When I Was A Kid, My Family Loved SeaWorld

<p> Caitlin Jill Anders </p>

When I was younger, my family lived in San Diego, California. It was the perfect place for three young kids, because there was so much to do: the beach, Legoland - and, of course, SeaWorld.

As a kid, I loved SeaWorld. I used to want to be a marine biologist ever since I read the biography of Rachel Carson - the first female marine biologist and an important voice in the early environmental movement - and jumped at any chance to see my underwater friends. Aquariums were great, I thought, but SeaWorld took the cake.

Caitlin Jill Anders

I grew up going to SeaWorld. It was, unfortunately, a big part of my childhood. Looking back, I really can't blame us - we just didn't know. "Blackfish" hadn't come out yet. People didn't know about the problems with how SeaWorld treated its orcas. My parents knew we loved animals and the ocean and thus figured SeaWorld was the perfect place we could experience both.

We took the park at face value, somewhere we could have a day of fun as a family and see the marine animals we loved. We got to pet dolphins and watch whales swim majestically, animals who were so incredible to us and who we respected more than anything. We ran through the penguin exhibit in awe and wonder. We smushed our faces against the glass of each animal enclosure and allowed ourselves to be amazed.

Caitlin Jill Anders

Even after we moved away, we made a stop at SeaWorld every time we visited California. I would meet my best childhood friends at the park after not seeing them for years. We would go to SeaWorld with my aunt and uncle for overdue visits. My youngest brother, who hadn't yet been born when we lived in San Diego, finally got to take part in our family tradition during one year's trip. SeaWorld gave my family so many wonderful memories.

Eventually, however, I learned what SeaWorld was really all about, and that all those memories were based on lies.

Years after going to SeaWorld with my family, I saw "Blackfish" for the first time. After I watched it, I was heartbroken. What had happened to my favorite childhood park with all its good memories? I had grown up loving SeaWorld and its animals, and I was left feeling so confused. Essentially, SeaWorld had lied to me. When I had watched the whales leap out of the water to say hello, they weren't happy like all the trainers claimed they were - they were deeply suffering.

I cared for the ocean and marine life, especially whales, so much, but the place where I had learned about them didn't seem to love them as much as I did. In fact, it didn't seem to love them at all. There are so many ways in which SeaWorld's actions are directly harming the animals they claim to love.

Caitlin Jill Anders

SeaWorld separates orca calves from their mothers, which directly harms their wellbeing. They have an orca breeding program that does not take the female orcas health into consideration very much at all. They have violated the Animal Welfare act on multiple occasions. SeaWorld routinely drugs its animals, against standard veterinary recommendations.

SeaWorld still keeps orcas in captivity even though all signs point to this being wrong.

It's still jarring for me to think about the fact that SeaWorld treats its animals so poorly. It's not something that ever crossed my mind when I was 6, or 9 or 12 years old, because I trusted them. That trust was misplaced though, and it's still misplaced - the thousands of families who still go to SeaWorld together are being lied to, just like we were.

I understand - it's easy not to think about where the whales came from, or how they're being treated behind the scenes. We can't ignore it anymore though. The secret's out, and for sake of the young kids who will put their trust in SeaWorld if taken there, we can't just not think about it.

Because we've all been lied to, and we shouldn't stand for that.