SeaWorld Refutes New Film That Exposes the Cruel Treatment of Captive Whales

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The new documentary ‘Blackfish’ reveals the inner workings of the multi-billion dollar seapark industry.

Captive whales have been driven to disturbing and destructive behavior. (Photo: John Warden/Getty Images)

SeaWorld has unleashed a bitter attack on the new documentary Blackfish, accusing the filmmakers of being “shamelessly dishonest,” and filling the movie with serious inaccuracies.

As someone who has followed the saga of Tilikum and deceased trainer Dawn Brancheau for years, I was happy to rebut SeaWorld’s various grievances. The inaccuracies, it turns out, are found in spokesman Fred Jacob’s “Dear Film Critic” letter, which was sent out today:

I’m writing to you on behalf of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. You may be aware of a documentary called “Blackfish” that purports to expose SeaWorld’s treatment of killer whales (or orcas) and the “truth” behind the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

In the event you are planning to review this film, we thought you should be apprised of the following. Although “Blackfish” is by most accounts a powerful, emotionally-moving piece of advocacy, it is also shamefully dishonest, deliberately misleading, and scientifically inaccurate. As the late scholar and U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously noted: “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

The film’s most egregious and untrue allegations include: The insinuation that SeaWorld stocks its parks with killer whales captured from the wild. In fact, SeaWorld hasn’t collected a killer whale from the wild in more than 35 years; more than 80% of the killer whales at SeaWorld were born there or in other zoological facilities.

 First of all, an “insinuation” is not an accusation, and Blackfish does not make this claim. It is worth pointing out, however, that the wild orca Morgan, who was rescued in waters off the Netherlands a few years back, now lives at Loro Parque, Spain; in its SEC filing there, SeaWorld claimed her as one of their own whales, just as they own the other orcas in the park.

The assertion that killer whales in the wild live more than twice as long as those living at SeaWorld. While research suggests that some wild killer whales can live as long as 60 or 70 years, their average lifespan is nowhere near that. Nor is it true that killer whales in captivity live only 25 to 35 years.

Because we’ve been studying killer whales at places like SeaWorld for only 40 years or so, we don’t know what their lifespans might be—though we do know that SeaWorld currently has one killer whale in her late 40s and a number of others in their late 30s.

The research completed to date does not “suggest” average life expectancies and maximum lifespans; it methodically and scientifically documents them, at least among resident killer whales of the Pacific Northwest.

As I reported in Death at SeaWorld: “The average life expectancy for female orcas in the wild has been estimated at 45 to 50 years, with a maximum lifespan of about 90,” and, “the average life expectancy for a wild orca male is approximately 30 years, with an estimated maximum lifespan of about 60.”

Read More:http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/07/13/killer-whales-cruel-treatment-in-captivity?cmpid=tpanimals-eml-2013-07-20-seaworld

Pictured: Killer whale’s mysterious horror gash prompts fresh fury over the treatment of animals at SeaWorld

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“OMG…that must hurt…the underside of Nakai’s jaw has a gaping wound, one can almost see the ligaments or muscles of the tongue! It’s such a precise cut, it looks like it’s been done with a knife; it’s so precise! Hard to imagine another killer whale could do such a bite, as surely Nakai’s wound would be ragged around the edges with bits of skin dangling.! I have no idea how it happened, but it will take a long time to heal!!”

  • Nakai, an 11-year-old performing whale suffered gash to the chin which left its jawbone exposed
  • Park claims it happened when he hit the side of the pool
  • However reports claim Nakai may have been in a fight with two other whales
  • Peta accuse SeaWorld of housing killer whales together incompatibly, a violation of the Animal Welfare Act

A performing Killer Whale suffered a horrific injury which left its jawbone exposed at a SeaWorld theme park, prompting fury from animal rights groups.

Pictures showing Nakai, an 11-year-old whale who performs at the San Diego SeaWorld park, with a large gash to its chin were leaked online by a unnamed whistleblower. 

In a statement, SeaWorld said Nakai’s injury was caused when it ‘came into contact with a portion of the pool environment’.

Jawbone: Pictures released by a SeaWorld whistleblower show the horrific injuries suffered by killer whale Nikai which insiders claim were result of a fight between three whales

However online reports suggest the incident happened on September 20 when Nakai got into a fight with two other Killer Whales Ike and Keet.

Animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has submitted a complaint to the US Department of Agriculture accusing the park of housing incompatible killer whales together

They believe Nakai was either bitten by one of the other whales or smashed into the concrete pool wall.

Journalist Tim Zimmermann reported: ‘It happened last week during a night show, seemingly during a major altercation involving Nakai, Keet, and Ike.

‘It’s not clear if there was an aggressor or instigator, or if they all suddenly went after each other.

‘In response to the altercation, Nakai split to the back pool. The onstage trainers, not realizing how badly injured he was, continued the show with the other whales. 

‘It was only when they called Nakai over later that night that they realised he was seriously hurt.’

Animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

They have accused SeaWorld of housing Killer Whales together incompatibly –  a direct violation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

A spokesman for the group said: ‘The AWA makes it clear that marine mammals that are not compatible must not be housed in the same enclosure.

Yet SeaWorld parks have a long history of housing incompatible orcas from widely divergent groups together in enclosures – and the result has been stress, agitation, aggressive and bloody raking, serious injury, and death.

In a statement, a spokesman for the park said: ‘There is no organisation in the world more committed to the physical, social and mental welfare  of its animals than SeaWorld.’

They said Nikai is being treated with antibiotics and had been ‘swimming comfortably and interacting with other killer whales’. 

In February 2010 trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by six-ton killer whale Tilikum, who is Nikai’s father, at SeaWorld’s Orlando park.

The six ton whale dragged the 40-year-old into the pool by her pony tail and then thrashed her while she was in the water, as horrified spectators looked on.

It’s was the third death Tilikum had been involved in.

In 1991 trainer Keltie Byrne died after slipping and falling into the tank with Tilikum and two other whales.

In 1999, a man sneaked past security at SeaWorld Orlando and was later found dead, his body draped over Tilikum.

Earlier this year Peta filed a lawsuit against San Diego SeaWorld claiming that the five killer whales at the are treated like slaves because they’re forced to live in tanks and perform daily.

Banned: No trainer is allowed in the water with Tilikum because of his size and dangerous history

The five whales were named as the plaintiffs in the case.

However a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit saying the 13th amendment – which outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude – applies only to humans.

News Link:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2211159/SeaWorld-Killer-whale-suffers-mysterious-injury-prompting-fury-animal-rights-groups.html

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‘Killer whales at Seaworld had teeth removed with power drills and were left to mourn on own after being separated from young’, claims shocking new book

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A new book examining the dark side of keeping killer whales in captivity has slammed SeaWorld for its treatment of the enormous beasts and for massive safety failings which still haunt the world famous marine parks.

Claiming that the 12,000 pound animals are self harming and that staff are inadequately prepared for another killer whale attack incident, ‘Death at SeaWorld’ has been published two-and-a-half years after the death of trainer Dawn Brancheauin Orlando.

Dead: Tilikum is seen with trainer Dawn Brancheau. 

Brutally butchered in February 2010 by a killer whale named Tilikum, the book states that such an event was inevitable and that these kinds of tragic occurrences will continue if the animals continue to be treated in the same way.

Written by New York City reporter David Kirby, ‘Death at SeaWorld’ claims that killer whales kept in captivity suffer immense emotional and psychological trauma and spoke to former trainers and  campaigning animal rights advocates to present his damning case.

Staff interviewed by Kirby told him of killer whales destroying their teeth on metal gates and then subsequently having those teeth removed by staff wielding power drills.

In addition, he claims that calves are separated from their mothers causing both parent and child massive distress and in one instance almost leading to a fatality as an irate mother took out her anger on a trainer at SeaWorld’s San Diego headquarters.

Furthermore, Kirby claims that staff are instructed to get Tilikum to come out of the water and roll and then masturbate him with a gloved hand, collecting the semen for the park’s artificial insemination program.

Backing up his claims that captive killer whales or orcas are being maltreated by being taken out of their natural environment, Kirby points to life expectancy statistics.

Killer Whales

  • Since the 1970s, killer whales have attacked 24 people worldwide.
  • Critics claim the animals can become aggressive in captivity due to higher levels of stress.
  • In November 2006, killer whale Katsatka dragged its handler Ken Peters underwater twice at SeaWorld Florida during a routine trick. The same killer whale had also grabbed Mr Peters by the foot during a 1999 show and dragged him in circles.
  • In 2004 at San Antonio’s SeaWorld, another killer whale attacked its trainer repeatedly, leaving him in a serious condition.
  • Killer whales, the largest species of the dolphin family, eat fish, marine mammals including sea lions, seals and walruses and are regarded as top of the food chain as they have no natural predators.

Killer whales in captivity have a mortality rate two-and-a-half times higher than those living in the Pacific Northwest, according to figures produced by marine mammal scientist Naomi Rose of the Humane Society.

In addition, there are no known records of killer whales attacking humans in the wild, while even mild aggression towards trainers at close quarters is not uncommon.

One staff member that Kirby spoke to is called Jeffrey Ventre and he was fired from the park in 1995 for his expressive views on the treatment of the animals.

‘SeaWorld can make the environment safe, according to them, 98 percent of the times,’ said Ventre to ABC’s 20/20.

‘But what happens when the world’s top predator decides to go off behavior?’

Let go from SeaWorld for kissing a killer whale’s tongue, a banned action, Ventrea said that most staff members violated the so called ‘tongue-tacticle’ rule and were not fired.

Operating in San Antonio, San Diego and Orlando, all SeaWorld’s killer whales are called ‘Shamus’ in honour of the park’s original animal and up until the Brancheau incident would perform spectacular acrobatic displays with their human trainer’s in enormous pools.

Attracting up to 12 million visitors a year across the three locations, SeaWorld was rocked by Brancheau’s death after Tilikum dragged her by her ponytail into the water, scalped her and dismembered her.

One former trainer, John Jett, told Kirby that trainers were not fully aware of the safety problems related to killer whale work, however one senior trainer told a court investigating Brancheau’s death that SeaWorld staff were told they may not survive falling in the water with Tilikum.

A lack of detailed information was the norm whenever accidents happened at other parks,’ said Jett.

‘I remember one incident when all of us were pulled from water work for a short time. ‘To this day, I don’t know what happened.

An initial report after a trainer narrowly survived being killed by a killer whale named Kasatka in 2006 made for shocking reading.

‘If someone hasn’t been killed already, it is only a matter of time before it does happen,’ said the California Occupational Safety and Health Program.

However, this line was not added to the final report and Kirby believes that SeaWorld pressured for it to be removed.

Now after federal rulings which keep trainers out of the water with killer whales, SeaWorld has a specific emergency procedure should someone fall into the water.

Assuming there’s an emergency where someone does get pulled into the water, an employee sounds the alarm, which triggers a park-wide emergency alert system,’ said Kirby to the Voice of SanDiego

‘That lets people know something went wrong in Shamu Stadium.

‘I believe that ever since Tilikum, there’s always somebody on stage with their finger on the button during a performance.

‘People are trained to come running. Everyone is supposed to have a role. Some people are in charge of distracting the whale, try to call it back under control, using signals, underwater tones, food, hand-slapping on the water.

‘A certain number of people are employed to unfurl the nets, designed to separate the trainer from the whale, or try to get it to go into a different pool.

‘And others are there to try to use shepherd’s hooks, floatation devices and what are called pony bottles of air for the trainer

The main task is to separate the whale from the human who’s in trouble.’

However, despite this, Kirby is adamant that SeaWorld was responsible for Brancheau’s death. ‘If anybody’s at fault, it’s SeaWorld,’ said Kirby.

‘It basically relied on the trainer’s own judgement and ability to recognise precursors to aggression in a killer whale.

‘It was their own skill that was supposed to save their skin. ‘But I’m not a judge and I’m not a lawyer.’

In May, a federal administrative law judge for the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission downgraded one of SeaWorld’s violations given by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

OSHA failed to establish SeaWorld manifested plain indifference to employee safety,‘ said Ken S. Welsch.

‘On the contrary, the record demonstrates SeaWorld constantly emphasised safety training and was continuously refining its safety program.’

However, he was critical of the pressure on staff to always be prepared to implement these safety protocols.

‘SeaWorld holds trainers to a near-impossible standard set by upper management, who engage in a form of Monday morning quarterbacking,’ said Welsch.

‘Once a trainer is in the water with a killer whale that chooses to engage in undesirable behaviour, the trainer is at the whale’s mercy.

All the emergency procedures, nets, underwater signals and hand slaps are useless if the whale chooses to ignore them.

While SeaWorld is still hopeful that it can return its staff into the water with the killer whales, it has stated that it ‘remains dedicated to the safety of its employees and well being of its animals.’

Indeed, in reply to the allegations made by Kirby, the park is adamant that it is ‘a model for marine zoological facilities around the world’ and that additions ‘in the areas of personal safety, facility design and communication have enhanced this program further still.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2175966/Killer-whales-Seaworld-teeth-removed-power-drills-left-mourn-separated-young-claims-shocking-new-book.html#ixzz22KH1Dz3S

SeaWorld Responsible in Trainer Dawn Brancheau’s Death

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Submitted by PETA on May 31, 2012

There’s big news today in a case that PETA has been tenaciously pursuing for some time: Consistent with thecitations issued against SeaWorld in 2010, Administrative Law Judge Ken Welsch of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) found that SeaWorld is culpable for allowing its employees to interact directly with potentially dangerous orcas.

SeaWorld Knew the Risks

For years, PETA has implored SeaWorld to transfer the marine mammals it enslaves to transitional coastal sanctuaries because confining animals of such great size to severely inadequate tanks leads to miserable lives of desperation and frustration—and dangerous conditions for SeaWorld staffers.

After one orca, Tilikum, killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in front of horrified visitors at SeaWorld Orlando, PETA urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to pursue a citation against SeaWorld and provided it with compiled research on the history of deaths and injuries at the park and orca aggression in captivity. Today’s OSHRC decision affirms that SeaWorld knew that allowing its employees to interact directly with orcas such as Tilikum could have serious or fatal results.

A History of Irresponsibility

While the judge modified the citation for “willful” violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to “serious,” adjusting the fine accordingly, he found that SeaWorld knew that there was a “substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result” from these interactions, yet it continued to allow them. He found SeaWorld’s arguments that it wasn’t aware of these hazards to be implausible and lambasted its corporate culture of placing the blame for dangerous incidents exclusively on trainers and discouraging trainers from stopping a show—even after an attack.

Information that came out of the testimony during a two-week hearing before Judge Welsch, as well as during previous proceedings, includes the following:

  • A senior trainer testified that trainers who work with orcas receive special instruction on Tilikum as well as a “Tilly Talk,” in which they’re informed of Tilikum’s involvement with two previous deaths and that if they enter the water with him, they may not survive. Despite these concerns, trainers were approved to work in close proximity with him and physically touch him at the water’s edge

Click this link to read on:-http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/seaworld-responsible-trainer-dawn-brancheaus-death

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