Cover-Up of SeaWorld Stingray Deaths Prompts Lawsuit

PETA Demands Records Related to Park's Joint Exhibition With Brookfield Zoo in Which 54 Stingrays Died

For Immediate Release:
July 10, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Brookfield, Ill. – PETA has filed a lawsuit under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) against the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, which has contracted with the Chicago Zoological Society to run Brookfield Zoo, for withholding records related to the deaths of 54 stingrays, who died at the zoo in 2015 after a reported malfunction with the exhibit’s life-support system caused the oxygen levels in their tank to plummet. The exhibit was a joint venture between Brookfield Zoo and SeaWorld, which apparently provided at least some of the stingrays. SeaWorld has a long history of premature animal deaths at its amusement parks and refused to release necropsy reports for the three orcas who died at its parks last year.

After the stingray deaths, PETA submitted FOIA requests seeking records relating to both the cause of the tank’s malfunction and the nature of Brookfield Zoo’s ties with SeaWorld. The Forest Preserve District refused to produce this information, so PETA appealed to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which found in PETA’s favor—but months later, the Forest Preserve District is still withholding the records in violation of the Illinois FOIA, so PETA has filed suit.

“Animals held in unnatural conditions and for public display or interactions are always in danger,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Jared Goodman. “PETA’s lawsuit aims to uncover the exact nature of SeaWorld’s dealings with Brookfield Zoo and how exactly these 54 sensitive stingrays ended up dead.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that “touch tanks” like those used at SeaWorld and for Brookfield Zoo’s stingray exhibit endanger both the public and the aquatic animals in them, who are unable to escape groping hands that introduce polluting bacteria into the water. There have been at least seven similar incidents in the U.S. since 2007, resulting in dozens of stingray deaths—and 40 orcas, more than 300 other dolphins and whales, and approximately 450 seals, sea lions, and walruses have died at SeaWorld’s much-criticized amusement parks.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind