Since the 2013 release of Blackfish (a documentary exposing the horrors of marine mammal captivity), marine parks like SeaWorld have been having a perpetual bad day.
In its wake, marine parks have experienced plummeting stock prices, record low attendance, severed business partnerships, and a never-ending onslaught of protests and petitions.
One way SeaWorld has attempted to deal with the Blackfish backlash is by offering concerts at their parks, included with the price of admission.
The majority of the previously scheduled artists ended up canceling their shows after watching Blackfish. Fans created petitions and expressed their opposition on the artists' social media pages. Willie Nelson took his cancellation a step further by going on CNN to tell the world that, "What they do at SeaWorld is not OK."
"Praise Wave" is the Christian concert series that is held annually at SeaWorld. Christian artists have always been happy to perform at SeaWorld, their fans always happy to attend.
SeaWorld's upcoming Praise Wave 2015 will showcase performances by Christian artists on Saturday February 14 and Saturday February 21. SeaWorld hasn't released the artists' names yet, but they have released the promise that, "the evenings will close with an extraordinary, uplifting Shamu show, created just for Praise Wave."
So what's the big deal? Why should Christians care about the subjugation of Shamu?
The Bible tells us that mankind is special and above all other creation because we were made in the image of God. It is important to accept that with this uniqueness comes responsibility.
In the garden, mankind was given the charge to be stewards of God's creation (Genesis 1:26-28). This charge has sometimes been misinterpreted as permission to subjugate creation. God's intention was for us to care for His creatures with love, just as He does.
In the Old Testament, there are many examples of God's expectation of how we should treat animals (Leviticus 25:6-7, Deuteronomy 5:14, Deuteronomy 22:10, Exodus 23:5, Deuteronomy 25:4, Proverbs 27:23).
In the New Testament, Jesus used God's love for animals to demonstrate how great His love is for mankind (Matthew 6:25-27, Luke 12:6-7).
The problem with keeping orcas in captivity is that they are highly intelligent, emotionally sensitive, and social animals.
In the wild, orcas swim over one hundred miles a day to forage, hunt, play, and socialize. Family is a very important aspect of an orca's life. Unlike humans, some orcas stay with their family for their entire lives.
In the 1960's and 1970's, an estimated 300 young orcas were taken from their families in the waters of Washington State and British Columbia. SeaWorld was directly involved in these captures. Many of the captured orcas ended up at SeaWorld parks.
Orcas in captivity face a range of illnesses, injuries, and dental problems that often lead to premature death. They experience dorsal fin collapse (a condition almost never found in the wild) and are fed a diet of frozen fish, lacking the nutrition and hydration needed.
They are kept in tiny tanks, either in complete isolation, or in tight quarters with aggressive orcas that attack to establish dominance. Reproduction problems are common in captivity, including stillbirths and miscarriages.
Of the small number of orcas calves born in captivity, 18 of them were separated from their mothers; 13 of these separations occurred at SeaWorld parks. These separations cause extreme emotional distress for the calves and their mothers.
It is also important to consider the harm that orcas in captivity have done to people. It is estimated that incidents of orca aggression towards trainers number in the high hundreds.
Four people have been killed by orcas in captivity. Zero people have been killed by orcas in the wild.
In the book of Job, God asks Job about the mighty leviathan. Leviathan (meaning "whale" in Modern Hebrew) was a powerful creature of the sea:
Job 41:1-2 1 Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope?
2 Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook?
God goes on to ask Job if he would keep it as a slave for life, or keep it on a leash as a pet for his children. Sound familiar?
At the time that God was questioning Job, mankind did not have the ability to capture the mighty leviathan:
Job 41:8-9 8 If you lay a hand on it, you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
9 Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
As Christians living in a time when we now have the power to dominate God's most powerful creatures, we must ask ourselves: Just because we can, would God want us to?
Throughout the Bible we read that animals give praise to God:
Revelation 4:9 9 The living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne.
If animals themselves praise God, then how can we praise Him in the presence of their suffering? There is nothing praiseworthy about SeaWorld's Praise Wave.