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Andres Navarro

Professor Mahta Rosenfeld

ENG 113B

20 March 2018

Negativity for Captivity

When I was young, I remember going to SeaWorld in San Diego, California several times

a year. I enjoyed going on tours, looking at all the animals and my favorite was the whale show.

As I grew older, I would question if it was in the whale’s best interest to be in captivity. Are they

happy to be there? Do they eat enough meals a day? Are they treated how they should? Are they

able to interact with other animals? Is it beneficial for who is keeping them captive? Are the

whale’s or any other mammal safe in captivity? The captivity of whales or any mammal for that

matter has been a controversial topic for as long as I can remember. From research centers to

zoos and attraction centers, more and more mammals have been placed under captivity.

According to, there is currently, “60 orcas held in captivity with 27 of them

being wild-captured and 33 captive-born” ( These orcas are also, “in 14 marine

parks in 8 different countries” where a large amount of people believe mammal captivity is evil

( By definition captivity is defined as being imprisoned or confined, which has a

very negative connotation, yet the captive animals have a significant amount of benefits. Even

though whales have these significant benefits, I believe it will be significantly more beneficial

for mammals, specifically whales, to not be held captive because the poor conditions the whales

live in and the health along with safety of both whales and of those who are watching over,

training, and researching them. While these mammals deserve to roam free among their open
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waters with their families and friends, another reason why they should not be held captive is

because it decreases the lifespan of whales.

On the topic of mammal captivity, specifically whales, critics point out that whales need

to be kept in captivity because it will be the only way to survive. These critics claim that while

whales are kept in captivity, they will be feed multiple amounts of food for when the whales are

hungry. They say it is easier that hunting their food down because they will be just handed their

food. Critics believe with educated scientists hired, they know specifically what a whale needs to

live a longer and healthier lifestyle. The same critics also say that places like SeaWorld, make

billions of dollars and this money goes to feeding their animals the right amount of food and the

correct food as well as pays for the educated scientists. They also include the fact that they are

not alone in these enclosures. They are apparently with multiple whales that they can interact

with and never be alone. Knowing that whales are very social mammals, they need more whales

to interact with and they claim that in captivity they are able to be closer than ever before. These

critics also point out that they have enough space to roam free like they never left the ocean.

Those who support captivity also say that the incidents involving whales attacking trainers in

places where whales are captive such as SeaWorld, are not due to being captive. They say it was

accidents or lack of practice. They say that the whales develop a strong bond or connection with

their trainers and researchers. More and more do critics support the ideas that in wild, whales are

more likely to be emotionally frustrated in the ocean versus being in captivity and it will benefit

their mental health. Lastly, another reason they believe captivity is beneficial is because they

believe that with their profit from SeaWorld can also go into research to help contribute a

healthier life for the mammals in captivity.

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However, the living conditions these whales are living in are very poor and gruesome that

some have trouble believing how harsh they are. Whales are known to be as large as 20 feet long

and they are used to living in the large and spacious ocean. When in captivity, hales are kept in

tanks that are way too small for them to live comfortably. According, “An orca at

SeaWorld would have to swim the circumference of the main pool more than 1,400 times to

match the daily distance traveled in the wild” ( Many have been to SeaWorld to

watch the amazing Shamu show, yet the conditions for Shamu are not amazing. Whales need to

be set free into the ocean and not be forced to swim in circles 1,400 times just be feel as if they

are in the ocean. These large mammals are way too big to be kept in a tank and scientists believe

so as well. According to Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist of the Animal Welfare

Institute, said that, “They are too large to be kept in captivity” (qtd. in Hogenboom). Looking at

the tanks in which whales are living in, there is many factors to take into account. The tanks may

look large from outside, yet it is more than just how much space there is in diameter. It also

depends on how deep the tank is considering that whales love to dive down in the ocean. Whales

are used to living in the ocean and “driving up to 1,000 feet, while the tanks that SeaWorld has

proposed will only reach 50 feet” and for those who are in captivity will never experience the

free ocean again ( Although there could be a larger tank added, when

being held captive for so long in the same tank, it will always feel the same as if they were in the

smaller tank. Whales are one of the smartest animals in the animal kingdom and they will be able

to realize they are still in the same tank. Another huge problem that occurs when whales are held

in captivity is the risk of infections. According to Tracy Staedter, “on July 24, 2017 a three-

month-old orca died from a pneumonia” while being held in captivity (Staedter). While many

people never think infections would be possible in a place they are carefully looked over,
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infections in captivity are at large. It is also reported that “dozens of other killer whales,

including the famous orca from the documentary “Blackfish” Tilikum, have also died from other

infections (Staedter). This just goes to show that it is an unsanitary place for whales to be held

captive and rather be set free where it is less likely to become ill from infections due to human

carelessness. Whales did not choose to live in captivity, so it should be the humans who put them

there to treat them well or it is animal abuse and could be arrested and sued for. Along with

infections, the food that the whales are fed is not what whales should be eating. I went on a

CSUN discounted whale watching trip with my friends in Ventura and met a man named Kurt

Johnson who worked for SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas. My friend asked him if there were

any secrets about SeaWorld regarding cruelty and he responded with, “Yes there was, believe it

or not my co-worker would not feed the fish at the right times or at all” (Johnson). When hearing

that, I thought about how important it is for animals to eat at the right times or to just eat

considering some may have not ate at all. The conditions in which they are continuing to live in

are very poor and dangerous which could cause them to die way younger than they should.

While the conditions in which whales are forced to live upon are poor, captivity is also a

bad idea for whales because it damages the mental and physical health of the whales. Whales are

doing the same thing repeatedly every single day and they turn out to be depressed. With no

room to swim around and not have other whales around, it goes to show that how could they not

be depressed? What some whales do to express their boredom, depression, or anxiety is

destroying their teeth. It is reported by Daniel Starkey that whales destroy their teeth because it is

a, “neurotic behavioral ‘stereotypy’ done out of boredom and perhaps to relieve anxiety”

(Starkey). This is an increasing problem and is done by multiple whales that are in tanks. When

looking at this teeth problem, it goes to show that it does not look like it may just be a few
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whales. According to George Dvorsky in a new study, “more than 65 percent of the whales

studied exhibited moderate to extreme tooth wear in their lower jaws, mostly as a result of this

chewing behavior” (Dvorsky). Several more cases of whales continuing to occur over this

boredom and anxiety. The only real way to solve this problem is to set them free. All whales

want is to be reunited with their families and be stress free and have nothing to worry about.

Whales build up large amounts of stress when in captivity not only because they are swimming

in circles several times or not being able to see family members or any whale for that matter, but

because they are forced to be trained to perform for an audience. This creates a lot of stress when

not understanding what to do or not doing what is being forced upon. To add on to that, Melissa

Cronin reported that, “Whales in captivity are susceptible to tooth infections because they

damage their teeth on concrete surfaces” (Cronin). Whales are forced to take antibiotics because

their teeth are getting out control and getting worse by the day. Now that infection is growing,

more antibiotics they need. In the picture

above has a large meaning expressing why

they have this anxiety. It starts with a

performer on a whale coming out of a small

bowl of water. This whale has a facial

expression that reflects how exhausted it is. It

may look like it is smiling as if it was happy

for accomplishing something, but it is only

because it was trained to look happy for the

audience, but inside it is on the edge of becoming the whales under it, a pile of dead whales.

Anytime now it can become a dead whale and it will be replaced by another whale from the
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ocean and is now a cycle. As long as a place like SeaWorld still exists, it will continue to

represent the life of whales in captivity. Whales are kept in captivity for several years; some

whales just cannot handle the limited space which creates aggressive whales and take their anger

out on each other; “…suffered immensely when a large chunk of her dorsal fin was ripped out.

While aggression is rarely seen among family units in the wild, traumatic wounds such as

Katerina’s are all-too-common consequence when complex wild animals are forced to live in

unnatural, incompatible groups inside small tanks” (qtd. in Volz).

Although whales are the main concern when talking about physical and mental health

when captivity, but their trainers and care givers also have their lives at risks when working with

captive whales. There have been several incidents of whale attacks because of whale stress and

frustration of being held captive; “The trainers aren't safe” (qtd in Dwyer). These whale attacks

should never be taken lightly. As explained earlier, there is only so much whales can take until

they adapt and if they are capable of adapting before killing a trainer. According to Ross

Pomeroy, “In the half-century that humans have kept orcas in tanks, there have been dozens of

documented incidents of aggression, resulting in six deaths” (Pomeroy). Places where this is

more common is the attacks in SeaWorld. Greg Baxter wrote in an article that, “The first was an

'attack' by a killer-whale trainer at a Sea World amusement park in America” (Baxter). When

realizing that a whale trainer is risking his life just like the whales in captivity, I decided to

conduct a survey with my friends that happen to be twenty marine biology majors that attend

UCSB. When looking at the results, I found that fifteen of twenty said that trainers are in danger

and five said they are safe.

Whales are very lucky to be able to have long lifespans, yet when in captivity it does not

look too long. What we know now according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric
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Administration or the NOAA, “wild males typically live for about 30 years but can live up to 50

or 60. Wild females usually live up to 50 but can live up to 100” (qtd. in Hogenboom). That is a

really long lifespan, as long as us humans or slightly shorter. When held in captivity that all

changes dramatically. When looking at a group of orcas, “the median survival rate is 6.1 years”

and in the “U.S. facilities is 12 years” (Hogenboom). This is incredibly short and eye-opening to

see and hear. This is a serious matter because this animal is already near extinction. While many

are saying that captivity is saving them, they are dying at the speed of light.

Whales are a sensitive and smart creature with a risk of being extinct, while many believe

captivity is going to do them justice, it is a brighter idea that whales are not in captivity because

of the conditions which a whale has to live in, along with the physical and mental health of both

whales and trainers. Also, to for whales to live longer lives, free without any worry. With a start

by ending whale shows in SeaWorld, we are on the right path to a brighter future for these

magnificent smart creatures. This will live happier lives and we will as well knowing that we are

the reason they are happy.

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Works Cited

Baxter, Greg. “When Is an Orca Attack in Captivity the Fault of Humans? Always.”


%2Fsid%3Aprimo, 5 Mar. 2010,


In this article, it was introduced that whales were not happy with being held captive and

became irritated and just wanted to attack who was responsible. That is why they attack

the humans and why it is called “human fault”.

Cronin, Melissa. “Ex-SeaWorld Trainers: Here's A List Of The Drugs We Fed To Orcas.” The

Dodo, The Dodo, 12 Mar. 2015,


In this article, it is an eye-opener to what these captivity workers feed the animals such as

antibiotics that should not be given to whales specifically because it damages them. Also

talks about what food is given to them.

Dvorsky, George. “Captive Orca Whales Are So Bored They're Destroying Their Teeth.”

Gizmodo,, 12 Oct. 2017,


This article is all about what whales do to show they are full of boredom and anxiety.

They ruin their teeth by trying to leave the captive SeaWorld.

Dwyer, Colin. “SeaWorld Ends Its Orca Theatrics In San Diego, But Critics Aren't Convinced.”

NPR, NPR, 8 Jan. 2017,

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Here in this article, it is introduced that SeaWorld will be closing the main attraction the

orca main show because whales that big should not be held captive and be free instead.

Instead they will be adding new and different shows.

“The Fate of Captive Orcas.” WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation,


Hogenboom, Melissa. “Earth - Why Killer Whales Should Not Be Kept in Captivity.” BBC,

BBC, 10 Mar. 2016,


Here is where they talk about how and why whales do not deserve to be held captive for

several reasons. From conditions to dangers of trainers.

Platto, Sara, et al. “Variation in the Emission Rate of Sounds in a Captive Group of False Killer

Whales Pseudorca Crassidens during Feedings: Possible Food Anticipatory Vocal

Activity?” SpringerLink, Science Press, 24 Nov. 2015,

This article is simply an article about what food is fed to the whales. Some may be good

for the whales, but some is not the same they could be getting when hunting in the wild.

Pomeroy, Ross. “Killer Whales Should Not Be Kept in Captivity.”


captivity.Html, 19 Apr. 2015,

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Here is where they talk about how and why whales do not deserve to be held captive for

several reasons. From conditions to dangers of trainers. This is very similar to the other

article about why.

Staedter, Tracy. “Captive Orcas Destroy Their Own Teeth from Depression.”, 15 Oct.



In this article is more sensitive to why whales are in their state of depression and what

they concluded to their behavior.

Staedter, Tracy. “Orca Calf Dies at SeaWorld: Why Killer Whales Get Sick in Captivity.”

LiveScience, Purch, 27 July 2017,


This article is about reasons they should be feel because of how whales are feeling

Volz, Brianna. “Photos: Orca Whale at SeaWorld Orlando Suffers Split to Her Dorsal Fin.”

WKMG, 4 Apr. 2018,


This article shows the dangers behind animal versus animal cruelty. It is not safe for the

whales to be with these type of whales.

Wallace, Benjamin. “SeaWorld,Breached: Score One for the Cetaceans.”


i%2Fsid%3Aprimo, 2 May 2016,