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California Orca Welfare Bill Would Stop Killer Whale Shows at SeaWorld

Mar 07, 2014 11:04 AM EST
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Killer Whales at SeaWorld Theme Park
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is set to unveil an anti-SeaWorld advertisement at the San Diego International Airport on Thursday, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
(Photo : Sea World)

Riding a wave of momentum built by the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," a California lawmaker will propose a bill Friday that would ban SeaWorld from using killer whales (orca) at shows in its San Diego theme park.

The bill, known as the "Orca Welfare and Safety Act" will be introduced by State Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a democrat from the Santa Monica jurisdiction.

The bill would make it illegal to "hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performance or entertainment purposes," according to journalist David Kirby, author of the 2012 book "Death at SeaWorld."

SeaWorld San Diego has 10 orcas in captivity, Kirby reported on TakePart.com, noting that the theme park is the only one in California that has captive orca.

The proposed law seems to be directed squarely at SeaWorld, which became embroiled in a highly public controversy over the conditions their killer whales are kept in and the safety of their whale trainers after the documentary "Blackfish" was released last year. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was later picked up by CNN and aired to international audiences, drawing attention to the 2010 death of whale trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed by an orca at SeaWorld's Orlando, Fla. park.

"The 'Blackfish' effect has never been in greater evidence - everything has led to this, the first serious legislative proposal to prohibit the captive display of this highly intelligent and social species," Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, told Kirby in an email. "SeaWorld should join with this effort rather than continue to fight it. They can be on the right side of history."

The bill would also ban the artificial insemination of killer whales in California and ban the import of orca semen from other states.

"There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes," Assemblyman Bloom said a statement. "These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives."

The bill would not prevent SeaWorld from putting killer whales on display in an aquarium-like setting, but it would prohibit the park from using the cetaceans in performances or for entertainment purposes.

The measure needs a simple majority vote to pass the state legislature, and some lawmakers have already expressed their support, according to the San Diego Union-Telegraph.

More details of the bill will be revealed Friday afternoon at an event scheduled in Santa Monica, Calif.

In December, SeaWorld said that it has not collected a killer whale from the wild in 35 years and that it does not separate orca calfs from their mothers, as "Blackfish" claims it does, according to Bay News 9

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