Vote of the week: Will SeaWorld ever stop using marine mammals in live shows?
Written by Robert Niles
Shamu's back at SeaWorld. But for how long?Tweet
Last week's tragedy at SeaWorld Orlando amplifies questions about the use of non-domesticated animals in shows at not only SeaWorld, but all other parks which use them. Can people, even highly skilled trainers, share the water with, or even get close to, orcas and other wild animals?
SeaWorld's safety record with animals is excellent. But excellent is not perfect, and when lack of perfection costs a life - human or animal - then folks are going to ask questions, and appropriately so.
Earlier this year, when investor Blackstone Group was making its bid to buy the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment theme parks from Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Theme Park Insider reader pointed out that Blackstone's other theme park company - Merlin Entertainments - has a corporate policy that sharply restricts the use of marine mammals in performances.
Watching various SeaWorld shows over the years, I've also noticed a trend away from animal tricks and toward a more reverent treatment of the animals' "natural" behavior, turning instead toward human acrobatics and video or stage effects to juice up the theatrics of the show. (Just take a look at the current Believe and Blue Horizons shows and compare them with past orca and dolphin shows at the parks.)
So where does this trend lead? Do the SeaWorld parks, and other theme parks, eventually get to a point where they don't employ animals as performers in their shows at all? That doesn't mean that the animals would disappear from the parks - a show or attraction could be built around an animal's display habitat, much like SeaWorld's done with Wild Arctic.
(Yes, one also could ask whether certain species should be in captivity at all, but that's another question and I'm not going there today.)
Notice that I'm not asking whether you think SeaWorld should stop using marine mammals in shows. I'm asking whether or not you think it will, and if so, whether that change will happen sooner, or later.
In the comments, let's take up that "should they" question, and also talk about the impact of this decision - not just on animals and the company, but also on your decisions about whether or not to visit SeaWorld.
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