For the sake of killer whales and marine mammals currently living at SeaWorld San Diego, and ultimately animals living at zoos everywhere, I urge the California Assembly to show strong leadership and reject AB 2140. Although this proposed legislation is euphemistically called the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, the bill would actually ensure just the opposite. It is ironic the word ‘welfare’ is used in the title of this proposed bill, because welfare, through the language of the initiative, would be greatly diminished, not enhanced, for the ten killer whales at SeaWorld.
I have been involved with animals for most of my adult life as a biologist and animal manager, including several years as a killer whale trainer. Based on my research and zoological background I know this bill would have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of animals that thrive on the enrichment they receive from their trainers whether during shows, training exercises or husbandry sessions. This initiative would prohibit the important social interactions and lessen relationships that currently exist between the whales and their trainers. The ‘no breeding’ provision of this bill would be catastrophic. To satisfy this portion of the ban, the five male and five female killer whales at SeaWorld would have to be separated and housed by their gender in different pools. This, of course, is not how killer whales naturally organize in the wild or at SeaWorld. This imposed isolation would destroy the enriching social structure that already exists with the whales. If enacted, the bill would force these animals to be permanently separated in unnatural groupings that would decrease their welfare.