Bindi Irwin: Wildlife Warrior or SeaWorld Scapegoat?
When Bindi Irwin (pictured above), the teenage daughter of the late Steve Irwin, recently announced her partnership with SeaWorld, the internet and animal welfare organizations were less than thrilled.
Generation Nature Partnership
Bindi is teaming up with SeaWorld in Generation Nature and will be SeaWorld’s latest youth ambassador. Generation Nature is for kids and youth “to take action as the generation of Game Changers for nature.” It’s branded as a “positive movement that’s all about youth, energy, action, making a difference and above all, the pursuit of fun.”
As reported in The Australian, SeaWorld seems thrilled with the partnership. It’s a match made in conservation heaven; Bindi is “the world’s most incredible young conservationist,” and SeaWorld is home to “passionate wildlife experts.”
Bindi and the Backlash
Films like The Cove and Blackfish have helped to raise public awareness about keeping animals in captivity. In a statement obtained by E! News, PETA said, “The Irwin family has been exploiting animals for years, so it comes as no surprise that Bindi has agreed to become SeaWorld’s latest shill.”
In the statement, PETA went on to say that “plastering her face on SeaWorld’s website won’t cover up the fact that orcas, dolphins, and other animals are suffering in SeaWorld’s tiny tanks after being ripped from their families.” And they referred to Bindi’s public appearances as “just a flimsy last-ditch effort by an abusement park hoping to make a buck.”
Per PETA, the late Steve Irwin wasn’t a true “wildlife warrior” because he “exploited” animals. PETA describes Irwin’s animal exploitation as, “Hauling animals to television studios or ambushing an alligator with ropes, duct tape, and a camera crew compels people to approach wild animals themselves or—even worse—purchase one to keep as a ‘pet,’ thereby fueling the cruel exotic-animal trade.”
You also have to keep in mind that the Irwin family is close to (Jungle) Jack Hanna, a self-proclaimed wildlife advocate and Columbus Zoo’s director emeritus. Hanna has a close relationship to the sea park, e.g. Hanna’s Wild Days live show, so it’s not a huge surprise that Hanna has shown his public support for SeaWorld throughout the Blackfish effect.
In a surprising twist, Bindi’s paternal grandfather doesn’t support her SeaWorld youth ambassador role. Bob Irwin from the Bob Irwin Wildlife & Conservation Foundation Inc. explained, “My personal stance is that any organisation [sic] that keeps animals in captivity that does not consider and provide for that animal’s physical, mental and emotional needs should not be keeping that animal and other solutions should be sought out.”
Captain Paul Watson, a close family friend, from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — an organization that wants “to see SeaWorld shut down or radically transformed into a facility that emphasizes education, wildlife rescue and completely abandons using marine mammals for entertainment” — also weighed in via a public commentary piece.
Captain Watson explained that most of the most passionate anti-SeaWorld and anti-captivity voices are from those who worked in the industry and witnessed firsthand the consequences of captivity. Along this vein, Captain Watson hopes that, “In this respect she may not yet realize just how bad SeaWorld actually is. Whereas the Australian Zoo is one of the best in the world, Sea World is one of the worst.”
As seen in The Huffington Post, in a previous interview, Bindi explained how much her late father had taught her about wildlife. One of the post powerful lessons that she remembers cam from him: “He said, ‘You have to treat animals the way you wish to be treated.’ Which is so true. And I think that applies to all animals.”
Despite the Irwin family’s critics, certain conservation ideals must have been instilled in Bindi. Let’s hope that she sees how SeaWorld really treats its animals. Bindi has the unique opportunity of being a real change-maker, a real animal advocate and a real example for the next generation of animal-lovers. Please sign and share this petition asking Bindi to reconsider being SeaWorld’s youth ambassador.
Photo Credit: Madeleine Holland