Aug 1, 2015

Death at SeaWorld

Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity
by David Kirby

This book is about the controversy over keeping orcas in captivity. If you've seen the film Blackfish, it's the same topic, although much broader in scope. It's not all about SeaWorld, it does discuss other marine parks and some studies of orcas in the wild.  Kirby goes into a ton of detail, particularly about the background of various people involved and what led them to work with orcas. By the second half of the book I realized its main focus was the 2010 incident when a male orca killed an experienced trainer during a show. There is a lot of detail about what happened afterwards, especially the legal tangle that ensued. Kirby attempts to fairly portray both sides- presenting what the captive marine industry has to say and their defenses, but its pretty apparent that the book leans in the anti- camp. It seems his main source was Naomi Rose, a wildlife scientist who works for the Humane Society- there's a lot about her. Practically a portrait of the life and work of Naomi Rose, in many ways. It became hard to read- because of the horrific scenes described when trainers were injured or killed by captive whales, the suffering of the animals (especially compared to the condition and behavior of their wild kin) and the tedious recitation of facts which, although informative, make for very dull reading. I would have rather read more about the whales themselves, this book is mostly focused on industry practices, events and people. However I learned a lot about what goes on and honestly I'm appalled that marine parks still keep orcas for display and entertainment after what has happened. They seem very unsuitable for life in captivity. Read more here.

I borrowed this book from the public library, found it while browsing the shelves.

Rating: 3/5        469 pages, 2012


1 comment:

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

It really seems appalling to continue to hold orcas in captivity, for shows. I'm sure they're not the only animals Sea World (and similar places) keeps in captivity that they shouldn't, but it's certainly very striking when it's orcas. I couldn't watch Blackfish -- the trailer was already so upsetting on its own -- but I mind find it easier to learn more about this issue in a book format.