*This petition is for people who are not a resident of California. If you are a current resident of California please sign this petition.
On Tuesday, April 9, 2014, hundreds of citizens, activists, and lawmakers came together to discuss the future and fate of California bill AB 2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act. Without even holding a vote, the committee decided to move the legislation to an interim study, a common step in the legislative process that allows the bill more time to gather evidence, testimonies, and most importantly public support to finally put an end to keeping orcas, often referred to as “killer whales” in captivity.
AB 2140, a bill proposed by California lawmakers, requires any individual or corporation to end the practice of capturing orcas from the wild, breeding them for our benefit, and placing them in an unnatural concrete environment for the use of public entertainment. It further states that current orcas in captivity would be retired from performing, allowing these animals to be reintroduced into their ocean homes if possible, or else placed in sea pen where they could experience a more natural setting than the concrete enclosures where they currently reside.
The future of the bill is truly in the hands of the public. The interim studies will hold one or more public hearings, giving concerned citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the issue. The most important thing we can do is continue to spread awareness about orcas in captivity and encourage others to consider the facts, evidence, and moral obligation about keeping such beautiful, massive animals in small enclosures simply for profit.
We have outgrown the need to keep orcas in captivity. As we now know from studying orcas in the ocean, these animals are enormously sophisticated. They can travel hundreds of miles a day and develop complex and long-term social structures in their natural ocean homes that extend far beyond any kind of care or environment that humans could provide. We know they grieve when separated from family members, and they experience trauma that develops into pathological distress when confined in unnatural environments.
The overwhelming evidence of orca distress in captivity is far too great to ignore. Again and again we see worn-down teeth from biting cages and cement enclosures, physical abrasions and deaths from animals fighting one another – unable to leave their enclosures or establish social orders, and much shorter life spans than they would live in the wild. And sadly, we have even seen far too many times the tragic deaths of numerous trainers, whose love and care for these animals is simply not enough. What they need – what they deserve – is the right to live freely in the ocean, just as we demand the right for freedom in our own lives.
There has never been a reported case of an orca harming a person in the ocean. Yet there are hundreds of cases documented at marine parks where trainers have been bitten, rammed, or otherwise injured as a result of orcas in captivity. Due to this danger, the U.S. Court of Appeals voted on April 11 to uphold the requirement separating trainers from direct contact with orcas in the water. This decision came as a result of the overwhelming knowledge and evidence that orcas can be highly unpredictable and dangerous when kept in unnatural cement enclosures at marine parks.
With everything we know, it is time for us to end this unnecessary and cruel practice. We can no longer simply go to amusement parks and watch orcas do tricks for us in order to get fed. They deserve to live in the ocean where they belong. Please join us and encourage others to refuse to attend marine parks that contain orcas and whales and dolphins for entertainment.
With the growing momentum for the welfare of captive orcas, we must continue the fight. We must continue to raise our voices to end the practice of keeping these massive and highly intelligent animals for use in the profitable entertainment industry.
We congratulate California for its leadership in addressing this issue and ask for your continued support on Bill AB 2140.
The time for us has come to see orcas in captivity as a part of our past – not a tragic part of our future. Please join us with your support and action to raise awareness about orcas in captivity as Bill AB 2140 undergoes more thorough analysis and review. It will take all of our voices – activists, scientists, and so importantly the voices of concerned citizens, but we can come together to help pass the orca welfare bill and finally give these beautiful, intelligent animals the respect and dignity they deserve.
Thank you for your attention to an issue that has always been dear to me and my late father, Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
For the Orcas,
President, Ocean Futures Society
Image: Jean-Michel Cousteau comforts an Orca just before her release back into the wild. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society
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