Shamu controversy spotlights animal cruelty

It appears to me that humans are seemingly incapable of accepting any type of thinking other than our own. When some sort of conflict arises, anyone or anything on the opposite spectrum of our way of thought is clearly in the wrong. If it is something that we cannot interpret, or even understand ourselves, we label it flawed.

We’re very egotistical when it comes to our way of thinking, especially when it comes to animals. Surely animals cannot have a mind of their own because it is something we cannot fathom. In order to justify this, some people assume that all animals are mindless creatures put here for the sole purpose of human satisfaction. Then, when an animal doesn’t act in accordance with this warped idea, we condemn them because we are incapable of rationalizing their logic.

The Shamu fiasco is one example of this kind of arrogance. The public is quick to blame Kasatka (The latest whale to take on the brand that is Shamu) for the way she behaved because certainly it can’t be the human’s fault. We make all sorts of reasons, excuses and justifications for why she bit her trainer’s foot and dragged him 39 feet under water. Maybe its because her name is Kasatka for starters, or possibly because she’s a killer whale and should be treated as such, as opposed to some mindless exploitable puppet. But, that’s just my idea.

According to mammal experts, however, they say her bad day was because she was “put out by a spat with another whale, grumpy because of the weather or just irritable from a stomach ache.” Sure, blame all sorts of external reasons. Just don’t blame it on her captivity and low-stimulus environment. And don’t blame it on the fact that she’s a 5,000-lb. killer whale being forced to perform flawlessly on command.

I find it particularly depressing that we enslave animals to a lifetime of imprisonment simply for our viewing pleasure. Sure they get food, water and protection, but who’s to say that’s all they need?

Killer whales, because of their massive size, complex physical and social requirements, have a necessity for very large tanks. The tiny ones provided for them cause severe negative consequences – like her sudden urge to attack. And what about their instincts?

How can we deny that all animals have instincts, a language and intelligence beyond us that we completely disregard? Then we read another story with an obvious aspect to it, like “Shamnu attacks trainer!” and pretend to act surprised, but who’s actually shocked? She’s a killer whale kept in captivity and solidarity. It’s an equation for disaster. The scary thing is that we are brainwashed into believing this atrocity is necessary for education. The life sentence these animals face is justified because we are learning from it.

The only thing being taught here is that exploitation and dominance of animals is perfectly acceptable and that it is completely permissible to turn live animals into a profitable market for mass consumption. Realistically, when you see the show, any animal show whether it is at SeaWorld, a rodeo, a circus or zoo, you are witnessing a phenomenon of dominance. They’re normalizing the control over animals, showing people that we are in charge, we take care of them and we can capitalize on them for any aspect of human benefit.

Shamu is not responsible for the attack. I’m not saying necessarily that the trainer deserved it, because he might have been a great trainer and loved Shamu. But honestly, how much confinement and training can a killer whale be expected to take before she acts out? Its not even necessarily “acting out.” She’s simply acting in a fashion that’s suitable for her breed. We cannot deny her true identity and we need to stop pretending that she’s merely a thoughtless pawn, expected to act only as we allow her to.

It’s not natural for whales to be cooped up and to be subjected to constant training and submission. Yet we neglect this aspect and make the assumption that animals relish in their confinement because “we take care of them.”

Humans refuse to accept any other way of thinking that we cannot understand and the fact that animals may have their own acumen and cleverness would support the notion that humans don’t have full control over them. We relinquish our power if we accept that they have their own thought.

Thus, in order to be the dominating species, the one that maintains all power and authority, we must rule them. We must exploit them, use them to our advantage and capitalize on their monetary benefits. Let’s admit killer whales exist at SeaWorld for one reason – to keep the cash flowing. But keeping such large, ornate creatures in monotonous confinement at SeaWorld, at the zoo, in circuses, is heartless and we should boycott such oppression.

Celine Dilfer is a senior communications major.

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