The Travel Blog // Stories + Thoughts

Cuffed In, Laid Down, and Dressed Up as an Orca

 I sit, peacefully, in a wade pool in San Diego, California. I am cross legged, focusing on my breath, staring out at the water. Everything is calm and quiet. This is the type of reality check-in that is powerful. This is where I feel most focused.


a few people sitting in Aquataca, the waterpark owned by Sea world, dressed up as orcas and arrested.


The Story:

As soon as I turn my attention back to reality, I hear it all. The shouting. The yelling. The heckling. The humans in support of SeaWorld. As soon as I turn my attention back to my body, I feel the cuffs on my wrist. I feel a slight sensation of pain in my shoulders from my arms being restrained behind my body. I remember that I no longer have access to my own arms and hands, that I am no longer able to use them freely.


Many people watch this happening, live. But to me, it was real time. I remember that a person in all black pulled me up out of the water and laid me down on my belly. They took away my right to move freely and tied my hands together. They left me on the pavement, under the hot sun. I felt my face burning and turning red. People yelled at me, shouting orders, and some people even kicked water in my face.


In the moment where I found myself, with my face shoved into the pavement and unable to move or protect myself, I found a little bit of clarity. I understood, just a little, what it might be like to live as an orca in SeaWorld.


an orca jumping out of the baby blue water

Image Credit: Christopher Michel


The Facts:

Orcas there are taken out of their natural habitat, or born into a fake one. Orcas are used to swimming up to 110 miles each day, spending 95% of their time submerged, protected from the sun. There, at Sea World, the pools are equal to the size of a bathtub, in perspective to humans. This means that they would need to swim 3,105 lengths back and forth at the longest part of the tank to get close to their natural distances—it means that there is no protection from the sun.


So naturally, they don’t have adequate space to move. They don’t have enough room to dive down under the water, so they get sunburnt from being so close to the surface. They’re stuck, confined to a space that doesn’t fit them. They’re silenced by the fact that they don’t speak a human-constructed language, and we refuse to hear them. And to top it all off, they’re put on antipsychotics and benzodiazepine, because they need a number of harmful drugs just to survive in a tank. These animals in captivity gnaw at iron bars from boredom, stress, and anxiety. They break their teeth trying to liberate themselves, and can lead to painful dental drilling, all without anesthesia.


a orca, hurt, and forced to preform at seaworld

Image Source:


The Feelings:

I felt their frustration as I let my whole body surrender and go limp as police officers hoisted me onto a wheelchair to carry me out of SeaWorld’s water park. I finally broke a smile, when, inside of the cop car my fellow activist scraped their teeth against my forehead, trying to get the tight orca-colored swim cap off of my head because it was starting get too tight and dig into my brain.


When I got there, officers asked me questions. They asked me if I had any mental illness; if I took any pills or if I was suicidal. They asked me if I planned on hurting myself. Funny, I thought, because no one asked the Orcas that when they jailed them.


But, the humor of that situation quickly dissipated when I found myself alone, in a jail cell. I was cold, still in my orca suit, and still wet. The walls were unfriendly and plain. There was no clock, no knowing how long I’d be there. I remember experiencing a moment, where I looked at myself in the mirror; burnt, sand on my face, still dressed up as an orca. I realized that I finally, now, truly had a small insight as to what it’s like to be them.


Protesters holding a sign saying "SeaWorld Kills"Image Source: PETA

For those humans who refuse to think about non-human animals, or other enslaved animals, try thinking about yourself. Does being chained up, crowded, unable to move speak or move sound like something that you would want to suffer through each day?

Hey, I’m not providing answers here. It’s just a question. And just like I did, you have the right to remain silent.

But why would you?


Want to hear me tell you this story, in full detail? Check out the podcast episode! It’s been the most played episode so far. Don’t miss out!


We’re planting the seeds to be set in motion

Release the orcas to the ocean

You wonder why we cause commotion

I’m just asking you to consider my notion

Animal liberation, now!
  • Emek Echo & Calen Otto






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