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Animal Rights Verses Animal Welfare – A New Era of Activists

July 18, 2015

This is an older blog from our archives recently republished

Let’s make this the “century of global compassion, the era of empathy” and get rid of negativity once and for all-

Marc Bekoff

non-human animals are not things

Times are changing and so are the animal right activists.  

“We live in a troubled and wounded world that is in dire need of healing. We all should be troubled and terrified by what we have done and continue to do. Humans are an arrogant lot and we have made huge and horrific global messes that need to be repaired now. The overriding sense of turmoil is apparent to anyone who takes the time to pay attention. Researchers and non-researchers alike are extremely concerned about unprecedented global losses of biodiversity and how humans suffer because of our destructive ways. We are animals and we should be proud and aware of our membership in the animal kingdom. However, our unique contribution to the wanton decimation of the planet and its many life forms is an insult to other animal beings and demeans us.” – Marc Bekoff

There is a new generation of activists emerging. The older generations of animal activist mainly focused on shutting an indusrtry down or establishing laws to protect animals in captivity rather these animals were to be used for scientific research or entertainment. The newer generations of activist see that many animals are still suffering needlessly and maybe it is time to start supporting creating better living conditions for the captive animals when they can not leave the faciltiy they are housed at. There is an old way of thinking that is still lingering around today which is bridging a gap between  the animal rights communities as this older way of thinking is in direct confliction between the new generations of activist.

The newer generations of activist wish to see many changes with regards to captivity yet at the same time they know that by not standing up for an animal in captivty it is the animal suffering. They also understand the animal may need help immediatly so the course of action is how to improve the conditions right now. These era of activist seem to have a different type of compassion for animals in captivity.

We do not see that helping improve the conditions of an animal in captivity is helping the owner of that animal as the old timers see it. This act would be directly affecting the animal.

We must all try as hard as we can to keep thinking positively and proactively. Never say never, ever. Perhaps a good resolution is that we will all try to do better for animals – both non-human and human – and earth and work for more peace and justice for all. We can and must keep our hopes and dreams alive and putting compassion and empathy on the front-burner is a must, and we must do it now.  Marc Bekoff

Our experience with regards to these matters were encountered when a 19 year old captive orca named Shouka was found to be living alone at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo California. The act of keeping Shouka completly alone was a direct violation of the law. Orcas are extremly social and must have companionship to be kept in America in captivity. Our passion to help expose the truth behind orcas in captivity had by this time allowed us to meet individuals with great knowledge of wild orcas as well as captive orcas. We thought this will be simple there is a law clearyl being violated and this will get corrected with the help of a any major animal rights organization. Boy were we ever so wrong. What we experienced over the last 2 years has changed the way we view major animal rights groups and vice versa.

We reached out to any agency we thought could help us clear this matter for Shouka. To our surprise we were meet with complete resistance. No major organization would help us or Shouka. Every avenue we went down was a dead end. We never gave up though we continued to document Shouka, writing complains to the USDA and blogging about her situation.

Eventually we started an online petition asking that the violation be correct.

Shouka’s story made the news and it spread fast across the United States. Suddenly we were getting emails from people in the anticaptivity community stating that this attention was bad and we were treading on thin ice. Here was the problem wild orcas are not captured any longer or imported into America.  A captive breeding program exists to help stop the taking of orcas from the wild. In America only three companies own/owned orcas, Miamia Seaqariun (Lolita), Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Shouka, moved to SeaWorld San Diego 2012) and three SeaWorld parks (all the Shamu’s).  This lead to the question of how would Six Flags correct the violation to find Shouka a companion? We were told they could take one from the wild, they would bring another orca from SeaWorld and that would mean Six Flags would have two orcas. We stood firm and continued our fight for Shouka this time taking it to the public and our collegues. We were contacted by an individual named Alex Lewis who is a writer for Alex came across Shouka’s story and wanted to help us. Alex felt the compassion for Shouka we had been feeling. Alex jumped right in calling organizations reaching out to international activist to see if they would campaign with us all to get Shouka home to France. This move also placed Alex in a postion where she was under attack for not demanding Shouka be placed in a seapen. Daily now Alex was defending Shouka, she stood firm as well.

Holise a writer for who works with Alex wrote a great article about Shouka’s situation.

We also began to reach out to a few other younger anticaptivity activist that we know explaining what was occurring and how we were frustrated we could not get help for Shouka, they all jumped in to share blogs along with her petition assuring us we were doing the right thing for Shouka no matter what others were saying. We reached out to Naomi Rose  and Howard from Orca Network  for solutions for Shouka and if a seapen be best and how could we help Shouka right now. It was concluded that a seapen would not benefit Shouka right now and that her agression towards her trainers may escolate.

In the end a handful of younger activist along with Orca Conservacy, Samantha Berg  a former seaworld trainer and David Kirby arthur of Death At SeaWorld helped us get over 7,000 signatures on Shouka’s petition. These individuals went against everything the anticaptivity is about these days – advocating for a seapen for captive orcas. David Kirby was kind enough to share Shouka’s story at his book signings. David also wrote a blog about Shouka calling her the “The World’s Loneliest Whale”.

Shouka has been relocated to Six Flags San Diego where for the first time in 10 years she is with another orca.

Corky & Shouka photo courtesy of SeaWorld

The major census is that once an individual animal is deemed owned and in captivity many animal rights groups would/will not touch complaints to improve the individual animals living conditions as it will only benefit the park for the animal to have a slightly better living condition. This makes no sense to us, the corporation is already benefiting and makeing money while the animal is suffering.  What people do not understand about this stratedgy is applying pressure on facilties that house these animals there comes two options

  1.  Improve the living conditions
  2. Get rid of the animals

Other benefits of this strategy is you can get the public to become interested in the industry including that individual animal. When people connect to an animal especially a captive animal on a personal level they tend to fight for that animal. The public pressure in numbers can begin to break down the comfortability of the industry which are keeping the animals in poor conditions.

“If we make the choice for peace, not only for humanity but for all beings everywhere, then the first example indicates a new direction toward a new world. But if we continue to choose conflict, then the second example will strengthen the terrible momentum toward global catastrophe”- Thomas

SeaWorld Employee Agent Provocateur And A Second Spy

July 16, 2015

 In 2012 two men showed up in the orca anti-captivity movement on Facebook claiming to hate what SeaWorld was doing to their orcas and seeking to join in with protesting these activities. The two men named Tom Jones, now known as SeaWorld employee Paul McComb and McComb’s friend Michael Estes are seen below at a P.E.T.A. sponsored protest at SeaWorld.


Michael Estes left Paul McComb "Tom Jones" right

Michael Estes left Paul McComb “Tom Jones” right

Photo provided by April Cruz

I was contacted by Michael Estes on August 8th, 2012 through Facebook. I saw a post where Michael stated on his Facebook page he was “looking forward to being in this fight with you guys!” I accepted his “friend request” as usual.

Screen shot Michael's Facebook

Screen shot Michael’s Facebook

me and michael



During this time “Tom Jones” aka Paul McComb sent a friend request to my partner. She too accepted his “friend request”. Little did we know we would become target’s used to help SeaWorld try to gain information, as well as having a person who was encouraging direct action against SeaWorld on our Facebook friends list.

Later in August an anonymous tip/rumor was sent to my partner regarding the move of a captive orca named Shouka. My partner posted this rumor to Facebook the afternoon of the day Shouka was suppose to be moved to SeaWorld San Diego. Within minutes Tom Jones sent my partner numerous messages regarding this rumor among other inquiries. Below are the screen shots taken from the conversations between my partner and Tom Jones aka Paul McComb.



This is the only and last contact my partner had with Tom Jones “Paul McComb”.  Shortly after Shouka arrived at SeaWorld San Diego Michael Estes told me he was going to see Shouka with his friend, they went and Michael posted pictures which some of them I interacted with him.




That was the last we heard from them or about them until recently….P.E.T.A. released the link between Tom Jones being a SeaWorld employee publically. As I was reading the article I immediately knew my connection to “Tom” and realized who Michael was. I searched my friends list and found Michael Estes still on it. I was trying to make the connection with evidence between Tom and Michael and here is what I found






After understanding all of this I don’t know what surprised me most- the fact that a SeaWorld employee did this considering SeaWorld’s claims of values and was placed on PAID leave or that it involved a Marine Corps individual. The SeaWorld employee Tom aka Paul McComb tried to get others to incite violence against an organization who’s only fault is not agreeing with the issue of rather orcas deserve to be in captivity or not. This makes Paul McComb by definition a agent provocateur.

I also noticed that when Tom Jones from Facebook who messaged my partner on Facebook which are listed above made numerous spelling errors,  even in his message between another girl on his Facebook post he made the mistake of spelling corps as core….yet in the twitter posts he put out there are not numerous spelling errors. This makes me wonder if another individual is running the Twitter account other than the one running the Facebook page.

tomviodirect actiontomdirect actiontom1direct actiontom3

direct action2

SeaWorld’s Video Response To Blackfish Movie: The Importance Of Killer Whale Social Structures

January 14, 2014

 On January 13, 2014 SeaWorld released a video on their Youtube account titled “The Importance of Killer Whale Social Structures – The Truth Is In Our Parks and People”.  The spokes person used in the video is Chuck Tompkins, VP of animal training at SeaWorld Orlando. Mr. Tompkins has been with SeaWorld since February of 1978.

The video starts out by stating “There’s a statement in Blackfish made that we separate our calves and mother killer whales and that is far from the truth. We recognize the importance of family bond.”

Mr. Tompkins statement is far from the truth if you look the family bonds being broken, as to date there have been at least 18 orcas in captivity under the care of SeaWorld that have been separated from their mother. The youngest known orca Keet, was separated from his mother was only 1 year, 8 months old at the time of his separation. In the wild Keet would have lived his entire life span with his mother.

Chuck Tompkins is very aware of how many orcas have been separated from their families as I mentioned previously he has been with SeaWorld since 1978. Nine of these babies were males and would have spent their entire lives with their mother in the wild. The other 9 females may also have spent their entire lives with their mother and siblings creating a larger pod or some may have split away creating their own pods. SeaWorld did not recognize the importance of family bonds for these babies and mothers.

M – Ikaika- MO -separated from mother at 4 years, 2 months

F – Kayla- SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 2 months

M – Keet- SW -separated from mother at 1 year, 8 months

M – Keto- LP -separated from mother at 3 years, 9 months

F – Kohana- LP -separated from mother at 3 years, 9 months

F – Shouka- SF -separated at 9 years

F – Skyla- LP -separated from mother at 2 years old

F – Takara- SW -separated from mother at 12 years, 8 months

M – Tekoa- LP -separated from mother at 3 years, 4 months

M – Trua- SW -separated from mother when he was 3 years, 2 months

M – Tuar- SW -separated from mother at 4 years, 10 months

F – Unna- SW -separated from mother at 6 years

F – Halyn- SW -separated from mother immediately due to mother’s rejection

F – Kalina- SW -separated from mother at 4 years, 4 mos; reunited at 9 years

F – Katerina- SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 5 months

M – Splash- SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 6 months

M – Sumar- SW -separated from mother at 10 months old

M – Taku- SW -separated from mother at 13 years, 2 months; died 11 months later

Did Chuck Tompkins forget about the four captive born SeaWorld orcas which have been placed on loan from SeaWorld Inc. to Loro Parque in Spain (2006) and currently still reside there, which were all taken from their mothers and sent to another country with NO adult matriarch to teach them orca culture? Did he forget to mention the disruption they created for the babies when they broke any of the bonds these babies made with the other artificially created pod members they had made prior to be taken to Loro Parque?  Skyla was only 2 yrs old when she was taken from her mom and placed at Loro Parque, Kohana was just 3 yrs and 9 months when taken from her mom to be sent to Loro Parque, Takoa was already separated from his mom at the age of 3 years and 4 months before going to Loro Parque and Keto was 3 years and 9 months and he too had already been separated from his mom before going to Loro Parque.  Keto would later kill his trainer.

SeaWorld would learn how devastating it would be to these 4 babies to be removed and taken to Loro Parque over the next few years. You can learn more about these four separated baby orcas in article called “A Close-Up Look At Loro Parque” written by Tim Zimmermann. One of these four Orcas Keto would go on to kill his trainer, Alexi Martinez, which is touched upon briefly in the movie Blackfish as well as in an article I wrote back in 2011 titled “Orca Trainer Alexis Martinez, Death at Loro Parque Caused By Known Aggression

I would like to take this time to state SeaWorld began taking part in capturing orcas from the wild around 1966. During these captures it was VERY clear to all involved the family bond between babies and mothers, actually entire pod members was extremely important and the social structure was one man had rarely seen in animals. During the captures the pod members would circle the netted orcas refusing to leave. Witness statements recalled include:

John Dodge, a journalist, who was also on hand that day described the experience 

“The Munros were in their sailboat that day. They watched the violent whale capture and heard the whales inside and outside the nets, crying to one another in their little-understood language.

I was on the shoreline, a (Evergreen State College) student, working as a reporter for the Cooper Point Journal, and was struck deeply by those same eerie cries. Those sounds are etched in my memory and the Munros’ memories forever.

“When we went sailing and saw this accidentally, it changed our lives,” Munro said.

In this video taken from a segment from the nationally syndicated, Emmy Award-winning 1999 special, “Baby Wild Films Presents: The Killer Whale People,” hosted by Heart’s Nancy Wilson you will here recounted stories of how horrible the captures in 1970 were for the men capturing the orcas, as well as for the mothers who were losing their babies and other family members. SeaWorld was well aware at this time of the orcas social structure between mothers and babies and as well with other pod members. The importance of keeping mothers and babies and even full pod family members together is not new information for SeaWorld nor is it current information they have learned from the actual act of keeping orcas in captivity. SeaWorld learned this from capturing them 40 years ago, yet they still separated orca families in captivity for all these years.

If not for Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro who witnessed one of these captures these captures and separation of family members would have continued. Munro describes a tragic story of whaling and brutal captures that split apart whale pods and resulted in the collateral damage deaths of dozens of marine animals. During the capture Munro witnessed an aircraft and explosives being used to confuse the orcas. Munro subsequently filed a lawsuit that led to an agreement with SeaWorld to stay out of Puget Sound. In this video Ralph Munro speaks publically about the captures he witnessed and how he and others stopped SeaWorld from taking more orcas from the U.S. waters in Washington.

“We currently have Katina with two of her babies in the pool and we recognize this and keep them together as a family. We also have  the largest data base of information about calves and how they relate with their mother, and when they do their independence, when they nurse when they stop nursing, all that we’ve learned from having these family groups together, but as a zoological professional it is NOT True we separate our  mothers and calves 

Yes, currently they have Katina with her two babies but is this due to public pressure and the mounting evidence against SeaWorld regarding the lack of consideration they have held for so many years regarding orca family bonds? Katina has seven immediate offspring not two. Mr. Tompkins shared with us only two of the offspring that she is living with, what about the other 5? Katina also has nine, as we would call them grandchildren, did you hear any mention of those that she is living with? If Katina was allowed to have developed her own pod, as of her breeding in the hands of SeaWorld, it could have consisted of 17 members including herself. Katina has never been allowed to be with her entire off spring to feel the power of the pod she could have been the matriarch to. Instead SeaWorld has moved her offspring to other parks to create new “pods” for people to be entertained in other parts of the world.

So I question and ask others to question the statement “but as a zoological professional it is NOT True we separate our  mothers and calves” which came directly from Chuck Tompkins representative for SeaWorld.

One last topic I would like to just briefly touch upon is Morgan a wild caught baby orca. The goal and permit that allowed the capture to occur was to rehab and release Morgan back to the wild and if they could find her family back with her family.

Photo of Morgan compliments of Dr Visser

Photo of Morgan compliments of Dr Visser

SeaWorld stepped in and prevented Morgan from being rehabbed back to the wild and instead now Morgan is owned by SeaWorld and resides at Loro Parque in Spain. SeaWorld could not import Morgan to America due to current capture laws. SeaWorld found a way to gather new breeding stock from the wild and prevented Morgan from going back to her mother and pod. You can read more about Morgan through the Free Morgan website

There is no doubt the truth behind SeaWorld and the Orcas they keep in captivity is under fire and just keeps growing. One has to question the sincerity behind the motivation that has caused SeaWorld to release this new video. Will Katina remain with her babies throughout their lifetime is yet to be seen and the public needs to keep a close eye on these three captive orcas along with any others that may be born into captivity.

If you have not seen Blackfish you can view the entire documentary online free at Blackfish

I also suggest others read the book DEATH AT SEAWORLD: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity  written by David Kirby

Do Your Part – Don’t Buy a Ticket!

Kandu V as she bleeds to death

Kandu V as she bleeds to death

Whale Activism 101 Vs. Whale Rights 101

September 3, 2012

Recently an organization from Canada called “NoWhales In-Captivity” made a public statement on Facebook regarding Shouka and the petition that was circulating to get Shouka a companion.

No Whales  In-Captivity made this statement

WHALE ACTIVISM 101: “The orca Shouka was kept alone at the Six Flags whale jail in Vallejo, California, but last week after much protest, the whale jail shipped Shouka out to another facility and closed the orca tank forever. This is the kind of victories we need!!! However, well intentioned people like Lynn Unsworthand others, were promoting a petition that instead of demanding the closure of the tank, demanded that the whale jail buy and bring another whale to keep Shouka company. Please, let this be a lesson: NEVER EVER EVER urge a whale jail to buy more whales!!! ALWAYS fight to close the tank forever instead. Thank you to everyone involved with this successful campaign :)”

At no time did this petition ever demand a whale be purchased for Shouka’s companionship as stated in the post from No Whales In Captivity – “well intentioned people like Lynn Unsworth and others, were promoting a petition that instead of demanding the closure of the tank, demanded that the whale jail buy and bring another whale to keep Shouka company. Please, let this be a lesson: NEVER EVER EVER urge a whale jail to buy more whales!!! ALWAYS fight to close the tank forever instead.”

We are being contacted by individuals who signed the petition,  questioning the post because they did not remember seeing the petition stating for the purchase of another whale. No Whales In Captivity has been corrected several times through personal messages regarding this statement and has been asked personally by Wendy Brunot to remove it from public view for numerous reasons.

  1. The posting is degrading to every individual who signed the petition, over 7,000 people.
  2. The posting is a false statement and is being passed around as truth.
  3. They are publicly shaming individuals for signing the petition.

The post remains after the request to remove it. Not one time did No Whales In Captivity contact Wendy Brunote or myself regarding the wording on the petition and why we worded it that way nor did they even allow the post for Wendy to be able to make a public comment regarding what they were saying.  A strange public apology was made to Wendy Brunote regarding this post and other people’s comments such as this one from

Jennife Bennett: Ok
1) Six Flags tried to buy and import a wild caught whale shortly after they were refused to import Kshamenk. They were told they would never be allowed to import one. There was NO hope that SF would buy a wild whale. You are spreading misinformation on purpose.
2) The petition asks that they find ANY suitable companion, that includes dolphin companions from within SF itself.
3) Shouka is not a candidate for release due to having no teeth. Her only hope of a better life was finding her suitable companions.
4) We have been campaigning for seapens for years, and we are no closer than we before. Would you want Shouka to be alone for the next 50 years while we argued over getting her to a seapen?. If you do then you don’t have the animals best interests at heart.  Even is she was moved to a seapen, she would still be alone (which would be illegal).
5) Wendy is still continuing the fight to get all the captive whales to seapens and Shouka back with her family in France.
6) I am fighting to get the cetacean captivity to end, but that doesn’t mean I would condone keeping a whale alone for it’s whole life. Shouka’s case was unusual and extreme. She needed companionship NOW.
No Whales In Captivity wrote: Here’s what we wrote to Wendy: you deserve a ton of credit, no doubt. The final outcome of your work is absolutely fantastic causing Shouka to go to SW. Closing tanks is exactly what we are trying to accomplish, but we realize we were insensitive when trying to discuss it and must apoligize to you. We are also sorry we can’t back you up on that bit in the petition since our strategy is to discourage the companionship argument because it perpetuates whale jails. Of course we are celebrating big time that Vallejo is out of the orca buisiness and grateful to you for you have done, but we were very worried they might bring another whale, dolphin, pinguin, it doesn’t matter! Great that things worked out and we really hope that we can talk strategy and be in unison in the future.”

No Whales In Captivity is also taking credit for closing a tank at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. This organization did nothing for Shouka but leave her to sit in confinement. On a Facebook post dated August 22nd, 2012 No Whales In Captivity stated “We were concerned because there were some well-meaning folks who wanted to get a tank inmate for Shouka, when we were pushing for the closure of the orca tank instead. And we won!

Where? When were they pushing for the tank closure at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom? Because not one group would stand up for Shouka’s rights or fight to close this tank down in the three years we have been concerned about Shouka. Not one organization stood up to help us fight for Shouka’s right, not one.

No whales in captivity is taking the meaning of the petition along with the good efforts of many indivduals out of context and using it as a victory for their cause.

There is a dark history between the organization” No Whales In Captivity” and Shouka that this organization is not sharing with the public. 

In 2002 a male wild caught orca named Kshamank was to be imported into America to be a companion for Shouka. Many organizations worked to try to block the importation of Kshamank.  Kshamenk’s importation was stopped by the high court of Argentina.

Shouka arrived to the United States theme park Six Flags Worlds of Adventure before Kshamenk’s case settled in court which meant Shouka would not have a companion while living at Six Flags, a violation of the Animal Welfare Act in the United States. I was told by Annelise from No Whales In Captivity “If it wasn’t for our work (and other groups) since 1992, Six Flags would happily be buying more whales right now.”

The darkness with Shouka now comes into play No Whales In Captivity KNEW Shouka was alone since 2002. They did NOTHING for Shouka. No Whales In Captivity did not continue a fight for Shouka when they knew she was alone…. instead they left a victim behind due to their style of advocacy work. They left a “whale” to live a life of isolation with no concerns for her all out of fear.

After the courts denied the importation of Kshamenk No Whales In Captivity among the other groups working on these matters could have campaigned to have Shouka’s permit revoked under the law and could have actually won most likely since the law was on their side. Thus closing a tank long ago. Instead they allowed Shouka to sit alone all this time knowing it was a violation of the law and it was due to advocacy work of many organizations. To claim this as a victory but downgrade the individuals who signed the petition for Shouka is outrageous to me and many others.

Another victory that No Whales In Captivity claimed to me was Bjossa being moved from Canada to SeaWorld.  “In 2001, we closed the orca whale tank in Vancouver  by simply opposing ANY new inmates coming to Vancouver.”  No Whales In Captivity claims it to be a victory because they closed a tank down even though Bjossa remained in captivity. No Whales In Captivity stated to Wendy Bruno “our strategy is to discourage the companionship argument because it perpetuates whale jails“. This is a total disregard for American law and the rights of cetaceans in captivity. On the website for No Whales In Captivity  they state they are a law-abiding organization yet they supported the law being violated regarding Shouka remaining alone by not standing up for her rights as an organization and working to close down a tank with which housed only one “whale”.  Moving a whale from one park to another leaves the animal still in captivity and I am not sure if this is really a victory in itself. We do not feel Shouka being moved to SeaWorld is a victory yet we do feel her being with others orcas is a victory for Shouka. We certainly can not claim a victory for closing a tank because we have no idea what will be placed in Shouka’s old tank as of right now. The park is not announcing what is happening with that tank until 2013.

What is not being acknowledged by No Whales In Captivity is this above stated strategy leaves animals suffering alone in captivity such as Shouka. To me personally this organization is no better than those who keep whales in captivity. This organization does not care about the actual welfare of the animals nor their rights by law while in captivity, they care about shutting down a tank as stated by Annelise from No Whales In Captivity. This organization only cares about shutting down a tank even if it means the whale goes from one tank to another such as the case with Bjossa.

No Whales In Captivity worked to try to stop the importation of a some dolphins from a Taiji hunt into a Canadian park, which was a violation of Canadian law. The groups efforts went unheard and the dolphins were imported anyways. Once the dolphins went into captivity the group admits they stopped working on the issue even though it was a violation of Canadian law and the dolphins remain in captivity to date.

The petition clearly stated the concerns were the violation of the law and that Shouka have a compatible companion. The concern of Wendy Bruno and the over 7,000 people who signed the petition was not shutting down a tank…they were concerned for the well being of Shouka and her trainers. No Whales In Captivity is trying to shame people who actually cared about the welfare of a captive orca all in the name of  “proper advocacy that they claim works”. Shouka is no longer at Six Flags and as of right now that tank sits empty without using their strategy.

I was told by No Whales In Captivity “Eventually, our local whale jail will run out of cetaceans. It works. And that’s why we want everyone to know that this strategy works: close the tanks!  We disagree on strategy, that’s all

There is no disagreement on strategy as the work that was done by Wendy Bruno and myself came from the heart. There was no strategy involved. We had empathy for Shouka and so did the individuals who signed the petition. We watched as Shouka’s behavior changed over time. We cared about Shouka and what would be best for SHOUKA, not the CAUSE. The CAUSE failed Shouka. No Whales In Captivity did nothing over the last ten years for Shouka nor did they have a public campaign to fight to close the tank  at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.  They were content with Shouka just dying off alone. Yet they claim a victory for their cause?? They closed a tank??  I am confused since it was their cause that helped keep Shouka in the position she was in leaving Wendy and other individuals to come and clean up the mess they left behind using THEIR strategy.

I am Thankful for the work of the past efforts and these organizations for without them we would not have come as far as we have with regards to captivity issues. I though will not allow any organization to claim credit for something the people did with no help and distort a situation for their benefit.

I will not apologize for helping Wendy with the wording in the petition nor will I apologize for helping Shouka have a better life in captivity. I did not place her in captivity, nor have I been involved with these issues for 20 years or more, which by now laws should have been changed through the efforts of organizations such as No Whales In Captivity by now so that no organization needs to live in fear of helping a cetacean because another animal may have to move from another park to be a companion.

Marc Bekoff stated-

“Let’s make this the “century of global compassion, the era of empathy” and get rid of negativity once and for all. Perhaps a good resolution is that we will all try to do better for animals – both non-human and human – and earth and work for more peace and justice for all. We can and must keep our hopes and dreams alive and putting compassion and empathy on the front-burner is a must, and we must do it now”

So for those of you who signed the petition please do not feel guilty. Please do not be ashamed of your efforts. Shouka is in a better place and doing better. Please be proud you stood up for an animal’s rights when no one else would. Please know that you are a better person for caring about Shouka, not just the cause. Please do not allow others to disgrace your efforts for Shouka or any other animal that may need help in captivity. Until the laws are changed no animal should be left behind in captivity all in the name of animal rights and welfare. It is time for a change… the old ways of thinking “JUST CLOSE THE TANK!” is not the answer today. Today is a new day, one of compassion & empathy, one where new advocacy is needed for the animals in captivity. They do not have a voice, they depend on us. Please stand up for them and we all can continue to get the laws changed and eventually phase out the keeping of cetaceans in captivity as well. And please do not allow organizations who have no efforts towards helping captive animals who are suffering due to violations of the laws blind you. In the end it really is about the animals rights AND working towards changing the laws.


I would like to note that credit must be given to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Marineland France for doing right by Shouka…. well at least the best they could or saw fit for her. These corporations did not have to make the choice they did for Shouka, they could have easily placed another dolphin in with Shouka and called it a day. Six Flags will take a minor loss of patrons but they did it. I hope that they will learn, be cautious and even more responsible on how they replace Shouka’s show in 2013.  Who knows lots of people want a new roller coaster.

Interview With Dr. Naomi Rose Regarding Shouka

August 14, 2012

Shouka passing time image taken 8/13/2012

There has been a lot of discussion to as what may best for Shouka, a 19-year-old female captive born orca, who is currently being singly housed at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo California. Singly housing an orca is a violation of Section 3.109 of the Animal Welfare Act due to the need for social companionship orcas require. Pressure has been placed on APHIS and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to correct the issue for almost 1 year now.  Many people think Shouka should be moved to a SeaWorld facility in the U.S.A. and others oppose this move stating Shouka would become a breeding cash cow. Shouka would add new genetic diversity for Sea World’s in-house captive breeding program allowing Shouka to have offspring that would help keep the captivity of orcas on the rise. As of right now SeaWorld is facing a major issue with potential inbreeding with their current stock of orcas. Some people believe the move back to France where Shouka was born would be too stressful on her, despite no orca has ever died during a transport or directly after a transport. SeaWorld moves their orcas from park to park and even out of the country frequently. Some orcas have been moved several times.

Sea World is also thought to not be a good option as they have so many orcas already. SeaWorld’s holding tanks have failed to grow in size as they have continued to add orcas from their captive breeding program. At one time Sea World was recognized for having large holding tanks for their orcas, yet as time has gone on they have added many more orcas without modifying the tanks. Today many look at Sea World’s tanks to be small and over crowded which seems to be leading to more aggression towards trainers and other orcas residing in these pools. Some people wish to see Shouka go back home to France with her family and Freya a wild caught orca who helped raise Shouka. Marineland which is in Antibes, France houses just five orcas.

Marineland Antibes France – 5 orcas

SeaWorld has three parks and houses 20 orcas between them  – 8 in San Diego, 5 in San Antonio and 7 in Orlando. SeaWorld is housing 6 orcas in Loro Parque in the Canary Islands as well.  Sea World will only continue to add new orcas in these existing pools. As of right now Sea World San Diego has one pregnant orca due soon along with another baby orca due at Loro Parque due any day as well.

Sea World Florida – 7 orcas

Sea World San Diego – 8 orcas

Sea World San Antonio Texas – 5 orcas

Some people think Shouka should go to Marineland Canada. We have discussed this option in a previous post regarding Marineland Canada and Shouka.  Also see new shocking undercover footage from Marineland Canada

While many believe Shouka should be set free to a seapen which does not exist and will never remedy the social companion issue.

Shouka could remain at Six Flags as long as another park steps up to help find a compatible companion for Shouka.  One thing is for sure whatever takes place regarding Shouka’s future will way heavy on the hearts of many. If Shouka is moved to another park other than France she will be with complete strangers and that also means lots of fighting to establish dominance. There is no assurance other orcas would be compatible for Shouka at any park.  The very industry that created Shouka has failed Shouka. These are things that these parks will not tell you, the needless suffering that occurs to orcas in captivity.

In the wild Shouka would make her own choices. These choices have been taken from Shouka by the industry which has failed Shouka along with every off spring she may produce in the future. There are major flaws with regards to the laws for keeping captive orcas, housing them and even interacting with them in captivity.

Promoting captivity is very challenging for us as we are opposed to the keeping of orcas in captivity. Our hands are tied in a day when seapens are the talk for captive orcas and we are forced to sway away from this option as there are no seapens & Shouka is owned by a corporation which will never give her up. We reached out to Dr.  Naomi Rose the senior scientist for Humane Society International (HSI), specializing in international marine mammal protection issues to get her opinion of Shouka’s current situation. Her areas of expertise include whaling, whale and dolphin watching and marine ecotourism, the dolphin-safe tuna label, marine sanctuaries, acoustic harassment, captive marine mammals (including swim-with-the-dolphin programs), the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the sport hunting of polar bears, as well as the protection of walruses, seals, sea lions, manatees, dugongs and sea otters.

WMTINY- Based on your extensive research of killer whale social behavior, why is it important killer whales have companionship?

Dr. Rose– Killer whales are probably among the most social mammals on earth. Animal species can be solitary; found in small groups of varying composition (in other words, they group together for reasons that vary and the members of a group are constantly changing); or live in stable groups whose members are bonded for reasons that increase the group members’ survival prospects (these stable groups may be related genetically or not, but group living itself contributes to the members’ survival).

Killer whale groups tend to be extremely stable (in some cases with lifelong bonds) and are kin-based. In some populations, the basic group is a mother and all of her offspring, who remain bonded with her into their adulthood. In other groups, the kin bonds are looser and individual animals are even sometimes seen alone, but only for temporary periods. The basic advantage to living in a group for some orcas is because it increases foraging success – in others, it is because it increases survival success in general. Regardless of the advantage, the killer whale brain is wired for companionship – just as primate (including human), canine, and elephant brains are. Evolution has resulted in an animal that thrives only in a group – a solitary animal can survive, but it is unlikely to thrive.

Given that the need for being in a group is essentially hard-wired into the orca brain, maintaining captive orcas as solitary animals – when they already face physical and mental stressors, such as confined space, monotonic surroundings, lack of choice, and so on – adds an additional stressor that compounds the problems with which they must already deal.

WMTINY – How would it benefit Shouka if she was placed with other killer whales in a captive setting and what do you think it could do to Shouka mentally and physically the longer she is left in isolation?

Dr. Rose– Shouka would be more stimulated and engaged with her surroundings if she was placed with other compatible killer whales. (I stress the need for compatibility – I think being placed with incompatible orcas would be more stressful than being alone.) The longer she is left in isolation the more frustrated and possibly depressed she will become. She was born into a social group (in France) and then was placed in isolation from her own kind. This sort of social transition is no doubt very difficult and stressful for a social species like a killer whale. She literally NEEDS conspecific companionship – again, she can survive without it, but she will not thrive.

I can’t say more than this because it would be pure speculation – each orca is different psychologically. Shouka may have more resiliency regarding her solitary state than another whale might have or vice versa. We can’t know what she’ll do until she does it.

WMTINY – Just earlier this month, Shouka aggressively lunged out of the water towards her trainer 3 times during the beginning of a show that resulted in her trainers working from behind bars for several weeks without physically contact with Shouka during a show. Also, many people who have recently visited the park have commented that they have noticed there have been problems with Shouka refusing to perform. Do you think this could be due to her lack of companionship? And do you feel Shouka could become a liability to Six Flags if she continues to have aggressive moments with her trainers along with refusing to perform?

Dr. Rose– It is very tempting (and parsimonious) to attribute these aberrant behaviors shown by Shouka to her isolation. She has been without another orca for a companion for over a decade, however, and the appearance of these behaviors is relatively recent. Of course, she now doesn’t even have a dolphin with her, as Six Flags has recently moved Merlin, a bottlenose dolphin, into another enclosure. So it may be that being entirely solitary is in fact affecting her mood and she is now acting out of frustration over this untenable social situation.

If Shouka continues this behavior pattern, it may be that Six Flags will have to phase into a non-show format of displaying Shouka (although given the stadium seating at Six Flags’ facility, it’s hard to imagine how they might do that). Or they may have to consider moving her to another facility with other orcas. Obviously if she continues to refuse to perform (let alone act aggressively with her trainers) some sort of change in her circumstances will have to occur!

WMTINY – Could you expand a little bit on the killer whale brain structure in comparison to the human brain as it relates to emotional processing and do you feel from a scientific point of view that killer whales may be capable of feeling emotions we are incapable of feeling or emotions that we may not even be aware of?

Dr. Rose– You are asking for information that doesn’t exist. I am not a neurobiologist, but I can say we know nothing about the emotional processing of the killer whale brain. We don’t know how they process a lot of things – we do know that the orca brain has a very well developed auditory processing area, which makes sense given their dependence on acoustic cues and echolocation, but otherwise the analogs with the human brain are only in the early stages of understanding.

As for whether orcas can feel emotions we are incapable of feeling, that doesn’t make much sense from a biological (scientific) point of view. All mammals probably have the basic capacity for feeling certain similar emotions, such as fear, attachment (affection), depression, and even humor and shame. Whether any non-human animal can distinguish between like and love or feel nervous or be disgusted is unknown but I find it hard to believe that species with sophisticated brains cannot feel sophisticated, subtle emotions. However, given that humans have brains that are clearly capable of extremely sophisticated feats of cognition, the idea that another species with a sophisticated brain (such as orcas) can feel some emotion we can’t feel is difficult to imagine, but obviously anything is possible. Just not probable.

I’m really not sure what you were trying to get at with this question – orcas are mammals, just as humans are mammals. We share some common traits as mammals – and we share some other less common traits, as mammals with sophisticated brains. I DO think orcas think thoughts that we would no doubt find pretty foreign, but I really doubt they feel emotions we wouldn’t be able to recognize.

WMTINY – To your knowledge, is Shouka being kept in isolation a unique situation or have there been other killer whales in captivity that have been housed without another killer whale or dolphin in the same tank or separated by gates?

Dr. Rose– Shouka’s situation is unfortunately not unique. Keiko was held in isolation in a tank in Oregon and later in a sea pen and then unconfined. Lolita has probably been held in isolation periodically over her long life in the Miami Seaquarium – her dolphin companions have come and gone. Same with Kshamenk in Argentina – he has no doubt had periods where he has been entirely alone. Morgan was held in isolation for over a year separated from dolphins by a gate.

WMTINY – How do you feel about Shouka being isolated from companions of her own species for so long?

Dr. Rose– She has been isolated from companions of her own species for over a decade. I think every orca that does not have another compatible orca for companionship is living in the equivalent of solitary confinement for humans. It is a form of punishment in human culture and frankly I don’t see it as anything different in the orcas’ case. They are being punished for nothing at all – and the facilities holding them refuse to accept this and act as though this extremely aberrant social situation is normal.

WMTINY – What do you think is the best option, at this point, to immediately improve Shouka’s situation?

Dr. Rose– The best option to immediately improve her situation is to send her to a facility with other orcas, who will hopefully be compatible with her socially. It is wrong to hold her isolated from other orcas and it is absolutely untenable to hold her without any cetacean companionship at all. Her behaviors and mood will probably continue to deteriorate until she has SOME companion once again in her enclosure. Ideally and pragmatically, I think she should be repatriated to France, where she can once again be with her family.

Shouka Six Flags Killer Whale Attacks Trainer

July 12, 2012

The question of whether or not working in close proximity with killer whales has been all over the news since 2010 when Tilikum, the killer whale, killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau during a public performance at SeaWorld Orlando. After this incident Six Flags was asked for a statement as to whether they will make any changes regarding working with their killer whale Shouka. Six Flags stated Shouka has a good history with her trainers but now the tables have turned.

A new video released on youtube captured Shouka, a 19 year old captive born orca, attacking her trainer during a public performance. The footage was uploaded on July 7th, 2012 by  using an Android phone. 

The short clip of the original footage shows Shouka leaping onto the main stage of her show tank lunging towards her trainer which eventually leads to the trainer being lifted into the air and knocked back into the open door area that leads to the back of the stage. Shouka continues to leap two more times onto the stage even after the trainer is out of our view. This is the first time Shouka has been captured being aggressive towards her trainers by a spectator during a public performance. The show was immediatley cancelled after the incident.

Here is the original video clip

We have uploaded the original video and slowed down the actual contact Shouka made to the trainer. This footage shows what happened a bit better as it widened the view from the original Android phone. We also added light to the original footage which has made it a little easier to see the trainer and what is occuring.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has not made a public statement regarding this incident between Shouka and her trainer but they have stepped up their safety measures. During a regular show, one of Shouka’s trainer always stands on the stage along with the annoucer. The stage is now empty during the show and trainers have placed themselves near the audience behind safety bars. There is no contact with Shouka during the show…no hugging, no kisses, no touching, just fish thrown at her.

Shouka is rumored to be rather moody & aggressive towards her trainers at times and no water work has been done publicly with Shouka since her move to the United States in 2002. Almost a year ago the male bottlenose dolphin named Merlin that was living with Shouka was removed leaving Shouka to be singly housed with no animal companion, which is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. Other orcas that have been housed alone have been known to display more aggressive behaviors towards their trainers. Once these singly housed orcas were placed with another orca the aggression ceased from them. Orcas by nature are extremely social beings. With no companion and now limited contact with her trainers, what will this do to Shouka mentally?

There has been a huge amount of public pressure placed on Six Flags Discovery Kingdom along with APHIS to enforce the law and find Shouka a compatible companion over the last year. Upon inquiry to APHIS regarding Shouka’s situation along with the clear violation of the law they have stated that Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is working to find a solution. The matter of Shouka being singly housed may be something Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is working towards but how long is this matter going to take to solve? The bigger question is how long will APHIS continue to allow this matter to go unresolved. The problems Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is facing is how do they met the needs of Shouka or what do they do with Shouka. Shouka is on a breeding loan to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom from MarineLand France, yet this is the 10th year Shouka has been here in the United States with no off spring or known attempts for breeding and almost half of her time spent in the U.S has been in isolation. How long will MarineLand France allow Shouka to remain under these conditions of solitary confinement? Shouka has some family members in France. The biggest problem is there are no orcas to place with Shouka. All the captive orcas are owned by other parks and no one is taking from the wild any longer. SeaWorld Inc. seems to get first dibs on any orcas that do come from the wild such as the case with Morgan. In the ten years Shouka has been in captivity here in the United States Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has not been able to obtain a orca companion for Shouka. It has been scientifically proven orcas have high social needs. Shouka living alone is the equivalent to a human living in solitary confinement with another species other than humans being their care takers. Shouka is another example that Orcas do not belong in captivity, as humans just can not meet their needs.

To Learn more about Shouka’s situation and what you can do CLICK HERE


To learn more about the history of killer whales in captivity, their social behaviour and their wild counterparts, pick up a copy of the upcoming book by New York Times bestselling author, David Kirby.



May 28, 2012




On July 17, St. Martin’s Press will release the highly anticipated expose, “Death at SeaWorld – Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity,” by bestselling author David Kirby. “Death at SeaWorld” follows the 20-year fight against the captive marine-mammal industry, culminating in the tragic death of Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau and its turbulent aftermath.

Please join thousands of whale and dolphin lovers around the world by pledging to visit your favorite local bookstore on July 17 to purchase a copy of this game-changing book. Even if you have already pre-ordered a copy, please consider buying another one on DASW Day to give to a friend, neighbor, library, school, or SeaWorld supporter.

Louie Psihoyos, Academy Award winning director of “The Cove” called the book “Entertaining, engaging and enraging: The fairy tale fantasy that the captivity marine mammal industry has spun for the unwary public is expertly unraveled in this non-fiction crime thriller.” And Jane Goodall rightly noted that “Killer-whale captivity only benefits the captors. It is impossible to read ‘Death at SeaWorld’ and come to any other conclusion.”

Killer whales deserve our support! Help get “Death at SeaWorld” on the bestsellers list – it will raise awareness about the plight of captive whales, and spark a national conversation. Take the pledge now.

ALSO: Become a DASW fan on Facebook: and follow #DASW on Twitter: @deathatseaworld

Here are some upcoming book release events thus far for David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld.  So stay tuned and please share this schedule with interested folks. Thanks! 

Saturday, October 6, 2012 New Hampshire 1:00-3:00pm

202 Old Rochester Road Somersworth, NH 03878

David Kirby will be making a New Hampshire stop on his New England tour to read from his book, discuss its contents, and sign copies. This event is limited in size: PLEASE ONLY REPLY IF YOU ARE PHYSICALLY COMING.

Please Sign Up at Facebook Page:


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

West Hartford, CT 7:00-9:00pm

Barnes and Noble Blue Back Square 60 Isham Road West Hartford, CT 06107

David Kirby will discuss and sign his book and recent issues in the news pertaining to killer whale captivity. Sponsored by Cetacean Society International.

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Store Info:


Wednesday, October 10, 2012
6:30pm – 9:00pm

The Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Free screening of the documentary “Lolita – Slave to Entertainment.” Lolita is an orca confined in a small tank at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970 when she was taken from her family pod. Tim Gorski, writer, director and editor, will speak about his experiences filming the documentary.
Followed by David Kirby, who will read from “Death at SeaWorld” – Books will be on sale for signing.

Sponsored by Sea Shepherd Philadelphia and local humane education organization, 22reasons.

This event is free, but seating is limited, please reserve your spot early! Please Sign Up at Facebook Page:


Tuesday October 23
Orlando, FL
7:00-9:00 PM

Barnes and Noble Colonial
Colonial Plaza Market Center
2418 E Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803, 407-894-6024

David Kirby will be joined by orca expert, marine biologist and Humane Society Senior Scientist Dr. Naomi A. Rose, and Colleen Gorman of The Orca Project.

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Store Info: