California's Anti-SeaWorld Bill Stalled For Now, So The Orca Shows Will See Another Day

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 21: A general view of the atmosphere at the premiere of Sea World San Diego's 'Turtle: The Incredible Journey' on June 21, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
Source: Jerod Harris/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In a setback for animal-rights activists, a California bill that would end SeaWorld’s killer whale shows in San Diego stalled in committee Tuesday. State Assemblyman Richard Bloom, who was inspired to write the bill after watching the recent documentary Blackfish, effectively pulled the legislation after realizing that it didn’t have enough votes to pass. In all likelihood, it won't be reconsidered until mid-2015 at the earliest.

The centerpiece of Bloom’s bill was a modification to the state Fish and Game board that would make it “unlawful to hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca, as defined, for performance or entertainment purposes.” That would have ended all orca shows at SeaWorld San Diego, which houses 10 killer whales, and prevented any other theme parks in the state from putting on orca shows. Not surprisingly, the bill was opposed both by SeaWorld itself and tourist agencies in the state.

However, the chair of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee in the California State Assembly requested that the bill be tabled while the committee conducts an interim study into killer whale captivity. Bloom, having realized that the bill didn’t have the votes to pass committee, agreed. As a result, the bill won't be voted on until the study is completed, which will most likely be in mid-2015.

While the bill is now on hold indefinitely, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk suggested that it’s only matter of time until the issue of animal mistreatment at SeaWorld is addressed. In a statement, Newkirk said:

The writing is on the sea wall... The public has learned how orcas suffer psychologically, succumb to premature deaths, and lash out in frustration and aggression in SeaWorld's orca pits, and they've responded with lower attendance levels, public protests, and legislation. SeaWorld can take the year to figure out how to release the orcas into ocean sanctuaries.

Blackfish, which debuted on Netflix in 2013, put a spotlight on the alleged systematic abuse of the orcas at SeaWorld. The documentary reported that the killer whales are separated from their families, made to sleep in small cages, and forced to perform for food. In 2010, trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by a SeaWorld orca; it was speculated afterwards that this was the result of the whale’s pent-up aggression from having been mistreated for so long.

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