- Have you ever been in a circus show with wild animals?
- Do you think it’s right to use animals as entertainment?
This is Tilikum
Tilikum was an Orca Whale (also called “Killer Whales”) who lived in Seaworld Water Park, San Diego
The documentary film Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, an orca whale at Seaworld water park in San Diego, and his long-term trainer Dawn Brancheau. Tilikum was one of the San Diego park’s main attractions. The film shows the psychological trauma and stress the whales in the water park have to go through while they’re in captivity. Blackfish also describes Tilikum’s journey to Seaworld, and how the water park which makes billions of dollars continues to run despite pressure from animal rights groups to shut down.
In 2010, Dawn Brancheau, a Seaworld trainer who had 17 years of experience, was feeding Tilikum and having bonding time with him. Suddenly, Tilikum grabbed her by her ponytail and pulled her into the water, violently tossing her around. Brancheau ultimately drowned and died from horrible injuries.
After Dawn died, Seaworld blamed the trainer for her death. They claimed that Brancheau shouldn’t have put herself in such a dangerous position. She was wrong to let her ponytail come close to Tilikum’s mouth, which prompted him to drag her into the water.
Four Seaworld employees, however, said that Dawn completely followed protocol. She was careful and always followed the park’s “safety” guidelines when she was around the orcas. When her death was announced, former and current trainers were amazed that she had been the one killed. Death at Seaworld author David Kirby concluded in his book that the trainer’s death was not her fault. The reason for the attack was due to the whale’s stress from being held in captivity.
“I’ve spoken to scientists who tell me that they believe there are signs these animals are stressed out…in the wild we don’t get up close with killer whales, it only happens at Seaworld,” he said. Normally, killer whales in the wild do not attack humans, only when they’re away from their homes, families, and friends, have there been incidents.
Wild Animals as Entertainment
Thomas Chipperfield, loves what he does for a living. Thomas is an English circus trainer. He runs a show called “An Evening with Lions and Tigers,” where wild animals perform tricks in front of a live audience. It is clear to Thomas that wild animals should perform in animal entertainment shows. He believes that because the Lions and Tigers he trains have regular health checks with vets and are treated well, there is nothing wrong with them performing in circus shows.
But animal rights groups still call for the circus to shut down and the British government wants to see an end to the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England. This is what the people want: 94.5 percent of the British public said they would support such a ban. People believe these big cats should be out in the wild in their natural surroundings. They think it’s cruel to keep them locked in small cages forced to do tricks they wouldn’t naturally do.
Thomas says he’s never worried while working with his animals. “I’ve always respected what they are and remembered what they are when working with them, and I don’t force them into performing actions they’re not comfortable doing, that’s not the way I work with my animals.”
He also claims that the general public loves this kind of entertainment (despite what the polls say), because otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to do what he does. “As long as the circus takes good care of the animals, there is no issue with using animals as entertainment,” he said.
Animal entertainment shows have long been part of our entertainment. However, many people believe that wild animals shouldn’t perform in circus shows? Do you believe they should?
Below are a few pros and cons of having animals perform in circus shows:
- Animals provide entertainment and the audience benefit from these shows.
- These shows can be used to educate people about wild animal and to connect people to these animals
- Animals are kept safe and healthy. They are given the food and medication that they need and wouldn’t get in the wild.
- Ticket sales bring tourists to a city and this is good for the economy.
- Animals are forced to do the tricks that do not come naturally and are the result of endless hours of training and sometimes abuse.
- They’re kept in cages, or (shallow tanks) while circuses travel
- Animals are taken away from their families and become lonely and sad
- Animals sometimes suffer from abuse (some trainers whip and beat animals)
- Not much is learned by watching animals perform tricks that they’ve been taught by trainers, the best way to learn about animals is to see them in their natural habitat
- The acts could be a public safety hazard because the animals are unpredictable and often become violent or aggressive towards people as they experience such harsh conditions. People could get hurt
- They live in close confinement and have restricted movement, which restricts natural behaviors and leads to animals living with other creatures they shouldn’t be exposed to. This could be dangerous for the animals who aren’t used to certain predators.
Now, there aren’t as many animal circus acts in the world, because animal rights groups have worked hard to protect the animals from being mistreated. Peta is the largest animal rights group in the world and they urge everyone not to buy Seaworld tickets, visit the parks, or support it in any way. Peta protesters claim that captivity (whether at Seaworld or in a circus act) “kills these animals, and they deserve to be safely returned to their home while still benefiting from humans’ care for as long as they might need to.”