SeaWorld's death of Kayla shows why orca captivity must end
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM Stephen Wells, ALDF Animal Legal Defense Fund
February 2019

Passed from one marine amusement park to another and forced to live in tiny tanks, Kayla is the fourth orca to die prematurely at SeaWorld in the last two years.

Originally posted by Stephen Wells as a Guest Columnist on Orlando Sentinel, January 31, 2019

The Animal Legal Defense Fund grieves the death of Kayla, a 30-year-old orca whose death SeaWorld announced on Monday. And we renew our call for Florida and other states with captive orcas to pass and enact stronger orca protection laws.

We mourn not just Kayla's death, but that she never truly got to live. It's not just a limited lifespan that makes captivity so cruel for orcas. They are among the smartest, most emotionally complex animals on earth. In the wild, they live in large, intricate societies, and swim some 140 miles every day but in captivity, at SeaWorld, these animals are often kept alone or with little company in small tanks that are essentially glorified bathtubs. We need legislation that will protect other orcas from this cruel fate.

In the wild, orcas like Kayla have an expected lifespan of 40-60 years, and may live to 80 or 90 years old. In captivity, that lifespan is substantially reduced. A 2015 study finds that captive orcas in the United States live on average of 12 years.

Nearly three years ago, in response to public demand, SeaWorld promised to end its orca breeding program and to phase out its orca shows. The orca shows are still occurring, though the company says they will end in 2019. There is no way, though, to enforce these promises and SeaWorld has dispatched lobbyists to defeat attempts to codify its voluntary commitments.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund has proposed the Florida Orca Protection Act, which would make it illegal to hold orcas in captivity for any purpose grandfathering those already in captivity in Florida. It would also be illegal to breed captive orcas, or to transport captive orcas into Florida or out of North America, unless provided by federal law or to rehome to sanctuary. Additionally, the bill would require that orcas held for rehabilitation or research purposes be returned to the wild whenever possible.

Thanks to Representative Jared Moskowitz, the bill was filed for the 2018 legislative session as HB 1305 but the legislature adjourned before the bill was debated. We are working with lawmakers to reintroduce the bill in the 2019 legislative session.

We need the Florida Orca Protection Act because Kayla deserved better than what she got: a short life in a small tank. Orcas are counting on us to make sure this generation of captive orcas is the last.


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