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Ex-SeaWorld Trainers Expose Orca Abuse

Written by PETA | January 25, 2011

Two former trainers at SeaWorld have released a report that includes firsthand information about the stress that killer whales endure in captivity—stress that the ex-trainers feel led to the deaths of at least two SeaWorld employees.

Jeff Ventre (now a doctor) and John Jett (now a biology professor) worked at SeaWorld Orlando and knew trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed by a frustrated orca named Tilikum last February.

Working with The Orca Project, Drs. Ventre and Jett documented stressors such as confinement to small, shallow pools, lack of social interaction, whale-to-whale aggression, and inadequate medical care, and they drew a direct link between captive orcas’ abysmal living conditions and the whales’ desperate acts of aggression toward humans. According to Ventre and Jett’s calculations, captive orcas’ life spans are cut drastically short, down to a median age of just 9 years compared to the 30- to 50-year average life expectancy of orcas in the wild.

You can read the report in its entirety here. Help us stop the imprisonment of orcas by writing to SeaWorld and urging it to end these cruel shows.

abi skipp/cc by 2.0

Written by Michelle Sherrow

Commenting is closed.
  • cheryl maurice says:

    Sea worlds are cruel worlds children dont want to see orcas and dolphins perform tricks children are more intelligent than that and orcas and dolphins are even more intelligent children want to see them living in their natural environment like david attenborouh shows

  • Izzy says:

    I’m doing a report on this stuff and am going to spread the word. I’m young but may write a book agenst orca abuse and Seaworlds bad behavior

  • heather <3 animals says:

    by the look of this wale he or she has been in captivity from a baby. if they were to release it in the wild after so many yrs of “slavery” do you honestly believe it would survive? i hope so. i hate all zoo’s and aquariums. humans you guys wouldnt like being taken from your families and being shown off like some freak show! you wouldnt like being caged up! you wouldnt like being “trained” which most of the time is abusive! these animals have feelings. and you! you ppl that enjoy this, you dont! they have no family no privacy are forced to perform for all these ppl u wanna see a wale go find them in the ocean but leave them the hell alone.

  • Marina Fitoria says:

    Day 5 – God created sea creatures and birds. “And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.” – Genesis 1:20-23

    • Deborah Raffensberger says:

      Why would humans allow such cruelty to these majestic animals and God’s gift to the world. God did not intend for THESE BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS TO BE IMPRISONED FOR GREED,TO TAKE THEIR LIVES. Justice will be served to those who harm the animals of this world.

  • Lucy Olguin says:

    yes, they do belong in the wild not in a fishbowl. trapped and lonely without being able to live with many others of their own kind.

  • Mimi says:

    My mother and I went Puerto Vallarta last year. My mother went out to see with a group of people and witnessed a beautiful whale with her baby in their natural environment. She told me it was the most beautiful thing in nature she had witnessed to date. There was no interference with people forcing the whales to perform tricks, to live in a fish bowl, to be nothing more than a pawn in a facility where profit dominates compassion. So what if they are fed well, freedom is the only thing they want and when they had enough and attacked and killed a trainer if this was not a sign than what is? The saying I like the most is “I don’t know if it is a smart thing to poke a tiger even if the tiger is in a cage.” Like humans when animals have had enough they will fight for themselves even if it means killing the person who puts them in a tank and pokes at them with a stick……. “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.” -John Sawhill, former President of The Nature Conservancy

  • Craig says:

    I LOVE SeaWorld! The whole family loves SeaWorld! We’ve visited the Orlando one numerous times and the San Antonio one once. The kids love seeing the animals, especially the “stinky penguins” (as my kids refer to them). I will continue to support the parks and recommend them to my vacationing friends. Sorry PETA!

    • Shirley says:

      Dear Craig,
      Your post makes it clear that you lack compassion and empathy. To go look at the animals who are being tortured for your own amusement is the sign of a sociopath or a very bad person. Take your pick. I hope your kids grow up to be a better human than you.


    My family and I plead with all Seaworld Officials, to realize that animals of this nature (whales) belong out in the sea where the good Lord meant for them to live, not to keep them enclosed, and of course they are going to react, we have not been to seaworld since, we do not agree with this kind of animal treatment…Please, let them go, and the Lord will enlighten you with other ways of making money, with other ideas..Let them go..please..God Bless you and your staff. The good Lord will bless you, I am sure God wants his creation were he put them..Blessings to all.

  • annie says:

    How many more employees must perish before you realize that sea world needs to reinvent itself……..i challenge you to give it some serious thought….it’s truly deplorable…i wonder how it might feel to those who imprison orca’s to be confined to a cell…..truly! Greed is not a virtue…i am afraid you ‘re raking up very bad karma for yourselves…….stockholders…shame on you!

  • Meg says:

    PETA keep doing an amazing job!!!!! I learned here about animals being skinned alive. I think it is so SICK!!!! People should watch documentaries if they want to know about these beautiful mammals not a half hour “fun”/miserable time for them. It is slavery!!

  • Annelise says:

    S ickening E nrage A bominable W ardens O pressive R otten L escivious D isgrace

  • Bill says:

    This is an example of why Peta is looked upon by poeple who actually work in the animal field as not knowing what they are talking about. People who work at Sea World or the Zoo are being paid very poorly. They do it because they love animals. I know because I was one of those people. When I first started I felt the same way about the captiivity of the animals, but quickly learned it is the exact opposite. Many animals are brought to Sea World to be rehabilitated and then released. A large percentage of those animals find there way back to Sea World via the mission beach channel, even though they were set free miles out to sea. They like it at Sea World. I could see how in the early years of Sea World’s existance the whales could have been subjected to enclosures too small resulting in frustration and illness, but not anymore. They are well fed, well kept, and treated with all the care and love you would give your own pet. It is a tragic thing that Dawn was killed, that is a terrible fact, but it was not from the animal being mistreated. If I thought these animals were mistreated I would be out there protesting with the rest of the Peta group, as would all the other people that work with the animals at Sea World. Please continue to do your terrific work in the areas where animals truely are being mistreated. This is not one of them.

  • InfernalDisaster says:

    This is one area I can agree with PETA on.

    Orcas do not belong in what amounts to a fishbowl, it is cruel and immoral. Scientists have known for  years that Orcas & Dolphins suffer many physical and mental illnesses in captivity, yet we act all shocked when a trainer is hurt or dies.

    I feel bad when any person dies, but the Orcas are the true victims here and as much as I love seeing these beautiful creatures, they belong in the wild.

    Remember, there has never been a documented case of an Orca killing a human in the wild. Only in captivity.

  • PAT says:

    please do it better. I want our children to have the experience available to them but I also want a higher quality of life for the whales and dolphins.

  • Lora says:

    We have horses, rabbits, german shepherds, and chiwauwas. These animals to us are our family. They are all watered and fed daily before we ourselves are fed. My horse passed away a year ago last August and I still cry—HE was my dear friend. My daughter is going into criminal justice–her main interest is the welfare and safety of all animals. The cruelty and neglect to our God given animals on this earth must stop!!! People who are so cruel, I pray for you but at the same time I wish you no joy in your life.

  • Melody Moon says:

    Is the money you make by having these whales and the treatment used to put on a show worth your reputation??

  • vickie says:

    Please stop using these animals as a form of public entertainment,it’s no good for the orca’s and is just plain wrong.People are finding out what goes on behind the scene with show type animals and they sure are not liking it.

  • Susana Levy says:

    What a shame! How can anyone possibly treat these animals and all animals in such a manner. Shame on you at Sea World.

  • Kati says:

    Imagine that you were in your kitchen and couldn’t leave; that you had to spend the rest of your life in that small of a space. Now imagine sharing that space with a handful of other people. How desperate, depressed, and hopeless would that make you feel? How long would it take for it to feel like a prison, as though you could never escape or have hope of freedom again? Sea World, this is what you do to those beautiful whales, because you are greedy. Your concern for money has caused neglect for the creatures you claim to care for. You are depriving the orcas of a life they deserve to live, on their terms. You are killing them. And you can stop anytime.

  • Brook says:

    I will never again go to Sea World, nor will any of my family members. You have selfishly imprisoned these WILD animals. They are suffering so that you may profit. It is truly disgusting.

  • Mademoiselle says:

    Please stop the cruelty–this is all I can say.

  • Anne Gressett says:

    i only got ONE thing to say; SET THE ORCAS FREE! set the trainers/humans in prison instead & let them be amused exactly the same way, as the Orcas, so the Orcas can be the audience! 😉 that’s the only way, to do it, the right way!

  • rossana says:

    Stop the cruel treatment of orcas!

  • Lan says:

    Not to mention these orcas are captured by hunting the pod family down. Many of the family members are killed while their youngs are captured and sold to Sea World and other aquariums. Learn more the truth at

  • Fabio Lopez says:

    They just pretend they love and protect animals but they don’t, they stress animals. Stop those cruel shows SeaWorld.

  • Niki says:

    This is a fantastic article — wow, so much research went into it! Boycott marine parks like Sea World and Miami Seaquarium! I could never visit those disgusting abusement parks after reading this great paper.

  • brian criss says:

    After reading this report, I will not ever go to an animal show of any type. I assumed that these animal were treated very well since they are meal tickets for the trainers and business. I was wrong! I will not go to another show where animals are included for entertainment. Please do not do what I did for years, which is to pay these people to abuse the animals

  • Tammy Robertson says:


  • Dev says:

    Stop this cruelty, all in the name of greed and ignorance. Animals are not here to be abused and have their needs neglected ! I am with you Irma, how about the trainers take the orcas’s place.

  • Tucker says:


  • Vidhi says:

    Stop this cruel acts !! when will humans understand and start respecting animals.. like humans they too are God’s creature and they too deserve to live… Live & Let live!! How can u keep such lovely and innocent creatures in such conditions … like us they also need to live in their natural habitats.

  • Annie says:

    So sad. Beautiful animals. Wish they could all be free in the ocean where they should be.

  • Lisa Ramey says:

    It’s shame! They are helpless, defenseless and voiceless. They are not too happy in cage of this size for Orcas. Let them go free! Do not get them anymore. I don’t go to any show of dolphins, killer whales, seals, any animals there. I do support some zoo that rescue for good reasons like their mother killed or injury, etc.

  • Jennifer Turner says:

    This is truly sick. Sea animals belong to the entire sea! They don’t belong to Seaworld. They don’t belong to humans at all!!!

  • Soizic says:

    Stop those cruelties…orcas world is the OCEAN !!!

  • orca says:

    FREE THE ORCAS!!! Absolutely INHUMANE… They belong FREE in the ocean and just BE!!! I find it DISGUSTING that all of this torture is for the mighty dollar and entertainment. Very disturbing… Not OKAY!!!

  • Jess says:

    This needs to stop!!! These poor creatures belong in the wild, not in a pool! People need to understand that they don’t belong here for our enjoyment! Seaworld, stop this!!!

  • Marge says:

    What gives us the right to Imprision animals for our profit!!If people stopped paying to go to these attractions .then they wouldnt exist.Not rocket science Is it????

  • Lae says:

    I can’t comprehend all the shock about the report. The simple fact that the animals are kept in captivity should be horrific enough add to that that the animals are forced to perform for the amusement of spectators whose only interest in the animal is their ”cuteness” and ability to entertain and you get a recipe for absolute tragedy.

  • Amanda Lawrence says:

    To keep these highly social & intelligent creatures in such socially deprived & unstimulating enviroments with little room for exercise or oppurtunity to carry out normal behaviour patterns is immoral & cruel! It should be outlawed with immediate effect. No more Orcas should be condemed to such an unnatural & cruel existence which is little short of torture for them!

  • IRMA ALFAOUR says:

    Please stop the abuse and cruelty with this wonderful creatures. They are suppose to be freen in their own habitat. Let them be free. or maybe you trainers take their place to entertaint the public.

  • PELLISSON says:

    Please, stop the imprisonment of oras around the world ! Those animals are in jail ! Orcas must be in the wild, in oceans and not in swimming pools !

  • Kim says:

    After reading this very indepth article, I am very upset about it, because i use to enjoy the orca shows but i never knew what those poor whales go thru to put those shows on for people to see. And to think, i thaught they were treated well, but now that i think about it,they aren’t treated well at all. This is really sad, and what makes it even worse in my eyes is that people( I was one till now) would go to these and other shows like them, which once you think about it only adds to the misery of these magnificent whales, because as long as people keep going to watch these shows, the whales will never be free to just be. I use to enjoy seaworld, but now i am looking so differently at them and other places as well similar to them. This has really made me sad but has also enlightened me. I for one will not go to anymore shows that contribute to animal captivity or any kind of captivity.Thank you for opening my eyes and my heart

  • Tanja Mandic says:

    It`s disgusting to hear how you terrorise such a magnificent creature. Shame on you !!!

  • pauline moore says:

    Please stop your cruelty to orca’s with your cruel shows.

  • tom moore says:

    Please end your cruel abuse of orca’s with your cruel shows.

  • Lidia says:

    SeaWorld: stop the imprisonment of orcas end the cruel shows involving them!

  • melanie waggett says:

    It’s always about money for man–never the quality of life!