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Letter to the Editor: SeaWorld’s new project holds inauthentic compassion for orcas

SeaWorld's new Blue World Project will nearly double the tank holding the whales in SeaWorld San Francisco. 

I feel deeply troubled by the inaccurate claims stated in the article published in The Oracle about SeaWorld’s latest (initiative) the Blue World Project. The (initiative) is a marketing scheme that does nothing but attempt to appease the general public with inauthentic compassion for the orca whales held in captivity within the park. 

SeaWorld’s new proposed pool will only be 350 feet long, holding 10 million gallons. This might seem spacious, but for a 30-foot long orca whale weighing about five tons, this is not nearly enough space. Keeping a whale in a pool this size is like confining a human to a bathtub.  For an orca to match the 100 miles a day he or she would naturally travel in the ocean, he or she would have to swim more than 1,500 lengths back and forth every single day. Despite SeaWorld’s attempt to justify this, the information available about the traumatic effects of captivity on animals (both mental and physical) is undeniable.  

Rather than releasing these whales back into the ocean as the article claims protestors desire, many recognize that the best option for most of these whales is to live out their lives in seaside sanctuaries. This way, the orca whales can be in the ocean yet not have to face the dangers of a captive animal being released into the wild. 

Animals in confinement are denied everything that’s natural and important to them, and every aspect of their lives is manipulated and controlled. There is nothing educational about seeing captive animals removed from their natural habitat and exhibiting behaviors that would never be documented in nature. Such behaviors include endless pacing, bar biting, head bobbing and jumping through hula-hoops or being ridden like a surfboard. The frustration animals experience can lead to abnormal, neurotic and even self-destructive behaviours, like Hugo, an orca whale who repeatedly bashed his head into a wall until he died, or Tilikum, another orca whale who killed three SeaWorld trainers. 

Currently, USF offers discounts on SeaWorld tickets for USF employees. This is frustrating because SeaWorld teaches all the wrong lessons: that it is acceptable to imprison animals, to deprive them of their freedom, to deny them the opportunity to establish their natural territory and explore, to breed them and separate them as we please and to watch them go insane from boredom and loneliness. For these reasons, I plead with USF to stop supporting SeaWorld by ending discounted tickets for employees as soon as possible. 

People who wish to help endangered species should donate to organizations that actually protect animals in their native habitats, not businesses that keep them incarcerated in claustrophobia-inducing environments. If people want to support true sanctuaries, they can find a listing of those accredited by (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries) at sanctuaryfederation.org and pledge never to go to SeaWorld as long as they continue to confine intelligent animals to tiny tanks and force them to perform unnatural “tricks” for the park’s monetary gain. 

Gabrielle Patterson is a junior majoring in integrative animal biology.