Captive orca whales are on the rise in China

When it comes to animals in captivity, society is undergoing an ethical shift. Animals used for entertainment was previously accepted by the public for centuries dating back to ancient Roman times. Yet, in recent years, we’ve crossed something of a threshold. Public backlash has caused SeaWorld and the Ringling Bros. Circus to back away from centuries-old practices that were their main revenue-generators.

It is a welcome development for the many who empathize with animals. Although, it certainly would be nice if other forms of animal cruelty were to receive similar public backlash. Still, certain acts of cruelty towards animals are no longer accepted — and that’s something to feel good about.

China’s growing market for captive marine life

It would be incorrect to assume this shift in public ethics has taken place worldwide, however.

While SeaWorld may be ending the orca shows, you can still find captive cetaceans at any of the 39 marine parks currently operating in China. Another 14 parks are currently under construction in the country. China is the fastest-growing market for captive dolphins, whales and other cetaceans.

Why isn’t China onboard with the ethical shift?

While many marine parks in the U.S. are closing down, or changing their business models, they are being built at a record pace in China. The ethical shift that led to the downfall of SeaWorld just hasn’t taken place there yet — or at the very least, it’s moving along slower.

One theory as to why this might be is that the backlash against SeaWorld was spurned on by the documentary “Blackfish,” which originally aired on CNN in the United States. The film was about as successful as any documentary can be in regards to furthering a cause. It’s success created such a large swell of public awareness regarding the suffering of captive animals that the public at-large rejected the practice. It is doubtful the makers of the film even dreamed a bigger accomplishment was possible.

Had a similar documentary been made regarding the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom (and the nine orcas captive there), perhaps marine parks would be closing down in China as well. Releasing such a film in China would also present a unique set of circumstances for the filmmakers. There are definitely those…