February 26th, 2010
11:29 AM ET

Free the killer whale

[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]

Jane Velez-Mitchell

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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Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Chris

    August Bush was warned in nov 2006 that a trainer was going to be killed by Ohsa. This was after a trainer was taken down in San Diego. One hundred and eighty thousand dollars was placed in each shamu stadium to pay for cameras and a alarm system. Very expensive led screens and underwater cameras where installed tp monitor the whales behaviors. It didn't work.

    February 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
  2. Tim Gibson

    We arrest people for domestic animal abuse, do not allow power lines through natural habitat because of one small bird, but then we allow animals from nature to be abused for profit instead of being saved and returned to a normal life. I think for people we call it a prison.

    February 26, 2010 at 11:40 am |