Seaworld vs. the Circus


      Many people who stand against captivity will argue that Seaworld is uneducational and disrespectful like a circus. I recently came across a Tumblr post regarding this issue of Seaworld vs. the circus. Truth be told, I have already created a video comparing and contrasting the two. But it appears that I have a wider audience here than on Youtube.

     This captivity supporter frowned upon the blasting music of the circus, the costumed performers dancing around, and the animals made to look like clowns, yet praised Seaworld! This seems a bit hypocritical and unfortunately for the Seaworld fans who are against circuses, the same can be said for Seaworld’s shows. At the Shamu Show trainers are often dressed in

Blue Horizons is Seaworld's dolphin show. It centers on circus themes including acrobats, actors, theatrical stages, and performing exotic animals.

colorful or themed wetsuits, doing dances around the stage. The Blue Horizons dolphin show is the same, and even features acrobatic stunts with circus performers flying over the dolphin tank in costumes. The sea lion trainers seem to be the most theatrical, dressing up in wacky costumes on elaborate stages. Aside from these facts about the trainers and their circus acts, the question still remains as to whether or not the animals are also performing circus tricks and made to look like clowns.

The animals at Seaworld are there to entertain. That means making the audience laugh, and pulling at their heartstrings as they execute funny or cute tricks; even thrilling stunts set to dramatic music. A dolphin flips over a rope and jumps through a hoop. A sea lion juggles a ball on its nose as a walrus shakes its behind to a silly song. The orcas give adorable “kisses,”

A Seaworld sea lion thrills the audience by jumping over a pole while juggling a ball on its nose.

and even dance on stage. They twist and spin around their enclosures, splashing the audience giving trainers rides, and tossing them into the air… then they return to center stage at the sound of a whistle to receive their reward. The animals are trained to behave as actors. They are called “performers,” who perform on “stage,” in “shows.” They rehearse the show in the show pools, and there are even certain segments, just like in actual theatre. Everything is entirely theatrical and scripted. Very little is genuine, which is why it is so difficult for me to call Seaworld employees animal “trainers.” They are more actor less trainer and are even required to have good acting and public speaking abilities for the job. When an audience comes to a show they are not seeing animals behaving as they were born to behave, but are seeing animals “act” on command. Drawing a connection between circuses and Seaworld I sometimes refer to the ‘trainers,’ as “whale tamers,” or “dolphin tamers.” Their role at the theme park is not unlike the role of a lion tamer at a circus. To tame the animal, and display your dominance over it- even dancing with it, or cuddling it, strengthening the audience’s idea that these animals are cute teddy bears that have been mastered.

    These shows encourage people to view these wild animals as clowns. They become reduced to silly creatures who do comedic stunts and “act” on stage. This image is not just blatantly

An elephant trainer and an orca trainer strike poses in a display of dominance over the wild animals they have tamed.

 disrespectful, but it is also very dangerous. The presenting of wildlife as cuddly animals is so enthralling and entertaining that people refuse to look “backstage.”  For a corporation active in the trade of live dolphins and whales, this is vital for business. The information in the shows, is carefully moderated so as to not present captivity in a negative light.

    Seaworld’s dolphin show has an uncanny resemblance to Berdyansk’s dolphin circus act, a dolphin circus in Ukraine. As well as the Indonesian traveling dolphin circus. The only difference between these is the name. And the fact that Seaworld is a stationary facility.

     What educational value is there? If the show features a short commentary on the animal’s size, capabilities, etc.  it is rarely, if ever, acknowledged by the audience. Like circuses, Seaworld is frequented by tourists. Usually families with young children who simply want to be entertained and splashed – not educated. In addition, the information gathered from the commentary portion of the show can be gathered online, or in a book. Watching Seaworld’s shows is not necessary for education on the animals. In fact, there is no science within the shows that you could not receive somewhere else. This Cirque Du Soleil is a veil of propaganda covering the animal’s true nature. We now have whale watching and swim with wild dolphins programs that present the animals without this veil and in their purest form.

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that Seaworld’s animals are living their lives doing choreographed circus tricks to blaring music as the trainers (or even circus performers and acrobats) dance around on stage. Seaworld is an aquatic circus.