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OSHA Finds SeaWorld at Fault in Trainer’s Death

Written by PETA | August 23, 2010

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

Commenting is closed.
  • julie says:

    why must they be our “entertainment” What is wrong with us humans.

  • Nicolas Ibarguen says:

    It is time for us to step up to the next step of our own evolution. Our fellow creatures deserve much better and we can definitely do much better in understanding other forms of intelligence. We should start at least by showing some respect. Free all animals!

  • Rebecca says:

    I have thought for many years that Sea World needed to get rid of all their animals. All they have had is problems even with their Orca’s. Come on people. They are wild animals. It is one thing to help an animal in need then place it back in the wild. To house them in too small of tanks and force them to performe for humans is stupid. If you want to watch whales and dolphens then get on a boat tour that shows you these things. Nature was not ment for us to mess with. To help them yes. Not to treat them as pets and intertain us. They are just like us. They have feelings as well. People need to learn to look out side the box and grow up. Sea World needs to be shut down. Yes I know my spelling stinks…

  • Beatrice says:

    I have been saving my coins in a jar just so that I can one day go see the whales at Seaworld. Are you kidding take away the whales because of an accident. I think the trainers should stay off the whales and just pet and feed them. They shouldn’t do tricks with the whales. I don’t care if they ride the whales or not. But they should be there for people to see up close. It takes alot of money to buy tons of fish to feed these whales. I think it’s ok as long as Seaworld keeps them happy healthy and fed. I think more space and more area to swim for these whales would be nice. Our children will never see a whale up close if the whales are taken away and Sea World will be no more.

  • Annie says:

    What about the dolphins in Seaworld Im not saying that the orca problem isn’t big but its not right that they have dolphins there. I think if they have to release the orca they should also release the dolphins!

  • Amparo CV says:

    Animals were born free and their sacred life is not a source for our amusement and greed. Our holly mission on this earth is to protect and love all forms of living beings. Respect their inherited freedom set them free.

  • NB Nair says:

    Thank God man as well as woman is the most intelligent creation on this planet. So man has the responsibility to protect and respect other creations of His on this planet never make them his slaves of pleasure. Love other creations of His in their own natural habitats and never in your amusement parks.

  • jessica says:

    their made for the oceannot in a pool.Their stressed need to be set free!!

  • Julia says:

    PETA help the Calderon Dolphins in Denmark

  • Sharon Parshall says:

    It’s ludicrous to think that animals any creature should be abused and used for human’s entertainment. It sickens me to see beautiful Orcas’s trained to do stupid tricks for the idiots who pay to see an animal do unnatural activities.

  • Brenda Hixenbaugh says:

    Well as usual it always ends up about the money and not justice.So they got fined. They pay the fine and go right back to buisness as usual.It’s time that the world corrected itself and started acting like the intelligent species that we are supposed to be.All these wild animals that are literally prisoners of people need to be released to enjoy the freedom they have a right to. They are taken away from their families their freedom their world and made to do tricks for creatures they don’t know or understand but fear and probly hate. Would you hate it if you were done this way? But unfortunately due to the insane killers that run amuck these animals to be safe should be turned loose in the safety of a preserve unless the law wants to start doing its job and seriously root out the poachers etc. and actually deal with them. Personally I feel that when these leaches get caught in the act they should be shot right on the spot. What is the point of taking them in for court when all they will more than likely get is a FINE of course that is what all this court buisness is about anymore not the justice and they will go their merry way doing the same thing over and over again with animal after animal paying the ultamit price with their lives. There is something terribly wrong with our system when we break our backs to accommodate the lowest scums of this worlds society.It’s all good and well to scream peoples rights but when these people are taking the lives of innocent creatures just to line their pockets or steal the land or in some case sic personal enjoyment its time to adjust these laws and deliver a justified punishment for the crime. These people as far as I am concerned have lost their human rights when they did the dispicable things that were done. Free the wild animals these people that are making a living off of these innocent creatures inprisonment can just find another means of income who knows maybe they could actually get a real job that would actually require them to PERFORM actual work. Oh but then they might get their hands dirty huh now wouldn’t that be a crying shame?

  • deb christensen says:

    What other proof do you need that these magnificent creatures should not be held in captivity?

  • Virginia Polzin says:

    Governor Crist I lived in Florida a long time on and off 20 years I understand how important tourism is to Florida and that Sea World is part of that. I ask you to have the orcas and dolphins set free from Sea World. We have become enlightened enough as people to understand that they have an awareness. There are other things Sea World can do to make money do tours in the ocean etc. They could educate people and charge admission for that just some suggestions. Please help the orcas and the dolphins.

  • Natashia says:

    I truly have compassion for dawn and her family but i do believe tilly is a warn hearted soul who ultimately would love to be with his family again.

  • Kat says:

    ‘m on the fence about SeaWorld overall but I still think it’s important to note the irony of this whole section there would not be near the numbers of people that even care about this issue if we hadn’t grown to love Shamu over the years and create that “bond” that humans have to have with an animal before they as a group actually care. If you don’t believe me then do this exercise imagine if we raised dogs for meat. America would go nuts it would never happen. Chickens? Not so big of a deal but still approachable by a lot of folks. But what about cockroaches? Hmmm… don’t see any major stars stripping to save them. We bond with dogs though. We don’t really bond with chickens. We hate roaches. Where do we draw the line and when does that line change next? My point is just that we as humans tend to PROJECT our emotions on the world around us and that drives a lot of this activism for most people. There is a lot of truth to PETA’s side too just please don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater use intelligence.

  • RIita says:

    The Earth belongs to the wildlife before the people. Humans used they so called “intelligence” and power to put wildlife in captivity. These beautiful animals get stressed out for not being in their natural habitat not having enough space to live freely and on the top of all they have to perform often to entertaining the human race the same race that put them in captivity for profit !! That is disgusting !!! Am a animal lover and am with the whales! I WILL NEVER GO TO SEAWORLD AGAIN !!

  • RMS says:

    STOP attending Sea World and its likes. If no one went they would get the message!!

  • P. Call says:

    We will be judged by how we treat those who are helpless to our dominion over them. Shame shame on Sea World and all other abusers of our planet’s inhabitants.

  • andi says:

    Dear Kat It is pure propaganda that dolphins and whales can’t be safely released back into the ocean. The only “diseases” they get in captivity are from poor diets dead food stress and improper water filtration. They assimilate so fast when back in the ocean they find their pods or substitute families immediately with their sonar. If they were never taught how to eat properly their pods quickly teachremind them. What if we were told that people who had been in prison for many years couldn’t adjust to society after they were let out? Would we just keep them in there after their sentences were up? That makes just as much sense! and whales dolphins are much more intelligent and forgiving…

  • Suzanne Lawson says:

    I will never take my daughte to visit SeaWorld. We have been brainwashed into thinking this is OK.

  • Jean Cheesman says:

    Orcas should NEVER be kept in captivity! I hope I live long enough to see them all live in freedom. I would also like to see them no longer called “killer whales”. They are no more killers than any animal that kills to eat including humans! And they are not even whales but the largest of the dolphins.

  • jana camp says:

    Well you can’t tame a wild mammal like orcas. Laeve them be or help them get back in their natural habitat. keep them locked up and captured hell yeah they are going to kill! Should have known better. How would you feel if it was the other way around?! Let them go and or die! HA!

  • Patricia Bordewieck says:

    There is nothing I can add to the wonderful comments by the people who truly cre for all God’s cretures! All confinement of animals whether in Seaworld or in zoos should be outlawed across our land.

  • christine cook says:

    I have never been to a Sea World Park in my life. How we humans can expliot and be so shallow all for the sake of money so called entertainment while these animals are suffering from being stressed out bacause they are not able to be wild and free there true purpose Watch the series The Cove on Animal Planet. YOU WILL SEE THE CRUELTY INVOLVED IN CAPTURING DOLPHINS WHALES all for $ entertainment. We should be ashamed

  • Julia Fine says:

    I am still traumatized by Sea World’s treatment of animals. I was about seven years old when my Dad took me there and I fed the dolphins. I am haunted by their small pool and the frenzy they were into to get fed. I am in favor of anything it takes to stop the Sea World monsters from doing what they do to these intelligent mammals.

  • Donna Marie Adams says:

    These beautiful animals need to be FREE and not caged in a small environment so that children and adults can watch them jump out of the water and splash them. It is senseless and ignorant. In all honesty I think that the Killer whale did not intend to kill the trainer but thought her pony tail was a toy and pulled her under by it and unfortunately she drown. A terrible and senseless tragedy for all.

  • Lisa says:

    On the one hand I don’t believe these animals should be humiliated and forced to do tricks. It’s inhumane and the animals need more space and should be given respect…after all they aren’t domesticated and they can be dangerous. We need to let them live in an environment as similar to their natural habitat as we can. But….I’m not entirely sure we should stop having centers like that. Imagine the only theme parks left are ones like Disney. What does that place teach you? Not a whole lot really it’s mostly an enterprise run by demand of children to see their favorite characters and get whatever souveneirs they can. But the difference between a place like that and a place like Seaworld is that the latter teaches you facts about the animals it tries to get people to be more ecofriendly and for many people this is the only chance to see certain animals other than on tv. Because really we can’t all afford to go on boat tours and some of us didn’t have parents who cared about taking us into nature in the first place. I only got to go to Seaworld because I was tired of standing outside Minnie’s playhouse at Disney and I wanted to do something more useful like learning about animals I have loved since I first saw the pictures.

  • Kimberly Bartold says:

    How dare Sea World put these massive animals in such small confines. Killer Whales Orca are migrating beings. They travel thousands of miles every year. To think one could live in a tank that is anything less than 100 million gallons is absurd. Even then that’s pretty small. These are animals with brains bigger than our own. They have their owns consiousness and intelligence. It is no longer acceptable to keep human slaves yet we keep Orca as slaves an animal that is either equal to our own intelligence or even higher. There is absolutely no reason these animals should be confined as they are. It is like forcing a human to live out their days living out of a bathroom and then forcing them to do tricks within for a few scraps of food. I can see that when people go to Sea World and see these beautiful animals they may end up wanting to help protect them from whaling pouching and pollution. This ultimately helps to conserve these animals. But if we must keep a few in captivity to show people the animals we are harming with pollution and such they should be whales incapable of surviving in the wild due to injuries or being born into captivity. They should not be breed in Sea Worlds. This is an outrage. Like breeding them into slavery. I would not think ill of a Sea World that took in wild whales that could no longer survive in the wild. They could be cared for and show to public to educate people on the effects of pollution and over fishing. We do not have the right to take a healthy whale and toss it in a tiny tank and expect it to truly be happy. And furthermore when an animals is BORN into this sort of life this animals sense of happiness can never be judged as it has never tasted the true ocean swam to vast seas that never end or engaged in the thrill of hunting the many sorts of prey these whales eat. Being fed tiny fish is not a proper diet for these animals. They eat whales dolphins sea turtles seals otters sea birds ect. These animals diets are seriously lacking. They can never be returned to the wild since they don’t even know what these essential animals are to their diet. These terrible parks raise these animals to fail living the life they were meant for. I feel they should no longer allow these whales to be used for entertainment or breeding. Allow them to live the rest of the time they have left as educational pieces only and phase out this terrible market. I am ashamed to know I myself am human when so many others can go to these parks and see these poor animals is such small tanks and take such thrill in it. Furthermore I am ashamed at the people who blame the animal when it acts up eats a sea bird that lands in its tank or kills a trainer out of frustration fear or anger for its constant abuse.

  • Kat M says:

    I completely agree that Sea World should just stop period stupid unnatural tricks for our dangerous entertainment early deaths for most of the animals involved tiny cramped quarters that to house a whale in are similar to confining a human being to a closet for their life…it’s all sorts of wrong! However I remember reading somewhere that to take captive animals or animals that have become captive like they have at SW and to release them back into the wild is just as dangerous to them as it is to the remaining wild populations they tend to be out of shape because of the small quarters they tend to be less adapted to surviving in the wild and they can bring diseases acquired in the park to the wild. If this is true there needs to be a sort of wild life reserve or something similar for them to go to something with ample space but separate from the wild populations so they can live a satisfying life for the remainder of it…. …any thoughts? Is there sch a place? Was the article I read mistaken?

  • steven delatorre says:

    i hate when i go on runs and i see dogs with shock collars on and i see bumps on them and how cold they look its crazy

  • sandra lee says:

    These orcas need to be set free!!! Its a money maker for them thats all they care about.We need to think about all creatures respect them. So maddue to seaworld needs to get that. their made for the oceannot in a pool.Their stressed need to be set free!!

  • John Carmody says:

    Absolutely disgusting! I wish those places would close today. Please everyone reading this. Get out there and speak out for those poor whales.

  • tait lifto says:

    I’m on the fence about SeaWorld overall but I still think it’s important to note the irony of this whole section there would not be near the numbers of people that even care about this issue if we hadn’t grown to love Shamu over the years and create that “bond” that humans have to have with an animal before they as a group actually care. If you don’t believe me then do this exercise imagine if we raised dogs for meat. America would go nuts it would never happen. Chickens? Not so big of a deal but still approachable by a lot of folks. But what about cockroaches? Hmmm… don’t see any major stars stripping to save them. We bond with dogs though. We don’t really bond with chickens. We hate roaches. Where do we draw the line and when does that line change next? My point is just that we as humans tend to PROJECT our emotions on the world around us and that drives a lot of this activism for most people. There is a lot of truth to PETA’s side too just please don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater use intelligence.

  • Cori Reed. says:

    Thank Gawd. I will never understand the true reasioning behind Sea World they force animals into being show slaves.

  • steve adams says:

    You would think that after a person died that they would come to the conclusion that Hey maybe this is not a good idea but noit’s business as usual. Idiots!

  • Steve says:

    I disagree that we need to make Seaworld get rid of all its Orca whales! As a child my Dad took me to Seaworld and I was amazed by seeing these awesome creatures in person. My family doesn’t have a lot of money and that was my exposure vs. my parents sitting me in front of the tv for a week so I can watch “Shark Week”. That exposure is one of the reasons that I have headed down the path of marine biologythat amazment as a child. I think better safety regulations should certainly be put into place however the overall good that a place such as Seaworldis a good thing. As Mr. Spock said and I’ll tie that into whales “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”

  • Amber:) says:

    Who ever came up with the idea that Orca Whales should be inclosed in small tanks? Don’t the people at Seaworld get it… i guess not Orca Whales have killed trainers but they still try to train them. Orca Whales need to be in the ocean not in small tanks. Orcas need to be FREE!!!

  • Dana says:

    It angers me that people continue to hurt animals. I try to share information with my fellow coworkers and they cover their ears “Oh it is so sad I don’t want to hear it because then I can’t enjoy these places anymore or I will not want to eat there and I love that place.” We have become such a selfish society that our wants are fedno matter the cost to our fellow animals.

  • Star808 says:


  • rachel says:

    seaworld! let my people orcas go!! let them live their lives. theres “false love” and then theres true love. false love is where we trap these beings into captivity and then try to justify it to soothe our consciences. we tell ourselves “they’re not really suffering they’re happy here.” true love puts the ORCA first. true love lets them go free.

  • Melysa McGuire says:

    So i was just watching the real housewives of new jersey when i see them all laughing and joking about pigs being slaughtered and that we should give them vicodin so they can die “naturally” what is wrong with people?

  • Greg says:

    Everyday people risk death whether by crossing a street or other reason. I do believe Orcas and Dolphins should be free to roam the seas. Yet I feel that having some in captivity is good for their future in that people get to see in person what great animals they really are which in the long run protects them.

  • tony ring says:

    what is John Robbins doing these days how is the no meat mondays campaign going could quite easily push that up to mondays and tuesdays and wednesdays and thursdays and fridays and saturdays and sundays . . . that is very clear is it not

  • Deborah Peters says:

    it is so cruel to have Killer Whales in such small places they are wild animals so let them be wild animals. stop seperating them from their pods just to make money.

  • Deborah says:

    Yes let the orcas be free…they weren’t meant to be a show for anyone. Let them enjoy what God had intended for them. They are beautiful animals and they are doing what is natural for them. We can not coexhist with oras!

  • DJ G says:

    I think that the Sea World park should have been fined millions of $$this is disgusting and inhumanethey take these wild beautiful animals out of their habitats and expect them to behave like humansLet them be and leave them in their habitats..I will never attend Sea Worldits all based on GREED.

  • Hannah says:

    If people really want to see wild animals they need to go find them IN NATURE. As humans we are becoming more and more disconnected from nature as it is and it gives people a distorted view of the world. It’s the same with a meateating diet if people knew where thier meat came from or had to kill it themselves it wouldn’t be eaten by the masses. I am a kindergarten teacher whose students couldn’t even tell me what animal chicken meat came from if that doesn’t show how out of touch with reality we are becoming then I don’t know what does…..having wild animals viewed as pets distorts their importance and their beauty as well as their ability to be dangerous which puts everyone at risk.

  • Jordyn Kolasinski says:

    I agree that SeaWorld should no longer have Orcas for “tricks” but I don’t think they should be set free. Nothing good would come of them being send back to the wild. They wouldn’t survive in the wild because they are so used to human contact. It would be the Keiko whale all over again. No one wants that to happen. They need to be moved to a facility that allows them the space and stimulation they need to continue on living. A great place like Dolphin Research Center. A place where the dolphins are kept in ocean lagoons and are stimulate everyday with the trainers. NOT TRICKS! Train Behaviors. Jordyn. Michigan USA.

  • Nikki says:

    As a mixed race South African it still hurts to think that until relatively recently my indigenous ancestors were hunted as animals put in cages and paraded naked in Europe women’s breasts used as tobacco pouches the list goes on. These atrocities were perpetrated as they spoke a different language had a different culture and were not regarded as intelligent beings. No government would sanction such actions today. How long before we realise that we need to stop seeking intelligent life in space we are amongst it

  • alma o farrell says: