Monday, March 1, 2010

SeaWorld's Killer Whale - Guilty of Murder?

Last week I returned home with my family from a vacation in Orlando, Florida. It was the first time my kids had ever been to Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and all the other theme parks crammed into that town. It was exhausting, and rather cold by Florida's standards, but alot of fun.

We had an amazing opportunity to swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove. We got into the water with them, flanked by two trainers and a photography crew, and were able to pet the thick, rubbery skin of a grandmother dolphin named Jenny and even hold onto her dorsal fin and flipper as she carried us, one by one, across the tiny bay. We fed her raw fish and at one point were able to kiss her (she was a willing participant) on the mouth! I felt compelled to try and communicate with her in such an intimate act, and so I made little "kissing noises" when I pecked her on the lips. She immediately responded by "talking" with that delightful dolphin chatter. It turned out our trainer had her degree in behavioral psychology and animal behavior. I asked her how she could tell how a dolphin was feeling.

She said, "You just know. You can often tell by the body language."

"So, how do you know when a dolphin is angry or upset?" I asked.

"You look at the way they are swimming, or if they jerk away from you, or don't want to perform. You just know."

Sounded alot like intuition to me!

After spending time swimming with the dolphins, we trooped over the SeaWorld and saw the famous killer whale - or orca - show in Shamu Stadium. I insisted on sitting way up front in the giant stadium where I spotted some strangely empty rows of seats. They were about four rows up and located directly in front of the platform where I knew these giant black-and-white dolphins would slide up and rest their bodies. There were little disturbing signs in each row saying "Soak Zone" and we did not have rain ponchos. But we were reassured by a young woman with a camera who sat down in front of us and told us she had been to the 4:00 o'clock show and no one had gotten splashed or wet. So we decided to stay.

The show was an extravaganza - replete with loud, booming music, roving multi-colored spotlights, and a giant sectional video screen showing closeups of the action. Shamu and the other orcas were herded into the huge illuminated pool of water and we watched with delight as these ocean giants leaped in the air, hopped up onto the platform only ten feet away from us, and "cuddled" with their "adoring" trainers. We all snapped photos of this staged love fest. Several of the trainers gave small speeches over the microphones about the good that this show was doing by bringing these creatures from the wild to human awareness and helping us to understand them. They explained it was really a good thing they were doing for the species. At the very end of the show, sure enough, Shamu came within yards of us, slapped his giant tail in the water, and everybody sitting in the Soak Zone got soaked!

Four days later, we learned on the news, back in New Jersey, that the senior trainer at the park, Dawn Brancheau, had been dragged by her pony tail under the water in the mouth of a 12,300 lb. male orca as horrified spectators watched helplessly. We had watched her stand only a few feet in front of us just a few days earlier...

As a psychic medium, I wondered - in retrospect - if I could scan my memories of her image and see the "aura" of a person who was going to be dead in only a few days. Many psychics "see" varying degrees of black, grey or muddy-looking energetic auras around people who are sick or about to die. It is a clear indication, to me at least, that the human body exists energetically in many time zones. "Seeing" an aura is often not an affair of the "eyes" but rather the mind. I have been able to "see" auras which I could accurately interpret as health issues for a person when I literally "saw" nothing with my eyes. Since I wasn't paying particular attention to Dawn at the show, it is hard to make such a determination, but I believe I remember her as being very serious and tense. Maybe it was just her nature or maybe it was her soul in preparation for a traumatic death.

Last night, we had a dinner party with two other couples. The topic of the Sea World tragedy came up and one woman announced that the orca should be put to death for having misbehaved. I was shocked and couldn't understand why the obvious option was not simply to release the animal back into its wild, native habitat where it would not bother anyone at all.

She said, "There's an expression that once a dog tastes blood, it should be killed because it can never go back."

The other guest chimed in, "My sister had a cat who started misbehaving for no reason at all. It started pooping and peeing all over the house. My sister was in the middle of a divorce and too busy to spend time with the cat, so she had it put down. Cats can be so viscious that way, you know? She got another cat later, the cat did the same thing and started pooping all over the house, so she had that one put down too! Now she has another cat!"

I began to think I was living in a different universe. My guests, perfectly sensitive and intelligent human beings, seemed to feel that any form of animal "misbehavior" was reasonably punishable by death. "Misbehavior" could range from the accidental killing of a human being to pooping on the rug. How do we know for sure that Dawn's pony tail didn't get accidentally stuck in the teeth of the orca and that the animal didn't then try to fling the foreign object out of its mouth by trashing it (and the rest of poor Dawn's body) in the water? After all, an orca doesn't have fingers like us to do the job!

It occurred to me that if we humans only took the time and energy to intuit or empathize with another living creature, forced into living in slavery and captivity, unable to speak our language to complain, defend or free themselves - then we might think twice about killing everything that simply has 1) an emotion, 2) makes a mistake, or 3) doesn't understand our commands. These are all very "human" traits which we are willing to accept in other humans beings but apparently not animals.

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