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Commentary: A whale of a problem

Kevin Garrity, Editor in Chief

Kevin Garrity, Editor in Chief

It was terribly sad to hear the news about Dawn Brancheau, the SeaWorld whale trainer who was drowned by one of the show’s orcas last week. It’s hard to imagine what her family is going through at this moment.

But how surprising did the news come for people? The irregularity of such events might be astonishing given that these whales are habitually wild who don’t know the difference between a welcoming trainer and a hostile intruder.

Would we be surprised if we read somewhere that an individual whose profession was to routinely handle guns was killed by gunfire? And even that comparison might not bring equal justice because humans have much more control over guns than wild animals.

Some of the headlines that came out of this event said it all, “Killer Whale Kills Trainer.”

The existence of animals isn’t so they can be trained to perform at our own pleasure despite how much you like the “Free Willy” trilogy. This ongoing egotistical assumption that we as humans can manipulate the natural environment will lend itself to more and more of these types of circumstances. And the more we alter their environment for our sheer amusement the more we stint our understanding of what nature truly is.

Maybe animals don’t have a problem with their entrapment and inability to roam freely and naturally. Maybe they prefer being fed three times a day without exerting much effort. But it is difficult to assume that simply providing nice luxuries such as housing, food and scheduledplaytime will result in a docile animal; these are not humans after all.

Moreover, whales and other sea animals that are used by SeaWorld and the like, routinely die premature deaths because of stress. Tilikum, the orca who killed Brancheau, was deemed “a breeding stud” after being captured in 1983 and bought by SeaWorld in 1992 and thus was confined to isolation most of his life.

In fact, a majority of speculation from marine biologists credit Tilikum’s attack with mating and isolation.

Without any regard to animals’ natural habitats, SeaWorld decided to buy a killer whale that was removed from the ocean, continually kept it in small isolated cages, force its reproduction and then parades it out in a compact pool to show off trickery.

Tilikum did nothing wrong except be in the wrong ocean at the wrong time. It’s as if we expected him to be more careful roaming around in his home and all.

The only way for things of this nature to stop is for SeaWorld and places alike to stop treating animals as if they don’t have rights.

It is inhumane for the treatment of animals to routinely carry on as if the human species holds final say over their life and death.
At what point can a person who customarily treats animals as if they are not breathing to stop short of treating humans the same way?

The news isn’t shocking. The shocking news is that it doesn’t happen more.

Kevin Garrity, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at

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