While I grew up in Southern California for the first five and half years of my life, there was beautiful sunshine and I had plenty of room to run around. My family moved to New York just before my sixth birthday. I didn’t want to move (though as a six-year-old, I didn’t have much choice), but there was still sunshine and plenty of room to run around.
Many of our trips back to California included visiting family and friends, walking to the beach, eating the best Mexican food outside of Mexico, and of course a trip or two to SeaWorld.
My sister and I would plan our days around the orca, dolphin, and sea lion shows. We’d visit each of the exhibits, eat lunch at our favorite cafe, and walk until our whole bodies ached. There was much of the same when I visited with friends. My love for the animals and sea creatures–orcas and beluga whales, dolphins and sharks, seals and sea lions, turtles and penguins–grew with each moment I spent surrounded by them. I never wanted to leave at the end of a long day, though I always did–often with a new stuffed animal tucked under my arm. It was a beloved part of our vacations.
As I grew older, the trips out west grew farther and fewer in between, and though it didn’t seem possible, my love for those majestic animals grew even more.
During my first semester of college, I watched the documentary The Cove, as per my sister’s suggestion. I was heartbroken to see the capture and subsequent slaughter of so many dolphins in Japan–a dolphin drive hunt that is so severe, it turns the cove in Taiji a horrifying red for more than half the year. I was so impacted by the film and its message that I used it as a source for an argumentative paper in my composition class. Four years later, Blackfish was released. It detailed the story of one whale in particular, Tilikum, and the controversy over captive orcas.
Since the release of these documentaries, Blackfish in particular, everyone from conservationists and environmentalists to actors, musicians, and even former employees, has spoken out. I have lost count of all of the articles I’ve read and the number of times I’ve cried for these poor, tortured souls. Today, I saw another article that detailed multiple accounts from a former employee who experienced the aggression of many of the aquatic animals, as a result of their captivity and forced breeding. As I read the article, my heart sank yet again.
I had once deemed SeaWorld the happiest place in the world. But for who was it actually a happy place?
I was moved from one side of the country to the other as a child, but my quality of life was never compromised. While these animals are often ripped from the wild, stuck in tiny tanks, and forced to perform for spectators. They have suffered immensely for human entertainment.
Did I really spend so much time and money supporting such a toxic place when I could have seen the same animals thriving in the wild?
It is safe to say I no longer support the captivity of these animals (or others). While I wish to share this information on behalf of the orcas, dolphins, whales, and others, so that they may one day return to the wild, there is something else I want to share: I grew up worshipping a place that kept wild animals confined to cages and tanks. And then I stopped. I spent most of my life eating animals. And then I stopped.
It does not matter how long you have believed in or done something, or how natural it seems… If you realize that it no longer suits you or your beliefs, you can change. It is not too late–it is never too late–to change.