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A group of radical animal rights extremists under the Animal League Defense Fund, via Representative Jared Moskowitz, have managed to get an amendment that would ban Florida-based zoos and aquariums from possibly housing, or breeding killer whales in their care. The bill, which was heavily inspired by a biased documentary called Blackfish, was originally drafted for the 2018 legislative session, but luckily, at the time, it was never voted on. A year later, these extremists are back with the bill by demanding the public to have it voted for next year's session. Extremists claim that the bill is "animal-saving" when in reality, it would do more harm than any good and there are a number of problems with these breeding "bans" when they are used as legislative methods to control the zoological community.
1. Loss of Research Efforts
Right before Joel Manby, who was the CEO of the SeaWorld parks at the time, announced that the parks would no longer have a breeding program for its killer whale collection, SeaWorld was involved in a number of research projects with the United States National Marine Fisheries Service. Many of these projects required the breeding program to be in place in order for the researchers to collect much-needed data in order to better understand the orcas in ways that would have probably been impossible to do in a wild setting. This is because as SeaWorld's orca family begins to dwindle through the years, the researchers are going to miss out on collecting health data, blood samples, measuring of heart rates, lung capacity, documenting diets, growth, and even nursing patterns and would force all research to limited to a certain capacity since researchers who are based with NOAA don't have any legal access to orcas at facilities in Canada, France, Argentina, Spain, Japan, China, and Russia.
So, in order for researchers to be able to interact and conduct research on an orca that is in human care, they are going to have to have a scientist with a good question, healthy animals so that they can get normal physiological rates and trainers and vets who know these animals very well, and have helped raise many of these animals since birth. This is considering that orca populations out in the wild are facing a number of challenges relating to overfishing, pollution, the effects of climate change, and habitat destruction. In fact, some of this research could even help save a marine mammal species that usually spends less than five percent of its time on the surface of the water since there is still so much we have yet to know about the species.
2. Calf rearing play huge roles in orca society.
What I really wish most people would understand is that orcas, like all members of the dolphin family, are sexual animals. Although they will mate for pleasure, orca society in general heavily resolves around breeding females and calf rearing as it is a matriarchal society that is led by older and dominant females who help maintain and stabilize family groups. For orca pods, pregnancy and calf rearing are considered to be stimulating to breeding females and they will often babysit calves from other pods and teach them a pod's way of life through teaching them how to hunt, how to breach, how to interact with other orcas, and so on. By having some legislative law take that away from an animal that will mate because it wants to is only going to deprive them of what is considered to be natural behavior is only going to cause the animals to become sexually frustrated. Keep in mind that no form of birth control is considered to be 100 percent effective either, even with animals like orcas, and sea lions.
3. An entire community would be put in jeopardy.
It's very important for all zoos and aquariums to continue to campaign to inspire people to get to know and love animals on every level, regardless of all the anti-zoo lobbying that surrounds them. While its obvious that they will respect the decision for a facility that houses orcas to not breed their animals, it would be very uncertain if they are going to want anything to do with that facility if its decision was because it caved into the propaganda and demands of animal rights extremists. This is heavily frowned upon by the zoological community on so many levels. In addition, if this orca breeding ban, which is similar to one that is in effect in California, gets voted into legislation, this could end up impacting Florida's zoo community like facilities that house dolphins, elephants, chimpanzees, parrots, reptiles, and exotic cats. This orca "ban" would serve as a sign that no zoo or community would be safe from animal rights extremism down the road.
Currently, SeaWorld, if you count all the three parks combined, houses the largest killer whale collection in human care. Yet, its own decision to end the killer whale breeding program at the parks in order to please a few soccer-moms could result in motivating Russia to collect orcas from its own waters in order to potentially replace a shrinking gene pool in the United States. Although Russia has collected a few animals to be displayed in its own country, China is currently, the active market when it comes to orcas. Currently, China is home to 16 Russian orcas that reside at three different facilities and with facilities in the works, it's believed that within 10-15 years, China could end up being home to 50 Russian caught orcas alone.
5. Atlantic Ocean's Unusual Mortality Event Being Overlooked
Right now on the East Coast, the United States National Marine Fishery Service has declared an unusual mortality event for minke, humpback, and right whales along the North Atlantic coast. This also includes a number of bottlenose dolphins that have died along the Florida coast as well, and many of these deaths could be linked to the most recent red tide outbreak along the Gulf Coast. The fact that the state of Florida is making an amendment that would make it illegal to keep killer whales in human a care a top priority before looking into ways to prevent the potential extinction of the North Atlantic Right Whale, which is regarded as one of the most endangered species of whale in the world. All I can say though is that if I were the state of Florida, I would put more focus on establishing additional efforts in providing resources for rescue facilities when responding to and treating sick marine mammals, conduct research to see if red tides that have occurred in recent years are linked to climate change, and fund educational programs along the way.
In the end, this latest scheme by animal rights extremists has almost nothing to do with animal welfare in general, but more to do with making another effort to gain control over the marine mammal community and possible re-election efforts for any politician seeking reelection down the road. For anyone who is lives in Florida, is part of the zoo and aquarium community, or is a supporter of what zoos and aquariums do for animals and their habitats, I ask of you is this: if you are planning on voting, please say no to Amendment 13 because we can't afford to slow down conservation efforts that could help wild orca populations one day. Remember, animal rights extremists have no expertise in killer whale husbandry and care.