Friday, April 1, 2011

Exploiting Tilikum Denigrates Humanity

DAY 24 OF 46

For a three-time killer, he's remarkably popular.

Tilikum, the six-ton orca who claimed his third victim only a year ago, returned to his SeaWorld stage Wednesday to what the media reported as "thunderous applause" from enthusiastic tourists. Tilikum's stage is actually a giant saltwater tank, and although some spectators at his debut expressed concern about his past, nobody didn't want to be there.

As they say, "the show must go on." Especially at SeaWorld, which has made quite a profitable business of exploiting captive aquatic animals, to the consternation of some oceanographers and environmentalists.

But this time, SeaWorld may be facing a far more skeptical public. After all, most animals get put down after they kill one human being, let alone three. Why the preferential treatment for this killer whale - a species whose very name acknowledges its inherent danger?

For its part, the press release from SeaWorld blithely draws some exasperating assumptions.  And in the process, posits a goofy rationale for what is obviously a simple business decision: as the largest orca in their collection, Tilikum draws the crowds. Yet SeaWorld absurdly portrays this as the orca's own decision, saying Tilikum "chose" to perform yesterday!  In addition, the entertainment company strains to justify their actions, contriving a gushingly academic stance that allowing Tilikum's show to continue "is an important component of his physical, social and mental enrichment."


Captivity for Most Killers Isn't Like SeaWorld

Up until Wednesday, I didn't really have an opinion about SeaWorld or captive sea creatures being trained to perform as entertainment.  After all, I assumed it's been in the best interests of companies which stage these shows to keep their animals healthy and safe.  And, as even some scientists have acknowledged, the SeaWorlds of the flying fish circus industry can help with certain aspects of species preservation and study.  They also play a huge role in cultivating the general public's interest in our oceans, sustainable fishing, and an appreciation of the many exquisite facets of our vibrant, living planet.

But the "living" part is what sticks in my mind as now being out of place.  Because I can't understand why SeaWorld has been allowed to keep Tilikum alive after he's proven to have taken multiple human lives.

His first kill was back in 1991, as part of a group of three killer whales that attacked a trainer who fell into their pool. His second kill was in 1999, when the body of an after-hours trespasser was found in Tilikum's tank.

Granted, both of those instances had extenuating circumstances. In the first case, perhaps having an unexpected invader suddenly drop into the water surprised the whales, whose initial reaction was to attack. In the second case, nobody actually saw Tilikum drag the trespasser underwater. So I can understand people wanting to give SeaWorld the greatest possible benefit of the doubt when it came to determining the fate of their prized orca.

After Tilikum indisputably killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in February of 2010, however, in front of horrified tourists, I don't see how much debate could remain over the animal's future.

Quite frankly, after Brancheau's death, I assumed that the killer whale had been euthanized. Either that, or relegated to a secluded area where he could be studied and monitored by scientists but never again allowed to interact with humans in a venue designed for an audience's entertainment. Perhaps biologists and other experts would be lowered in steel cages into Tilikum's tank for research and medical purposes, but little else.

So when I heard a news clip about Tilikum choosing to conquer his fears and get back in show business, I laughed out loud with incredulity.

Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity?

No matter how smart, talented, and impressive he is, Tilikum is still a subspecies of humanity. He's an animal. A massive marine mammal. He has no moral code; he operates on instinct. Go ahead and anthropomorphize your pets, cute animals, and well-trained orcas all you want, but none of them have a soul. None of them are as loved by their Creator God as you and me. And none of them deserve life after killing a Homo sapiens.

What does it say about our society's priorities when three people can be killed at the hands of the same whale that gets trotted back out to earn more money for an enterprise? And people cheer his return? And the whale is credited with choosing to do it?

Human beings get sent to death row on less evidence than SeaWorld has against Tilikum. And abortion kills hundreds of thousands of pre-born people every year in the United States. And Tilikum gets a fourth chance?

We're talking the value of human life here, people! I shudder to think about the vapid mental processes that allow three people to die at the hands of a killer whale which then gets put back into the tank to earn more money for its owner.

Not that money is the problem here, but a love of it. It's just another example of the love of money being the root of all sorts of evil.  And in this case, in addition to the love of money is another suspicious smell akin to the ongoing effort by some within the scientific community to exalt all created things at the expense of humanity.  Instead of mankind being the rulers and subduers of God's Earth, every creature except mankind gets an equal say in how trivial we are.

All to obfuscate the incontrovertible reality that what separates men from beast is our soul.

Without the civic recognition of the primacy of life, society will soon unravel as relativistic interpretations of our own worth denigrate the mortality by which we even cling to this side of eternity.

And a big whale will lead them?


  1. Good stuff, Tim. Thanks for taking some time to really think about this. Man is now a lot lower than animals, sadly. I'm an animal lover, but it is VERY sad to see how the value of human life just continues to decrease in the world's economy. Wake up, people! And Sea World! And anyone who gave Tilikum a standing ovation at Sea World last week. What were you really applauding? Her family, and anyone who witnessed Dawn Brancheau's death last year, will tell you.


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