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First, SeaWorld told us it wanted to build bigger tanks. Now it’s telling us it will phase out the practice of forcing orcas to perform “circus-style” tricks. But don’t be fooled—these are just the company’s latest attempts to save its dying image and its profits. Here’s the real story behind the spin:

SeaWorld says it’s replacing “theatrical” orca performances with a “new orca experience,” but when questioned further, corporate execs were short on specifics, other than saying that some “tricks” would “probably” be eliminated but that the orcas would still jump and splash. Hmm. And, of course, the decision has no impact whatsoever on the orcas in the company’s tanks at its San Antonio, Texas, and Orlando, Florida, theme parks, and all the orcas will still suffer and languish in tiny tanks until the day they die. SeaWorld also made it clear that the “changes” were not to benefit the orcas but the result of visitor concerns about the use of orcas in circus-style shows.

A group of people watching an orca whale at a zoo.

It is also very curious that while SeaWorld was so adamant that its Blue World Project—all but killed by the California Coastal Commission, which approved SeaWorld San Diego’s tank expansion on the condition that it stop breeding more orcas—was meant to provide the orcas with more space and a more enriched environment, SeaWorld’s “goals” can be accomplished in the existing cramped tanks with few changes at all. Even though CEO Joel Manby told investors that he wants a more naturalistic setting, he added that any capital expenditures to spruce up the tanks, which will come from the $10 million set aside for the Blue World Project, will be “minimal” and “very minor” and that they will “not [be] a significant change.”

What does all this mean? Simply that the orcas will remain in the same prison, where they go insane from being forced to swim in endless circles and have their babies taken away from them.

It seems obvious that this almost meaningless decision is designed to appease investors and keep them from bailing in the wake of SeaWorld’s plummeting earnings and dropping attendance. The theme park’s cruel business model has not changed. Fortunately, most see right through it all, and calls to ban breeding and move the orcas to sea sanctuaries are only growing louder.

What You Can Do

Continue to stay away and make sure everyone you know stays away, too, and ask SeaWorld to retire the orcas to ocean sanctuaries.

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