Reasons Why I Won’t Be Boycotting SeaWorld

Over the Christmas holiday I shared a post about my family spending a day at SeaWorld park in Orlando.  At the time I was aware of the documentary Blackfish (affiliate link) that has raised some concern over the care and well being of Orca’s at SeaWorld.  I hadn’t seen the movie yet and was very reluctant to watch it; in fear of what I might see.

Over the past several weeks I’ve seen and heard more and more about performers and sponsors pulling out of commitments with SeaWorld because of the backlash about the movie and concern from their fans and customers.

I finally sat down last week and watched Blackfish.  I can’t tell you that it didn’t hurt my heart to watch it.  I can’t tell you that I didn’t shed a tear.  I can tell you that it will not change my decision to continue to support SeaWorld though.  I will NOT be boycotting SeaWorld.


I do however believe that it may be time for some changes at their theme parks and I think you’ll see those changes over the next few years.  It’s not as though they can just set all the animals free from captivity tomorrow and move on to bigger and better things.  That isn’t the right move for the animals that are currently in their care, nor is it right for the employees and their families.  Any changes that may (or may not) come from this controversial documentary will have to come with time and support from their customers.

Should animals be kept in captivity?  I don’t think I’m the right person to answer that question.  I think that we learn a lot from these animals when they are in our care.  A lot of what they learn from the animals in their care can be used to better understand animals in nature.  Yes, some of this research can happen in nature but to fully understand all the intimate details of these animals you have to spend years studying them.  It’s not something that is easily done in the wild.  80% of the animals that are currently in their care were born at SeaWorld and not from the wild.  Those animals, like Tilikum, that were captured in the wild have been in captivity for 30+ years.  They haven’t captured animals from the wild since the very early days (to my understanding) and have no plans on capturing animals in the future.

I agree with the changes SeaWorld has been forced to make with regards to having trainers in the water with Orca’s.  Trainer safety should be and is one of their top priorities.  Any animal, even our own pets, has the ability to hurt us and our children under the right circumstances.  When you’re talking about an animal the size of a Killer Whale, you just can’t predict how they will behave on a bad day.

As a child I dreamed of being a dolphin trainer.  I had that dream since as early as I can remember and if I could do college all over again, I might still consider it (but that’s not gonna happen in this lifetime).  I’ve told my husband many times that if I ever died by interacting with a dolphin or whale, then I died doing something I loved!  Now…that’s not going to happen since I currently sell cloth diapers unless I magically get recruited and change careers (again).  I’m just trying to think about how I would feel if I were a trainer and something were to happen to me while working with the animals I love…now back to my reasons for not boycotting SeaWorld.

With regards to concerns that these animals are living in tanks that aren’t big enough for them I’m not really sure what the answer should be to solve this.  I wholeheartedly understand the migratory nature of these creatures and how they shouldn’t live in “fish bowls” but the same could be said for any living animal that is cared for in our zoos and aquariums.  Should bears, monkeys, sharks, lions, giraffes, and elephants have larger enclosures in zoos and aquariums?  You can see that answer at many of our national zoos as they continue to increase their living areas.  The harder problem to solve is how to find the money for those advancements.  What type of impact financially do you think these parks will face after being boycotted?  How is that going to HELP those animals currently in their care?  They CANNOT just let these animals go back into the wild without significant amounts of rehabilitation and preparation; and even then I truly don’t think those animals who were born at SeaWorld would EVER be able to adapt in the wild.

Animals as entertainment?  Yes, I understand that SeaWorld is in the theme park and entertainment business and that it is a business.  I believe there is a balance with how the animals are used for “entertainment” purposes.  I believe that we do learn from these interactions but I do respect that we don’t need them to “entertain” us to appreciate them.  I could spend hours watching dolphins interact with one another and be just as happy as I am when watching them perform.  There is more to a SeaWorld performance than just animals entertaining us.  The human performers are just as entertaining (if not more so) with their acrobatics and diving abilities.  The performances always include a message about how and why we should respect our natural environments and the animals that live in them.

There are many great things that SeaWorld does that are good.  They are one of the leaders in wildlife rescue and have saved over 23,000 animals who have been hurt, injured, or sick in the wild.  Their primary goal when they rescue these wild animals is to be able to release them back into their environment.  Living in Florida, I’m thankful for their rescue efforts to save injured sea turtles, dolphins and whales.  I’m thankful that they help conserve our natural resources by protecting and saving these precious creatures.  They wouldn’t be able to continue these efforts if everyone decided to boycott them and there aren’t enough non-profit volunteers out there to support massive rescue efforts like those in the 2010 BP oil spill; which saved 100 engendered sea turtles.

Education, this is a big one for me!  If it weren’t for parks like SeaWorld, many children would never be able to see these animals up close.  Their parks educate children and adults on how our decisions impact the lives of these animals.  They educate us on how leaving litter on the beaches can impact the health and well being of dolphins in the wild.  I think one of the reasons I have such an affinity to these animals is because my parents took us to SeaWorld almost every year as children.  Has seeing any animal made you feel more compassion and love for them?

I don’t know what to expect from SeaWorld in the future or how this media backlash will effect them over time.  I don’t know what changes we will see; but I’m confident that changes will be made.  Of course, as with any documentary, there are two sides to every story and only one side is told in the movie.  I think there are some great perspectives out there that aren’t shared as often.

To read more on SeaWorld and their response to Blackfish:

Blackfish Exposed by a Former SeaWorld Trainer

Response from SeaWorld about the care of their animals can be found on their website.  Be sure to take some time to read their story and about the efforts that they make each and every day, 365 days a year, to care for these animals both in captivity and in the wild!

As for me…I will NOT be boycotting SeaWorld and I will continue to take my children there so they can experience the same love and compassion that I have for these animals.  I have so much respect for the hard work of the SeaWorld family of employees for all of the work they do to protect and care for these animals.  Do I recommend that you watch Blackfish? (affiliate link) That’s a decision you’ll have to make, if you haven’t already.  Be prepared with a box of tissues and have an open mind while watching it.

Please feel free to leave comments below with support for either side of this topic.  I will leave all comments that are left in a respectful manner and do not contain foul language or attacks.  Thank you for your passion and for caring enough about these wonderful animals to debate the topic respectfully.  In the end, I believe we all care for their well being and don’t wish for anything bad to happen to them in captivity or in nature.  


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36 Responses to Reasons Why I Won’t Be Boycotting SeaWorld

  1. Kristin says:

    Really, really enjoyed this! Thank you for sharing. I wholeheartedly agree.

    • Calley Pate says:

      Thank you Kristin for taking the time to read and leave your comment. I greatly appreciate it!

      • Khan says:

        Hi, I just came across this and I will say that Seaworld is very good at doing educational programs and wildlife rescuing. The thing is, they are not treating the orcas well at all, even when they have enough money to afford doing so. They chose to put these intelligent, sensitive creatures that are used to swimming hundreds of miles each day with their mothers for life-into small, confined cages that they are lured into with the fish they are being deprived of, and are separated from their mothers early in life. My acknowledgements of their rehabilitation programs are intermingled with my hatred for them choosing to keep these creatures this way and deliberately covering it up by lying to the public. And yes, they have the money to keep them in a shoreline facility where they can swim a decent amount and interact with their wild counter-parts. They have enough money to not captive-breed them and to make Seaworld a rehabilitation center. Only take in weak or abandoned baby orcas and release them when fit again. They won’t be used for show, either. And as you said, “I believe that we do learn from these interactions but I do respect that we don’t need them to “entertain” us to appreciate them. I could spend hours watching dolphins interact with one another and be just as happy as I am when watching them perform. ” And one more thing before you go, here’s what I’ve found on the Seaworld page you gave us:
        - Seaworld recognizes the important bond between mother an calf. The mother in the picture lives in Texas. The baby, in Spain.
        -Our zoological and Veterinary staff are on call 24/7. Seaworld has been warned multiple times for their use of over a DECADE old surgery tools, which could get an animal seriously sick. 1500 members focus on animal care? What do they do? Sit around fiddling with illegal scalpels and rods? Again, I respect how Seaworld is helping injured animals, but orcas…they need my help. So I’ll help them. They need your help as well…

  2. Autumn Beck says:

    I haven’t watched it but I can imagine my thoughts/reactions would be the same as yours. <3
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  3. rebecca says:

    Bravo! I am so gad to see a post stilt supporting Sea World. After reading so many posts about how terrible Sea World is and hearing friends swear that they will never support the parks again after watching Blackish… I had to watch it. And I feel the same as you.

    No worse than any other aquarium, zoo, farm or pet store.

  4. Samantha G says:

    Now I am going to have to go through and read about everything that is going on. I will not boycott sea world. I look forward to taking my children to see Sea World next year. If I am reading correctly my children may never see the beautiful interactions the handlers have with these massive beauty’s and I think that is a shame. I always try to show my children that if you are gentle and loving nothing is beyond your reach. Thank you for this post and I hope the animals will not suffer through these changes that will take place.

    • Calley Pate says:

      For me the sad part is all the artists and bands that are pulling out of performing at Sea World and Busch Gardens this summer due to all the controversy. I’d like to see a few artists stick up for Sea World.

  5. Run DMT says:

    Great post!

    I won’t boycott SeaWorld, either for many of the same reasons you listed. I love how the foundation of SeaWorld’s mission is conservation and education. Due to the millions of dollars SeaWorld has made with these creatures front and center, it now has the means to protect and help the world’s sea creatures. SeaWorld saved Winter!
    Run DMT recently posted..Music Monday: Counting StarsMy Profile

  6. I haven’t, nor will I, watch this documentary (not a fan of documentaries as it is as a lot is to do with scaring people and not educating)…but good for you for not falling for it and having your own reasons for thinking and acting the way you do. Maybe I should care more??? But I loved Sea World as a kid and I enjoy taking my kids to the zoo.
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  7. Susie says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    I haven’t watch it and I don’t know if I will, but I won’t boycott Sea World either. I love that park and all the good they do.

  8. June says:

    I think both sides of the story is important but most importantly is for these animals with a wild instinct to be in a habitat that they trult belong in.

  9. carla g says:

    I have never been to Sea World and will never give them a penny of my money. They are NOT a zoo or rehabilitation center. They are monsters that rip the young from their mothers and use them to make themselves rich. I realize change won’t happen over night, but that doesn’t mean I will make their wallets fatter in the mean time. Remember that when you are an employee of a place like Sea World, you are bound by a contract and you can lose your job if you speak ill of your employer.

  10. Michelle W says:

    This is a great article and I appreciate you taking the time to write it. I have not seen the movie (and don’t think I ever will be able to) but have been conflicted after hearing about it. I really respect your point of view and think it makes absolute sense.

  11. Shelley says:

    I respect you opinion, but I disagree.
    It is heartbreaking to see and hear of these very social and very family unit oriented mammals being separated and torn from their mothers and/or babies at the whim of a for-profit corporation. For our entertainment.
    I felt this way before watching Blackfish. It was solidified by the documentary. We aren’t “learning” from Sea World’s mammals, we are being entertained.
    I still love your blog, will continue reading and sharing it, and I appreciate that we all feel differently. :-)

  12. Shelley says:

    I respect your opinion, but I disagree.
    It is heartbreaking to see and hear of these very social and very family unit oriented mammals being separated and torn from their mothers and/or babies at the whim of a for-profit corporation. For our entertainment.
    I felt this way before watching Blackfish. It was solidified by the documentary. We aren’t “learning” from Sea World’s mammals, we are being entertained.
    I still love your blog, will continue reading and sharing it, and I appreciate that we all feel differently. :-)

  13. Heidi says:

    Sorry, but this is a cop out. Nice try. Wild animals in captivity is wrong, just as slavery is wrong. This post by a marine mammal scientist shows some helpful alternatives.
    . Give your money to true conservation groups and not money hungry corporations such as Sea World.
    Take your children outside and let them experience nature, not to some forced, pretend show of captive animals.

  14. Lindsay says:

    Really interesting take on this, I appreciate that it’s not as black and white as it may seem. I think animals in captivity (whether zoos or otherwise) really need to be handled with care. So many institutions don’t get it right. Those that do can help bring back populations of animals who are endangered. I hope to check out the documentary and watch it for myself to see what I think!
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  15. No person should avoid seeing this movie. If you do, you are choosing to bury your head in the sand when it comes to this HUGE issue of animal cruelty and corporate profiteering. It was filmed with the greatest of intentions and to quote a great man we just honored yesterday “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Endorsing them and supporting them is being silent. It makes one culpable.

    I have been to zoos and aquariums where the goal is species protection and rehabilitation. Sea World does not even begin to qualify as one of those. For instance the aquarium near my home in Ohio has mantees. ALL of them were hit by boats in the Florida region. They get medical care and rehab and then they go back to the ocean. They are never made to sing for their supper. Maybe they are not capable so that is why they are not cared for in their own home state by (ahem) Sea World??? I don’t know but it sounds fishy.

    Sea World has been under fire for decades for their practices. They ignored these concerns and kept up with business as usual. Now we are supposed to feel sorry for them because the backlash got too big?? No. If they wanted to do the right and honorable thing they would announce a plan to use ALL profits (after expenses) to revamp every single habitat to one of proper size and condition. They would no longer make animals perform like baffoons and endanger themselves and trainers. And they would promise to never, ever take a healthy animal from the wild again and instead house animals that are sick, injured, or endangered with a plan to rehab and return ASAP. Only after they made such statements (and backed it up with ACTION) would I consider supporting them with my money.
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  16. I respect that everyone is entitled to their opinion and I encourage everyone to watch Blackfish and also The Cove.

    I have never been to Sea World (we don’t have any in Canada) and I will never go to one. We do have something similar (but worse) to Sea World here called Marine Land and again I will never go there. It is deplorable what they are doing to these animals.

    Can someone explain to me why it is important for my kid to see a killer whale in person in a tank when we don’t live anywhere near the ocean? I think there is greater benefit in him seeing the animals that are native to our area and learning why the efforts we make at home protect their habitats.
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  17. Melissa L says:

    I will not boycott Sea World either, I have participated in 3 separate behind-the-scenes programs that they do… I believe they are very passionate in what they do… I believe after participating in their programs, that they have the up most care in mind for the animals in their charge… They advocate & educate, so we will know how important it is to protect these creatures in the wild…

  18. lin says:

    I didn’t watch Blackfish, but I watched the Cove. As one of the earlier posts said, this is a total cop out. Why do we think it’s remotely justifiable to keep wild animals in captivity? For financial reasons? How’s it different from pumping? Animals have just as much right to live a quality life as humans. If you think otherwise, perhaps imagine yourself or your child as a captived dolphin – wait, I’ll just bet it’d be like having fallen into the trap of human traffickers. All the justifications you made are just weak excuses, there’s nothing convincing in why we should continue to support aanimal slavery.

  19. lin says:

    Oops I meant”pumping”, instead of pumping!

  20. Mindy says:

    Orcas are my favorite animal and I feel lucky to have grown up in the PNW where they can sometimes be spotted in nature. I am conflicted about this because I have so many amazing memories from Sea World (vacations with my mom, my honeymoon). But looking at these experiences, I realize that they are about me and not about the animals. I was so enchanted by dining poolside, watching these magnificent animals leap, and going behind the scenes of penguin rescue, I pushed down my feelings about their tiny cages and how their lives are so vastly different from their natural purpose. Blackfish reminded me of these things – slanted or not – and I got that squirming feeling I get when I go to zoos and see glorious lions pacing cages or gorillas gazing idly at strangers through stain glass windows. It’s possible that captivity matters less for some animals, but for large, intelligent, emotionally intelligent, family centered animals such as killer whales, captivity strikes me as cruel and unnecessary. Also, after watching the film, I felt that researchers have learned an incredible amount about animals in the wild. With today’s technology, film, and travel opportunities, I am not certain that we need zoos or aquariums to appreciate animals. It’s a hard call and a hard balance. While I’m not comfortable saying that I will never visit a zoo or place where animals are in captivity again, I do hope to support places more focused on the animals themselves, on conservation, on education, over entertainment. After all, are we really “learning” about orcas watching them perform stunts and interact with humans in a way we would never see in nature? Thanks for this article – As always, I respect you and your perspective and appreciate your sharing it. I also found this link interesting:
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    • Calley says:

      Mindy – I completely understand the conflict. When I try to draw the line on which animals are ok being in captivity it becomes even more difficult. Is it ok for us to have house pets? What about conservation aquariums like Clearwater Marine Aquarium where Winter lives? Is it ok that Winter is in captivity? She performs for people every day. When I start comparing all the different scenarios it becomes very difficult to say that one is ok while the other is not. I’ll go check out the link you added. I skimmed it briefly when I saw you post it earlier this morning. Thanks for being so sweet!

  21. RG says:

    Pretty sad to see those whales dragged out of the Ocean so Sea World can fatten their bottom line….Hopefully Sea World will come clean and start changing some their polices regarding the captivity of the Orcas…Until then…I won’t bother with that place

  22. CLH says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with your position concerning captive animals at SeaWorld. As you say, this is not specific to this particular business. However, although this problem extends out to other marine parks and zoos, Seaworld is one of the most renowned and popular ones, and will therefore be at the basis of my arguments. As stated, one of the problems faced by marine mammals at SeaWorld are the very small enclosures. Although you are probably correct to say that the animals there could never be fully released into the wild, Blackfish recommends using ocean pens for the sick animals such as Tillikum, and attempting to reintegrate very young ones. It is therefore a fallacy to claim that SeaWorld is doing these orcas a service by keeping them there; there are better, healthier alternatives. They just aren’t as lucrative.
    Furthermore, I must completely agree with you about education. In order to better our understanding of these animals, it is important for generations to be able to appreciate them and gain knowledge about their environment, habitat, social relations, etc. However, it seems hypocritical to believe that such information can be transmitted without bias when depicting these animals in concrete pools. To inform people about these mammals natural environment and their natural diet, whilst displaying them in an unnatural environment and being fed dead fish, seems contradictory.
    I think education is extremely important, and the foundation towards having a conscientious generation of human beings. This however can be done through other activities, such as natural whale watching. There are numerous centers which feature the option of going out kayaking or whale watching on a boat (however, be careful because some areas harass the whales instead peacefully respecting their space), which allows children and adults to fully experience these animals in their natural environment, while simultaneously respecting them. Learning about them while having them do parlor tricks for our entertainment provides a seemingly educational activity, but this creates nothing a false sense of responsibility and environmental sensitivity; learning about an animal, then having it subsequently bow down to us and perform for us is neither a sign of respect or of expanded consciousness. I think that if one wants to educate their children, or themselves, they should go to a marine museum.
    As a kid, I once when kayaking during one of these excursions, and had the pleasure or having two minke whales approach our group and breach the water near us. I could have touched them with my paddle (but didn’t, for obvious reasons). This was an unforgettable moment: two massive wild animals peacefully coexisting with humans in their natural environment.
    Educating people about wild animals, while displaying to them the epitome of unnatural behavior does little to further any kind of understanding that we have about them. These animals, as Blackfish states, live much longer in the wild. Their dorsal fins never collapse in the wild. They have intricate social relations in the wild. The animals that we show children are but mere shadows of their trues selves, living unhappy, solitary lives in which their own children are torn away from them.
    If we want to educate future generations about the importance of the marine ecosystem, we must show them the ocean and its creatures, not a synthetic depiction of it highlighted by bouts of synchronized animal submission.

  23. ashpoon says:

    Im boycotting seaworld. Even if seaworld has helped some animals it doesnt justify how the whales are being treated. Living in a small fish tank and havinh to dance and beg for food to entertain people gimme a effing break. I disagree with you and i will spread the word to those around me why they should boycott sea prison…god i hate humans

  24. Katrina says:

    Thank you for this. I’m so torn on this subject. I’ve held Sea World passes for 2 years as my 3 year old daughter loves to go and see the animals. We haven’t gone back since this entire controversy started (not because of that, but due to lack of time). My family is heading down to San Diego in April and my daughter has expressed that she wants to go to Sea World and the Zoo. We fully plan on taking her as these are her memories and she has good ones there. I fully think that the trainers shouldn’t be in the water with the Orcas and they no longer are. While I believe Sea World and other marine parks have made mistakes regarding these animals, I don’t see boycotting it as the answer. The reason I’m so torn is because I have way to many friends and family who think that Sea World is the devil now and it’s sad. I would like to have a nice family vacation with great memories, but I’m afraid of the backlash from it.

  25. Ronnii says:

    To the people with some semblance of decency and intelligence, bravo!
    To you lot boasting about still supporting SeaWorld with all the information out there now are just incredible.. your children should NOT be seeing these creatures like this. It’s the most unnatural thing in the world yet you want to teach them that this barbaric treatment of a species more evolved than our own is okay?

    Nevermind Blackfish, let’s put that aside right now.. how about watching Frontline’s special- dated 1997 – on this topic and THEN comment?
    I’d like to see what those comments looks like. IF you can sit through it long enough. I couldn’t.

    Because ‘Blackfish’ and ‘The Cove’ didn’t even TOUCH on the most disturbing information they hide from the public.
    Here, I will even link you to it, its been on youtube for a while now – see if you can sit through this and still support these animals, and by animals I mean the sadists that enable this industry and how they do it.

    We will see if you still feel the same. And if you do? I just feel sorry for you AND your children to be so naive.
    Because if you think Seaworld is ‘helping’ or rescuing marine life you are seriously deluded and misinformed. They actually create the dire circumstances to which they have to be ‘rescued’ and give incentive for these motherless things called fishermen around the world to go out and capture them. Violently. Inhumanely.
    And just so you can see them dance for some dead fish after being starved and kept in isolation in an unnatural environment such as a cement chlorinated bath tub.

    Go on and keep clapping for them. They STILL love you even though you do this to them.
    There has never been an incident documented where a whale or dolphin has harmed a human in the wild yet these poor creatures trapped in chlorinated tanks snap and do just that.
    And I for one can’t and won’t ever blame them.

    It’s ignorance like this I’m seeing here that makes me even more ashamed of the human race the more we ‘evolve’. SMH. Pathetic.

  26. Brandy says:

    I cant believe people actually agree with you. Killer whales are not like other animals (like monkeys) they are very intelligent, very large and very family orientated. They should not be kept in captivity and have there offspring ripped apart from them so that our children can enjoy them. that’s sick and wrong! Instead I think it would be a better message to our children that if you want to see a killer whale you take the time and make the effort to travel to there natural habitat and wait and hopefully see some (if your lucky) Personally I would rather have my children believe you don’t get everything handed to you on a silver platter because its easier and more fun than doing the right thing. I would rather have my children appreciate nature and have a real respect for animals rather than letting them believe they are here simply for our enjoyment. Especially ones who happen to be smarter than the people who hold them in captivity.

  27. Sondra says:

    I think that it is not good for how small the tanks are but what about the pet goldfish that are sold at pet stores or the amount of space that is in the tanks at the local pet store. Or what about the little turtles that are becoming so popular with kids now. Every thing changes with time and things are changing. I do not boycott Sea World. There are allot of things that everyone wishes that could be changed to make things better. I do wish that the tanks could be bigger and the animals fed live fish. I would still take the girls that I adopted to Sea World if they could go but have to much to going on with the way that they were born because of drugs. Thanks for the chance to express opinions.

  28. Krickett says:

    I have a problem with the whole “if we can’t see them in captivity, we won’t care about them” spiel. That is not true. I have been teaching children for 14 years now and have seen them care about stuff they have never seen. Take dinosaurs for example, 100% of all humans have never seen a real dinosaur because they died out millions of years ago. But children care so much about them. They talk about them, want to hear stories about them, color and paint them. But they have never seen one. Another example ( I’m probably going to receive a lot of crap for this one) but GOD. No one has ever seen him yet billions of people insists he exists. There has been wars, deaths and allot more in the name of something no one has ever seen. So please explain to me why children wouldn’t care about a animal they have never seen? I care about the orcas and I’ve never been to a marine park in my life. I think this is just an excuse. My daughter has raised tons of money for Lolita in Florida to bring her home to Washington state and she has never met Lolita. But she still cares.