Though I lived in the San Antonio area for a good portion of my life, I never visited a Sea World park until 2001. At that time, I was living in Orlando, but financially and emotionally invested solely in the Disney parks. Sea World was a rare diversion from the mouse, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I really spent any length of time at Sea World. After adding Busch Gardens annual passes to our collection, we discovered that Sea World was an easy add-on. Being that Sea World is almost within tossing distance, how could we not? After all, Busch Gardens had impressed us so much; it only made sense that their sister park would harbor equally high standards of quality and performance. After returning home from a day at Sea World about a month ago, I did something very common and mundane… I shared a photo I had taken that day at Sea World on my Twitter account. Within a couple of hours, I had been officially bombarded by strangers who felt they had some sort of right to berate me for my choice of entertainment options. This is the photo I shared…
I suppose you could say that this paved the way for my introduction to “Blackfish”, as this Twitter trending topic was making waves on that day. Considering where I live, I’d sound like an idiot if I were to say that I am clueless on the current controversies surrounding Sea World, but honestly, I prefer to stay out of things that seem sensationalized or overly publicized as a PR stunt. Lately, it seems that anyone with a soap box wants a piece of the Sea World pie, and that’s where I feel an urge to withdraw from the news reports and over-hyped drama. I simply don’t care to listen to the ignorant ramblings of any boob with access to a video recording device who found a topic to chime in on in a pathetic bid for attention.
I must confess though… this issue made me take pause for a moment. I spent a portion of my teen years as a rather vocal and passionate animal rights advocate. I supported a few PETA campaigns, and participated in other events at random, studying the various issues involved with the animal rights debate along the way. I learned a great deal during this time – about animals, about people, about myself. I learned that my feelings on the issue, while very passionate, were not quite the same as many others who advocated for the animals. I am not a vegan, or even a vegetarian. Quite the opposite, in fact – I LOVE BEEF! This little snag seemed to make me the victim of many verbal assaults from people I had considered brothers/sisters in our cause.
I absolutely DO NOT condone ANY act of animal experimentation, vanity-fueled animal exploitation, entertainment-based animal abuse or ANY type of animal cruelty overall. This also means that I support humane conditions for animals of all types, in all situations – even those bred expressly for the purpose of becoming food for humans. I DO understand and accept the food chain as it exists. For people to eat a cow is no different than a lion eating an antelope. Until PETA is picketing the jungle critters for their food chain, I see this as a ridiculous matter. In fairness, however… during my time working with PETA, I was involved with a campaign against KFC that did not seek to shut down the company, but rather insisted on improved conditions for their chickens. This is a fair, realistic perspective and a reasonable campaign. Animals humanely utilized in farming and livestock is entirely different than voluntary acts of cruelty and abuse for any purpose, ESPECIALLY vanity or entertainment!
SO… does my viewpoint combined with my Sea World patronage make me a hypocrite? I actually thought about this for a moment. Then, I remembered previous studies I have done on circuses. THAT is cruelty. Their tactics are standard and the stuff of nightmares. No, this is not the same thing. Sea World is not run by nomadic stunt people employing brutal punishment tactics in their training regimes against malnourished, sickly, pitiful creatures overflowing with obvious misery. Quite the contrary!! Sea World is a highly respected institution in the zoological industry, employing well-trained, educated professionals who exhibit compassion, knowledge and exceptional ability in the field. The animals they work with are viable, active, spunky, and vivacious. Rather than displaying the signs of fear or forced behavior, they demonstrate more of a genuine bond and excitement over their interactions with each other, as well as their human trainers.
I have not seen “Blackfish”, nor do I intend to. Frankly, from the trailer and many reviews, it seems to be just as I expected – a propagandized, one-sided attack hurled with the support of a disgruntled few, featuring a campy, cheesy soundtrack purely intended to evoke a vibe of synthetic horror and dramatics. It is baseless, and armchair quarterbacking at best. Suggestive editing can be quite powerful, but also very misleading.
I’ve never been one to appreciate judgmental people, and those types of people are what pushed me away from the animal rights cause to begin with. Not that I haven’t still worked toward the goal… I have! I just choose to keep it to the fringe and do my good deeds as a solo effort. I no longer wish to be part of the human “force”, so to speak. Not if they are incapable of coexisting with varying degrees of agreement, and even *gasp* disagreement. I cannot see issues as a simple black and white matter – very rarely are they so! More often, there is a huge mass of gray where exists a more realistic, balanced viewpoint that allows for a universal compromise that allows life to keep flowing smoothly as it is meant to on this planet. There’s always gotta be someone upsetting the apple cart, though. Personally, I thank Sea World, for ALL that they do! They do good deeds in the form of rescue and rehabilitation efforts for the animals; and they take great responsibility in educating people on the subjects of animals, conservation and good stewardship. I work in social media, and I never miss a chance to throw recognition to other local businesses when they have earned community kudos. Sea World’s good deeds frequently catch my eye. Deja vu… just like my “coming out” as a meat eater to the throngs of self righteous vegans, I will again set them alight with wails of “hypocrisy!” now, as I proclaim to be an animal rights advocate AND an appreciative Sea World annual pass holder. Yeah, I ride that gray zone wave… and I’m proud of my intelligence in doing so. Rather than take the nasty, immature way out and rip apart the opposition, point-by-point (though I admit – my original draft did go there), I’d rather set the example and calmly, intelligently point out a few of the positives. No one seems to be going there in this issue…
1963 Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute opens with a commitment “to return to the sea some measure of the benefits derived from it.”
1964 SeaWorld opens in San Diego, Calif., where our first Animal Rescue team is formed.
1980 First bottle-raised orphaned manatee Marina is rescued and successfully released.
1989 5,000-pound Bryde’s whale is rehabilitated after around-the-clock care and returned to the wild.
1997 JJ, an orphaned gray whale calf, begins her 14-month rehabilitation, becoming the largest rescued animal ever returned to the wild.
2000 SeaWorld helps save more than 20,000 oiled penguins and nearly 700 orphaned penguin chicks affected by the Treasure oil spill in South Africa. The same year the SeaWorld Oiled Wildlife Care Center, a public-private partnership for environmental stewardship, is formed.
2003 The SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund is established and has since granted $9 million to projects around the world.
2005 During Hurricane Katrina, SeaWorld rescues 14 injured or displaced sea lions.
2010 More than 300 cold-stunned, endangered sea turtles are rehabilitated after suffering from record-setting cold—one of the largest rescue events in SeaWorld history.
2010 SeaWorld Rescue Team responds to wildlife devastated by the tragic BP Gulf oil spill, including more than 100 endangered sea turtles.