By Kate Good
Well, well, well, SeaWorld Entertainment CEO, Jim Atchison has “opened up” about the backlash the corporation has felt in the wake of Blackfish. In a heart-felt interview with Bloomberg & Businessweek, Atchison elaborates very clearly on the fact that he just plain does not get it. Of course, in Atchison’s mind, this publication was surely meant to positively boost the perception of the SeaWorld enterprise, but Jim … we have to be honest, we didn’t know it was possible to dislike SeaWorld more, but it seems to have happened after hearing what you really think about the job you do.
After our jaws were repeatedly dropped all the way to the floor reading your personal explanation of how SeaWorld has reacted to the “animal-rights propaganda,” that is the factual evidence revealed in Blackfish, our opinion index has dropped to a new low. So, Mazel, for that Jim! Let’s dive into some of our favorite hits, shall we!
One of the biggest reasons SeaWorld has given for continuing in their captive breeding program is that it is done for the sake of conservation.
“We cooperate with studies right off the coast of Florida, and we find that calf survival rates are down,” says Atchison, “They’re consuming fish that have mercury, other pollutants, and those fish consumed other fish that had that. I mean, it’s bad.”
Yes, this is a valid point and it does speak to the incredibly problem that the world must face in regards to ocean pollution, but should we venture into the number of orca deaths at SeaWorld?
Tilikum alone has fathered 21 calves in his time at SeaWorld. Of those 21 calves, only 11 are still alive. While all wild animals have to face challenges to their survival that would theoretically inflate their mortality rate versus their captive counterparts … how does Atchison explain away the 11 deaths of these orcas born into captivity (not to mention the numerous miscarriages and untimely orca deaths)?
Switching to the discussion of whether continuing performances with captive orcas is really safe or not (especially in light of the information presented in Blackfish relating to the death of SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau), Atchison explains, “Things do not get worse than that day. But it is extraordinary work that people like Dawn do, and it has its own risks.”
This of course is true, but the discussion continues, “Atchison estimates that 500 trainers have been employed at SeaWorld parks working with killer whales, making for a fatality rate of 1 in 500 over decades.”
The odds of a fatal incident with a captive orca is like, really low, right? Why are people freaking out?! Well for starters, in the wild there have been zero human fatalities caused by an orca attack. There’s that. Oh, and also that the whale who killed Brancheau, Tilikum, has also killed two other people. Not to mention the over 100 logged “incidents” that have occurred with SeaWorld trainers who have been actively attacked by disgruntled orcas … thankfully no one was killed during these incidents, but this hardly makes Brancheau’s death seem like a statistical anomaly.
Further, Atchison seems to think that the only real problem with SeaWorld’s captive orca performances is the American attitude. Duh! We Americans think we’re so “informed” and “righteous” that we can’t be bothered to enjoy the simple pleasure of watching a tortured animal exhibit unnatural behaviors all so it can get a meal. Silly us!
So, as the result of this social distaste for animal cruelty, SeaWorld is redirecting its efforts to expand their international market. As the article states, “Cultural sensitivity around marine mammals is different in, say, China, the Middle East, and Russia.” Being the good (business) people that they are, SeaWorld has made plans to use the orca they do have to breed animals for international parks.
“Our international expansion ambitions are fully within the structure of the animals we have,” Atchison says. “We can have another SeaWorld park with four or five whales in it pretty easily.”
Basically, we can thank Atchison for such sound validation that SeaWorld has learned nothing, will continue to deny any harm done to orcas or trainers, and it’s confidence that when consumers in the U.S. stop paying to attend the park – people elsewhere will.
We also didn’t even get into the fact that SeaWorld’s VP of Communications admitted to having tasted orca milk before. His thoughts: “I’ll starve to death before I have that again. It tastes like fish. It’s got like 15 times more fat than cow milk.”
In conclusion, American’s need to chill out and if you’re looking for a low-fat coffee creamer, orca milk is not the way to go.
We also apologize if the number of facepalms that occurred in reading this have caused any bruising.