When I was little, my family had season passes to SeaWorld San Diego. Some of my best childhood memories took place there—I even went to a summer camp at the park one year!

I remember making eye contact with dolphins, watching polar bears play with toys, laughing at the sea lion and otter show, and shivering as I stepped into the chilly world of the penguin encounter.

But most of all, I remember Shamu. Seeing a powerful orca—my favorite animal—up close was breathtaking.

Shamu at Seaworld, Texas | The Jacobin | CC BY-SA 2.0 

It took a while for me to admit it to myself—but SeaWorld had LIED to me.

My passion for animals only grew as I got older, and I eventually went vegan in high school. That was when I first realized that there was something really fishy about the place that had been such an important part of my childhood. The more I learned about animals in captivity, the more pissed off I got.

It took a while for me to admit it to myself—but SeaWorld had LIED to me. I was heartbroken. The animals I grew up around—the animals I was told were happy at SeaWorld—had been suffering the entire time. My fun memories at the park were the animals’ living nightmare. And I had no idea.

My stomach churned when I learned that dolphins in the wild swim vast distances every day with their families, playing and exploring together. But at SeaWorld, they’re confined to tiny tanks, where they see little more than the same concrete walls each day.

SeaWorld dolphin

My blood boiled when I learned that SeaWorld drugged and forcibly inseminated a polar bear named Snowflake in an attempt to make money. The company failed, and it now plans to take her away from her best friend, Szenja, and ship her to the Pittsburgh Zoo, where people will try to breed her again.

My heart sank when I found out that SeaWorld has been cited multiple times by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act—including for putting animals in danger by not maintaining the flooring at the sea lion and otter stadium.

My eyes started to water when I heard that in 2011, SeaWorld reportedly abducted 10 penguin chicks who were still dependent on their parents from Antarctica and shipped them to San Diego to live in the park’s tiny penguin encounter, which is nothing like their natural home.

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals 

And my life turned upside down when I saw Blackfish and learned that many of the orcas I had grown to adore were kidnapped from their ocean homes and are confined to tiny tanks and forced to perform tricks for people. Many of the orcas I frequently saw in person had been repeatedly raped and abused and even driven to kill as a result of the stress of captivity.

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When I found all this out, I knew that I would NEVER visit the abusement park again. The animals I had spent so much time with as a kid were all in pain—and it was all SeaWorld’s fault. Now, I can’t ignore the injustices endured by these animals. I can’t condone the imprisonment of highly intelligent and deeply emotional beings.

And I can’t ever forgive SeaWorld for LYING to me and millions of other little kids—leading us to believe that the best thing for animals is to kidnap them from their families and force them to live in tiny boxes.

I’m a former SeaWorld kid—and I’m pissed. I’m pissed at the lies that I was fed by the company as a child, and I’m pissed that it continues to mistreat animals. But now I know that I can HELP them. And you can, too.

What You Can Do

1. Refuse to buy a ticket to the abusement park. Every dollar spent there contributes to animals’ misery.

2. Tell all your friends and fam not to believe SeaWorld’s lies. One day of entertainment for humans is a lifetime of suffering for animals.

3. Help PETA move orcas back to their ocean homes by asking SeaWorld to retire Corky—who has been in captivity for 47 years—to a seaside sanctuary.

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