Santa Monica Assemblyman Richard Bloom has introduced legislation that would outlaw keeping killer whales in captivity for entertainment purposes. Supporters of the bill point to what they call inhumane marine mammal park practices like forced breeding and separation of calves from mothers. Critics of the measure say that captive orcas are not in fact mistreated and serve important educational and research purposes. We take up the debate.

Dave Phillips, executive director of the Earth Island Institute
Billy Hurley, past president of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums

  • thucy

    “What is a Fast-Fish?” -Melville, Moby-Dick

    If we truly care about orcas, shouldn’t we focus our efforts primarily on protecting their natural habitat(s) – in this case the Pacific Ocean, the health of which is compromised by nearly every consumer purchase we make and every mile we drive?
    It seems that we focus our political attention on heart-tugging issues affecting a small population of marine mammals, while outside our window, a raging environmental crisis -caused by our own greedy appetites- threatens the entire Pacific Ocean food chain.

    • Guest

      I’m sure there will be a gala event about saving the orcas, attended by Bono and Zuckerbergs.

  • James Ivey

    I remember when Seaworld bought Marine Land to get the only breeding male orca in captivity. Instead of learning from Marine Land how orcas can be kept alive and healthy in captivity, Seaworld just moved all the animals to Seaworld, resulting in the death of many of the animals, including ironically the breeding male.

    Can your guests comment on that event?

    • James Ivey

      Just heard the response on air… Great, one ocra survived. Hurray Seaworld!

      When this program started, I wasn’t sure I how I felt about the ban. Thanks to this incredibly cold, callous, and deceitful reply, I’m enthusiastically for the ban.

  • anna_s

    I don’t think the show setup at sea world (with trainers riding on orcas’ backs, etc) is the appropriate or responsible way to teach young people about these amazing animals. Sea World could do an amazing job educating kids and future scientists without demeaning these majestic creatures.

  • Monique Crowley

    We don’t “study” many other animals in captivity like this. Why is it OK to study Orcas? Maybe before Mr. Hurley makes a comment about the concrete living pools that they are forced to live in- which is NOT NATURAL- Billy should spend some time in captivity himself, resigned to ” an adequate amount of unnatural
    space”. In addition, comparing an Orca to a domesticated dog is ridiculous.

  • Laurie

    You just said “educational opportunity” on the air. What education? That other species are ours to use and abuse? I was at Sea World as a child and it broke my heart. I oppose the use and commodification of other species. Just as human slavery was eventually abolished, the enslavement of other species will be as well. Come down on the right side of history and join this abolition movement.

    • Erma

      I felt the same way at my first circus – I was removed weeping by my puzzled parents. We have the means to study these animals in their natural habitat now – the only thing Sea World has learned is how to increase their stock by artificially inseminating them, and how to treat the stress and anxiety related ulcers they develop.

  • Konstantinos Kalofonos

    Would we not be able to compare the experience of watching humans in prison captivity and humans in the open society and then draw the conclusion that since humans play games inside and outside prison that the humans inside prison must just as happy as the humans outside?

  • Winter

    Remembered watching a chained bear being forced to ride a bike in order to survive…Remember my first circus with lions being forced to entertain the crowd…

    are we really still this ignorant to think Orcas being forced to perform is not cruel treatment?

  • TDAG

    Any study SeaWorld performs on Orcas centers around how to breed them using artificial means and keep them alive in the unnatural circumstance that is captivity. Neither of which benefits Orcas in the wild on any level and does nothing towards Orca conservation. Conservation is a word that SeaWorld utters often but you will notice it is rarely, if ever, used in the same sentence as Dolphin or Killer Whale.

    • Erma

      It’s my understanding that they’ve learned a lot about dental care as the whales chew away neurotically at the railing around their pens. 🙁

  • ericmills

    Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s AB 2140 will be assigned to the 15-member ASSEMBLY WATER, PARKS & WILDLIFE COMMITTEE for a hearing in either late March or early April. The chair of the committee is Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (who carried the lead ammo ban legislation last year). Other members are: Frank Bigelow, Travis Allen, Raul Bocanegra, Brian Dahle, Paul Fong, Jim Frazier, Beth Gaines, Mike Gatto, Jimmy Gomez, Lorena Gonzalez, Adam Gray, Jim Patterson, Freddie Rodriguez and Mariko Yamada. (Committee Consultant is Diane Colborn. She may be emailed at: diane.colborn@asm.ca.gov)

    HOW YOU CAN HELP: Support letters for AB 2140 are needed NOW. ALL LEGISLATORS MAY BE WRITTEN C/O THE STATE CAPITOL, SACRAMENTO, CA 95814. And send Mr. Bloom a thank-you note–a good man, he (Bloom carried the bobcat protection bill last year).

    Here’s hoping that San Diego’s unfounded concerns over lost tourism revenues and jobs will not be allowed to trump the REAL issues here: animal welfare, compassion, ethics and morality. NO cetaceans belong in captivity, least of all for our mere “entertainment.” We all deserve better, humans and non-humans alike.

    Eric Mills, coordinator

  • Ben Garcia

    When I was 6 years old, I was one of the “lucky” kids who was able to go on stage with Shamu at Sea World and feed him fish and pet his tongue. It was an amazing and memorable experience. The following year, someone dressed as ALF came to my brother’s birthday party. It, too, was an amazing and memorable experience. Both instances were spectacles aimed at pleasure and happiness. Neither experience was educational and neither had a formative opinion on my views. I get my love, appreciation, and sense of stewardship for the sea and its animals by spending as much time as possible in the ocean. As a result, I find it deeply saddening to see any type of animal in captivity. I guess at least the person dressed up as ALF had some sort of choice regarding his or her situation.

  • palominogal

    Hurley’s comment that captive orcas get “more than adequate care” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Sorry, not good enough. SeaWorld’s day has come and gone, and I think they know it. The wheel is turning and AB 2140 is a real opportunity for Californians to take a stand and make a powerful statement to the nation and the world. Let’s get it done.

  • MattCA12

    Everyone should see the film Blackfish. We have no business trying to keep these magnificent (and yes, deadly) creatures in captivity.

    • KShibaSu

      People should watch Blackfish before going to SeaWorld and similar parks. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them deadly. Compare the number of people that have gotten killed from a whale in captivity with ones in their natural habitat, which to my knowledge is none. Personally, I would love to go swimming with them in their natural habitat but would never get in the water with a captive. Yes, transient killer whales eat meat and kill seals but with people are more curious than anything else. Resident killer whales eat fish. It is disgusting what we have done to them and I agree they should be banned.

  • Erma

    Hurley compares domesticated dogs to wild whales, and he calls himself an expert? Scripted Sea World spin.

  • Michael

    Bill Hurley’s arguments were so pathetic. This guy was obviously being compensated by SeaWorld. He rebutted Blackfish’s accusation that SeaWorld separates the Orca families by calling it a “stretch,” but he didn’t call it a lie because he knows it isn’t. Then a viewer calls in and voices his opposition to SeaWorld, and Bill Hurley says, “well you’ve never been an Orca trainer.” So I guess all of us who haven’t been an orca trainer are not qualified to have an opinion on this. What a complete dbag. At first I was disappointed Michael Krasny let this fraud on his show but I’m pretty sure Bill just further deteriorated the SeaWorld’s image, and perhaps that was by design.

  • Alfredo Kuba

    The arguments of a corporate conglomerate like Sea World make that affirms that taking animals like killer whales from their natural environment, tearing them apart from their families and breaking the bonds of their families in order to imprison them and exploit for profit demonstrates how little if anything Sea World and its corporate “experts” do know about marine life or any wildlife for that matter. After tearing families apart and destroying the real bonding between Orca families, Sea World trainers force their will on these intelligent animals by conditioning them to do unnatural behaviors in order to eat and survive. These mounts to nothing short of psychological animal torture and abuse. Wild animals do not want to “bond” with humans, they are forced to interact with humans in order to survive through domination and reducing them to beg for food.

    It is abhorrent to reduce animals to nothing more than a for profit prop.

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