the prey. When factoring in the new addition the roles change slightly. The orcas become bait to us. We see happy faces on SeaWorld commercials as Shamu swims joyful laps. We watch as children hug fluffy Shamu’s to their chests, holding it close to their heart. That is when we bite down onto the brilliantly appealing bait. We are hooked. SeaWorld begins reeling us in, slowly with stealth so they don’t alarm us to their trickery. Their lure is embedded into our mouth, pulling us closer toward their greedy gates, like open arms waiting for an embrace. We, the audience, buy tickets to walk through the gates of the park. Wonder filled eyes gaze at tanks filled with animals more majestic than we could ever dream of. We clap, cheer and laugh as we watch the orcas flip out of the water and wave their fins. Behind closed doors SeaWorld counts their cash and smiles knowing their hook is sliced into our mouths, holding us tight.
SeaWorld continues to be the parasite feeding off any entertainment drained out of their hosts and from the audiences gullibleness. They rely off of the orcas helplessness and the audience’s blindness. Without the orcas, there is no audience, and vice versa. Seaworld chomps down onto any vulnerable flesh, and they suck, until their pockets stuff themselves with crisp dollar bills and coins with a distinctive iron smell.
The 1993 Warner Bros film, Free Willy, sparked a national outrage over the injustice of keeping orcas captive. Free Willy is the reason the fight for captive orcas was acknowldeged. The film continues to be a push to open our eyes to the compassion and magic of orcas. The family friendly film highlighted the special bond between a teenage boy, Jesse, and a young majestic orca named Willy. Audience’s hearts warmed and they rooted for a happy ending for both Jesse and Willy. The movie ends in bitter happiness, Jesse succeeds in freeing Willy to reunite with his family. As much as Jesse loved Willy it was only right for Willy to return home.
When released the film inspired thousands of people to strike against marine parks that keep orcas captive. In his article describing the impact of Free Willy, Dylan Powell states, “Having a massive corporate media outlet behind the film, and providing coverage for much of this ‘effect’, has made all of this advocacy impossible to ignore.” A letter campaign, Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, succeeded in freeing Keiko, the whale that ‘played’ Willy. Keiko was taken out of a marine park in Mexico and first brought to Oregon to be treated for health problems. Once in the clear, Willy was flown to Iceland to be kept in a seaside sanctuary where he could relearn his natural instincts and environment. Keiko was released into the wild, and thrived until he died of pneumonia not long after his release. Regardless of his sudden death, Keiko was 27 years old when he died, still living longer than SeaWorld’s average.
The film made over 100 million dollars, some of which was donated to releasing Keiko. Schellenberg in her article informs us, “As the credits appear in front of a video of whales frolicking in the wild, a note says, ‘You can personally help save the whales of the world by calling 1-800-4-WHALES.’ This number was called by millions who wanted the real-life Willy to be freed, and a plethora of donations were collected.” Keiko, along with other captive orcas, had a similar story line to Willy. In 1961, the first captive orca was brought to a marine park. Orcas were hunted and surrounded, the youngest orca ripped away from its family. The orca’s pod has been known to follow the boats as long as they can. I’m sure that if we could understand their cries, we wouldn’t rip them away from their home and force them to live inside a concrete prison.
Willy was ripped away from his family and placed in a marine park. His cries were heartbreaking and lonely. He refused to perform and was stubborn to eat. Willy would cry long high pitched vocals, the Washington state waters cast in the background. Kasatka and Katara are a mother daughter pair of orcas that were inseparable. Katara wouldn’t leave her mothers side and Kasatka protected and loved Katara unconditionally. Katara was sold to a park in Florida, they loaded her onto a shipping truck. Kasatka was left in the pool, crying high pitched vocals. They were never heard before. A specialist was brought in and revealed that Kasatka was crying long range vocals. She was trying to locate her daughter.
SeaWorld rips family units apart like they are simply plastic pieces in a game of Life. We must come to understand that humans are not the only individuals on Earth that feel emotions. Orcas have strong family ties, they continue to be with their family units their whole lives.
They have a part of the brain, humans are deprived of. It is believed to be the center for their strong love and devotion to their family. The thought of ripping a human child away from her mother and tossing her into a cage is repulsive. Replacing the word human with orca does not make that statement any less horrifying.
Free Willy sparked a movement to free orcas from captivity that lead to the first orca release. SeaWorld and other parks like it, announced they wouldn’t capture orcas from the wild any longer. The Free Willy movement lead to Blackfish which fueled another generation. Blackfish shocked people across the globe and flipped SeaWorld upside down, exposing the corrupt business.
SeaWorld then announced its end to the orca program. SeaWorld would end its breeding program and allow the current orcas to be their last generation. Although, this is a win for future orcas; the current orcas are still imprisoned. Kyara, the last baby orca, was supposed to be SeaWorld’s last pawn. Kyara became another tombstone in SeaWorld’s cemetery. At only three months old Kyara succumbed to an unfair and early death. In the National Geographic article Kyara’s cause of death is established, “Park officals suspect the three-month-old calf died from pneumonia, the same infection that killed the infamous captive whale Tilikum.” SeaWorld’s response, “Kyara’s infection had not been caused as a result of being kept in captivity.” Pull up google, type in pneumonia in killer whales, every single link on the first page leads you to results and articles written for only captive whales with pneumonia. Wild orcas suffer rarely from pneumonia but mostly from humans, who pollute their waters and hunt them.
Kyara shared the same ill fate as Tilikum, SeaWorld’s most famous killer whale. Tilikum, two years old, was swimming next to his mother when he was ripped from his home waters. Tilikum was eventually carted off and dumped at SeaLand in British Columbia. For fourteen hours of the day Tilikum was imprisoned in a tiny sea module, not much bigger than he was. Fourteen hours of mind dulling solidarity and then the rest of the hours were spent being attacked by two dominant female orcas.
A trainer slipped and fell into the orca waters, Tilikum dragged her and refused to let her go, even when the girl’s body was limp and lifeless. That was the first person Tilikum killed. The second was a homeless man who snuck into Tilikum’s tank. The dead man’s body, or what was left of it, was proudly draped across Tilikum’s back when trainers came in the morning. Tilikum’s final victim was a highly respect trainer at SeaWorld. Tilikum scalped her and continued to hold onto the corpse for hours after.
The first years of his life were spent free alongside his family. Then he was plucked from his home and tossed into a tank. Majority of his life spent alone, endlessly lapping his small tank or floating lifelessly. He died of pneumonia after a long suffering life. WDC published an article explaining Tilikum’s life and the effects of it, “The true and only legacy from his sad, tragic existence is that a much wider audience now appreciates and understands that these noble creatures deserve better.”
We are told, at a young age, to never talk with our mouths full. Jim McBain and Brad Andrews ignore that pleasantry and common formality; their mouths overflow with well-constructed lies. Jim McBain, director of veterinary medicine at SeaWorld and Brad Andrews, vice president of zoological operations at SeaWorld, released a detailed pro-captivity statement during the time Keiko, the star of Free Willy, was in the public’s attention.
McBain and Andrews are well-educated and successful individuals who make a hefty salary each year at SeaWorld. Their experience and knowledge of SeaWorld would be invaluable if it wasn’t flooded with lies and half-truths.
In their PBS announcement, McBain and Andrews defend SeaWorld and its commitment to love and care for their orcas. It is obvious they care, but they care for the money orcas rake in rather than the orcas themselves. If you took the profit away, SeaWorld would be quick to sell their orcas. Money over matter.
McBain and Andrews start their defense by justifying captivity for the sake of education. As we grow and urbanize we should find ways to stay in touch with nature. They claim it is irrational for every person to experience nature by going out into the wild. They claim it is more beneficial to drag animals to us rather than go to them.
They calculated how many people visit SeaWorld yearly and crunched some numbers to see the consequences of those people visiting “Robson Bite” instead. There would be over 2,000 boat trips a day, which to McBain and Andrews would be “ludicrous”. What is truly ludicrous is that they couldn’t bother to spell the location, they’re referring to, correctly. Its correct spelling is Robson Bight which promotes experiencing the majesty of orcas in the wild. They don’t use boats to observe orcas, they use kayaks to avoid endangering orcas with boats. McBain and Andrews don’t provide numbers to refer to, to ensure their creditability. It is highly unlikely all SeaWorld goers would flock to one orca sighting location while dozens exist.
McBain and Andrews claim in the PBS announcement, we’d “destroy what little habitat is left by trying to do that.” They seem to be repressing the fact that SeaWorld destroyed natural habitat to build their marine prison. They choose to crucify getting informed of animals naturally and praise artificially learning about animals.
McBain and Andrews believe people need to be educated and connected with animals. We all agree it is important to appreciate, understand and value the animals we share the planet with. It is crucial to witness the strength, beauty, and intelligence animals in case, for us to understand our human lives are not the only ones that matter. SeaWorld teaches the opposite lesson under the guise of education. SeaWorld doesn’t teach truth.
SeaWorld also claims they appreciate the social and familial bonds orcas have with their family. Yet, they built a company of the deed of ripping young orcas away from their families. They advertise they keep a mother and her baby together because in the wild an orca stays with her mother her whole life. Behind closed doors, babies are ripped away from their mothers and moved to different parks to benefit breeding programs. It’s an endless cycle of pain, but they don’t inform their guests of those facts.
SeaWorld’s website claims that their orcas live life spans equal to those in the wild. Wild orcas thrive in the open waters of the wild for an average of 60 years. Some, on record, prosper for over a 100 years. SeaWorld’s orcas perish at 13. The expiration date is cut down over 40 years. SeaWorld robs orcas of their lives.
McBain and Andrews seem to have good intentions when they strive to have education and connection to animals without destroying habitats. They should take off their rose-tinted glasses and see the damage SeaWorld inflicts. More than habitat is destroyed, lives are devastated.
McBain and Andrews claim that “over 90 percent of the American public feels that what zoos and aquariums are doing the right thing.” I searched to find validation for this statistic. I found only one survey from Debate Organization, that showed only 41 percent of people believe zoos and aquariums are doing the right thing.
Majority of people see through SeaWorld’s façade and recognize it for the sham it is. Now, it is time for SeaWorld to recognize their faults and take accountability for the damage they has done.
SeaWorld is not educational. One cannot force feed lies and label them as education, its blasphemy. “If want a public that’s knowledgeable about wild animals and some sensitivity about them, if we want our children to have a chance to see many of these animals, it’s gonna have to be places like SeaWorld.” SeaWorld doesn’t provide the public with knowledge, they provide entertainment. They also aren’t educating the public on “wild” animals, these orcas were stripped of being wild. Once they were dumped in those tanks they became captive orcas. There is a strong distinction between wild and captive, one is free and the other is a prisoner.
SeaWorld recognizes its company as a place where people can gain sensitivity towards animals. Sensitivity is an ironic word for McBain and Andrews to choose. SeaWorld is the opposite of sensitive, they ripped orcas from their families to make a profit. They ignore the blood on their hands and shove the skeletons deeper into the closet.
Regardless of the corrupted truths SeaWorld chooses to ooze out from the closed doors, the message they convey is that we should be allowed to do what we want, if we make a profit. SeaWorld promotes inflicting pain to make a profit. Children should be taught to recognize and understand imprisoning an animal, depriving them of their natural habitat and sentencing them to a life inside a concrete pool, is wrong. We wouldn’t buy tickets to visit a cotton plantation, watching the slaves work to survive. We should be horrified at the thought of endorsing such inhumane conditions.
Slavery was common when first started off as the United States. The few that fought against slavery became the many, and then as a country we abolished slavery. Today, it is horrifying to look back and read the details of what slaves endured. Confined to small shacks, separated from family, malnourished, and forced to work under inhumane conditions.
The similarities to what we did to people with a darker skin color and to the orcas we keep enslaved at SeaWorld, are repulsive. Confined to shared, overpopulated areas much too small. Ripped away from their children and siblings. Fed diets heavily lacking nutrients. And poked and prodded to produce work unnatural and inhumane.
The end to the African slave trade, left slave masters with little options. They could no longer rip people from Africa and force them into slavery. They began to rely on trading amoung fellow slave masters. They relied heavily on natural reproduction, children being brought into the world by rape. Women were, commonly, raped by their slave masters. Slave masters depended on the offspring produced by such horrifying actions. This must be how SeaWorld felt when their program, to remove wild orcas from their home and place them in their tanks, came to a screeching halt.
SeaWorld scrambled for options. They bought orcas from other parks to fill in their empty spaces, left by prematurely deceased orcas. But most importantly they impregnated their female orcas with hijacked male orca sperm. Baby orcas bring in a good crowd. The pick and choose family structures, forcing young orcas to become mothers. They impregnate their orcas at half the age they conceive in the wild. Artificially impregnated orcas causes miscarriages, still births, and early deaths. SeaWorld is no Mother Nature, but they are the Grim Reaper.
Nat Turner’s rebellion, a slave rebellion that resulted in white peoples deaths, caused national uproar. Nat Turner was crucified and his sins were well documented. But what was commonly ignored was what lead him to kill so many people. His whole life was spent being a slave, whipped until he bled, and worked until he dropped from exhaustion. Tilikum was labeled as a monster for the people he killed. But taking a closer look it is clear he was driven to this psychotic break. His whole life was spent as a slave.
We must see Seaworld as the same disgusting construct as slavery. We must abolish orca captivity like we did slavery.
“The Debate- Pro-Captivity.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service.
“Are Zoos Good (Yes) or Bad (No)?” Debate.org.
Powell, Dylan. “The Free Willy Effect: Perspective and Time in the Anti-Captivity Movement.”Dylan Powell, 12 Mar. 2014.
Schellenberg, Carlyn. “Free Willy: ’93 Film Propels Anti-Captivity Movement.” The Manitoban, 22 Apr. 2016.
“Parasitic Relationships.” NECSI Evolution.
“Predator-Prey Relationships.” NECSI Evolution.
Morell, Virginia. “How Orcas Work Together to Whip Up a Meal.” National Geographic.
Barrie, Nell. “10 Deadly Parasites.” Science Focus, 16 Aug. 2017.
Holm, Gretchen, and Erica Roth. “Toxoplasmosis.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 10 Feb. 2016.
Schelling, Ameena. “SeaWorld Orcas Have ‘Alarming’ Number Of Injuries, Vet Reveals.” The Dodo, The Dodo, 11 Aug. 2015.
Bradford, Alina. “Orcas: Facts About Killer Whales.” LiveScience, Purch, 20 Nov. 2014.
Gibbens, Sarah. “Sea World’s Last Captive-Born Baby Orca Dies.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 25 July 2017.
“Tilikum – the Death of a Dark Star.” WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, 6 Jan. 2017, us.whales.org/blog/2017/01/tilikum-death-of-dark-star.