Lots of people have a lot of strong opinions on Sea World. We would visit this theme park every few years when I was growing up, during our fairly regular visits to Orlando in Florida. For years, we would go to see the penguins, try out the log flume, and watch the sea lion show, which was always my favourite. Sea lions pretending to be pirates was too good for 8-year-old me.
Since the documentary Blackfish was released back in 2013, opinions of this nature-themed park have changed. I personally heard a lot about the criticisms of this documentary before I decided to watch it. This was a good thing for me because it meant that I took a lot of it with a pinch of salt. I have no doubt that a lot of what was mentioned was exaggerated, and a lot of the witnesses didn’t seem particularly reliable.
The fact remains, though, that there is a lot of poor treatment going on at Sea World. I couldn’t believe that animal trainers, including with the killer whales, didn’t need years of training or a degree in marine conservation to work with dangerous animals. They were normal people, and that doesn’t sit right with me.
There is no denying that huge killer whales are not meant to swim round and round in a small tank for days on end. The floppy dorsal fins was the thing that really convinced me that these animals are not happy and healthy.
However, this is not the thing that has made me unequivocally say I will never go back to Sea World.
On my last visit to Sea World, probably in around 2008, we were going through an exhibit about animals that live in cold temperatures. They had a polar bear behind one of the panes of glass. Now, if you think the tanks for the killer whales were small, you wouldn’t believe these conditions.
Polar bears can travel for around 19 miles per day for days on end, much like the killer whales that tend to travel up to 100 miles in 24 hours. This polar bear could travel about five metres if he wanted to. There was no fresh air, with a white ceiling penning him in. But he was barely moving at all. His tiny plunge pool remained empty while he sat on the edge and rocked backwards and forwards. The tiny space had clearly made him lose his mind. I couldn’t believe that some visitors were amazed at the polar bear, while I wanted to break down in tears. Couldn’t they see he was suffering?
Is there any worse torture in the world that that? Can you imagine a human being made to live out their final days like that? I don’t care how he had come to be in captivity, if he had been badly injured or born there, he definitely could have been released or – at the very least – had a much much larger enclosure with stimulation.
There has been the odd time when I have been tempted to go to Sea World to ride their world-class rollercoasters, but ultimately I don’t want to support an organisation like that. Luckily for people visiting Orlando, there are plenty of rides that are just as good – if not better – than Sea World’s offerings within the city. I would prefer another ride on the Hulk at Islands of Adventure any day!
I know that my reaction is quite absolute, as I don’t like zoos in general either. I do know that they say they do great conservation work, so hopefully there is some good in the company. Plus, I’m sure they have some fantastic staff members that really do care for the animals they look after.
What do you think of Sea World? Do you think that my reaction is extreme? Will you be happy to visit in future? I’d love to hear your thoughts!