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California bill would ban orcas in SeaWorld shows

A California assemblyman on Friday proposed a bill that would ban orcas from being used in SeaWorld shows.
March 7, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
A California assemblyman on Friday proposed a bill that would ban orcas from being used in SeaWorld shows.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom's bill was inspired after he watched "Blackfish," a documentary that argues killer whales in captivity become more aggressive to humans and each other. The measure also calls for a halt on whale breeding in captivity, and on the import and export of the giant mammals.

"The long accepted practice of keeping killer whales for human amusement must end," said Bloom.

Bloom, of Santa Monica, says there is a rising tide of information to back him up, including "Blackfish," which says that whale families are traumatized when a young one must be moved to another park, that the animals need more space, and no training.

SeaWorld says it has no comment until it has seen the proposal. But former trainer Kyle Kittleson is speaking out. Kittleson says he is not a mouthpiece for SeaWorld and no longer has any relationship with the park.

He says he worked with Tilikum, a killer whale profiled in the film. He blasts "Blackfish."

"I would say that 85 percent of 'Blackfish' is bad information," he said.

A big misconception, he says, is that SeaWorld captures wild whales for the shows. He says that practice ended in the 1970s.

"Since SeaWorld was started, they have rescued 23,000 animals. Those are all animals that have been rescued and rehabilitated," said Kittleson.

Backers of the legislation say they don't oppose SeaWorld's work to save whales. But it's better to allow the beasts to swim as they please in a tank - no whale tricks.

"This routine of having shows, 1 o'clock , 3 o'clock, 5 o'clock, is a human construct that's put on these wild animals that actually stresses them out," said Dr. Naomi Rose with the Animal Welfare Institute.

The message from Kittleson to voters is do more homework. When it comes where whales survive longer, there are studies that support both sides.

The measure is expected to get its first vote in an Assembly committee next month. Supporters hope to have the bill before the entire Legislature by June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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