Before kids, I wanted to be an animal activist. I wanted to be on that boat that protected whales. I had such a fire in me to protect the gentle giants of the world that suddenly seemed so vulnerable and hunted.
My fire and passion over the years switched gears for my own children. Becoming their mother bear. Protecting them and guiding them toward all that is good and light.
I remember vowing to never take my children to SeaWorld after watching the documentary Blackfish and seeing all the news articles that popped up unveiling some of the decisions that people in their company made. I reeled. Especially over the part where they would steal babies from their moms, just for entertainment…when these animals were naturally meant to stay in a pod for life. JUST LIKE HUMANS. Cue Dumbo, I was #antiseaworld.
I actually never liked the idea of taking my kids to see any animals in captivity. What was I teaching them by showing God’s creation enclosed in cages when they were meant to roam free?
I wanted to show my children animals in their natural habitat, in the wild.
Well thanks to Blackfish, and any other documentary about animal captivity, huge changes were made around the world.
Then five years into my mothering journey I was given an opportunity to take my kids, for free, to SeaWorld as an influencer to capture the weekend and write about our experience. I decided to accept this invitation for my family to have fun together and hopefully learn something that would change my mind.
From the moment I stepped into SeaWorld I was impressed. Our guide, Clay, SeaWorld Ambassador, as he likes to call himself, gave us the Family Adventure Tour all morning. We got to see Dolphins up close and personal, informing us that the pod of 5 generations were still together…ages ranging from 5 to 50 years old. He showed us the shark tank and enlightened us on how we should truly respect sharks and how radically our oceans would change without them.
We got to see their new Sea Turtle Reef Exhibit which used a grass filtration system which was revolutionary and could potentially change the way every manmade tank is built in the world. We got to have lunch with the Orcas, which I was hesitant about. But very quickly I was put at ease when I heard the trainers talk about their passion, their heart for these animals. I could tell SeaWorld’s focus has completely shifted to conservation. They talked about the four generations of orcas that were kept in their pod together.
Their respect for the animals was crystal clear as they refused to “make” a whale perform if he/she just didn’t feel like it. They put in place positive reinforcement and always positively rewarded the animals for completing the training or request that the trainers gave them.
Clay reiterated how strict they are on their policies for trainers and how long it actually takes for a trainer to work one on one with a whale or animal, usually 2 years. Clay understood the stigma and after his 14 years of working with all animals as a trainer he moved to the social media side to truly help the world see all the good work SeaWorld is doing.
The next part of our day was like the cherry on top. We randomly walked by the Pets Ahoy show and decided to stop in. I vaguely remember Clay talking about this show on our tour, and with the heat our family needed an A/C break. We filed in and we were blown away. All animals including: mice, cats, dogs (of all sizes), ducks, geese, pigs, birds (of all kinds) were rescued from some of the worst situations and brought to SeaWorld, taken care of and trained. Some of the animals where the owners had given up on them, thought they were untrainable, were clearly trained and amazing pets. These animals put on an amazing show and my heart was just bouncing.
I was already feeling lifted and encouraged about how humanity actually CAN change, we CAN evolve, we CAN get better. In a world that feels beyond broken, sometimes it is easy to lose heart.
But this place instilled in me that if we put our minds to it we can ALWAYS turn on the LIGHT so that the others can truly SEE the good.
So yes, it is okay to change your minds. Sometimes we needed to change our mind a bit sooner, because that is when the true goodness can take place. Thank you SeaWorld for opening my mind and showing me change is possible. My children learned so much from our experience.