Book Review: Death at SeaWorld
I asked Update book reviewer Rainah Sandstrom to read David Kirby’s new book & see what she thought – here is her perceptive & thoughtful review of this just released book (The Update received a review copy a couple of weeks ago). Here’s more:
In Death at SeaWorld, Kirby tells the spellbinding story of the two-decade fight against PR-savvy SeaWorld and the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. Kirby puts that horrifying animal-on-human attack in context. Kirby supplies scientific arguments against keeping these titanic marine mammals in confined tanks, but depicts the reader into the poignant correlation we should have with these highly intelligent mammals.
There are three segments, or slices of the book. In the first slice, Kirby gives concise biographies of individual whales and while he might personify captive whales a bit much, he also gives an enormous amount of information about wild Orcas.
The next large slice of the book is following Jeff, a trainer at SeaWorld. He starts out loving SeaWorld, but it gradually dawning on him that the Orcas are suffering just as you would suffer if you were kidnapped from your home, put you in a space about a 100,000 times at least smaller then what you are used to and then are fed to do tricks for a crowd.
A third slice of the book is following the Orcas themselves, in particular Keiko, of Free Willy fame, which should hit close to home as it was filmed locally, and his horrible treatment and the games that were played in trying to free him.
I particularly enjoyed this book. It is certainly not a fiction read but the jargon & scientific language is very clear and understandable. It reads very much like a novel to the point when you are staying up later then you should to finish it.
I interned for two summers at the UW Marine Labs so I felt particularly close to the argument of wild marine life in cages because I have studied numerous marine life in the wild and I firmly believe these creatures should stay in the wild and only a few cases should be withheld in captivity.
I was not particularly familiar with all the issues regarding captive whales prior to this book. While Kirby is obviously an advocate of one side of the issue, he makes strong arguments that has led me into research detailing on SeaWorld and other aquariums reasoning to put creatures behind tanks. While some organisms like fish and anemones serve well in tanks, creatures with high intelligences such as whales or octopi should not be held in captivity. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in zoos, aquariums, sea life or scuba diving. It’s a good one.