Witness Reports That Stingrays Starved and a Nurse Shark Died, Possibly as a Result of Food-Deprivation Training Program
For Immediate Release:
January 5, 2017
David Perle 202-483-7382
Tampa, Fla. – Today, PETA filed a complaint with Florida law-enforcement officials based on a whistleblower’s report of a food-deprivation training program at The Florida Aquarium, during which staff allegedly attempted to train sharks and stingrays to feed on cue by withholding food from them unless they came to the surface at designated times during the daily training sessions. The former aquarium employee believes that the training, which was created to produce new interactions and shows for the facility, caused several stingrays to lose a concerning amount of weight and a nurse shark to die of malnutrition. The shark, named Weezy, was found dead at the bottom of his tank.
“Depriving marine animals of food and letting them starve for the sake of a show is not only cruel but also illegal,” says PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman. “Abusive training programs like this one are the very reason that PETA asks everyone to refuse to support captive-animal displays.”
PETA is calling for an investigation, pointing out that Florida’s cruelty-to-animals law specifically criminalizes depriving an animal of necessary sustenance and that committing any act “which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering” is a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
The training program was reportedly designed and overseen by Precision Behavior, a third-party captive-animal training consulting group cofounded and run by a 35-year SeaWorld veteran who directed training for the orcas and other animals at all the company’s parks.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that marine parks often mean death for sharks and rays. Low oxygen levels have killed nearly 100 stingrays at zoos from Calgary to Chicago. At a Texas aquarium, hundreds of animals, including a tiger shark, died when workers inappropriately added medicine to the tanks, and many other sharks, rays, and marine animals have died because of similar circumstances.