Last month, an experienced whale trainer at SeaWorld was killed when the orca she was working with dragged her into its tank. Wait no, it was a killer whale. Hang on, those are exactly the same thing, its just that when the media are reviewing Free Willy they use “orca” and when they are creating unnecessary hysteria they use “killer whale”.
Naturally some charming christian fundamentalist groups are calling for the whale to be executed. Oh wait, only a person can be executed, animals are slaughtered. In some ways, I can understand this perspective. The whale in question has “attacked” 2 previous trainers in the last 20 years, so it could be considered a threat to human life. But here is where we insert a great big “however”.
First – It’s a fucking whale. It’s not a dog, or a cat, or a domesticated creature. how the bloody hell were you expecting it to behave? The fact that there have been only three incidents so far is the truly surprising part. Humans have taken this creature out of the wild, held it as captive entertainment for 20 years, and taught it to do tricks for its supper, a situation which in itself raises many moral questions. But its a damn whale, the things weigh up to ten tons and their natural habitat is sea water. How the hell could anyone expect a ten ton water dwelling animal to understand or care that it is hurting a human?
Second – That someone has died through accident or chance is always a sad thing. But that trainer not only knew she was dealing with a huge dangerous wild animal, she knew it was one that had been aggressive or dangerous to individuals on 2 previous occasions. she knew the risks, and she did the job anyway. If it was for the fame or the cash then she took a gamble and lost. If it was for the love of the job (which by all media accounts it probably was), then I very much doubt she’d want her pet condemned to death.
One tabloid has actually quoted a christian group as claiming they want the whale stoned to death. Em, what? Am I the only one who wants to know how they actually intend to go about this? Seriously, if that request were granted right now, how exactly would they implement it? Stand beside his tank and roll boulders in? somehow drag the whale out of said tank and throw rocks at it? I won’t even go into the part about the biblical quote condemning the owners of the whale to death too for not having it killed the first time. Frankly, this sounds like blatant journalist bullshit to me, because I do not think even rabid christian fundamentalist groups are stupid enough to propose this, and I think they are pretty damn stupid.
Only self-aware conscious life forms can bear responsibility. If the whale is one, then keeping it in captivity has been a serious crime. If it is not one, then the death was not its fault, and furthermore there is no reason to believe that any whale would not repeat these actions – in fact to the contrary, many whales have. Waiting until it happens to say “oh, this whale must be dangerous” is like waiting until someone falls into the tiger enclosure to conclude that this particular tiger is dangerous. Either this is accepted as a peril of the showing of wild creatures, or organisations like Seaworld are simply no longer allowed to operate. Frankly, I think I am in favour of the latter.