A California state legislator is proposing a bill that would ban the captivity of orcas or killer whales for entertainment at SeaWorld. According to state Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D), who proposed the bill, “It is time that we embrace that he long-accepted practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement must end.”
The proposed bill would end performance-based entertainment for all orcas in California, as well as end captive breeding programs and the export or import of genetic material or orcas within the state, CNN reports.
The legislation comes less than a year after the release of the controversial documentary film, Blackfish, which exposes the inhumane nature of orca captivity. At a press conference on Friday, Bloom was joined by Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and two former SeaWorld trainers.
“This is about greed and this is about corporate exploitation, both of the whales and the trainers, but most importantly the whales,” John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer, said at the conference.
The documentary Blackfish exposes the dangerous misconceptions about keeping large and highly-intelligent animals like orcas in captivity. It also highlights the numerous deaths caused by orcas in captivity and exposes how captivity affects orcas’ mental and physical well-being as well as how trainers have been kept in the dark about captive orca killings and been misled to believe that whales live longer, healthier lives in captivity.
In response to the new bill, SeaWorld has said that the law, even if enacted, would likely be struck down and argues that it would probably be invalid under state and federal constitutions. “The premise behind this proposed legislation is severely flawed on multiple levels, and its validity if highly questionable under the United States and California Constitutions,” a SeaWorld spokesperson said in a statement.
However, four leading animal law experts told ClimateProgress that they believe that if SeaWorld were to challenge the law, the company would not be successful.
David Farve, Professor of Property and Animal Law at the Michigan State College of Law told ClimateProgress he was “not aware of anything on the federal level that would trigger a constitutional violation and that the proposed bill appears to be “a lawful exercise of state police power to deal with animal-related issues.”
SeaWorld has faced additional backlash as a result of the release of the documentary film last July. Recently, it was discovered that the company altered an online poll about the documentary in order to weight the poll in its favor. A single IP address belonging to SeaWorld.com and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment was responsible for more than half of the responses to a poll buy the Orlando Business Journal.
The company has also accused the documentary filmmakers of creating an “emotionally manipulative” film. In January, Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite asked SeaWorld to engage in a public debate over issues addressed in the film after the company claimed the film is “propaganda” and untrue. The company rejected her offer.
Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.