I’m loathe to admonish Bindi Irwin on account of her age, but you really have to wonder what Terri Irwin was thinking when she endorsed her daughter’s recent collaboration with SeaWorld.
As youth ambassador to the marine theme park, the 15-year-old “wildlife warrior” has now unwittingly aligned her reputation with that of a company widely renowned for its exploitation of marine mammals.
The explosive documentary Blackfish, which examines the treatment of orcas at SeaWorld, shed some much-needed light on the company’s practice of poaching young orcas and dolphins from their families in the wild, and compelling them to perform tricks in order to entertain crowds, and ultimately line the pockets of SeaWorld executives and shareholders.
And don’t think this is just the war cry of animal activists. Even the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), rarely one to champion animal welfare, recently cited SeaWorld for a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The company was fined for “putting animals at risk of injury”, though it’s clear the company’s transgressions extend well beyond that.
SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides says, “SeaWorld has been a global leader in education, conservation and animal care for 50 years. We are excited to join forces with Bindi as we continue to educate and encourage kids to take part in helping to save wildlife.”
I’m sorry?! How exactly is SeaWorld caring for animals and saving wildlife? By abducting them, imprisoning them and forcing them to perform circus tricks?!
Fortunately, there is now a momentous bill before the California legislature that seeks to ban orca captivity throughout California. The proposed legislation doesn’t specifically name SeaWorld, but its San Diego theme park is the only facility in the state that holds orcas captive.
After recent events, including the boycott of SeaWorld concerts by a number of high-profile entertainers, the company was clearly in dire need of an image facelift. Enter Terri Irwin, who has proffered her daughter as the company’s pawn in this dubious strategy.
I have no doubt that as an adult, Bindi Irwin will one-day look back upon this episode with regret, and perhaps even anger at her mother, who is old enough to know better.
SeaWorld is destined for the history books and Bindi’s reputation may well be irreparably tarnished.