Many Americans have gone to Sea World and came away with memorable experiences that last a lifetime. I am one of those people. I visited Sea World in San Diego about five years ago for the first time, and I loved every minute of it. It wasn’t until years later that I realized I was contributing to a very vicious organization.

A couple weeks ago, CNN aired a CNN Films production called “Blackfish,” which primarily followed one specific whale named Tilikum, or Tilly for short. The film shows that Tilly originally started his career in entertainment at a place called Sealand of the Pacific. After killing his first victim, he was sent to Orlando to live at Sea World, where he has claimed two other lives, one of which has generated a lot of media attention because a trainer was killed during a live performance.

The film lays out orca whales and their stronger-than-human sense of emotion, their strong sense of community and distinct language within these communities. Orcas are very friendly whales, and there has been no or very limited occurrences of orca whales being involved in vicious attacks on humans in the wild. Tilly is put in his own tank for 23 hours a day, only coming out to splash the audience at the end of the show.

These whales are very strong-minded, family-oriented, emotional creatures. One of the saddest parts in the film was when baby whales were taken away from their mother, or when groups of whales were taken away from the rest of the group. You could see and hear their pain. They made distinct calls that specialists had never heard, just trying to find their loved one. Their extreme sense of emotion caused these whales to seek different ways to reach out to try to find their offspring. Trainers discussed their depression and lack of movement and how they could tell that the whale was never the same after experiencing that.

Orcas usually have a lifespan similar to humans in the wild, but their lifespan is much shorter while being held captive in Sea World or like places.

With those things in mind, consider what Sea World is and what they do. They feature shows with orca whales, and, before their most recent incident in Orlando, they had trainers and orcas working together and performing together in the same tank. They hadn’t learned their lesson.

Considering all of that, trainers at Sea World claim to have been oblivious to the dangers of whales. Their employers never told the trainers specifically of Tilly’s history. Sea World continued to allow trainers to work with Tilly regularly and perform with him. There are plenty of near misses with other orcas demonstrating acts of violence, including one holding a trainer underwater for long periods of time and other scares before the most recognized incident occurred.

Sea World played with fire for too long, and in 2010, a trainer was brutally killed by Tilly during a performance at Sea World Orlando.

Tilly just wants to be free, yet Sea World insists on keeping him around for breeding purposes and to put a big splash on visitors to the park. The rest of the time, he is segregated from the rest of the whales and wildlife at the park and put in his own tank.

Tilly deserves better. Sea World needs to be accountable for their actions and lack of training of the trainers. I’m sure that if they knew what they were dealing with, few trainers would have agreed to work with Tilly or any other orca in that regard.

This is just a small glimpse of why I feel Sea World should be shut down. This doesn’t even mention how they get the dolphins for Sea World. If you are interested in learning about that, check out the film “The Cove.” It shows an even more disgusting side of this horrible business.

It’s so disgusting and depressing to see what Sea World has done to create the empire that they have. They captivate sea life, segregate them from their families and force them to do what they want just so they can entertain people. Yes, it can be amazing to see these animals doing these things, but it’s not worth it. It’s not natural. It’s inhumane, and Tilly has spoken.

Don’t let this kind of treatment continue. Don’t wait until Tilly or one of his offspring speaks out again. Don’t support this kind of behavior. We have a voice, and it should be heard.

FREE TILLY!

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