California bill could shut SeaWorld’s killer whale shows down for good

A "Blackfish"-inspired legal showdown pits animal rights activists against the popular park

Topics: SeaWorld, blackfish, San Diego, killer whales, California, Animal rights, ,

California bill could shut SeaWorld's killer whale shows down for good A killer whale show at SeaWorld San Diego(Credit: Cary Kalscheuer/Seaworld)

State lawmakers in Sacramento are considering a bill that takes aim at SeaWorld’s wildly controversial orca shows, banning them in California and putting an end to SeaWorld San Diego’s domestic breeding program.

The bill is the latest iteration of the anti-SeaWorld sentiment that’s been building since the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which exposed alleged mistreatment of the killer whales that lead to several attacks — some fatal — on their trainers. Monday night, animal rights activists present petitions in support of the ban that they say were signed by 1.2 million people worldwide.

If passed, the ban would send 23 orcas into early retirement: 10 in San Diego, seven in Orlando and six in San Antonio. The whales would be relocated to a larger sea pen, if possible, and could no longer be bred. The bill would also prohibit the import and export of the animals.

You Might Also Like

“They are just too large, too intelligent, too socially complex, and they are too far-ranging to be put in confinement this way,” said Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, which is sponsoring the bill.

“That argument is not based on credible peer-reviewed science,” countered SeaWorld San Diego president John Reilly.

SeaWorld, naturally, is very much opposed to the bill — it continues to dispute the film’s accuracy while insisting that its whales are doing just fine. “SeaWorld feels really strongly that this is an extreme legislation that is based on propaganda,” said John Reilly, president of SeaWorld in San Diego. “We are opposed to everything in it. There is not a single element in it we would support.” The park’s executives spent two days presenting their case to lawmakers at the state capitol.

SeaWorld didn’t comment on how the bill, if approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, would affect its operations. But as David Koontz, SeaWorld San Diego’s director of communications, phrased it to the Associated Press: ”Shamu is synonymous with SeaWorld, and SeaWorld is synonymous with Shamu.”

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), the bill’s author, feels the park could continue to thrive even absent its main attraction. “They have the ability to change from their current model that places emphasis on the orca shows,” he told SFGate. “At the end of the day, I think this bill is important for California.”

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...