A Whale Of A Business
This movie from 1997 talks about the business created around the orca Keiko (more commonly known under the name Willy) as well as dolphins (such as Flipper*). It shows the origins of this business. How it all started when Ted Griffin was the first one to ever buy a captured orca, Namu, in 1965. Namu died one year after her capture because of the polluted water she was held in.
Despite the friendship bonds and the respect that grew between the trainer and his orca, Griffin couldn’t resolve himself to this ending. Not after all the success and the celebrity he had had thanks to Namu. So, he began to capture whales all around the world. The industry of captivity was born.
I cannot begin to tell you how I felt when I learnt all this. Ted Griffin had the opportunity to say “no, marine mammals do not belong in captivity. Namu proved it. We discovered that they are not killer whales, despite their name. They are intelligent, docile, matriarchal and social creatures that need to stay free.” But he blew this opportunity off because he was too greedy for money and fame… It is just so sad… In 1997, during an interview, “Ted Griffin makes no apologies”.
Brad Andrews, the Vice-President of the Zoological Operations of SeaWorld, gives me a forced laugh in this documentary. Remember, he’s the one who claimed that cetaceans were no more intelligent than his dog (in the video A Fall From Freedom)
He claims “these animals are priceless”. You can’t put a price on them. (This is probably why it is so easy for them to sell or buy whales whenever they want!!) He pretends orcas have nothing to do with the success of SeaWorld. Ah, yes, but their mascot isn’t the walrus but an orca, right? Besides, it is proved that 70 % of the tickets bought at SeaWorld are bought because of the orca show. Basically, the most famous orca, Shamu (who performed at SeaWorld between 1969 and 1971 – the very first orca to have survived more than 13 months in captivity) became their Mickey Mouse. Their goose that lays the golden egg.
Brad Andrews even talks about their “collection of animals”. I find it an ethical crime to collect wild animals. I mean, miniatures, why not. But real live animals to exploit for the customers’ amusement, no!
SeaWorld welcomed a stranded whale in his tanks for a while, in 1997. What a golden opportunity it must have been for them to pretend that their ecological and environmental aim was real! “When you have twelve million visitors at the SeaWorld parks, you really have to impact that learning process on what they might learn about the environment, the animals […] but you have to do it in a very fun, very entertaining way”. So, his solution is to turn them into freaks, forcing them to work every day of the year, until their death.
In fact, amusement parks become like supermarkets. You can buy souvenirs like tee-shirts, hats, etc. You can buy photos, even food. Everything is in display for the visitors to consume.
He very clearly opposes himself to the rehabilitation and freeing of the star orca from the movie Free Willy, Keiko. Owners of SeaWorld did not want an ending where you could see the animal going back to the wild. They wanted the ending to show Willy being moved into a better facility: SeaWorld.
What’s striking is to see how SeaWorld representatives deny all the facts. SeaWorld denies that it finances the captures of orcas, pseudorcas and dolphins. Orcas were captured in the Icelandic seas in order to avoid discontent from the American public concerning the capture of wild animals. These foreign captures would give time to SeaWorld to ask for a permit for new orcas. Of course, SeaWorld knew very well that these animals had already been captured and were held prisoners in small tanks hidden in warehouses. SeaWorld only pretended to ask for new orcas to bring them to a better facility, that is to say, theirs. Or for breeding means, that would take place in a better facility, that is to say, theirs again.
SeaWorld keeps denying its responsibility in the massacres occurring in Japan. The massacres of pseudorcas in the Japanese Iki Islands are a very well-known fact. Here, SeaWorld pretends to RESCUE some pseudorcas from the massacre. They are saviours! “We are going to pay thousands of dollars to rescue these animals”. And this is how they encourage the massacres: with a guarantee that the fishermen will win a lot of money.
Every single one pseudorca that you can see in the American amusement parks was captured in Japan. Every single one pseudorca that you can see in the American amusement parks has therefore lived a traumatic experience at the time of its capture. SeaWorld supports this.
You too were shocked when you saw these images of captures of cetaceans? You too now look at amusement parks differently? You want to help?
It’s easy! Amusement parks work with the relation between supply and demand. If people stop buying tickets to visit amusement parks, then parks would have to stop the captures because they wouldn’t need more animals. All you have to do is spread the word in order to dissuade the public from visiting amusement parks and do so as well.
*I will talk about Flipper in a post to come, as well as Richard O’Barry, its main trainer.