November 11, 2015 / Wes Annac
By Claire Bernish, Anti Media, November 9, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) Los Angeles, CA — On Friday, Representative Adam Schiff of California introduced the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act. The proposed federal legislation would end the wild capture, breeding, import and export, and needless captivity of killer whales, and as a result, would effectively end SeaWorld’s long-lived and highly controversial Shamu exhibition.
“The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display,” Schiff stated in a press release. “We cannot be responsible stewards of our natural environment and propagate messages about the importance of animal welfare when our behaviors do not reflect our principles. The ORCA Act ensures that this will be the last generation of orcas who live in captivity, and we will appreciate these incredible creatures where they belong — in the wild.”
State Assemblyman Richard Bloom — who had introduced similar legislation previously — also spoke at a press conference Friday in support of the bill, as did other experts in the field. Former marine mammal trainer Samantha Berg poignantly explained, “As a former Marine Mammal Trainer at SeaWorld, I saw firsthand how orcas suffer in captivity. No amount of toys, larger tanks, better veterinary care or love and attention from their trainers will ever come close to stimulating the richness of their lives in the ocean. We cannot meet their needs in captivity.”
Current federal law allows the government to issue permits for capturing and importing the majestic animals for the purpose of public display. This capturing, along with breeding in captivity, are the legal means display facilities in the U.S. have at their disposal for sourcing killer whales. Though capture ended in U.S. waters in 1976 — and no orcas have been imported since 2001 — permits to do so are still a legal possibility in 2015. The ORCA Act would prohibit both of these practices for good.
“The growing body of evidence is significant for orcas,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute. “They are simply too large, too wide-ranging, too socially complex, and too intelligent to thrive in any-sized concrete enclosure.”
Though the USDA is currently mulling over changes to its captive marine mammal policies that have been in place for years, experts and animal rights advocates insist no amount of change, no matter how significant, could possibly improve conditions enough to justify keeping these marine mammals in captivity. Considering orcas’ size — the creatures reach between 23-32 feet in length and weigh around 6 tons, and the fact that they’re known to travel up to 1,200 miles in search of food — cruelly confining them to such a small space cannot possibly be justified. The ORCA Act, if passed, would finally bring the needless captivity of killer whales to an end.
As Dr. Rose said simply, “Orcas do not belong in captivity.”
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