A Fate Worse Than Death

First, there was the jaw-dropping
story of a British woman who was caught on camera tossing an
affectionate cat into an outdoor trash bin. Then, it was an Eastern
European girl slinging crying puppies into a fast-moving stream. Now,
right here in America, some people have imprisoned a dog inside a box
barely bigger than his own body. The box has solid sides, and the dog
can only see out if he jumps up and peers over them. He has been locked
in the box for months. To add to the mental torture, the dog has worn
his teeth down to the nubs from biting at his prison, so his owners
occasionally take him out of the box to drill painful holes vertically
into his teeth in order to irrigate them. And right there by the side of
the box, the dog's keepers also manually extract sperm from him and use
it to breed other dogs to sell. There's more, but the abuse I've
already described is enough to make any decent person sick.

Take a look at Google Maps and you can look down into the container and see the dog lying there.

Why, you may ask, aren't these people in jail? How is it that the local humane society has not swooped in and seized the dog?

Oh, I'm sorry. Did I write "dog"? I
meant to write "killer whale." And the people perpetrating this horror
are SeaWorld executives. So why exactly does swapping one intelligent
animal for another or swapping an average Joe for rich business
executives lessen the horror of this orca's ordeal or the injustice of
the situation? Answer: It doesn't.

Tilikum is the killer whale. He
killed a human being--for the third time--earlier this year. Perhaps
there's a reason why killer whales are called "killer" whales. Tilikum
didn't give his keeper, Dawn Brancheau, a little playful toss or
misjudge and hold her under water just a second too long for her to
survive. He shook her like a rag doll, slammed her into the side of the
pool, stopped her from surfacing and tore her body apart. My bet is that
he knew exactly what he was doing. Having seen how he is kept and
knowing where he came from, it's not hard to comprehend the depth of his
anger and frustration.

Tilikum is 32 years old. When he
was just 2 years old, he was caught by marine "cowboys" who kidnap
dolphins and orcas to sell to amusement parks. He was taken from his
family, his pod, in the open waters off Iceland, and he's lived in a
cement pool ever since, unable to use his echolocation, unable to swim
away, to travel the oceans, to hear or see his relatives. He is
"trained" to eat what he's given and do what he's told. He is also
trained to roll over, which allows trainers to masturbate him with a
gloved hand and collect his semen in a container. His semen is frozen
for later use or used immediately to inseminate female orcas at one of
SeaWorld's parks so as to provide additional animals to use in shows.

Life in a tiny concrete tank is no
life at all for these animals, as evidenced by the recent death of
Tilikum's 12-year-old son at SeaWorld San Diego. Twelve! This orca would
likely have lived to be 50 or 60 in the open sea, his rightful home.

After the third human being lost
her life to Tilikum, SeaWorld reduced his meager "world" even further.
Tilly is now relegated mostly, if not solely, to the "F pool," a
solid-sided concrete pool that measures just 36 feet long and 25 feet
wide. Tilikum is 22 1/2 feet long with a big wide orca girth. He weighs
more than 12,000 pounds. So he has to scrunch just to turn around. And
once turned, there he is again, nose against the other wall. He has been
condemned to hang in place in the water indefinitely.

PETA is calling on the local
humane society and the state's attorney to free Tilly. After all,
cruelty to animals, whether to a dog or to an orca, is illegal in all

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.