I drive by it every day. Twice a day in fact. My route to San Diego Humane Society takes me right by SeaWorld and my heart sinks. Not just because of Blackfish even though that hurts. A lot. But because I know about all the incredible rescue work SeaWorld does which is entirely eclipsed by the orca shows and their astonishing persistence in clinging to a 1950’s model of captive entertainment which the public no longer wants.
Like Ringling’s announcement to end elephant shows, all of that is over. SeaWorld’s announcement to end orca breeding and their entertainment shows is cause for celebration. They will now focus on rescuing marine animals. One of the best-kept secrets is that they already do this, something grossly overshadowed by orca captivity. We should congratulate SeaWorld and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for an agreement of enormous magnitude, setting the tone for the humane treatment of animals worldwide.
We need to see where this goes but this is a game changer. San Diego Humane Society’s mission is to inspire compassion and end animal suffering. One of our newest programs, Project Wildlife, helps more than 10,000 orphaned, injured, or sick wild animals annually. For years, SeaWorld has partnered with us to rehabilitate pelicans and other seabirds. Not to mention any sea lions in distress called in by our Humane Officers on our beaches. Now focus can shift to their rescue work thanks to this watershed announcement.
While we’re all encouraged by this momentous decision and relieved on behalf of the magnificent orcas it will positively impact, I remain cautiously optimistic. My hope is that this is just the beginning of many compassionate resolutions to come for SeaWorld, particularly surrounding their continued breeding and captivity of other marine mammals.
Progress for animals in any measure should still be celebrated. Congratulations to SeaWorld and The Humane Society of the United States for putting aside differences and finding a solution, together. I know this incredible decision, and hopefully more to come, will help set the tone for the humane treatment of animals worldwide.
As for me, I can now drive past those gates without sadness, but with real hope for the future of all animals globally.
Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH, CAWA
President and CEO, San Diego Humane Society
(Originally published in a shorter form as an Op Ed for the San Diego Union Tribune on March 18, 2016)