Should Orcas Be Kept in Captivity?

by lauma14133 on September 12, 2016 - 11:34pm

The article from BBC news called, “Can Orcas Ever Be Healthy in Captivity?”, reveals a great deal about the controversy around keeping orcas confined. The article talks about Sea World’s decision to terminate the breeding of orcas, meaning that the 29 orcas currently residing at Sea World would be the last to be kept in captivity. Consequently, the organization also indicated that it would cancel its previous plan to double the size of the orcas’ tanks and add multiple features for the benefit of the whales. Sea World has always tried to defend its program as stated in the article by SeaWorld's Vice President of Veterinary Services, Dr. Chris Dold. However, the article raises several counter arguments that put into question the health of the animals in captivity.


A discussion of several ethical principles brings to light the pros and cons of keeping orcas in captivity. One of the ethical principles, “Living entities should not be used as a means to an end,” supports arguments for the freedom of these killer whales. Sea World is only keeping the orcas in captivity because they are a major attraction for the park. The orcas are a huge source of income for the company. Based on this principle, there is no doubt that is would be more beneficial for the animals to be in their natural habitat. Sea World, very selfishly, is making too much money to do what is actually best for the animal.


Another ethical principle that supports the freedom of these orcas is, “Do no harm.” It is not Sea World’s intention to harm the orcas kept in their tanks; however, being in captivity does harm the animal in the long run. For example, orcas in captivity have damaged teeth which could be caused by unusual behavior such as biting and licking at bars which is seen in animals who are kept captive according to Dr. Naomi Rose. Furthermore, isolating them from their family damages their health emotionally, socially and psychologically. They can also be dangerous to humans. For example, Dawn Branchau was a trainer at Sea World who drowned when she was attacked and pulled into the water by a bull orca named Tilikum. Tilikum is not the only orca that has attacked a human before and, in fact, Dawn was his third victim.  


A third ethical principle is “Respect other’s autonomy.” By removing the orcas from their natural habitat and separating them from their families, the animals become dependent on Sea World for food and can no longer swim freely as needed. They are confined to a tank for life.


One of the ethical principles that favors the captivity of orcas is, “Always act in accordance to your own best interest.” Sea World is acting in accordance to its own best interest by keeping orcas in captivity. Having orcas on display attracts more visitors and makes more money for the organization.


Another ethical principle that supports the captivity of orcas is, “Always act for the greater good.” Since the orcas are being displayed so close to the public eye, people start appreciating the animal more which creates an awareness of the importance of protecting this animal. Before orcas were displayed at Sea World in 1964, they were feared and hunted. Keeping a few in captivity protects the species from being hunted and going extinct. So, keeping orcas in captivity could be for the greater good both for educational purposes and for the benefit of the species as a whole.  


In my opinion, orcas should not be kept in captivity. It is in their nature to be left free in the wild. Confining them to small areas is damaging to their health and, in some cases, dangerous for humans who interact with them. In their natural habitat, they do not attack humans. Orcas in the ocean travel around 160 km a day, not only to search for food, but also, for their overall health. Orcas living in a 35-foot tank cannot swim as much in order to stay healthy. However, given the education provided when interacting with these creatures up close and the potential for saving an endangered species, is captivity worth it?   



Anonymous. “Can Orcas Ever Be Healthy in Captivity?” BBC Magazine 15 April 2016 Number of Pages: Unknown. BBC News Website.



This is definitely the best article I have yet to read! It is extremely well organized and kept me focused on the topic at hand the entire way through. I agree with you when you say that orcas should not be kept in captivity because indeed, it is their nature to live free in the wild. I value animals and everything they do for us humans from being a companion, being a part of a sport or passion or aiding us with work (like for the amish) but some animals are just meant to not be interacted with as they can be dangerous. The facts you brought through were striking and you absolutely got the point across. All of your facts, oppositions, moral claims, and opinion made for ultimately an excellent article! How can we make a difference in allowing orcas to be free?

A very thought-provoking article. An interesting subject to look at as many tend to turn a blind eye to Orcas. With that being said, I 100% agree with you when you say that these animals should not be confined to the four walls of a tank as their natural habitat is out in the vast ocean with no borders surrounded by their families. This is not the first and definitely not the last time we see this as there are horrifying videos circulating on social media of tigers being drugged so that visitors can take selfies with them. As an animal lover I find this absolutely horrid. The information you brought through was done so in an effective manner and kept me intrigued the whole way through. Great strong moral claims brought forward. Is there a possibility that animal captivity will ever end?

Very interesting subject, well organized article, well written, I only have positive comments regarding this incredible article. Orcas kept in captivity is also a subjects that touches me and I find it disgusting that Sea World uses these gigantic and impressive creatures as a mean to an end in order to make money over their unhappiness. These animals are tortured every single second of their existence. They should be swimming in the vast ocean with their families not in small tanks that are making them mad and crazy. However, what do you think of animal kept in zoos? Could you compare it with orca’s kept in captivity?

Your post was very well presented. The moral principles for keeping orcas held in captivity were clearly divided, showing both sides of the debate. You also had varied moral principles and explored a large range of issues regarding this topic.

I definitely agree with all three of your moral principles against SeaWorld. The orcas are treated as slaves for our own entertainment. The conditions and living environment in which they are in is simply unacceptable. These large, intelligent whales should be in their natural environment! Many of the orca’s living in SeaWorld are found to have a much shorter lifespan than those that are free and lose their instincts to due to captivity. Values such as protection are extremely relevant to this topic. In your post you mentioned how orcas ware hunted and how extinction is feared for this species. Orcas should be further protected to not only remain in their natural habitat but to be safe in the ocean as well.

Can the ethical issues present in the captivity of orcas also be applied to animals in zoos and animals used for human pleasure?

Great article! You express every point of view and clearly state the moral claims. Well written and there was no shortage of examples to back up your arguments. I fully agree with everything you said, especially when your arguments opposed Sea World. It's clear that these creatures shouldn't be kept in tanks, for a number of reasons, but also it clearly makes them violent.

Nature in itself shouldn't me meddled with, period. Especially for our own entertainment. If orcas must be kept in captivity, which they absolutely should not, it should be solely for helping injured animals heal. But that's where it stops. The same thing can be said about all animals in captivity. If they are at the point where they can't survive on their own, it's clearly a problem.
Now, a question, do you think domestic animals could be considered animals in captivity?

One of the best article of the class. I find that your article is well structured and that everything is there. The moral claims are well presented and you give excellent examples always referring back to the article. I personally think that animal captivity is bad and that every animals should have the rights to live in the wild. There are living in awful conditions and away from their family(Groups). I think that they should not be put into captivity unless there are in phase of extinction. After reading your article, i thought to myself; Is there another solution than keeping animals in zoos or other living species in captivity for their protection?