June 1st, 2012
12:20 AM ET

Debate over killer whales in SeaWorld

A judge upheld safety violations against SeaWorld and said there should be better measures, like physical barriers, to protect trainers. Jack Hanna and David Kirby debate the treatment of killer whales in captivity.

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Filed under: 360° Interview
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Damon

    Let them all go.

    June 4, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  2. Ann V.

    Hi, Anderson. I am torn. I have enjoyed the the gorgeous Orca at Sea World. And, gone to see the marine life in and around Good Friday Harbor. You can not compare the orca breaching, . . in the ocean to a pool, no matter what size. The ocean is magnificent, and the orca belongs there, truly. Nevertheless, I think for safety, research, and industry .. that perhaps you could keep them for a much shorter time, and then release them back to their pod. Also, I like the idea of more information, as someone mentioned above. Maybe, Ford, Hoyt, or Ellis could be interviewed as they have done much research with them over the years. Thanks!

    June 3, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  3. Lindie OBrien

    I was happy to see the OSHA v SeaWorld ruling covered by CNN. As more is becoming known about the intelligence and social interaction of cetaceans, it's becoming increasingly clear that crimes are being committed against these animals strictly for the sake of making money. There's no denying dolphins and whales display fascinating charisma in captivity, but once you realize how completely unnatural and inhumane their painfully restrictive environment is, it becomes impossible to think of attending such a "show" again.

    Jack Hanna has made his mark (and a very long career) by being a spokesperson for animals in captivity. David Kirby, on the other hand, is a well-respected investigative journalist who delves into both sides of the issues. It was disappointing that Jack Hanna had time to spout his well-worn "animals as education" speech, but David Kirby didn't seem to get the same amount of time. Thankfully, he did manage to make a most important point: Killer whales should not be held in captivity for our entertainment.

    June 2, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  4. Kristen Larson

    I believe more needs to be said about captivity. It is obvious that Jack Hannah is a paid spokesperson for SeaWorld. He has made a living 'entertaining' us with animals of all types on any show that will have him on. I was appauled at his defending the police officers who shot all of the animals in Ohio last year. He continues to take the stand that zoos, circuses, abusement parks etc, are good places to go to for 'education'. I would like to see David Kirby on your show again without Jack Hannah. Mr Kirby has written a book (Death at SeaWorld) his knowledge of these whales and the effects of captivity on them is something that more people need to hear about. SeaWorld has tried to stop the book from being published, why? what do they DON'T want us to know??

    June 2, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  5. Arturo Gallad

    Thank you so much for having Mr David Kirby on your show – he seemed very reasonable and informed – I would have liked to heard more but Mr. Hannah kept talking! Anyway, I learned alot about these whales on your show and I am going to look for this book. It is wrong to keep such smart animals in swimming pools. Thanks Anderson, great show!

    June 1, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  6. Rita

    They are called killer whales as they are apex predator and not for any other reason that people may think. It is just a name. First of all they are dolphins family and not whales. Killer whales in captivity have killed at least 3 persons and injured many. In the wild, there is not 1 recorded and documented attack to a human by a killer whale. What does this say to you?

    June 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  7. Rita

    Why do these things get so little space on media i still wonder. With 24 hours a day news i hear most of the time about gossip! The plenet and its health and its inhabitants are something deserving a better coverage dont you think? Killer whales: amazing wonderful creatures who deserve to be in the wild. Even a 4 year kid when given the real facts would agree they are unsuitable in any way! Their only fault is that poor souls they are too intelligent! . And why can t we just say that they are only needed by marine parks to bring in the money ? People has had enough , especially people who had the time to spend few hours over the internet and read about the facts, about how these whales were captured in penn cove in the 70, the way they are living in those marine parks and the way they should leave instead. Enough is enough. We are better than that.

    June 1, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  8. Mercedes

    Why everyone call them killer whales? They are animals just like a lion or a tiger, they also kill, but anyone said killer lion.
    They kill because they need to eat.
    All the whales should be in the ocean, and dolphins too. Imagine the humans living in a small apartment everday of their life, is crazy!! Now think on the whales, is the same.

    June 1, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  9. Fritz Hohenheim

    I never understood why they put people in the same basin as Killerwhales. Hello people! I'm not a rocket scientist, but they are called KILLER whales for a reason I suppose.

    June 1, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Ki m

      The name Killer whale is thought to be a corruption of Whale Killer which was coined by whalers in the 19th Century after observing ORCAs (the proper designation) hunt and kill other whales. They hunt sea-life for food, not for fun!

      June 4, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  10. Debbie Blalock

    Thank you for covering the OSHA v. SeaWorld ruling. It was a pleasure to see David Kirby, a well-respected journalist, on the show. I would love to hear more from him on this topic and for your program to cover the ethics and science of captivity in more depth.

    June 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  11. Everett Mack

    Jack Hanna said it best, “If you look at the other 176 million people that went to zoos and aquariums last year or the billions of people that went to Seaworld, I think they will tell you what they want to see.” This is about the selfishness of humans. This is about imprisoning animals for the entertainment of humans. Jack Hanna also uses animals to his own ends, and makes a living off of them. His respect for wildlife only goes as far as it puts money in his wallet. The behavior these magnificent creatures demonstrate in captivity is of no use for scientific research because it does not mimic their behavior in the wild. In fact, many times if you go to an aquarium and observe dolphins you will see them laying in a corner as if they have been sent to a time out. This never happens in the wild and one can only imagine what a large Orca must feel like being stuck in a small pool. These are incredibly intelligent creatures that have been imprisoned and forced to do circus tricks for food. It is one thing to rescue a sick animal from the wild, rehabilitate it, and release it; but it is quite another to capture these beautiful creatures and imprison them so we can line our pockets with money. Mr. Hanna seems to think that we need to do this “research” to save the orca’s from extinction. What would save them from extinction is to stop hunting them, and stop polluting the oceans. WE are the cause of the extinction of species today.

    June 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Ki m

      Hear, hear, Everett. I cannot believe some of the comments made by Jack Hanna. Trying to make a proper scientific study of orca or other cetacean and pinniped behaviour in captivity is like studying people in prison and thinking that the results reflect normal human behaviour. In the wild, orcas and dolphins don't 'log' at the surface for hours on end, don't eat dead fish and are free to roam and socialise within large family and social groups. What worth can be put on the study of these creatures in captivity?

      June 4, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  12. Miriam

    Hi Anderson,

    Happy B'day to you. Hope you have a wonderful day – whow ! 45 years of tremendous career achievements. Hope I was in your shoes....jeeessseeee....

    Regards – Miriam

    June 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  13. Larry Morrison

    Whales are self-aware... Keeping them in captivity is torture!!!! I will NEVER darken the dorrs of seaworld and will urge everyone I know to boycott seaworld!!!!!!

    June 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  14. battwoman

    What was with Jack Hannah? He sounded almost maniacal. Hoping you will consider having David Kirby back on for some more reasonable analysis. SeaWorld's history with its cetaceans has been swept under the carpet long enough. They are no longer the experts, in fact they completely gloss over any outside POVs that do not concur with their philosophy. Just examine their breeding program, it's shocking. Why do we continue to ignore this in the media?? SeaWorld does not lead the way in cetacean knowledge any more.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  15. Naomi Rose

    Mr. Hanna may have spent some time with wild killer whales, but I studied them for years. They do not belong in captivity.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  16. Guitar

    They should NOT be there – Period! Simply used and abused for people's fleeting moment of 'entertainment'. Orcas come from very sophisticated family groups, yet are torn from them to live sad and isolated lives in basically a minuscule jail cell. They have been known to travel over 100 miles in a day when living in the open ocean, yet are regulated to swim in tight circles in these prisons

    June 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  17. stephanie Falco

    Captivity is the word, which simply means it is wrong and immoral to go and capture an animal, separate it from its family and take its freedom away to amuse stupid tourists who don't see beyond the show what these animals go through. Any creature on Earth will suffer from lack of freedom, they are not different from us, I wish all these water amusement parks or any zoos would stop exploiting wildlife for money. IT IS WRONG. And those who defend these parks by saying they save and protect the animals is BS, I agree with saving endangered species but it is completely different to jail animals and force them to do tricks for food for human entertainment.

    June 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  18. Adrian Hey

    Have to thank the judge on this one. These animals should never be kept in captivity. It is cruel and unusal punishment
    . Although it is sad when human trainers are injured or killed it is not surprising. Whan you ask an animal used to roaming freely in the ocean to basically live in a closet you have to expect violent behavior and general unhappiness. It is time for the greed to go and the wellbeing of both the animals and their human keepers to be the most important. At the very minimum release the anmals into seapens and end the horrible pool captivity for entertainment. It is just WRONG!!!!

    June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  19. Candice

    Jack Hanna did not give David Kirby enough time to speak....however David got the last and CORRECT statement in, and that is that the research has been done, and killer whales DO NOT BELONG IN POOLS!

    June 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  20. guest

    Hi Anderson, I caught the tail end of your report about Sea World and just wanted to make this comment. I think Jack Hanna is a good man and has done tremendous amount of good to educate our society however I think he is incorrect about his assessment about the Killer Whales "not suffering", yes Sea World provides good care of these animals by providing them with a clean cages and plenty of food and exercise but I do think that they have to suffer mentally because Killer Whales mate for life and stay with their pod for life so to take them away from their family is causing mental suffering. The fact that they migrate 1000s of miles per year in the wild but have to swim in a circle in captivity is suffering.

    Take the case of the two dolphins that were released in Turkey last month after being in captivity for over 6 years once they figured out they were free they took off for their old fishing grounds they instinctively knew which way to swim and arrived at their "home town" if you will in record time so these animals wanted to be back home and no doubt are looking for their family. Please see Bornfree.com for more info on these two dolphins its a remarkable story and truly makes you think about the animals at Sea World and what their daily thoughts are....maybe to be free after all dolphins are one of the smartest animals in the sea and Killer WHales are in the dolphin family.

    Americans travel more these days then any other time with over 720 million airline travelers per year I personally think that if a family can afford to go to Sea World for the week they can afford to go to alaska or other parts of the world that killer whales travel and see them in their own habitant vs in a cage at Sea World. Times are changing and I think it is high time that these Killer whales, dolphins and other animals caged at Sea World are released to their true environment and have freedom just like we do.

    Thank you,

    June 1, 2012 at 2:15 am |