Animal venues such as zoos, circuses and theme parks are finding themselves in the position of changing to meet the new expectations of the public. A majority of consumers are no longer content to witness animals doing the bidding of a trainer but want the knowledge that they part of something that is larger, to be a solution rather than a problem.
That is the realization of SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby as SeaWorld has decided to phase out their once popular Orca entertainment show by 2017. They have also ended the Orca breeding program.
“SeaWorld has been listening and we’re changing,” the statement said. “Society is changing and we’re changing with it. SeaWorld is finding new ways to continue to deliver on our purpose to inspire all our guests to take action to protect wild animals and wild places. Manby also acknowledged that “Blackfish” did have an impact, saying “whether it’s a movie, whether it’s customers riding us, there is no doubt the mindset of society has changed. I think we have to change with it.
SeaWorld has 29 Orcas which will not be released into the wild due to some honest concerns about their probable survival rate given that a vast majority were born and raised at the park. I can’t fault them for that and in fact I applaud them for their recent decisions to morph the park into something more a kin to a learning center. That will be great step in the evolution of theme parks if they can pull it off. What they had been doing was no longer acceptable, so they are making changes demanded by their constituents.
It will be interesting to see what other venues follow suit. (We know Ringling’s and Barnum and Baily circuses have delivered the last show with the Asian elephants, who will now retire to a sanctuary.) A circus can still be a great place for family entertainment and the oft heard lament about the performers and trainers losing a livelihood are, in my opinion, a non-argument. The performers simply have to find a different way of entertaining people. (Cirque du soleil has no problem selling tickets.) The big cat acts should find the door as well. Has anyone seen a large cat that looks happy performing?
There are other venues that are also in a state flux as a result of society evolving into a kinder, more thoughtful member of the Mother Earth and her inhabitants; but that doesn’t mean the end of exposing the next generation to the wonders of the world. By changing the style of exposure and how the message is delivered helps demonstrate a deep respect for the world around us and the part we play in the Sacred Circle. That can only help develop a more thoughtful individual, whether concerned with wild animals, domestic buddies like our friend the dog or other human beings. By letting go of the past we are moving once again forward.
And that cannot be bad.