A momentous win for animal rights activists occurred Wednesday when SeaWorld, the San Diego-based theme park operator, announced that it will end its orca breeding program.
SeaWorld had become a pariah in many quarters for its killer whale breeding and captivity practices, which have led to the deaths of multiple trainers and orcas. The 2013 documentary Blackfish boosted the level of public pressure on SeaWorld to cease its orca captivity program; lawmakers in California and the U.S. House of Representatives have also been pushing for an end to orca captivity in general. Last year the California Coastal Commission moved to ban orca breeding at SeaWorld San Diego.
Reuters reports that, within SeaWorld’s parks (the other two located in Orlando and San Antonio) the organization cares for 29 killer whales, but only five of them were captured in the wild. Animal rights activists have argued that the orca breeding practice not only creates an unnatural, unsafe, and unhappy environment for the orcas raised in captivity, but that the animals are then disabled from functioning in the wild, were they to be released.
This writer lives in San Diego, and can attest to the rampant distaste throughout the city for a theme park that still attracts tourists, albeit in vastly dwindling numbers over the years (especially since Blackfish). Active protesters throughout the city, and especially at SeaWorld’s gates, will rejoice today. Although protests will no doubt continue for a few more years — the park has said it will end its breeding practice and stop running its theatrical shows by 2019.