An eye-opening Op-Ed by Elizabeth Batt in the Digital Times sheds light on the rampant physical and psychological problems caused by the forced inbreeding of orcas held at SeaWorld.
Beginning with the well-publicized tragedy of Vicky, a 10-month old orca “owned” by SeaWorld, who recently died at the Loro Parque amusement park in Spain after being rejected by her mother, Batt traces the long history of the inherent negligence and abuse in SeaWorld’s breeding program.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment LLC “owns” 26 of the 45 orcas held in captivity at amusement parks around world and can legally treat them as chattel. Batt writes:
“Despite the claims of providing superior care for its cetaceans. Once an orca enters a marine park facility they are treated as livestock. Orcas bred at the park can be shipped anywhere at any time. They can be loaned out for breeding purposes…or reclaimed.”
Orcas are well known to have extremely tight-knit families, with juveniles living with their mothers for decades. The ongoing psychological pain and trauma inflicted by SeaWorld’s breeding program must be immense for both the mother and her offspring, especially since, as Batt points out:
“Across the captive cetacean industry, there are few standards governing breeding. At the discretion of the marine park, they can breed an orca or any other cetacean, at will.”
This indiscretion and lack of oversight has resulted in numerous deaths and unsuccessful births – most likely compounding the stress and anguish of the other captive orcas. As The Orca Project points out, “In all, 37 orcas have died in captivity at SeaWorld’s three parks. There have been 28 live births at the three parks (nine of whom are deceased, as well as 10 of their mothers) and numerous unsuccessful births.”
With all the inbreeding that SeaWorld engages in, offspring often have physical and psychological disabilities. Batt writes:
“For many experts, breeding orcas with behavioral issues is irresponsible. Breeding them to blood relatives, is something that would never occur in wild pods. SeaWorld’s orca lineage, published by Without Me There is No You, shows inbreeding is rampant.
And she concludes:
“Continuing to ignore science and the psychological and physical well-being of these highly social animals is foolhardy.”
Given the circumstances, “foolhardy” is a tame description. “Criminal” seems more appropriate.