California Assemblyman Moves to Ban SeaWorld’s Captive Orcas

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California may ban the use of captive orcas for performance purposes as a direct result of the controversial documentary, “Blackfish.”

Hey, SeaWorld, how much clearer can it get? That’s the question million of American are asking the aquatic theme park under fire for its mistreatment of captive orcas. Now, with support from Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), California may soon make it illegal to keep orcas in captivity for use as entertainment. This. Is. Huge. Not just for the the whales (but mostly), but also for other captive animals including dolphins and circus animals. Once the treatment of orcas comes correct, it’s only a matter of time before it happens for other animals forced into the entertainment business.

According to a statement released by Bloom’s office, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act (AB 2140) would eliminate the use of orcas in performance-based entertainment, and it would also do away with captive breeding programs—the goal being to phase out all orca captivity in California.

“There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes,” Bloom said in the release. “These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement.”

Bloom added, “In their natural habitat orcas are family-oriented, highly adaptable, socially-complex with cultural traditions and trail only humans as the most intelligent creatures on this planet. However, in captivity, they have shorter lifespans, show increased health problems, live in swimming pool sized habitat that are approximately one ten-thousandth the required size and demonstrate aggressive behavior towards one another and towards humans that has never been documented in the wild. They simply do not belong in captivity.”

SeaWorld once again rebuffed the accusations that it mistreats its animals, criticizing Bloom for associating with “extreme animal rights activists, many of whom regularly campaign against SeaWorld and other accredited marine mammal parks and institutions.” Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Director of “Blackfish” joined Bloom at his office for the press conference. SeaWorld called out PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for a “meritless claim that animals in human care should be considered slaves under the 13th amendment of the US Constitution.”

But people aren’t buying it; SeaWorld’s reputation may only recover with a complete makeover. Jared Goodman, Director of Animal Law at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the only humane solution for the theme park was to fund coastal sanctuaries–a move that could happen if the theme park’s stock continue to drop.

“We engage in business practices that are responsible, sustainable and reflective of the balanced values all Americans share,” SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz said about the theme park.

The news comes on the heels of leaked documents that allege SeaWorld drugs its orcas with benzodiazepines—drugs found in Valium and Xanax— to keep the intelligent, emotional animals complacent in captivity.

[Editor’s note: Sacramento Fox News 40 reports that on April 8, Committee members voted that AB 2140 will be tabled until at least next year.]

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Related on EcoSalon

WTF, SeaWorld? Orcas Given Valium to Forget They’re in Water Prisons?

SeaWorld Walks the Plank: Documentary ‘Blackfish’ Leaves Theme Park Drowning in Shame

Movie Review: ‘Blackfish’—SeaWorld’s Six-Ton Killer Secret

Image: christopherallisonphotography

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is the senior editor and featured columnist on EcoSalon and sister site Organic Authority. Jill’s writing has been featured in The Village Voice, MTV, Reality Sandwich and Global Rhythm as well as the anthologies “Towards 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age” (2009, Tarcher/Penguin) and “What Do You Believe?” (2009, Outside the Box). A focus on food policy, veganism, wellness, music and world cultural expressions, Jill blends the mystical and modern as she explores what our shifting food, fashion, culture and creative landscapes will look, sound and taste like in the future. Jill spent more than a decade as a sales and marketing manager in the natural foods industry and regularly consults with and supports emerging brands and organizations in creative communication, social media and event production. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and future foodie, their daughter Imogene. Twitter @jillettinger | www.jillettinger.com.