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If You Want to Play with Fire, You'll Probably Get Burned (Even in Water)

Categories: OpinionAnimals

Dec. 30, 2005: Trainer Dawn Brancheau is shown while performing at SeaWorld.
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First, I want to extend my condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau who was recently dragged into the water and drowned by the SeaWorld's own killer whale, Tilikum.

Brancheau's death is yet another example of how those who claim to love animals so much lose their lives because they fail to respect the animals, particularly wild animals.

It happened to Steve Irwin in 2006 when he was fatally pierced in the chest by a stingray spine while snorkelling at Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Dan Mathews, vice-president of animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said it was "no shock at all that Steve Irwin should die provoking a dangerous animal."  He added that "Irwin made his career out of antagonising frightened wild animals...."

The son of Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel Cousteau, also a producer of wildlife documentaries, also took issue with Irwin's hands-on approach to nature television.  Cousteau said, "You don't touch nature, you just look at it."  Although it "goes very well on television", Irwin's approach would "interfere with nature, jump on animals, grab them, hold them, and have this very, very spectacular, dramatic way of presenting things."

In Brancheau's case, there is no indication that the veteran trainer provoked the giant orca in any way, but she may have had a momentary lapse and failed to recognize (or remember) that this animal was wild and, as almost any wild animal can be, deadly.

I commend SeaWorld for making the decision not to punish Tilikum.  Killer whales are huge animals that normally live in the vast ocean.  Tilikum, reportedly the largest whale in captivity at 22 feet and 12,000 pounds, is instead confined to a relatively tiny unnatural enclosure at SeaWorld (Roger Hedgecock suggested it should instead be named "TankWorld", since the animals have been taken from the sea and confined to tanks).  Can you blame any animal for being bored and/or angry under such conditions?  Now if SeaWorld would only release Tilikum and let him live/die as the majestic, free, and wild animal God intended him to be.  It's better to die free than to live in captivity.

"If you can't say something nice, let's hear it!"   — Joan Rivers

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