Orcas Don’t Eat Us, But We Kill Their Souls

There have been two interesting letters about orcas recently. One asked why the mammal-eating orca cultures don’t eat humans.

The research is in on orca intelligence. They are as intelligent as we are, and perhaps more intelligent.

The resident orcas eat only fish – it’s a cultural thing. They would not eat a mammal if they were starving. The offshores make sharks part of their diet.

Some orca cultures kill and eat other cetaceans. One hard-to-like orca culture waits at a narrow northern pass for the gray whale migration and picks off young travellers as they try to navigate the pass. But there has never been a documented case of an orca in the wild attempting to kill a human.

The thing is, with those big brains, long memories and life spans (Granny, the leader and matriarch of J pod, is 100 this year), it’s very possible the mammaleating groups have figured out that annoying humans by eating a few is going to be met with major reprisals.

Local transient (mammal eating) and resident (fish eating) orcas were shot on sight up to the early 1970s and residents were violently captured here in B.C. waters. Orca families and broader social groups were damaged or destroyed.

This week the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association is meeting in Miami. It’s the place to be if you fancy using operant conditioning to try to destroy independent thought in sentient beings.

There is another meeting in Miami at the same time – the International Marine Animal Defenders Association, which will run alternative events and press conferences.

Orca minds are made for more than doing repetitive tricks (yes, tricks, not “behaviours”) in order to eat dead fish.

Orca bodies are made to swim more than 100 kilometres a day, not to languish in a substandard tank like Lolita’s at the Miami Seaquarium.

Lolita is one of “our own,” taken from her L pod family in 1970, from Penn Cove, Whidbey Island. She has spent the past 41 years in a concrete pool not as deep as she is long.

Her only orca companion in all those years, Hugo, killed himself as a young teen in March 1980 after 12 years of captivity by repeatedly ramming his head into the wall of the tank. That was 31 years ago.

The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Association hearings will be held this month as well, an inquiry into Sea World’s safety practices for employees, as a result of Tilikum having killed Dawn Brancheau last year.

But the real question is, is it ethical to hold intelligent sea mammals captive and drive them mad? And Morgan, in the Harderwijk Dolfinarium – will she go to Loro Parque, an abysmal facility in the Canary Islands or be reunited with her North Sea family?

It’s a big month for orcas. Victoria filmmakers Suzanne Chisholm and Mike Parfitt premiered their orca film The Whale in the Faroe Islands this month, the site of a pilot whale drive slaughter much like the Japanese Taiji dolphin drive. Keiko’s Story is in theatres, and Lolita: Slave to Entertainment is online or on DVD.

I will be in downtown Victoria with information about orca captivity on Saturday. I hope you will stop to talk, and that you will talk to your children, and listen to them.

Orca captivity is not entertainment, and is clearly abusive and a torture for these intelligent, family bonded, culturally complex cetaceans. Animal abuse is never a glamorous career choice.

Please join me, Orca Network, The Orca Project and SaveLolita in taking action to end the abuse of the mind in the waters. Bring Lolita home.

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