This is definitely a forgive-and-forget society we live in. It’s not that we have no scruples or morals, it’s just that in this day of media overload we’re on to the next big scandal before the dust has cleared from whatever screw up you participated in. Martha Stewart went to jail and was back in her kitchen studio before we realized she had finished out her term.
So when a giant orca killed his trainer in SeaWorld last year, it made news…for about a week. Then we promptly forgot all about it, until SeaWorld announced last week that the brute Tilikum would be reintroduced into the SeaWorld Shamu show, with new safety precautions in place.
It’s easy to blame the whale, or blame the corporate branding of these wild animals as gentle giants, or blame the marine biologists who keep telling us these things are so bright they could create their own Facebook pages if they just had thumbs. Many people called for a ban on all aquatics entertainment, and from what I understand the water skiing Goofy actually testified before Congress in defense of the killer whale.
One thing that stood out in the aftermath of the trainer’s untimely death in 2010 was the response from other animal trainers who pointed out what most of us would rather forget: these are wild animals and there is an inherent risk in messing with them. Very true.
However, what the public wasn’t told was that Tilikum actually had two other previous homicide convictions that his lawyer somehow managed to sweep under the rug. He was actually enjoying his diplomatic immunity status here in the States after killing his first victim in his native Canada. The first U.S. killing actually involved someone whom SeaWorld’s spin doctors claimed had tried to sneak into Tilikum’s tank and died as a result of the efforts to breach security. When SeaWorld trainers arrived in the morning and found Tilikum swimming laps with his dead trophy on his back, they claimed that the gentle orca was merely trying to keep the man at the surface in case he regained consciousness.
In light of the news of the other deaths that this beast has had a hand in, it becomes a whole lot easier to say the animal should be destroyed. Heck, they shot Old Yeller just for snapping at somebody after he was presumed to be a rabies carrier. The deer in Rawlings’s The Yearling was shot just for nibbling on the family’s crops. We don’t take shit off of animals around here.
Unless you’re a killer whale, apparently. Well, I say no more. We need to make an example of this creature, preferably to his brethren public. We need to send the message to all marine mammals that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated, even if we did snatch you up out of the ocean and plop you in a giant swimming pool for our viewing pleasure.
Even better, I really think SeaWorld could stand to profit from this. Just think how much money bigwigs with a seriously lopsided brains-to-income ratio would pay to feast on lightly seasoned seared killer whale steak? SeaWorld has long allowed special VIP guests to enjoy a buffet meal on the deck of the killer whale pool while the orcas provided the entertainment. The trainer who was killed was actually working with Tilikum during one of these dinner events.
So instead of fried chicken platters, serve up one of these homicidal monsters poolside. The sheer volume of meat on an animal that size could feed any number of corporate sponsors with enough leftovers to send over to the homelss shelter. The annual budget will be met from the ticket sales and the rest of the troupe of performers will now be on their very best behavior. Forget trying to teach these mammals to jump through a hoop for a fish, those things will sit up and develop the ability to speak when they catch a whiff of the aroma coming off the barbecue grill.
Admittedly, this could open up a whole can of worms in the punishing of criminals. We’ve blasted judges in the recent past for their creative sentences, but every once in a while a good public flogging of somebody who really deserves it, a CEO who steals from the retirement fund or a hospital orderly who stores old people in the kitchen’s walk-in freezer, could really get the rest of the population to think twice about breaking the law. At least until the next shiny object grabs our attention.