Should SeaWorld be closed down?
via AP

Should SeaWorld be closed down?

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Tilikum, the famous orca from the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," died after 34 years in captivity. Tilikum's tragic story made headlines after he killed a SeaWorld trainer in 2010 and renewed calls to shut down SeaWorld. Animal rights activists say it's inhumane to hold sea mammals in holding tanks, forced to perform for humans. Supporters say SeaWorld runs largest rescue and rehabilitation operation in the world and uses profits to fund conservation efforts. What do you think? 

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Here's a timeline of the turmoil at SeaWorld following the tragic death of a trainer in 2010.

PETA has been running a protracted campaign to shutdown SeaWorld for years, but the movement really gained momentum with the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish." Like the outcry around elephants performing at circuses, animal activists say it's just as cruel to ask sea mammals to perform for humans.

Goodall said she remains hopeful that humans are gaining a greater sense of empathy for animals and losing interest in watching them perform for entertainment.

Activist groups like PETA call SeaWorld an "abusement park" that enslaves intelligent sea life, isolates the animals in concrete tanks and permanently erodes the creatures' social skills. PETA's "SeaWorld of Hurt" campaign also has serious concerns about the longevity of killer whales under SeaWorld's care and supervision:

It’s not surprising that these captive animals do not live as long as their wild cousins. While wild male orcas live an average of 30 years and up to 60 years and females an average of 50 years and up to more than 100, 38 orcas have died on SeaWorld’s watch at an average age of only 13. Not one has reached the maximum lifespan of an orca in nature. More than 100 other dolphins have also died, alongside countless other animals.

In the wake of Tilikum's death, social media has exploded with grief and renewed calls to shutter SeaWorld.

But many marine biologists and zoologists say SeaWorld is a necessity, and the killer whale shows are just a small fraction of what the entertainment company really does. The company's considerable financial resources go to saving more animals than just the few dozen orcas SeaWorld has in captivity:

SeaWorld San Diego’s stranded animal rescue team saved 440 animals last year alone, and SeaWorld claims that it has rescued 23,000 animals in the last 40 years, according to an article by, a non-profit news organization.

The killer whales also receive the kind of care that would make humans jealous.

SeaWorld has five full-time trainers assigned to each whale, a local and national veterinary team and staff dedicated to maintaining every aspect of their water quality. The whales are also provided with enrichment multiple times a day.

Here are 4 reasons why shutting down SeaWorld is a really bad idea:

1) SeaWorld oversees the largest rescue and rehabilitation program in the world
2) SeaWorld spends millions of dollars in conservation funding annually
3) Not a single government body or non-profit has brought a charge against SeaWorld’s animal care
4) Behavioral techniques pioneered by SeaWorld are used in zoological facilities around the world to ensure proper animal care
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