Captivity Writ Large
According to Jay C. Sweeney, a veterinarian who writes in the CRC Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine, “Aggression expressed by killer whales toward their trainers is a matter of grave concern." Previous belligerent behavior toward trainers includes a litany of bad behavior: butting, biting, grabbing, dunking and holding trainers on the bottom of pools and preventing their escape.
The effects of captivity on orcas are often hotly debated. The Humane Society and other animal rights groups believe these social animals fail to thrive in aquariums and parks. Nutritionally the whales are given strange supplements, and subjected to weird procedures such as feeding them large quantities of gelatin to protect against dehydration. Their dental care becomes problematic and they have skin anomalies.
Unable to have large areas of the sea to swim in, they develop aberrant behaviors that include aggressiveness and attacks on people. Wild orcas are not associated with killing humans, but there are records of four trainers at water park theaters who have been killed.
Not only that, but the working orca’s life span has been comprised. Many develop a compromised immune system and are subject to infection and stress. In the Pacific Northwest, wild males can live up to 70 years and females 90 years or more (as an average that comes out to a life expectancy of 46 years). Many captive SeaWorld whales die in their teens and twenties.