It has been just over two weeks since SeaWorld announced that they would end the breeding programs at its parks and partnered with the Humane Society of the United States. The latter was the biggest shock that we have ever experienced. While some of the smoke has settled, it is clear that emotions are still high as countless people have canceled their annual passes and become highly vocal on social media.
One thing is clear; this business decision was an emotional appeal to activists in order to attempt to bridge the gap so that SeaWorld’s profits can recover. There are many problems with this decision. This could set a precedent for other zoos and aquariums as well as influence legislation. In fact, the Bloom orca bill has been adapted after this decision so that it still bans orca breeding programs, however there are not longer any mention of sea pens in the bill.
Unfortunately, SeaWorld likely opened a pandorica of future concessions. PETA has made it clear that they will not stop at just ending orca breeding. They want to see the elimination of orcas in human care all together. Even Naomi Rose has stated that while this was a good first step, she will not rest until these animals are in sea cages. Whatever SeaWorld hoped to achieve will be undermined by the exacerbated activist presence that this will cause.
The fact of the matter is scientists were not consulted in this decision. If they were, their voice was certainly silenced. Studies have shown that breeding programs increase animal welfare under human care. Animals have a natural urge to breed and to deprive them of that innate behavior is to be inhumane (ironically this is very close to a statement that SeaWorld release a few months ago). SeaWorld contradicted their previous statements. Additionally, separating males and females would actually make SeaWorld guilty of an activist claim.
We invite you to read (Marine Mammal Breeding Prevention – Not A Good Idea) which discusses the efficacy of contraceptive options. Research shows that very few contraception studies have been conducted with cetaceans leaving a number of factors to determine before they can truly be recommended for use.
This is one of the first times we have ever seen SeaWorld make a decision that was not in the best interest of the animals in their care and not backed by scientific research. This decision is both unwise and irresponsible. While we cannot condone this decision, we do support the men and women on the front lines of animal care including the trainers, vet staff, the animal care team, and the educators. We support the rescue and rehabilitation efforts of SeaWorld and believe that they have become world-renowned experts in sea turtles and marine mammal care, however they have turned their backs on their own research to appease activist who have no intention of ever being satisfied. We encourage all of you to research your facts and make sure they are well vetted by peer-reviewed scientific literature. We can only support a science-based management of animals in human care. That is what animal welfare is really about.