WRITTEN BY: JAYME O’HANLON | STAFF WRITER
Animal activists gathered in front of SeaWorld on Valentine’s Day to protest animal captivity. Ellen Ericksen, an in- dependent animal rights activist, led the protest by creating a Facebook event under the group she created called “Protest SeaWorld the San Diego Community.”
Sitting in the bleachers waiting for the Shamu show, a family from Utah said that their main attraction of their family vacation was the killer whales. Bill Hansen supports SeaWorld even though he does not travel to San Diego with his family often.
“I think SeaWorld educates people are far as marine life to where they will take better care of them and respect them. I think they do more good than harm,” Hansen said,
“You can go whale watching; it’s like three quarters cheaper than it is to get into SeaWorld and you can actually see the animals in the wild,” Ericksen said. That’s a true learning experience. Everything in SeaWorld is fake. There is nothing educational about SeaWorld.”
Ericksen became an animal rights activist after visiting the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show in New York where she witnessed circus elephants contained back stage with chains around their hooves.
“(SeaWorld is) a pretty corrupt company. Any company that houses animals for entertainment is not honest,” Ericksen said. “If they were honest, they would not keep animals locked up. They do not tell the truth about animals here. They don’t tell the truth about the orcas and how they reproduce. The male orcas are actually masturbated by trainers here and their sperm is stolen from them, un- willingly. And then they impregnate the females, unwillingly.”
In October of last year CNN report- ed that the California Coastal Commission banned SeaWorld’s orca breeding as a compromise for the future installment of bigger tanks.
Ericksen said that she chooses holiday weekends to protest at SeaWorld because park visits are usually higher as more families come together. She said that SeaWorld guards have threatened to arrest her if she were to step again in SeaWorld’s parking lot. Years of protesting the business have made her face known to the park’s employees.
“While a few dozen people are expected to protest near the park, it is anticipated that more than 50,000 people will visit SeaWorld San Diego this 3-day President’s Day weekend, each being inspired and educated by our animals,” said SeaWorld’s Communications Director David Koontz, in an email to The Point.
“SeaWorld is the nation’s true animal welfare organization, and the real advocates for animals are our trainers, aviculturists, animal-care staff and veterinarians,” Koontz said. “SeaWorld has also given a second chance at life to more than 60 rescued sea lions and seals so far this year. We encourage everyone to get the facts at www.SeaWorldCares.com and www.askseaworld.com.”
The Hansen family sat in the splash zone of the Shamu show, capturing pictures of trained orcas, one of which was named Orchid. This female orca splashed the Hansen family, offering them a timeless family memory.
In 2007, Orchid “injured a trainer that was trying to impregnate her and he was sent to the hospital. They have forcibly impregnated her multiple times since,” Ericksen said. And now what they do is they take [the orcas] out of the water so they can’t swim away when they do it so they can’t even escape. In my book, if someone did that to me, it would be called rape.”
Dressed in black, white and red to raise awareness of the orcas’ captivity, Erickson gathered the protesters through a Facebook event. She said that many of the protesters that support her activism are not from San Diego, but places such as Los Angeles and Oxnard.
Cesar Carracco is a junior transfer at PLNU majoring in history. Although he believes that SeaWorld is harming the killer whales, he also sees the positive outcome of animal captivity.
“I think [captivity] is bad, but at the same time, they’re also helping out and doing research on them,” said Carracco. “I feel that SeaWorld needs to be more open about their research. It’s okay for them to keep them captive, but up to a certain point. After that they should re- lease them back into the wild just so that they don’t have to live their whole lives in captivity.”
Empty the Tanks is a worldwide event that protests orca captivity. For the fourth year, protesters will gather in countries all around the world, such as Budapest, Hungary and Barcelona, Spain. Animal rights activists plan to protest again with Empty the Tanks in front of SeaWorld on Saturday, May 7.
photo by Common.Wikimedia.com