Candace Calloway Whiting compares how we treat pets like hamsters in our homes to how we treat orcas in captivity at marine circuses like SeaWorld.
In the case of hamsters:
“There are hundreds upon hundreds of toys, gadgets and gizmos available to keep our pets entertained and exercised.”
But when it comes to whales and dolphins, who are among the most intelligent and sensitive animals on Earth:
[They] are afforded only sterile, monotonous tanks, clearly in violation of AZA [Association of Zoos and Aquariums] standards. … They face endless hours with no stimulation when the park is closed. Dolphin brains are a thousand times the size of a hamsters yet they receive a fraction of the stimulation in the habitat provided to the furry pets.
People at home delight in finding new, interesting, stimulating, fun things for their hamsters to do to keep them entertained and fulfilled. Like this:
But if you’re an orca at SeaWorld or one of the other marine “parks”, this is what your life looks like most of the time:
Calloway quotes from the minimal standards of care laid out by the AZA, to which the marine circuses are not remotely adhering. But, of course, why would they? The AZA is not a watchdog; it’s a trade association, quite literally bought and paid for by the zoos and circuses.
One of the AZA standards Calloway quotes is particularly distressing when you look at the life of an orca in captivity:
Social groupings should resemble those observed in the wild to facilitate feeding, grooming, social, territorial, and courtship behaviors. Mixed species exhibits may also provide symbiotic or complementary activities between the species.
When you read this, you can’t help but think of Kiska, who lives alone in a tank at Marineland in Canada. And when her former trainer, Christine Santos, spoke up about the fact that Kiska is so mentally deranged by her situation that she hurts herself against the side of her tank and has been seen gushing blood from her tail, Marineland simply launched a million-dollar lawsuit against Santos.
Marineland is also suing another of its former trainers, now whistle blower, Phil Demers. It seems that this is its best and only response to the flood of bad publicity that’s been sparked by what these courageous people have spoken out about.
What You Can Do: Support Santos and Demers as Marineland takes up arms against them with a barrage of high-paid attorneys. The website Fins and Fluke has a list of things you can do that will make a difference.
Candace Whiting writes regularly about marine mammals on her blog at the Seattle P.I.