[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/02/25/florida.seaworld.death/story.dawn.brancheau.cnn.jpg caption="Animal trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed Wednesday at SeaWorld Orlando." width=300 height=169]
When it comes to animal exploitation - follow the money. Using animals for entertainment is big business, plain and simple. The killer whale Tilikum has helped SeaWorld sell millions of dollars worth of tickets.
In the process this highly intelligent, social creature has gone through what we can only assume is hell. The hell is called confinement. Veteran whale trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed February 22 when the 12,300-pound killer whale dragged her into a tank at the park and held her underwater long enough to drown her. It happened in front of a crowd, just as she was rubbing the whale after a show.
As talking heads debate this avoidable tragedy, few pause to reflect on where it all started. It began in the oceans off Iceland. That's where Tilikum was born. He was born free, free to swim up to 100 miles a day, as killer whales are known to do in the wild.
His idyllic life turned into a living hell in 1983. That's when he was captured. Capture of a wild animal is invariably traumatic. He was put in a small pen. After a stint in a Canadian aquarium that ended in tragedy when a trainer was killed by Tilikum and two other whales, the animal was transferred to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
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