November 27th, 2011 by J.H. Soeder
Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited SeaWorld following the death of a killer whale trainer. If a Florida court rules in favor of OSHA, employees of SeaWorld and other parks like it will no longer be able to come into direct contact with whales unless there is a barrier between them.
Although I usually write about the less aggressive whales, I by no means wish to forget Killer Whales and the ongoing saga with Sea World.
You see, Killer Whales are big business. People are drawn to intrigue and horror stories. And “Killer Whales” always draw a crowd, especially when “killers” can be shown to be playful, docile and controlled.
At least that is what you are led to believe.
But to understand it a bit more clearly, you need to separate out a couple of ideas. Ideas that confuse the issue, simply because words can border on sensational, and thus draw crowds. Crowds that pay money to see “killers”.
Killer whale jumping out of the blue water (Orcinus orca)
You see, the word “killer” usually brings into one’s mind a sinister thing, an evil thing. And from years ago, “killer” whales, were actually just that – whales that eat other whales. Recent events now show that these whales even eat sting rays and great white sharks.
The truth is, these whales are at the top of their food chain, just like we are. They eat other animals.
However, when any animal, including man, is caged and corralled, behaviors change. Men become violent. Well, so do whales, especially whales that are predators. Just like men, given the chance, they will turn against their keepers.
Tilikum is one such “killer” whale.
How would you express your rage at captivity, left to be in a room the size of a living room for the rest of your natural life?
As it turns out, Tilikum has killed two other people. But remember one thing – there are no records of wild orcas hunting and killing man in open waters. The behavior changed when forced these mammals were forced into a small enclosure.
Sea World has 25 of the 42 whales that exist in large-scale aquariums. And right now there is a move to remove trainers from being in the water with any orca. The interesting thing is that Sea World is attempting to stop this lawsuit by OSHA.
They are trying to prove that these animals can be “controlled” when the point is that having human trainers riding them are what visitors come to see every year, paying millions of dollars in entry fees and paraphernalia.
Does Sea World really care about the safety of their trainers…really?
The spark of sanity that may occur is that OSHA could win this case, denying trainers to be in the water with orcas.
People will no longer be drawn to the shows where trainers are thrown into the air, hug and ride whales.
The excitement will go.
And so will visitor attendance.
If OSHA wins their case, it means one step closer to freedom for these magnificent beings.