Wednesday, February 24, 2010

People Got A Lot Of Nerve



Incontrovertible proof that I am going to hell: the first thought I had when I read the headline about the Orca killing a trainer at Sea World as spectators watched in horror was, "Life imitates a Neko Case song!"

Of course, this isn't the first time an Orca in captivity has killed a trainer, though it isn't clear if the whales meant to harm the humans or just thought they were toys and wanted to play (breakable toys which can't breathe underwater, yes, but did you take such things into consideration when you played "Barbie and Her Friends Are Stuck On Atlantis"?) You may argue, as Neko Case did, that as they are commonly called Killer Whales, one should not be surprised when they kill. Yeah, but that has little to do with attacks on humans and everything to do with getting a bad rap from fishermen competing for prey.

I know, you think I am defending the Orcas' actions because they are so mod with their black and white coloring and their scientific name is so punk rock (Orcinus Orca--"Orcinus means "of or belonging to the kingdom of the dead", and although the name Orca is probably not etymologically related, the assonance might have given some people the idea it means "whale that brings death" or "demon from hell.") And, yes, that is part of it. But they are extremely fascinating creatures; in the wild, there are different subspecies with entirely different feeding habits and social structures. These whales are intelligent beings with linguistic dialects and culture. And we keep them in a cage and make them perform for fish.

It is tragic that Dawn Brancheau died at the hands of an animal she loved and trusted. However, it is cruel to imprison an extremely intelligent and long lived animal because they can be forced to do cool tricks when hungry. Perhaps, it is inevitable that one may lash out at a trainer or just start to viewing humans as playthings. After all, what have we taught the Orca of our culture or our respect for the life and liberty of another being?

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