SeaWorld: Below the Surface


Joseph Stalin

Are Orcas that are birthed in SeaWorld’s care born into life of safety or a life of performing? Image received from Unsplash.

Simeon Gordon, Senior Staff

When people think of SeaWorld, some may think of an amusement park with thrilling rides and entertaining shows involving sea animals. Below the surface, according to some sources, it is a place of cruelty, captivity, and torture.

On November 9th, 2022, leading animal rights activist group PETA released a news story on its website detailing reports of the terrible conditions that some marine life is kept in and two attacks that directly came from living in those conditions.

First, they describe a TikTok video, released on November 5th, 2022, that showed a dolphin getting attacked by other aggressive dolphins during a show, and left bleeding in front of a live audience. According to PETA, the reason for this attack is that “[The dolphins] can’t escape attacks from other frustrated, aggressive animals.” Reportedly, SeaWorld keeps 140 dolphins in just seven tanks.

The article continues by telling the story of an Orca, believed to be Corky (the longest-held Orca in captivity), being attacked by a group of other Orcas led by Amaya, an Orca known for its aggressive nature. This attack also took place in front of a live audience, “triggering many audience members.” PETA claims that it had received “whistle-blower reports” that the 10 Orcas were kept in the same tank together, even though some of them had had a history of being aggressive towards other Orcas. SeaWorld has not yet posted an official reply to the allegations.

However, there is one major accusation that SeaWorld has denied: the capturing of orcas from the wild, placing them in captivity. SeaWorld Fact Check, a group of marine mammal scientists and marine professionals claims that SeaWorld hasn’t captured a killer whale in “over 35 years”. (Corky is one of the whales that had been captured, not bred at SeaWorld, being in captivity for around 50 years.) They claim that all of the orcas that they have recently acquired have been traded from other aquariums, transferred from other SeaWorld locations and that many of their orcas have been birthed at SeaWorld.

Though the assurance that SeaWorld hasn’t captured an orca in three and a half decades may comfort some park-goers, the two other allegations that SeaWorld hasn’t denied up to this point may push others to reconsider funding them by going to the parks. Until SeaWorld addresses these new claims and accusations, in the minds of many the SeaWorld controversy continues.