Written by PETA
Returning to the
stand on day eight of the hearings regarding SeaWorld's challenge to OSHA rulings
against SeaWorld, the company's "curator of animal training," Kelly
Flaherty Clark, became visibly angered when government attorney John Black
implied that SeaWorld makes substantive changes to its protocols only for PR
purposes—rather than to protect trainer safety.
pointed out the differences between the responses to the incidents involving Dawn Brancheau
and John Sillick and the incident involving Alexis Martinez.
The incidents involving Brancheau and Sillick, who was crushed in 1987 when an
orca landed on him while the trainer was in the water, both occurred with the
public present and resulted in significant media attention and some changes to
trainer-orca interactions. In contrast, Martinez's death occurred during a
training session in Tenerife, Spain, at the hideous Loro Parque marine park, out
of public view, and garnered little media attention on an island where tourism
is king and Loro Parque is the big revenue generator. After Martinez's death, trainers
at SeaWorld Orlando were pulled from the water for only a single day, and no
changes to any training or safety procedures were made.
evidence were SeaWorld's "monthly recaps," including 60 pages of
documents about Tilikum that included the heading "Aggressive Incidents"
and detailed an incident in which a trainer lost control of Tilikum during a
show. Tilikum started swimming in circles, and when called back, he "thrashed"
toward the trainer—which Flaherty Clark demonstrated by showing her teeth. Flaherty
Clark dismissed the recaps as "irrelevant." To whom?
Clark was also questioned about a 1997 incident at the now-defunct SeaWorld
Ohio in which trainer Kristine Van Oss was pulled into the water by her
sweatshirt. The resulting incident report stated: "We hope that you plan
to eventually desensitize all killer whales to work with you regardless of what
you're wearing. You can't guarantee hair, apparel, or objects will never be
within reach, so it's better to address the problem." Tilikum pulled Dawn
Brancheau into the tank by her ponytail.
Clark confirmed that until Dawn Brancheau's death, every time trainers were
pulled from the water following a serious incident, they were allowed back in.
And every single time, another
incident or injury occurred.
asked how water work is educational for audiences, a claim that SeaWorld makes
because an educational purpose is required for the company to retain its
federal permits to hold orcas, Flaherty Clark could not provide any
information. No surprise.
by Jennifer O'Connor
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