Ending Orca Captivity One Law at a Time

Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on April 3, 2014

There is much great work to be done litigating on behalf of animals. Unfortunately, animals have far fewer protections than they need within our current legal framework. Even when an animal has powerful federal laws on her side, as Lolita the orca does, the path to justice is slow and uncertain. Just months after celebrating the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision to protect Lolita under the Endangered Species Act—a rule that will not become final until March 2015—we learned that her case against the United States Department of Agriculture was dismissed. Incredibly, the judge sided with the USDA, which argued it had no obligation to ensure that an animal exhibitor is in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act before renewing that exhibitor’s license.


A Bill to Free Orcas

But there is a silver lining in this dark cloud. While lawyers must work with the laws we have, legislators have the power to create new laws that can make significant changes in the lives of animals. In California, for example, Assemblymember Richard Bloom recently introduced a bill (AB 2140), which offers unprecedented protections for the ten orcas held captive at SeaWorld San Diego.

When the bill passes, these orcas will no longer be subject to captive breeding––ensuring that this generation of captive orcas will be California’s last. No longer will orcas be forced to give birth too early and too often, a stressful practice that resulted in at least one nursing orca mom being administered Valium against accepted veterinary guidelines.

California’s captive orcas will also be spared from having to perform for their food. To end the archaic practice of keeping these highly intelligent, wide‑ranging predators cruelly confined solely for the sake of entertainment, the bill requires that all captive orcas in California be retired to a sea pen, as soon as a sea pen is provided. Without this unprecedented retirement provision, captive orcas are doomed to work until they die.

The bill also protects orca trainers, by limiting their close contact with these unpredictable, frustrated predators. Without this provision, orca trainers may be forced once again to put their lives on the line for the show, as SeaWorld appealed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s decision that forced trainers out of the water.

Like litigation, the legislative process is also slow and difficult at times. To accomplish any of these great things, Rep. Bloom’s bill must first survive a Committee Hearing on April 8.

Take Action


If you live outside of California, please help ALDF spread the word about this important bill—it’s a crucial first step toward freeing captive orcas in the state.

If you are a California resident, your representatives need to hear from you to know you want this bill to thrive. SeaWorld is doing all they can to kill this bill. On April 2 they lobbied the legislature, urging them to allow the exploitation of orcas to continue. Your legislators need to hear the truth—from you.

Make a brief, polite phone call to your state assembly representative’s office. You can find your representative’s number here. Simply call and say, “I am a constituent. I care about captive orca welfare and I would like for you to support AB 2140.” After you call, you can email a follow-up message from the same page, using the same language.

83 thoughts on “Ending Orca Captivity One Law at a Time

  1. Joshua marsh says:

    End whale captivity. Humans are smarter than that and shouldn’t profit off of animal captivity of any kind. Animals are not on this earth for our amusement.

    1. I really think that these orcas should be protected unter the endangered species Act and that they should not have to perform and entertain the public at SeaWorld. They should be allowed to be free in the ocean and be with their families. This practice of having the orcas do tricks at SeaWorld has to stop. Please pass bill AB 2140

  2. Jillian says:

    PLEASE end whale captivity!!!!!! It is enslavement!

  3. Ann Leone says:

    Cruelty to these wonderfully intelligent animals; keeping them in small quarters and forcing them to do routines, has got to stop.

  4. Jennifer Smith says:

    All living beings deserve respect and these beautiful creatures belong in the ocean — not in captivity! Leave the animals alone. They’re not for us to exploit for profit!

  5. Tatiana Chernenko says:

    Animals are not toys!!!

  6. kelly davis says:

    All of them,elephants,bears,Orcas the list goes on. Educating the mass = less profit fir the animal pimps! Truths set them free. kelly

  7. brandon oakley says:

    stop the abuse!

  8. Carol Davis says:

    This is pure animal exploitation and must stop!

  9. Lin Jeffries says:

    Stop all capture of cetaceans unless it is for rehab, then They must be released back to the ocean as soon as possible. Release all ceteceans NOW kept in captivity! No more of this inhumane treatment of our ocean dwellers! STOP THE MADNESS!

  10. Nathan Vankerkhove says:

    Now that the truth is out about the atrocities that go on behind the scenes in places like SeaWorld, we have no more excuses to allow this to go on. It is time to set things right and bring them back home, to the Oceans!

  11. Linda Oliver says:

    Orcas belong in their natural habitats. Free them all.

  12. Laura Redding says:

    Please stop the torture! Please!

  13. Sepideh Mohammadi says:

    Leave the Orcas alone you savages !

  14. Dawn Mulroy says:

    Wise up people!!!! End this NOW!

  15. Karen says:

    These animals should be where they belong-in the oceans- not a pool for our “entertainment”.

  16. Madaline Cahill says:

    Orcas are not here for our entertainment.

  17. Gabriele Herbst says:

    Stop the abuse of Orcas !!!

  18. Maureen Snyder says:

    These beautiful animals belong in the wild, in a pod. They do not belong in a pool, doing tricks for our entertainment. To keep them this way is cruel and inhumane…

  19. Jamie K says:

    Free Willy!

  20. Deana Smith says:

    It’s cruel, let alone utterly abusive to keep Orcas in captivity, or any animal for that matter. They are not here on Earth to be held captive, exploited and/or forced into the business of entertainment. It’s just wrong!

  21. valentina kallitsis says:

    Animals area meant to live free in the nature, not to be clowns for our entertainment!

  22. olga rozen says:

    They should be free!!!

  23. Cheri Brown says:

    It is the 21st century and humans need to start acting like we have evolved. It’s way past time for the human race to act accordingly. Exploitation of animals is cruel and inhumane.

  24. dawn elson says:

    End cruel whale slavery

  25. Klara Larsen says:

    It is unbelievable that we still keep these beautiful animals in prison for life.In one moment they were with their pod, the next they were in prison for life. We know better. It has to stop.

  26. Lucille Friscia says:

    These will always be wild animals and can never be trusted. They should remain in the wild and I will go whale watching to see them if they ever arrange trips!

  27. Wendy says:

    No creature should be forced into slavery, confined in a prison just to line the pockets of people.

  28. Kellie says:

    Please end the practice of orcas in captivity.

  29. chris kuiperi says:

    These magnificent creatures should not be held captive. Let’s free them!!

  30. JUDYLYNN SCOTT says:

    Enough already they were born free, they are not “circus animals” release them back into there pods! THEY don’t belong to SEA WORLD!! gOD INTENDED THEM TO BE FREE stop making money off these animals -YOU HAVE NO RIGHT!

  31. Kayla Rushton says:

    The cruelty of humans seems to know no bounds . Free these intelligent sentient creatures . They are much more beautiful in their natural habitat

  32. patty battaglio says:

    Free the Orcas….

  33. Lucy says:

    Let them go.

  34. Michelle burrows says:

    I’m totally against whales in captivity!

  35. Mimi says:

    Let the wild stay wild. Performances of orcas only promote captivity.

  36. Colette says:

    I support ending Orca captivity

  37. Yes, they should not be held in captive. God created all of us to be free, human beings, mammals, all kinds of animals . Yes free all Orca’s in the ocean where they all belong and where they have been for centuries.

  38. Valerie Nunes says:

    Leave Gods creatures alone , they are where they belong .

  39. Stephanie Fischer says:

    Support AB2140!!

  40. Bonnie Hale says:

    These intelligent creatures do not belong in tiny bath tubs, isolated from their pods, to be incarcerated for human entertainment.

  41. Michelle Kleib says:

    This is disgusting and heartbreaking. It needs to stop.

  42. Deana says:

    Think of how it would feel if you were taken away from your family & put in a bathtub. You hear constant noise & to eat you are forced to do tricks everyday all day until late at night. Any friendly companionship is gone you are so alone. You are drugged and sedated daily. It’s heartbreak so deep you just float in on spot & wish it was over.

  43. Lindsay says:

    Peace and love

  44. Alexandre says:

    Free whales, and all animals please, be intelligent, be kind.

  45. Gillian Seelig says:

    The abuse needs to stop they need to be free and back in the sea where they belong we have no right to hold them hostage !

  46. sarah José says:

    No animal should be forced to ‘perform’ for the public. Its just greed greed greed!!!!

  47. Cynthia Leigh says:

    Please end the this. Animals should not be used for our Entertainment.

  48. Pam Stevens says:

    These poor creatures need to be free.

  49. Vanessa Ponce says:

    No animal deserves to be in captivity. Animals are not for our entertainment. These beautiful intelligent animals belong in the ocean not in tanks. FREE the orcas!

  50. esther verschoor says:

    this huge gracefull animal should live in freedom and in a spacious natural environment

  51. Thomas Boyer says:

    People now know that this form of entertainment is wrong. Let the marine life have a life in their natural environment.

  52. stephanie mattison says:

    Please end this,We need to teach are Children better.This is the worst form of ABUSE.

  53. Helle says:

    Please stop using these beautiful amazing wild animal for human entertainment and monatary profits…these animals belong in the wild along side their families

  54. sokhna fatima says:

    pls end this slavery!free those beautiful smart creatures with brains so much larger than humans…stop this torture pls!!

  55. Kathleen Nurena says:

    any creatures well being is so important

  56. Alexis O'Connor says:

    Please ban captive orca performances. Orcas belong in the wild. This is cruel and unusual punishment for these magnificent creatures. If you don’t my family and I will stop vacationing in California and we will build grass roots movements to encourage others to do the same.

  57. Laurel Einloth-Brescia says:


  58. LuLu Wing says:

    Its honestly depressing watching these magnificent creatures performing parlor tricks in a small and sad tanks.SW is in it for the money, not the science.

  59. mat kanno says:

    please pass this!!!

  60. Shannon Gibney says:

    The time has come to put an end to the imprisonment of these beautiful creatures, and training them for our entertainment. Too many deaths in aquariums over the years should be proof enough of their suffering. It’s nothing but cruelty!

  61. Amy Curtis says:

    All Orca’s should be free!

  62. Julie Miller says:

    I am hopeful that we can end this. Orcas need to be free!

  63. Kelly says:

    they should be able to live free with their pods. The need the ocean not a small bath tub.

  64. Nathalie Perry says:

    This must end!! they need space and no animals should be captive!!! They need freedom!!!! Please end this they are intellignet creatures with feelings. Humans are stupid and selfish to hold them captive, it<s just for profit! how would you like to be in that position^
    We must take action to end this now

  65. Russi Taylor says:

    Please stop the abuse!

  66. Marta Malecka says:

    Animals are not ours to abuse for entertainment. Knock it off!

  67. Rose-Marie Leiba says:

    L’humain par son intelligence, devrait savoir qu’on n’enferme pas des poissons et mammifères dans des aquariums. Ils ont droit à leur liberté. Honteux de savoir qu’un orque en liberté peut vivre 50 années et qu’en captivité, il en vive 5…..Il ne faut pas aimer les animaux pour encourager ces aquariums géants.

  68. Blanka Maria says:

    Please end The captivity!

  69. Diane Rutherford says:

    FREE THE WHALES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  70. jeanne semple says:

    the problem is Joshua we are NOT smarter than that. I honestly believe animals are smarter than we are. This captivity needs to stop. we have no business holding anything in captivity for our pleasure…they belong with their own

  71. Christina says:

    We are no longer ignorant of their suffering. There is no longer an excuse to overlook it.

  72. Chris Witek says:

    I’m so grateful awareness is finally growing.
    The people that enjoy the shows are uneducated.
    They need to learn the truth.
    Sea world is a billion-dollar circus act.
    It’s so wrong to have these animals, these beautiful mammals ripped away from their freedom and their families to suffer a life in a chlorine filled cement tank getting fed dead fish went only when they perform the circus acts to entertain the public.
    This is 2014, sea world can have their rides and educational shows. Please leave the whales and dolphins out of it. They don’t belong there. If you truly love whales and dolphins, enjoy them in their natural habitat where God intended them to be

  73. Angelica says:

    Free the wild orcas! Orcas bred in captivity should be sent to an orca rescue or rehab where they have alot of ocean to swim in for their remaining lives.

  74. Angelica says:

    End this suffering. Free animals taken from the wild and place them back into the ocean. All orcas need in captivity please release into a orca rehabilitation where they have miles and miles of ocean to roam in peace, and fulfill some of their life humans took away. Free tilikum!!!

  75. Jeannette Mack says:

    Just stop!!!

  76. Sharon Maley says:

    These magnificent creatures should be living free in the oceans, and not penned up in a tank for human entertainment. Stop exploiting them and set them free.
    if you want to see one, take a ride on a Whale Watching boat and see them in their natural habitat.

  77. susan says:

    I support AB 2140…..this must be accomplished!!!

  78. wanda says:

    Let all dolphins and orcas be allowed to be and live free. You believe in your own freedom, why not for animals!!

  79. KL says:

    Please set all cetaceans free. This is mental, emotional and physical abuse. I support AB 2140. I also support California and their fight to free Orcas. Let’s Right the Wrongs today!!!

  80. Jordan says:

    End the cruel inhumane captivity. These animals do not belong in a tank. Why is this still going on???

  81. Patricia Reilling says:

    I am 100% in favor of banning this inhumane practice of capturing and cruelly holding captive these amazing creatures. They deserve to be free, not swimming around in a tank being gawked at my thoughtless humans!

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