Our Modern-Day Freak Show

Jul 13, 2011 by

Our Modern-Day Freak Show

On one hand, it is arrogant for us to think we are the caretakers of this planet. On another hand, we are the species that has the greatest control over the management of it. And as such, we have undeniable responsibilities.

sea world orca being ridden by human trainers

I won’t begin to list those responsibilities here. That subject is too vast for this article. But I will assert the destruction of the ocean environment is very much our responsibility. So too is the horrendously destructive captivity of the oceanic species we imprison for purposes of our entertainment.

Consider these statistics. 21 Orca whales died in United States SeaWorld facilities between 1986 and 2008. But not a single Orca died of old age. They died of severe trauma, intestinal gangrene, chronic kidney disease, acute hemorrhagic Dolphins in tank at SeaWorld
pneumonia, pulmonary abscesses, chronic cardiovascular failure, septicemia, and influenza.
Dolphins in captivity suffer horribly in multiple ways. The chlorine and other harsh chemicals used to keep tanks clean commonly cause some dolphins to go blind and their skin to peel off.

Dolphins navigate by echolocation, similar to bats. They bounce sound waves off other objects to determine their shape, density, distance and location. So, the reverberation from pod of dolphins swimming freely in open waterthe sonar of several dolphins in a single tank continuously bouncing off the tank walls every waking hour becomes a constant, driving, incessant din. It drives many dolphins insane.

Think about this.

We have created a Planet of the Apes scenario in which these bright sentient beings are the freakish attraction forced to engage in unnatural behaviors. I am not simply referring to the endless monotony of swimming in circles hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, when they are behaviorally acclimated to swim 100 miles or more a day. I am orca swimming in open oceanreferring to the practice of forcing these intelligent beings to engage in meaningless tasks solely for our sport. For their compliance, they receive primary positive reinforcement in the form of food (though this is not the only means of feeding) and secondary reinforcement in the form of pats and praise. These animals are capable of independent thought and decision-making and this is, honestly, condescending and demeaning.

We have incarcerated them for no crime other than being something we want to look at, gawk at and from which we want to profit. This is barbaric in its cruelty.

Whale in the open ocean

Now, recalling the statistics that 21 orcas died of unnatural causes between 1986 and 2008, consider that these were just for SeaWorld in the United States. The greater horror is that SeaWorld is an international corporation. Even worse, because of SeaWorld’s enormous success in the past 3 decades, the world has seen an expansion of these “amusement” parks. These other marine amusement park chains often have far poorer standards of care than even SeaWorld has, but they have jumped on the easy profit gravy train of sea animal exploitation.
I have heard the argument that the oceans are polluted making these captive environments better and safer for these living beings. But this is pure rationalization.

orcas in small tank performing for the crowdI know the ocean is filthy and polluted, and thanks to human behaviors, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

But I live in a polluted environment too. So do my children. I would rather both they and I walk free in that polluted world than have us walk chained in a white walled prison with a life sentence, breathing known carcinogenic chemicals and having to learn meaningless tasks to earn condescending pats and praise knowing it will never earn us our freedom.

Psychosis is well-documented in these animals after years in these unnaturally confining environments. I understand why.

Photo Credits:

Winnie @ Flickr

Brandi Tressler @ Flickr

Behan @ Flickr

Midgley @ Flickr

Pallavi @ Flickr

Related Posts

Share This


  1. Thank you, so very much for sharing this. It is important to recognize the uniqueness of all life and all creatures and the value they bring for the truth of their existence.

  2. Excellent points, Lisa. Thank you for your contribution to the thoughts here!

  3. Note from Moments Count Admin: The above link has been tested and is deemed safe.

  4. Hi Brooke,
    I learned of your site from my friend Gale Madyun, who is now one of your bloggers. So happy she’s a part of your journal.
    Please click the link below and read my take on the subject of one of SeaWorld’s many animal tragedies. You and I share some of the same insights, each expressing them in our own unique way. I offer mine to add to the conversation.
    Continued success with all of your good work.


  5. Lisa Powell

    Great article, Brooke. We can’t ‘rationalize’ slavery, any way you look at it.

    Studies have shown in certain species of Dolphins “anatomical ratios that assess cognitive capacity place it second only to the human brain”.

    Personally, I’m not so sure they are second given our behavior.