Written by PETA
Ten-year-old Bobby Connell has spent the last six months plagued by nightmares after witnessing Tilikum the killer whale batter SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau to death right in front of his eyes. Bobby's father, in a suit filed against SeaWorld, said his son "saw the look of horror and desperation on Dawn's face as she was swimming for her life. … He then saw Tilikum violently yank her down again to the depths of the pool."
The family sat in the front row during the show, and Bobby's mother later told reporters, "It affected all of us. I'll start crying while driving. I mean, we saw her face. She made it to the surface and she looked directly at us."
The Connells' lawsuit (and the one that will probably follow from Brancheau's widower) comes on the heels of a damning report issued by OSHA that cited SeaWorld for routinely putting Brancheau at risk of death by allowing her in close proximity to Tilikum, a frustrated animal who had already killed twice.
Please contact the Blackstone Group (which owns SeaWorld) and insist that it close the tanks before another animal or human dies or another child is traumatized for life.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
An investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) into the "death by orca" of trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando has resulted in three citations against the marine park for safety violations, including willfully exposing employees to life-threatening hazards when interacting with orcas. OSHA assessed SeaWorld with the maximum penalty—a $75,000 fine.
According to OSHA regional administrator Cindy Coe, "SeaWorld recognized the inherent risk of allowing trainers to interact with potentially dangerous animals." She added, "Nonetheless, it required its employees to work within the pool walls, on ledges, and on shelves where they were subject to dangerous behavior by the animals."
The citations are all the more noteworthy considering the fact that SeaWorld tried to sway OSHA's findings and attempted to thwart the investigation at every turn, according to a former staffer, who also says that SeaWorld withheld documents from OSHA and refused to allow inspectors to talk with trainers. OSHA was also pressured by a Florida politician who was worried about losing those SeaWorld dollars that fill the state's coffers.
In the wake of the report, PETA is renewing our call for the release of all the orcas at SeaWorld to seaside rehabilitation pens.
"[T]he only thing that will prevent misery and death in the future is for SeaWorld to stop capturing and confining wild marine mammals and to let these orcas go," said PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "The list of human beings—Keltie Byrne, Alex Martinez, Ken Peters, Steve Aibel, and Dawn Brancheau—who have been killed or maimed by captive killer whales, and the list of orca families torn apart by SeaWorld's greed, will only otherwise grow."
PETA is also calling on Florida Governor Charlie Crist to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate SeaWorld's actions. We hope you'll write to the governor, too—and whatever you do, never go within a country nautical mile of a SeaWorld park.
Written by Alisa Mullins
Linda Simons, SeaWorld's former safety chief, told PETA that she was fired from her job after she cooperated with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation into the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was battered to death by an orca named Tilikum, aka Tilly.
We linked Simons up with Good Morning America and she told them about the "Tilly Talk," the orientation that SeaWorld staffers get about the dangers of working with orcas. According to Simons, staffers were told that if a person were to go into the water with Tilly, the person would "come out a corpse." She also said that only a couple of weeks before Brancheau's death, the park held a practice drill on how to handle an orca incident, and the standard critique of the drill was not even completed because the drill had failed so badly.
Simons claims that SeaWorld withheld documents from OSHA investigators and blocked interviews with trainers—interviews that might have been critical in assessing blame.
SeaWorld has a history of bullying authorities into sweeping bad press under the rug. Following a 2006 attack by an orca on a trainer at SeaWorld in San Diego, the California division of OSHA concluded that it was "only a matter of time" before someone was killed, but the agency withdrew its findings after being blasted by pressure from SeaWorld.
OSHA's report should be out later today and is likely to find that SeaWorld was negligent—despite influence from SeaWorld and a shameless U.S. representative from Florida.
Please join PETA in calling on Florida's governor to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute SeaWorld for the involuntary manslaughter of Dawn Brancheau.
It takes a big man to admit he's made a mistake, and they don't come any bigger, at least in the travel world, than Arthur Frommer. In a blog post earlier this month, Frommer expressed regret for the times that he recommended SeaWorld in his popular travel guides:
"In doing so, I was as heedless of our treatment of the animal world as most of us who traipse to zoos and never think of what it means for such cognizant animals to be contained behind bars or in tiny spaces. I received this past week a letter from an official of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), one Debbie Leahy, that makes such an irrefutable point that I, for one, am ashamed at the shallow perspective of my earlier reaction to SeaWorld.. . .Ms. Leahy is clearly right, and I have reconsidered my position. I am ashamed, I apologize for my former statements, and I will no longer recommend that tourists patronize the various SeaWorld parks."
Click here to read the letter that had such an impact on Frommer. And after you've visited his Web site to share some love, send an e-mail to SeaWorld and ask its officials if they're big enough to admit that they were wrong too.
From plane flyovers to 18-hour tub-ins, people are saying "enough" to SeaWorld's exploitation of orcas, bottlenose dolphins, and other animals. And now, even if you live nowhere near Orlando, San Antonio, or San Diego—where SeaWorld forces marine mammals to spend their entire lives in tiny tanks—you can still make a difference for animals if you RSVP to our virtual protest on Facebook and participate in it on June 18.
SeaWorld, which owns most of the captive orcas and bottlenose dolphins in the U.S., has a hideous history of animal exploitation. Marine mammals suffer for years in tanks that are only a few times larger than their bodies. They are never able to swim freely, feel the ocean current, or enjoy life in a closely knit pod, and they die far short of the life span that they would enjoy if they lived in the ocean where they belong. And the park's death toll is staggering, counting not only orcas such as Taima, her mother, and her stillborn calf but also humans, including the trainer who was killed by Tilly the orca in February.
If you RSVP for the Facebook event now and update your Facebook status with a comment about SeaWorld on Friday, you and all the friends you can muster can show park officials that their deadly attraction belongs in the history books.
Spread the word to your friends and family: Never buy a ticket to SeaWorld.
Wild animals are dying because of human avarice, but unlike the plight of those who are perishing in oil, the carnage at SeaWorld can easily be stopped. An orca named Taima died this weekend while giving birth to a stillborn calf at SeaWorld Orlando. The baby was conceived by Tilikum, the angry and frustrated orca who battered a trainer to death earlier this year—the third time he has killed a human.
For Taima, death was terrifying and painful, but it was a release from a miserable life of deprivation. In nature, orcas choose their own mates, and the families stay together for life. Ripped from her ocean home, Taima's own mother, Gudrun, died in captivity after a complicated delivery in which chains were used to extract her stillborn calf. Gudrun was called mentally ill and was known to be violent. Both mother orcas and their calves met their end alone in a tank full of chemically-treated water that must have felt like a bathtub to these animals, who were meant to explore the endless fathoms of the sea.
SeaWorld is a greedy outfit that spends millions of dollars on cruel breeding programs and marketing promotions. It values profit over safety and treats orcas as if they were wind-up toys. Like BP, SeaWorld can never make up for the harm that it has done. It should immediately fund the creation of a coastal sanctuary into which the orcas can start their journey back home. It can start with Tilikum.
Please, contact Blackstone Group and insist that it stop the horrors associated with keeping animals in captivity and put its money toward more humane endeavors.
Two female orcas at SeaWorld Orlando are pregnant—one is expected to give birth later this month or in early June—but we're not celebrating.
If the calves survive, what do they have to look forward to? Swimming endless circles in barren concrete tanks, doing circus-type tricks, and dying an early death. Twenty-one orcas died in U.S. SeaWorld facilities between 1986 and 2008—an average of nearly one each year for 22 years. Their deaths were caused by severe trauma, intestinal gangrene, acute hemorrhagic pneumonia, pulmonary abscesses, chronic kidney disease, chronic cardiovascular failure, septicemia, and influenza. In some cases, the cause of death could not even be determined, but it is clear that none of these animals died of old age.
The father in both of the pregnancies is Tilikum, the same orca who attacked trainer Dawn Brancheau—ripping off her left arm and part of her scalp, crushing her ribs, and breaking bones throughout her body before drowning her. Despite knowing about the extreme danger posed by Tilikum—including the fact that he had killed humans twice before—SeaWorld refuses to "Free Tilly" most likely because he's a valuable and prodigious breeder. Tilikum has already sired 13 calves for SeaWorld.
Enough is enough. Please take a moment to write to the Blackstone Group—the company that owns SeaWorld—and ask that it send Tilly and the other animal inmates in its facilities to sanctuaries.
Written by Paula Moore
Forget the Alamo; There's something else for Texans to remember—the imprisonment of Tilly the orca:
Today, PETA's billboard went up near SeaWorld San Antonio to remind Texans not to mess with marine mammals. Our plea to free Tilly and other captive wild animals comes on the heels of last week's congressional hearing about marine abusement parks, to which PETA submitted testimony urging a ban on the confinement of orcas and other wild animals at SeaWorld and other profiteering prison-parks.
So what can you do? Remind everyone to steer clear of marine animal exhibits. And if you're looking for an animal-friendly place to visit this summer, I hear the Alamo is an interesting place to go.
Written by Amy Skylark Elizabeth
The Orange County Sheriff's Office has just released a 43-page investigative report into the death of Dawn Brancheau and is declaring her death an accident.
Dawn's death was no accident, and the Orange County Sheriff's report is entirely unsupportable on its face. Consider that a SeaWorld trainer who was acting as a "spotter" for Brancheau told investigators that Tilikum "has been deemed to have tendencies that make him unsafe," and yet Brancheau was allowed to "[lie] on her stomach, face to face with Tilikum … in three to four inches of water" at the side of the pool on a concrete slab, from which she was pulled into the water by the huge 12,000-pound orca.
The trainer also admitted that "no one ever goes in the pool with Tilikum because of his past history," yet video footage of Brancheau that was posted on the Web site of the NBC affiliate in Orlando and shot by a visitor to the park just minutes before her death clearly shows Brancheau in the water with Tilikum.
SeaWorld executives have long known that these animals pose a risk of death and injury, but they go for the money, exactly as mine owners who won’t risk a drop in profits by stopping to fix massive problems that put humans in harm's way do.
Another spotter confirmed that on the day of Brancheau’s death, Tilikum was "possessive," and the assistant curator of animal training admitted to investigators that "Tilikum's past history is that when he obtains a person, he does not let them go."
Despite knowing about the extreme danger posed by Tilikum and the fact that he had killed twice before, SeaWorld goes beyond ignoring the problem, understating the risks and paying money to trainers to risk their lives.
Today, the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife is holding a hearing to discuss the "educational value" of marine amusement parks and the recent death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was dragged under water and battered to death by Tilly, a 12,000-pound captive orca.
PETA submitted testimony calling on federal authorities to prohibit the confinement of orcas (killer whales) at SeaWorld and other marine-mammal parks.
In a spin that would make Dick Cheney proud, SeaWorld execs explained that Dawn's killing (in which her scalp was removed, her arm was disconnected from her body, and her spine, ribs, and face were broken) was "play" gone awry. SeaWorld waited a mere three days before resuming its pricey orca shows, the newest of which is called "Believe," which includes "elaborate set pieces, state-of-the-art multimedia, music, and choreography." Sounds real "educational," doesn't it?
SeaWorld and other greedy for-profit parks leave visitors thinking that orcas are little more than wind-up toys, all called Shamu, when they are in fact highly intelligent predators who, in the wild, would swim up to 100 miles every day and who think, plan, and communicate … and hunt. Dawn was Tilly's third human victim. If Congress doesn't act, who will be number four? Everyone can help by spreading the word to stay away from SeaWorld and other marine theme parks when hitting the road this summer.
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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.