Written by PETA
SeaWorld's hearing is in recess, PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk is giving the
park some great reasons to use the time to evaluate how to get out of the
captive-animal business. Read what she has to say here.
The following was posted September 24, 2011
has been adjourned until November, but on Friday, Dr. David Duffus—who had
served as the foreperson of the coroner's inquest into the death of trainer
Keltie Byrne after she was pulled into the water and drowned by Tilikum
and two other orcas in 1991—again took the stand.
Dr. Duffus testified that no method of training can control orca behavior and that
current safety measures aren't effective. "Twenty years later, a lot has been done,
yet I'm reading the same outcome,"
he said. Dr. Duffus added that given his knowledge of orcas and the incidents
involving the animals in captivity, there was "no way on Earth" that he
would place himself in immediate contact with Tilikum, nor would he get close
to any other orca because of his "great deal of respect for the
fundamental nature of large predators."
The final witness called before the hearing was adjourned
until mid-November was Les Grove, area director of the Tampa office of the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which conducted the investigation
into Dawn Brancheau's death and issued the citation at issue in this case.
Asked why SeaWorld was cited for a "willful" violation—which entails
an employer's "plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee
safety and health"—Grove mentioned the "Tilly Talk,"
the 100-plus incidents
that have occurred at SeaWorld parks, interviews with management, and training
manuals that show the company was aware that working in close contact with orcas
During the investigation, he added, "It became obvious Tilikum wasn't the
We'll give you further updates when the appeal resumes in
November, but for the orcas, the other dolphins,
and the people endangered by SeaWorld's indifference, there's no time to lose—tell SeaWorld today
that the place for these amazing animals is in a sanctuary, not doing stupid
tricks for tourists.
Minette Layne | cc by 2.0
Written by Jeff Mackey
day four of SeaWorld's
appeal, Shana Groves, a SeaWorld senior trainer who was bitten on the thigh by an orca
during a performance five years ago, testified that she had completed an
incident report as required by the marine park and was surprised to learn that
the attack was one of the many episodes left out
of the corporate incident log that SeaWorld had provided to the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration.
she was bitten, Groves was in a position similar to that of Dawn Brancheau when
she was attacked by Tilikum. Groves, who transferred out of Shamu Stadium to
work with sea lions and otters after Brancheau's attack, broke down in tears
when showed a photo of her and Tilikum.
Topoleski, a former SeaWorld trainer who was acting as Brancheau's "spotter"
at the time Brancheau was attacked, then recounted the circumstances
surrounding Brancheau's death. Topoleski's testimony that Tilikum grabbed
Brancheau by her ponytail was at odds with that of a SeaWorld security guard
who had testified earlier that he watched Brancheau be pulled in the water by
her arm. Topoleski conceded that he did not see Brancheau's hair in Tilikum's
mouth or Brancheau pulled underwater by her hair. The supposed safety procedures
that Topoleski followed were unable to free Brancheau from Tilikum's jaws. Like
Groves, Toploleski stopped working with orcas shortly after the attack.
Fantaz | cc by 2.0
the government called Dr. David Duffus, a professor at the University of
Victoria in British Columbia, as an expert witness to discuss the predatory
nature and inherent unpredictability of orcas, Duffus said that he was "at
a loss" as to why Brancheau was permitted to lie in shallow water at Tilikum's
side, holding his pectoral fin, knowing that he had a history of attacks. "Dealing
with a large predatory animal and not expecting it to behave like a predator, I
don't think that's wise," he said. Duffus questioned whether SeaWorld's
allegations that trainer injuries were rare were a sufficient reason to permit trainers
to be in close proximity with orcas, as even if it happens once in a million
times, if that millionth time is a catastrophe, then it "goes beyond
verdict is in: Humans should not interact with orcas, and SeaWorld puts its
trainers at risk by allowing them to have close contact with dangerous, unpredictable
animals. But stay tuned to find out the outcome of the hearing.
Written by Heather Moore
three of SeaWorld's
brought out more skeletons from the marine park's closet. Attorneys for the
government brought up incident after incident that were left out of SeaWorld's corporate incident
log, including the attack
leading to trainer Dawn
Brancheau's death and attacks by an orca who had a penchant for grabbing trainers'
ponytails. Chuck Tompkins, SeaWorld's corporate curator of zoological
operations, eventually conceded that SeaWorld "may have missed a few"
Abi Skipp | cc by 2.0
court watched graphic video
footage from 2006, in which an orca named Kasatka (who had been involved in
nine previous incidents) clamped down on trainer Ken Peters' foot and dragged
him underwater at SeaWorld in San Diego. People in the courtroom gasped as they
watched video of Kasatka
as he yanked Peters around and
held him underwater for minutes at a time. Peters repeatedly struggled to free
himself from Kasatka's jaws and was finally able to calm the orca and escape
with a broken foot. Tompkins conceded that no level of knowledge, experience,
or skill would have enabled Peters to escape the attack unscathed: His only options
were serious injury or death.
Tompkins previously testified that there is no need to revise SeaWorld's animal
training procedures because all injuries that occur are because of human error,
he acknowledged on Wednesday that even the most senior trainers have made
errors resulting in injuries and that, often, trainers were not to blame for
the incidents. Tompkins continued to prove that SeaWorld management is
delusional, claiming that they "have gotten a whole lot better" with
the training process over time, despite, as attorneys for the government noted,
the fact that two trainers were killed over a span of only two months in 2009
and 2010 and that the 2006 attack on Peters was nearly fatal.
Tompkins' failure to
acknowledge these dangers can be explained by the fact that neither he nor the other
high-level managers of animal training at SeaWorld are formally trained in
animal behavior, nor do they have any professional experience with orcas other
that what they learned on the job at SeaWorld. In addition, the company has
never called on an independent third party to review its incidents, protocols, or
back tomorrow for an update on Thursday's testimony.
Written by Lindsay Pollard-Post
On day two of SeaWorld's appeal
of the penalty leveled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA), senior trainer Lynne Schaber testified
that trainers who work with orcas receive special instruction on Tilikum and a "Tilly
in which they're informed of Tilikum's involvement with two previous deaths and
that if they enter the water with him, they may not survive. Despite these
Dawn Brancheau, who was killed by Tilikum last year—were approved to work in close
proximity with this angry orca and physically touch him at the water's edge.
Schaber and Chuck Tompkins, SeaWorld's corporate
curator for zoological operations for all SeaWorld parks, also testified that
there are no specific steps for trainers to follow to respond to a
life-threatening situation in the water and that their lives are ultimately up
to their own "best judgment call." Tompkins admitted that the park
does not even re-evaluate its protocols after an injury or death because it
deems the injuries that occur "a result of human error" and insisted
that revising safety protocols is unnecessary.
Finally, the government began
at length about SeaWorld's corporate incident log, which contains reports of more than 100 incidents of orca aggression
at its parks, often resulting in injuries to humans and causing one death by extensive
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
Independence Day is a day to celebrate America's freedoms, so why would the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) swear in new citizens at SeaWorld—a place that exemplifies the lack of freedom? PETA has fired off a letter to the director of CIS pointing out the irony of holding this joyous occasion where orcas and dolphins are kept in holding tanks for life.
Confined and forced to spend their days swimming in continuous circles in barren concrete tanks and deprived of everything that is natural and important to them, animals at SeaWorld become depressed, listless, and prone to illness.
Please ask CIS to adopt a policy that prohibits holding agency events at SeaWorld or at any other venue that causes animals to suffer or that has a history of flagrant violations of federal law.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
© Carla Wilson
PETA supporters in Orlando, Florida, spent the Fourth of July weekend declaring independence for whales and dolphins held captive at SeaWorld. Here are the top five reasons that freedom should include marine animals.
You can help by writing to SeaWorld and asking the company to let its prisoners go free—to transitional coastal and wildlife sanctuaries.
Written by Michelle Sherrow
We took a dip into peta2's files and surfaced with this great picture of Hanna from Bidwell, Ohio, that had to be the picture of the month.
As part of peta2's campaign against SeaWorld, Hanna is showing that cramming whales and dolphins into tiny tanks instead of letting them swim freely in the vast ocean is like forcing a person to spend his or her life in a bathtub. We're sure that whales and dolphins would love Hanna's clever campaigning, and we're loving her "Meat Sucks" tee too.
"Be Kind to Animals" Week is winding down, but you can keep on helping animals! If you are hitting the road this summer, please drive right on by zoos, roadside animal displays, and marine theme parks. Places like SeaWorld count on vacationers to keep money flowing in, but buying a ticket means supporting the lifelong confinement of orcas, dolphins, and all other captive animals.
Here are some cruelty-free suggestions:
In a move that shows that its lack of compassion doesn't stop with orcas, SeaWorld says it intends to once again allow trainers to enter pools containing frustrated 6-ton orcas, endangering their lives. And in case we weren't already SeaSick, SeaWorld chose to announce its plans on the one-year anniversary of the killing of trainer Dawn Brancheau by orca Tilikum.
Former SeaWorld trainers have publicly announced that going into the water with the whales puts their lives in danger. Please e-mail SeaWorld and tell it to protect human and animal lives by releasing its orca inmates before the next "prison riot" occurs.
As more and more people come to understand how marine animals suffer and die while held captive at SeaWorld, the cruel aquarium chain is increasingly desperate to find some way to make itself look less heartless. Now, it's attempting to ride the adorable tails of dogs and cats by offering free tickets to its theme parks prisons to people who adopt homeless animals from certain animal shelters.
Now, PETA's all for adopting animals instead of buying them from breeders or pet shops, of course, but SeaWorld's public embrace of adoption can't make up for the miseries that it continues to inflict on animals in its parks. And if you think I'm being too hard on SeaWorld, consider this—other four-legged and feathered animals "rescued" by SeaWorld are forced to join their aquatic cousins in performing stupid tricks for tourists in the parks' "Pets Ahoy" and "Pets Rule" shows.
If you live near a SeaWorld (and even if you don't), then please, by all means, give an animal a loving home by adopting from a local animal shelter. But don't give SeaWorld cover for its wicked, wicked ways by accepting its tickets.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.