On February 24th, 2010, trainer Dawn Brancheau was grabbed by the ponytail and drug to her underwater death by a killer whale she loved and worked with; less than 24 hours later, someone created a Facebook page called “Boycott SEA WORLD”. 6 days later, it has more than 2000 fans.
So…now we’re supposed to boycott a group, organization, or business whenever a person dies because of their activities? Where were the FB voices of protest demanding we boycott the Winter Olympics when Nodar Kumaritashvili died on the luge track? Was that any less tragic or preventable? If we boycott Sea World because of this accident, I assume we will be boycotting Disneyland because of the 2009 monorail death, but will we also boycott all zoos because Ashlee Pfaff was killed by a jaguar in Denver? Should we boycott law enforcement because of occasional accidental police shootings? Congress has the power to declare war and send our soldiers off to die; should we boycott Congress?
Why should we differentiate between death and mere injury, though? What if Dawn had only been injured by the killer whale and not killed? Would we then shout and point the finger at Sea World? Of course we would. Those who truly believe that Sea World should be boycotted and aren’t just participating in some knee-jerk finger clicking on a mouse are going to use any occurrence at these parks to make their point. The problem here is with the rest of the crowd who blithely follows anyone who sounds righteously indignant. To the, any cause that sounds good and close to their own hearts is good enough to follow when nothing more than hitting the “Become a Fan” button is required. For proof, please see anything to do with politics these days.
The Law of Unintentional Consequences can be defined as “Any intervention in a complex system may or may not have the intended result, but will inevitably create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.” In short, sometimes we do more harm than good when we try to fix something we see as broken. For example, who is going to tell the 26,000 employees of Sea World that they no longer have jobs because of this tragedy? What are they going to do for jobs now? How will their families pay the rent or buy food without government (read: our) support? How will the cities where Sea World operates replace these tax revenues to pay for important programs? What’s going to happen to all the animals that can’t be taken in by other aquariums or zoos? Sadly, I know the answer to that last one, and I refuse to be the person who advocates the slaughter of animals because of one animal’s actions.
Does anyone know how many species have been brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to breeding and conservation programs like zoos and aquariums? The knee-jerk reaction is to state that man caused the extinctions. The easy response to that is, “Okay, but what are we going to do about it?” As a society (and as a person who loves all types of life except mosquitoes and roaches), I vote that we take the harder path and work on educating our friends and family over the easy path of declaring our dislike in a virtual world.
Do the difficult deeds instead of dreaming the possible dream. Take your children to a zoo and explain why we capture and put animals on display instead of giving the easy answer of, “I don’t know”. Devote an hour or two a week to cleaning up parks and natural areas for the wildlife that lives close to you instead of wishing for the release of animals in other parts of the country. Volunteer at a shelter instead of driving by and saying, “Aww…how cute!” Adopt a rescue or shelter animal instead of buying one. Do the hard work.
Don’t just push a button.