Killer Whales “Suffering” Without Waterworks?


    With the Seaworld/OSHA hearing behind us I’ve been anxiously awaiting the verdict, and avoiding the subject of trainer safety with waterworks. I’ve just gotten this sense that the dispute about waterworks is over, but due to the fact that I am still seeing arguments from the pro-captivity side, I’m going to give in and respond with a rebuttal of my own.

    The topic being stressed recently is why waterworks is important for the killer whales. We know that the ban on waterworks will not apply to husbandry procedures, so there is no need to explain why it is “necessary” for veterinarian work. However, one of the most widespread arguments against the ban is the “bond” the trainers have with the whales. (I’ve already written about the deception of the “bond” here . All that is required for this “bond” is an appetitive stimulus in this case food- to condition the whale to follow human orders.)

     Without waterworks, the whales suffer. Because their bond with the trainers will be limited, and because they will lack the mental stimulation that waterworks offers. (I’m sure any pro-captivity readers would be nodding their heads in agreement at this point.)

    With waterworks currently banned, I have to question if the whales are hurting now as captivity supporters, and Seaworld itself, lead us to believe. It has been several months since the trainers have stopped entering the water with the whales, so at this time their “strong relationships” and trust must be suffering. similarly, they must be mentally disadvantaged if not deteriorated as a result of this lack of mental stimulus. Yet, judging by the latest video and images of the orcas, they don’t appear to be any more bored than they were when “Believe” was showing. The relationship with the trainers is just as artificial as ever, and aside from there being no death-defying jumps off the orca’s faces, the shows seem to be the same too.

Kasatka has not taken part in waterwork since 2006, and is one of many whales in Seaworld's "collection," that is limitted, or totally restricted from waterwork. Most due to aggression or instability.

 To my eye, not much has changed in the past year in regards to the whale and trainer “relationship,” or the whale’s mental status. At least not at face value.

    Another thing to bring up that many fail to mention, is the fact that several of Seaworld’s whales have been banned from waterworks even before OSHA stepped in. Those whales deemed not suitable for regular waterwork were Kasatka, Orkid, Ulises, Tilikum, Keto, Tekoa, and Skyla.

    Were these whales also suffering long before the ban on waterworks was enacted for all whales? “Waterworks is important for mental stimulation.” Have they been deprived mentally? “Waterworks is important for trainer- whale relationship.” Have they been deprived a relationship? Would this deprivation constitute abuse in the eyes of captivity supporters?

    Whales in the ocean, do not do waterworks, and they appear to be perfectly contented. (Perhaps because they are not living in an empty blue box.) This supposed “need” for waterworks exists because of captivity. Because apparently giving trainers rides around the swimming pool is vital to their mental stimulation. All of Seaworld’s whales have been banned from waterworks for a year- several have been banned for longer. These whales are not suffering because there are no trainers in their pool. They are suffering because they are in a pool, as captives.

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