Is it right to keep and train animals for human entertainment?

A trainer at Sea World was killed last week in an accident involving a killer whale. Officials at the tourist attraction say they’ll continue to put the whale on public display. Today’s Question: Is it right to keep and train animals for human entertainment?

  • Mary

    No with the exception of domesticated animals, i.e. dogs, cats, horses. Animals that are born in the wild should stay in the wild.

  • Garyf

    I believe the killer whales at SeaWorld were born and raised in capitivity. If they are bread and raised for this, I see no problem.

    But everyone needs to know that there are risks associated with being a whale trainer or sticking your head in a lion’s mouth.

    Hey SeaWorld staff, SeaWorld management, hey families with their kids, this stuff could happen.

    The real crime is that this whale had past problems and Sea World continued to use it as part of their show.

  • James

    No, I think “Professional” athletes get paid pretty good for our entertainment. Just to bad they are allowed out of their cages at night.


  • Jenny N

    If the animals are treated with respect and are used not only for entertainment but also education, I see no issue with shows like Sea World or even our local zoo. When animals are forced into small cages, prodded with hurtful instruments, and forced to perform “tricks” that are outside of their nature all for the sole purpose of making money for the trainers, that is cruelty. The animals in Sea World are trained ethically, given opportunities to play, eat, and rest like they would in the wild, and give people of all ages a respect for animals, the sea, and nature in general.

  • kennedy

    Not as a blanket statement. The Minnesota Zoo strikes a pretty good balance. Visitors learn while also being entertained. And the animals are well cared for.

  • Jo

    In these days of global information accessibility, I don’t think that large animals should be kept in captivity for solely entertainment purposes.

    If animals are being studied for scientific reasons to better THEIR lives (i.e. endangered species issues), then I feel it’s acceptable to contain them. Years ago, when no one had the technology, resources or ability to travel to see exotic animals, it was commonplace to display unique species for education and interest. But we are able to look up any animal on the internet to learn about them now–to keep these large wild animals in captivity just to make us oohhh and aahhh should no longer be acceptable.

  • Steven

    It depends on the animal and whether it would be better off in the wild than in captivity. I personally think we have no business enslaving cetaceans for our amusement. They’re much more interesting to watch in the wild.

  • jean Shea

    Keeping and training animals for human entertainment seems wrong to me on a number of levels.

    • We present the wrong image of the animal, in this case, an apex predator that is basically a killing machine, in the name of entertaining the public. They have a killer instinct which is often teased in all the stunts they are asked to perform. It’s very difficult to breed out instinct in an animal, especially if you want it to retain all the characteristics for which they are admired as wild animals.

    • We keep such animals in conditions that do not resemble their natural environment. We don’t allow them to live as they were meant. We don’t grant them the dignity they deserve as creatures who far exceed our capabilities in so many aspects.

    I have no objection to studying animals humanely for the purposes of understanding them, preserving their numbers if they are endangered and using them to educate, not entertain, the public.

  • Zebulun

    The whale, Tillikum, that was involved in last weeks incident was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983. He had known the freedom that wild animals experience in their natural state. What he is living now is very unnatural to his existence. When you compare the pathetic little pools that places such as Seaworld provide to the ocean homes of these animals it should become apparent whether or not they should be kept in captivity. The word captivity with the meaning of “the condition of being imprisoned or confined” should make the question clearer. We are talking about imprisonment. That is what we do with enemies or criminals. These animals have existed for millions of years to come to where they are today. We are destroying what has worked to sustain their existence. If we want to learn more about the animals that we share the planet with we must observe them in their habitats. That is where we see them as they are supposed to be and not how we greedily desire.

  • Charlotte Carey

    Absolutely not. Humans have so many ways to exploit animals – eating them, experimenting on them, testing products and drugs on them, working them to death as beasts of burden the world over. Do we need them to entertain us as well? Those who visit places like SeaWorld, zoos, aquariums or pay to attend rodeos, the circus, donkey basketball, etc. all contribute to these forms of abuse. We could end this animal abuse tomorrow by simply refusing to spend money on these activities. They will end once there is no money to be made.

    Forget all the noble claptrap about preserving species or promoting respect for non-human creatures. These activities exist because there is money to be made.

  • Paula K

    I do not agree with keeping whales and dolphins for our entertainment. They are highly intelligent creatures and we are not able to meet their species specific behavioral needs in captivitiy without killing them. I believe that our technology is now to a level that we could even potentially simulate a live creature in computer form to enteract with rather than keeping these wonderful creatures captive. How about creating a “avatar” for these creatures for us to humanely interact with vs the real thing! One that is based on the real creatures behaviors and interactions. That makes more sense to me. Please don’t advocate for this cruel industry! That includes swiming with dolphins when you are on vacation! See the DVD “The Cove” available for rent on Netflix for an even more convincing arguement.

  • Wanda Hasselablch

    Absolutely not – and I don’t agree with the arguement that they receive the best of care. Large wild animals do not belong in cages for our amusement. Wth the amount of technology available today – we certainly could strive to be bystanders and watch them in their natural surroundings.

    I understand that animals are injured and need to be rescued and might die if returned – but they are not to be held captive for profit. What happened to Tillikum and others like him is criminal. He lives his days in a bath tub.

    I have made it a point not to visit venues like Sea World and have passed these views to my children. I can only hope that people start to change their attitudes towards this type of entertainment. Visit the St. Paul Como Zoo and I dare you to think the larger animals are very happy in their surroundings. Circus elephants/tigers are also suffering.

  • Krista Menzel

    No…period. Wild animals belong in the wild, living among their own kind, eating their natural diet, and free of our selfish demands. This includes marine mammals, parrots, primates, reptiles, wild cats, bears, elephants, etc.

  • DaisyLynn

    The killing by the Killer Whale in Florida is the result of human efforts to modify behavior of an extremely intelligent mammal to make money. Wild animals should remain wild.

  • Kay

    Wild animals should not be held captive and made to dance for their supper. They should not be bred in captivity. It is one thing to keep domesticated animals, but incidents like that at Sea World show that you can’t take the wild out of wild animals – it goes against their nature to be housed in a small tank/cage, fed by hand, and handled by humans. How many orca/chimp/elephant/zebra attacks will it take before people learn to respect these creatures for what they are and leave them to their wilderness?

  • Heidi

    As a person who has worked in the Aquarium industry and has been faced with the incredible lack of understanding and respect that aquatic animals, both large and small, receive from the public I have to say that all educational opportunities should be applauded. Are there unethical people in all industries? Yes. But has an interaction at an aquarium such as Sea World lead to a child’s lifelong pursuit of science? Has the greater understanding of the animals in the sea lead to these animal being hunted in fewer numbers? Has the unreasonable fear of these animals been diminished from a time when we believed them to be monstrous, thoughtless people eaters? Yes. Have these realizations on a social level in this country and the world led to a time where they are not hunted, mutilated and destroyed exclusively from fear? Not entirely. While we would like to believe that these changes are permanent and universal, each generation needs to learn for themselves their place in the larger world. You do not need to look far to find evidence of human cruelty against these animals in the wild. Let us not punish the animals or the educators. The risks are known and accepted as the price for greater understanding.

  • comment sent to MPR

    Comments texted to MPR:

    Is it wrong to milk cows or teach your dog a trick? Some animals enjoy pleasing us and that whale gets steady meals and no predators so it probably has a better life. -Casey, Fergus Falls

    I think that keeping domesticated animals is alright – horses, dogs, cats, etc. But keeping large mammals like killer whales dolphins elephants and bears for show or display is is wrong. -Anthony Mound

    For human entertainment? No. For education and study? Yes. -anonymous

  • aj

    No. Fundamentally it is wrong. Aside from domesticated animals such as dogs and cats, animals should at the most be observed by us. They are not our “friends”. They are wild animals. Animals are the way they are because of the habitats they live in. Taking them out of their environments is nothing but selfish human pigheadedness.

  • richard

    The question: “Is it right to keep and train animals for human entertainment?” is not the right question, unfortunately; it’s too narrow. No individual or group should keep animals/mammals for purely entertainment purposes.

    But, I don’t think Sea World keeps animals/mammals solely for that purpose. Its aim is to educate and increase the public’s awareness about these creatures as well. Many people would never get to see these creatures live and learn about them if it were not for places like Sea World. Beside, many of those whales were born in captivity. One death in 46 years is very sad and unfortunate, but that’s an extraordinary safety record. I would suggest that the whale probably was not trying to harm the trainer.

  • Monte

    The Cove!!! See it, that’s all I have to say.

  • Al

    I think the Alice Walker quote sums it up: “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.”

    That goes for all animals; the ones whose skins we wear, the ones we eat and steal milk and eggs from, and whose bodies we torture in the name of science. Exploiting animals for food and clothing is as unnecessary as exploiting them for education and entertainment.

    And no amount of education, entertainment or pleasure is worth the confinement and exploitation of sentient beings who have an interest in a continued existence free of physical confinement and harm.

  • Sue de Nim

    Let’s be clear about one thing: Sea World is not an educational institution; it’s a for-profit enterprise. Its web address ends in .com not .edu or even .org. You can say what you want about the supposed educational value of such things, but if it weren’t making piles of money, Sea World would have quit training and showing sea mamals long ago.

  • mindi

    I think it’s cruel and inhumae to capture these wonderful creatures only for profit. OBVIOUSLY there are not meant to live in captivity.

    My heart goes out the family of the trainer who lost her life doing what she must have loved.

    Of all the legislation out there, I feel this practice should be outlawed.

    Time to get a clue people

  • Lawrence

    Training animals for human entertainment is an old, old endeavor beginning with kings, queens, sultans, etc., who had the monetary capability to keep monkeys, dogs, horses, elephants, and falcons. In many ways, circuses do virtually the same thing with sea lions, lions, tigers, elephants, bears, zebras, etc. For years, these animals were ill cared for. They suffered tremendous abuse and neglect, absorbing cruelty from their masters words and hands. Today, even at Sea World, there are several laws forbidding the inhumane treatment of animals. So while playing games with ANY Killer Whale is dangerous to the human being, the Killer Whale itself probably received the best care so that Sea World could continue to operate as a for profit animal attraction. That said, ANY animal, including the family dog, is prone to an outburst or two of violence toward a human being, especially predators, like lions, bears, and killer whales, because predators are designed to attack other things; therefore, even if you watch a rare animal like the Amur Leopard, at conservation zoos and wildlife preserves, it is prone to attacking human beings even if it is engaging in routine behaviors.

  • Laura Peterson

    It is not right to train animals for human entertainment. At SeaWorld, the sea animals are kept penned up in tanks and they are taken out of their natural environments. One of the major issues with this is that dolphins and whales use echolocation. When these whales and dolphins are in tanks, they hear loud noises from the sonar waves that bounce off of the walls of the tank. There are tons of noises that occur at SeaWorld, and even if the noises aren’t loud, they seem very loud to the animals because of the sonar waves. These noises can literally drive the sea animals crazy. The large noises from the sonar waves often cause severe bleeding in the ears, which is extremely uncomfortable. Whales and dolphins communicate with other whales and dolphins through the use of these waves, so their communication gets messed up since they are hearing so many different sounds. The whales and dolphins can’t be expected to function normally with people if they can’t even function normally with other whales and dolphins. Therefore, training these animals at SeaWorld for shows is not right, and it is not surprising that trainers have gotten hurt from these animals.

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