Ask SeaWorld to Release Its Prisoners!

This lesson plan is designed to help teachers present animal rights issues to their students. If you’re an educator, please feel free to adapt this material to fit your needs, and contact us if you need help incorporating this activity into your curriculum.

Suggested grade levels: High school

Objectives: To learn about orca captivity at SeaWorld and why it is problematic

The documentary Blackfish has changed the world—educating millions of people about the cruelty and the dangers of holding intelligent, sensitive orcas in captivity for our own entertainment. Torn away from their families in the wild, forced to live in unnatural concrete tanks (the equivalent in size, to them, of a bathtub), and trained to do ridiculous tricks for food, the orcas at SeaWorld are modern-day slaves—prisoners who haven’t committed any crime.

Get permission to screen Blackfish (which is available on Netflix and on the official website) for your students, and ask them to think critically about the treatment that these animals receive. Have them answer the following questions:

  • Is it ethical to tear an animal away from his or her family for use in human entertainment?
  • Since dolphins and whales are intelligent beings, how do you think they feel when they’re forced into captivity?
  • How is captivity similar to slavery?
  • What business model could SeaWorld follow if it were to free all the animals it imprisons?
  • If we think that the captivity of orcas at SeaWorld is wrong, what about other intelligent animals held in captivity, such as chimpanzees in laboratories or animals on factory farms?

Take the lesson a step further by asking your students to write a letter to SeaWorld urging it to release its orcas to seaside sanctuaries and asking it to implement the new business model that they crafted.

Have your students record a video that can be seen around the world, such as this one—created by San Diego students at Point Loma High School.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind