Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

And that’s why they call them killer whales

posted by Rod Dreher

Jim Nash states the bleeding obvious. Excerpt:

You take 32 feet of muscle, teeth and brains out of the ocean, put it in a featureless tank the size of Graceland, force it to act like an idiot in public, and it’ll drown a captor.
…It’s terrible that the trainer was killed, but unless she was less intelligent than the animals she prodded, she knew that keeping orcas captive was wrong and stupid.
It’s a miracle this doesn’t happen more often. I’d like to think there are some whales in Orlando right now saying to each other, “Yeah, he’s a jerk, but Tilikum has a point. Next one that stands on me won’t need shoes ever again.”

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posted February 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

These huge and beautiful top predators should not be kept in captivity at all (we cannot possibly build tanks large enough to give them enough room) and they certainly shouldn’t be used as trick animals in shows. (Circus tigers would fall into the same category.)
I’ve actually seen them in the wild (in the waters off Alaska) and I’ve always refused to attend these seaworld-type shows with orcas. It makes me sad. With the kind of video so widely available now, anyone can see film footage of them in their own environment without any animal being mistreated, and without any human being at risk.

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Saint Andeol

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:24 pm

plus i read that this whale in particular was involved in drowning a trainer years before this incident. he wasn’t the only whale involved, though, so maybe they chalked it up to peer pressure.
i think it’s lunacy to be jumping in the water with these creatures to make them do tricks when IT’S ALREADY KILLED A TRAINER. she wasn’t worrying “Is it going to kill,” she was worrying “Is it going to kill AGAIN.”
it seems like a pointless way to risk your life, but i guess stupider things have been done.

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posted February 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm

It’s my understanding that she didn’t get into the water with the whale, but it reached up out of the water and grabbed her.
It is true that that whale killed before and it should not have been used in shows. I’m not sure if these animals should be used in shows or not. But the trainers are definitely taking risks because there’s no way to control the whale if things go wrong.

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posted February 26, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I totally agree that keeping these animals in tanks is cruel, but I don’t think I’d agree that the trainer was stupid or failed to understand and accept that there were risks involved in her work. People get killed by large animals they handle in other contexts and we don’t have that reaction. We assume they knew of the danger and got unlucky. People working with bulls or horses come to mind. The trainer has family and friends who are grieving for her now. I think it’s fine to criticize what she (and her colleagues in this business generally) were doing without calling her names or denigrating her intelligence.

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posted February 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

If this young woman knew as much about orcas as she should have (and undoubtedly did, from the accounts I’ve read) she knew very well the risk she was running. (As though just looking at the animal wouldn’t be enough!)
People run great risks all the time. Running risks isn’t necessarily a stupid thing to do: it can be a calculated decision. Tiger trainers, rock climbers, jet pilots, all die all the time from the risks inherent in their activities. They weren’t stupid, they knew very well they could get killed, and when they rolled the dice it came up wrong.
At least no one can claim that she had no idea what could happen.
Right now though, I’m feeling sorry for the orca, who had no choice about living in captivity, and who, unlike the trainer, did not decide to put itself in this position.
We are to be the stewards of creation, says Scripture. This whole situation is bad stewardship. A creature like an orca was not put on this earth to be a circus animal, confined and mistreated. We need not be surprised when it acts according to its instincts.

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posted February 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I feel sympathy for the loss of this woman’s family is experiencing now.
But this just is another example of why using orca’s to entertain is a really dumb idea. Orca’s are intensely social creatures yet at these marine parks the orca’s are kept isolated – especially the males. This stresses the creatures out not to mention if a 12,000 pound creature is in a bad mood, gets confused or just wants attention – the options for how they will deal with that are pretty limited – as in – grab the trainer by the pony tail. What – you expect under these circumstances these orca’s aren’t going to act out sometimes?
BTW – this orca was involved in two incidents where people died but they do not know what role he played in the deaths – so it is a stretch to claim he killed two previous people. Orca’s do not kill people in the wild.
I am not a big animal rights acvtivist but this is for sure one of those situations where it makes no sense to cage these creatures.

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posted February 26, 2010 at 5:18 pm
“The former boss of a trainer drowned by a killer whale in Orlando says he believes the attack was triggered by the trainer’s mistake.”
“Thad Lacinak (lah-CIN’-ick), a former head trainer at SeaWorld, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday that he has seen video of the moments preceding the fatal attack Wednesday. He said he believes trainer Dawn Brancheau (bran-CHOH’) made a mistake by letting her ponytail drift in the water in front of the killer whale.”
“Lacinak says the killer whale grabbed the ponytail in his mouth and pulled her in the water.”
“Lacinak says Brancheau, if she were alive, would acknowledge it was her mistake.”
“Lacinak says Brancheau was lying on an underwater shelf called a slideout. The killer whale named Tilikum was next to the shelf in the deeper water of a pool.”

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posted February 27, 2010 at 12:52 am

A couple of points:
1. To the folks who refer to her “getting in the water” with this whale, Tilikum was not used for performances involving trainers getting into the tank. He was too big and rough (not aggressive, there’s a difference). So she may have chosen to get in the water with other whales, but in his case she didn’t, BECAUSE it was so risky.
2. I too, have serious issues on a gut level with the idea of putting these poor guys in a tiny tank and making them perform. However, anthropomorphizing them by asserting resentment or even the ability to wish that they were back in the ocean is silly. Whales are smart, but not that smart.
The only semi-legit argument for whale shows that I can see is the argument that such shows increase awareness and therefore emotional identification with their plight. I’m not saying it is necessarily sufficient reason, but it is at least worth dealing with seriously.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 8:48 am

What a horrible posting. What a horrible person.
There was nothing purposeful in the orca’s action. It had no intent to harm or take revenge. Sheer nonsense and the comments are the sick fantasy of a very disturb person who in a different culture who be carrying a bomb into a crowded restaurant.
Seriously Rod, I am bothered you posted those remarks as if you thought they made sense.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 8:54 am

By the way a tree “killed” a man in Central Park yesterday. Do you also believe these large mature trees are anger and restless by being kept in a park and lashed out at a human. Should all the trees be removed from the park? Should humans be forbidden to enter the park?
Thousands and thousands of interactions between humans and orcas without incident but a tragic accident and this monster wants to grandstand.

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Brett R.

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:08 am

ctb is further proof that there really are people in this world born without an irony bone.

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Rod Dreher

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:14 am

CTB, they do make sense to me. If people want to swim with sharks or killer whales or whatever, fine, may they knock themselves out. But why are we surprised when wild animals act like wild animals?

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posted February 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

To keep a magnificent large marine mammal in a bathtub is revolting. If people want to see them, let them view underwater video of them swimming freely in the open sea.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 9:53 am

Wishing for someone’s death is irony?
The point is not whether keeping animals captive is right. That is a valid argument. The point is that someone hoped for a horrible death for someone who by all appearances was full of life and loved the animals she worked with.
Insulting me doesn’t change that something very ugly was said on this blog.

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Rod Dreher

posted February 27, 2010 at 10:09 am

CTB, maybe I’m not getting something, but who hoped for a horrible death for this woman? If someone did, then shame on them. Help me see what you’re seeing.

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Matt K

posted February 27, 2010 at 11:31 am

I don’t know for sure, but I seem to remember that a number of these animals were injured or sick in the wild and had been captured to be rehabilitated and it was then determined that it was unsafe for them to be returned to the wild. If that is the case, then I can understand keeping them at SeaWorld or an aquarium as a kind of “necessary evil”.
But if there is any reasonable chance that the creature can thrive in the wild then clearly that is where they belong and their entrapment in a chlorine tank is obscene and immoral.

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Lou Kendrick

posted February 27, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Spot on. A voice of sanity – well said.

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posted February 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I agree with CTB. It seems foolish to attribute malice to the whale in this death. Their pattern for killing isn’t dragging their prey around until it drowns.
It is also pretty callous to write “I’d like to think there are some whales in Orlando right now saying to each other, “Yeah, he’s a jerk, but Tilikum has a point. Next one that stands on me won’t need shoes ever again.””

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Brett R.

posted February 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm

It seems foolish to attribute malice to the whale in this death.
The idea that the author was, in any serious way, attributing malice to the whale in the death of the trainer is a gross misinterpretation of what the author is saying.

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posted February 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I’m always a little skeptical about claims that animals are abused merely by being captive. Animal rights activists often point out real acts of cruelty, but sometimes what appears to be degrading is not for the animal.
I hope Sea World and other similar organizations continue to look at their policies. I hope thoughtful and knowledgeable outsiders continue to critique those policies. But I just don’t know if Sea World is being cruel to these whales or, instead, giving the animals a chance they would not have in the wild, where life can be “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

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Lindsey Abelard

posted February 28, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I’m certainly no tree-hugger. However, I do question this keeping of animals that many people seem obsessed with. The animals that have adapted to being domesticated, like domestic cats and dogs, are fine to keep as pets. In general, though, I think animals that are not domesticated species are best left in the wild. I think its better for them and its certainly better for us.

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