Whales and the Profit Motive

I saw the movie “Blackfish” recently. It is about a killer whale who, while held in captivity, caused the death of a number of persons. To me the tragedy is that the profit motive overrides the safety and best interests of both whales and their trainers. The whales–who perform primarily for Sea World–are held in virtual confinement or in close quarters with whales unrelated to them. This for a species that is family oriented and adapted to roaming vast stretches of ocean. Needless to say the whales fare poorly in such conditions and are prone to aggressive behavior. The death of a particularly young and vivacious female trainer is especially tragic.

The basic problem with the profit motive, contrary to Smith’s “invisible hand,” is that individuals and corporations pursuing self-interest do not always benefit the rest of us. Sometimes the profit motive and the general welfare coincide, but often they conflict. From the destruction of the environment and ecosystem and the pollution of air and water, to the poisons in our food and consumer products, it is obvious that individuals pursuing profit often act in ways detrimental to the general welfare.

Humans have killed, tortured, and enslaved others for profit throughout history. So it is not surprising that whales would be ill-treated for money. Nor is it surprising if a few dead, idealistic, animal-loving trainers also pay with their lives for Sea World profits. And why should we be surprised? How many die from the poisons in our air, food, and water, all of which were despoiled for profit. How many die in wars of profit? How many are imprisoned for profit?

Reality could be so beautiful; but it is so ugly.

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