Free Markets, Free People

Predators being predators

Or in the case of the orca at SeaWorld, dolphins being dolphins.

I guess I’m always surprised at the surprise generated by a predator in captivity still acting like a predator.  The death of the trainer at SeaWorld while tragic certainly didn’t surprise me.  Here, read this:

Orcas, or killer whales, are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world’s most powerful predators. They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, employing teeth that can be four inches (ten centimeters) long. They are known to grab seals right off the ice. They also eat fish, squid, and seabirds.

Now there are all kinds of theories as to why the “killer whale” did what it did, to include one which says it was just playing.

That could be, but whatever the reason it was an animal acting like it should. It kills things and eats them. It doesn’t moralize about what is or isn’t “good” or “evil”. It does what it is hard wired to do without thinking about it and certainly without concerning itself with the consequences. It certainly isn’t unreasonable to expect such an animal to act like it should.

Putting a 12,000 pound predatory mammal in a small tank and expecting it to be civilized, entertaining and safe because you’ve given it some training and feed it is what is unreasonable. While I regret the trainer’s death, I don’t blame the orca. And I have a sneaking suspicion the trainer wouldn’t either.

Which brings us to this:

Tilikum, nicknamed “Tilly,” is valuable to SeaWorld as a breeder and already has fathered several offspring, says dolphin-trainer-turned-activist Russ Rector of Fort Lauderdale.

“Tilikum is a monster. This is his third killing,” Rector says.

No Tilikum isn’t a monster. That’s a moral accusation that has no basis in reality.  If Tilikum was in the wild, he might be on his 3,000th killing.  And not a single one of the killings would have anything to do with morality.  Tilikum is a predator – and predators acting like predators aren’t doing anything immoral. They’re just doing what comes naturally.



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33 Responses to Predators being predators

  • It may dawn on some folks that there is a eason why they are called “killer whales”

    • That name didn’t register with one of the ‘victims’ of Tillikum who thought it would be fun to stay in the park after hours and take a swim with the big happy fella.
      Right up there with hiding in the zoo and climbing in to pet the nice kitties in the Bengal Tiger enclosure.
      The trainer, most unfortunate, but there’s no monster in that tank.

  • Your last sentence “predators acting like predators aren’t doing anything immoral. They’re just doing what comes naturally”  Is exactly why I hate Rino’s a lot more than I hate Democrats.
    Progressives are predators (or more exactly parasites) so they are just doing what comes naturally.  But anyone who calls themselves a conservative, libertarian, or even a right of center moderate ought to know better.

  • I guess the activist would get mad at a cat who plays with mice before it kills them. The lil monster.

  • “Killer Whale?”

    I think you mean, “Whale-American,” hater!


  • Well said McQ.

    I’m glad they’re not going to kill the animal. I’m no member of PETA by any stretch, but for all you train any animal, be it dog, tiger, bear, whale etc. you never know what’s going on in their minds where they’ll decide to just up and maul you for whatever reason.  Anytime you venture into that type of situation, you take your chances.

  • To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, the only reason we think cats are “cute” rather than “horrible vicious sadistic bastards” is that we’re a lot bigger than mice.

  • If we show the (terrorists) err…. killer whales enough love, they won’t be killers anymore

  • Killer Whales?
    Who is importing these Assault Whales? These evil black whales? I ffind it suspicious that they belong to the group ORCA
    Could that stand for “Organization for Rapacious Carnivorous Actions?”
    We need to re-instate the AWB!! The Assault Whale Ban!!!
    Stop the importation of these whales. Their only purpose is to kill!  They have no “sporting” purpose!
    And children are near them! Do it for the children!
    Remember, statistics show that family members are more likely to be eaten by whales, than intruders, in homes with killer whales.
    And does PETA have a stand on these creatures?  You know, People Eaten by Training Animals?
    What? Too soon?

    • “What, to soon?” – I think not….my wife wanted to know how it can be wrong if a Predator Predicates?

      Peaple eaten by training animals….oh my god…..

  • You mention the four-inch teeth, and it is a bit jarring.  Killer whales are so large, that by comparison their teeth seem very small and stubby when you see them in pictures or video.  Moderately-sized mouth, rows of beady little teeth, and that fat floppy tongue.
    Then someone tells you that those beady little teeth are up to four inches long, and suddenly you realize that the fat floppy tongue probably weighs as much as a teenager, and that mouth could swallow a small automobile.  And that’s when it strikes me that I’m much, much happier knowing that I’m always on this side of the glass at Seaworld.

  • It doesn’t moralize about what is or isn’t “good” or “evil”. It does what it is hard wired to do without thinking about it and certainly without concerning itself with the consequences.

    Sounds like you’re describing Erb.

  • The is no point in moralizing about the size of the tank, if your deigning moralizing in other aspects of the whales actions.
    I will say this, I like the Seaworld show, but all the time that I watched the Sea World show, I am taken back to some footage I once saw of a few killer whales “playfully” swimming around throwing a wounded baby seal back and fourth between each others mouths.

    • No John – we’re capable of moralizing because we do know the difference between right and wrong – orca’s don’t – that’s the point that seems to have slipped by you.

      And apparently you’ve never seen a cute cat “playing” with something it has caught.  That’s another trait of some predators.  Again, it has nothing to do with morality.  That’s what they do.


      • No, not really.  We simply have a different social construct for a society than the whales do for a pod.  “right” and “wrong” only have meaning within those constructs.
        Mostly, I was simply pointing out that if a whale does not kill out of malice, but because they are a predator, then the size of the tank is irreverent to the whales motives, since indeed, the whale lacks motives, apparently acting only on advance instinct.
        And in case you missed it, let me remind you that humans are the most advanced predators that have ever existed.  Technically, within your construct, humans can be “excused” for “playing” with the whales.

        • No. There’s no concept of “right” and “wrong” within that society, so there’s no morality that can be applied to their actions.

          And we agree that there is no malice, because the concept of malice doesn’t exist within their world and that’s because the morality doesn’t exist within that society.

          Finally, I agree with your point about humans being predators. I don’t agree that a species that is sentient and knows the difference between “good” and “evil” or “right” and “wrong” can be excused from anything to which those moral judgments apply.

          • I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree.
            I’m fairly certain that “good” and “evil” or “right” and “wrong” are based on a shared social construct of a society.  Morality only exists as an individual’s relationship to the societal construct.  Hence, Romans were “moral” by Roman standards, as are the vast majority of societies that have existed were consent was requisite for membership (rather than imposed by an authoritarian mechanism).  I will grant you that there appears to be a “baseline” of commonly accepted “moral” practices that span most societies, but not always (hence value judgments of morality about other societies).

            To boil it all down:  “Morality” may be nothing more than a shared understanding of social interaction norms with in a pack of predators.

          • For a society to understand the concept of morality, it must have actors that are self-aware, have free will and have the ability to reason. Without those, social constructs are nothing but what nature dictates. In the case of orcas, their social construct is what nature gives them, not what they decide to construct or modify based on mutually agreed upon norms.

            Consequently, “morality” has nothing to do with “a shared understanding of social interaction norms” since they a) don’t understand them and b) aren’t given any choice about them.

          • Even if one assumed Orca’s had a sense of morality – there’s no reason to expect their sense of morality towards a human ‘animal’ is any more than ours is to them.  Sauce, goose, gander.
            However I find it hard to believe Orcas spend a great deal of time questioning the nature of Orca, his creation, his place in the universe, the morality of playing with your food,  and his fundamental rights as a creature of the sea.

  • Part of the issue is the SeaWorld marketing of the animals as aquatic puppies:  happily content with their relationship with ‘man’.  After all, there are not many toys in the SeaWorld shops with seals, penguins, dolphins, Grey Whale calves et al hanging out of the mouth of Shamu.

    The Killer Whale is the apex ocean predator.
    Get in/near the water with it and you become another marine mammal:  and not a very good one.

    Reminds me of the Seigfreid and Roy deal several years ago.  “Why, what happend?  Why would the tiger attack?”  Because he’s a friggin tiger, that’s why!

    Same with this whale.  However, SeaWorld would not sell many ‘Dine with Shamu” specials at $45 per plate if SW showed ‘Shamu’ acting as Shamu was designed and engineered by tens of thousands of years of evolution.

  • I suspect that the majority of people think animals in the wild are fed by humans. Maybe one person in a thousand has ever seen a predator take down it’s prey. TO them, these critters are just so cute and benign. The reality is far different. As one scribe put it, “Mother Nature is much more like Mommy Dearest”.

    • And here’s the real ‘funny’ part.  Those whales knew/know by the target’s echo signature and sight exactly what they were throwing around.

      It would be interesting to hear the tapes of the underwater tank sound system, assuming there is one, how ‘exicted’ the whales were.

      I bet there were pinging, vocalizing like chiorboys on sunday.

  • I heard that whale attended a few tea parties.   Damn right wing terrorist

  • Forgive if I get the animal wrong, but Chris Rock had a line that I find to be appropriate: “That tiger didn’t go crazy, that tiger went TIGER”

  • Humans aren’t that much different. There is ample historical, legal, and anthropological evidence showing just how nasty humans can be. Remember, for example, Michael Vick? And that is with the benefit of over twenty years of attempts at behavior modification by society.  The attempts of society to inculcate the ‘thin veneer’ of civilization do not always take. We call them sociopaths, but they are just humanity in the raw, not much different from Shamu.

    As Hobbes said, life in the raw is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. This is why our founding fathers said, agreeing with  Hobbes, governments are instituted among men.

  • You gotta expect this to happen eventually, they are called KILLER whales for a reason!