A new California law will soon make circus-style orca shows illegal—in other words, legislators are forcing SeaWorld’s hand in ending theatrical orca performances.
But the company is simply rebranding its shows in California: It will still make orcas jump and splash about for food in the same tiny concrete tanks, just as it does for spectacles in Florida and Texas. Like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which no longer forces elephants to tour, SeaWorld acknowledges that public opinion has turned against using animals for entertainment. But the steps each company is taking should be much bigger and come much faster. SeaWorld can’t afford to wait up to 40 years until its last orca dies like Tilikum—exploited and alone. It needs to build coastal sanctuaries now.
SeaWorld—an ironic name, considering that the animals imprisoned there see nothing of the sea or the natural world—is a hellhole for marine animals and refuses to change unless falling attendance or legislation forces it to do so. And animal advocates the world over intend to keep applying pressure.