I spent my college years living in
Pacific Beach, California, just a few miles down the street from SeaWorld, San
Diego. I had an annual pass and on rough days, I would head to SeaWorld all by
myself to feed the dolphins and think. While those dolphins were typically the
main draw for me, I saw my fair share of killer whale shows as well. And
I loved it. I loved it all. I was pretty sure SeaWorld was the happiest place
on earth—forget about that other place with the mouse.
original major at San Diego State University was Marine Biology, and while that
changed many times over the years, my love for dolphins and all things SeaWorld never did. In fact, when I finally graduated seven years later (yes, I was
the female Van Wilder) with a degree in psychology, my graduation gift from my
family was a "trainer for the day" package at SeaWorld.
I finally got to swim with my
dolphins. And it was every bit as fantastic as I had always dreamed it would
While I never did become an
official trainer, I have continued to harbor a not-so-secret love for SeaWorld—even now, living 3,000 miles away. And when my daughter was born, one of the
memories I couldn’t wait to make with her was bringing her to my happiest place on earth to feed the
I will admit, I avoided watching this documentary for far too long. I knew it would upset me, and even more—I knew it would mar the magical image of SeaWorld I had in my head. And I didn’t want my happiest place to be marred.
My daughter will never experience my once happiest place on earth.
But for some reason, about a week ago, I finally gave in. Maybe it was because I had heard so much about this documentary at this point, there was really no pretending it didn’t exist. Or maybe it was because I finally needed to see what all the fuss was about for myself. Whatever the reason, an hour and a half later, I was officially traumatized.
The problem is, it was hard to deny much of what the film
had to say against SeaWorld. And when I really thought about it, it is pretty heartbreaking to imagine these
giant animals who are used to swimming hundreds of miles being confined instead
inside tiny tanks. It is disturbing
to think about animals that clearly spend their lives together as a family in
the wild, having their pods broken up and mothers and children separated in
captivity. And it is especially concerning to see the ways in which SeaWorld
has worked over the years to cover up some of the less than appealing parts of
This past week, Granny was spotted out in the wild—a 103-year-old orca who makes it very clear that SeaWorld is lying every time they tell
visitors that these whales tend to live no more than 30 years. A lie they have
to tell, because in captivity, the lifespan of these gorgeous creatures is
greatly reduced. But if they admit that, they have to admit all the ways in
which they are actually harming these animals by taking them out of their
natural environment. And doing that would mean giving up an awful lot of money.
Because no one wants to visit a place that is intentionally harming animals for
cash. At least, no one with a conscience.
I knew exactly what would happen when I watched Blackfish,
but I’m still sad to have to admit it to myself. I will never go to SeaWorld again. My daughter will never experience my once happiest place
Unfortunately, I don’t know what the answer is at this
point. Many of these animals likely couldn’t survive out in the wild if they
were released today. So what do you do with them? How do you give them a better
life than what they currently have? And how do you fund that if SeaWorld is
shut down in the process?
I honestly don’t know. I just know I no longer want to be a
dolphin trainer when I grow up.