A Reply to Sea World’s Open Letter and an Invitation to Make a Meaningful New Year’s Resolution

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The documentary “Blackfish” has left a desperate SeaWorld in its wake, struggling to stay afloat in a sea of bad press and criticism from the public.

As performer after performer (eight total, so far) cancels their scheduled show for SeaWorld’s upcoming “Bands, Brews & BBQ” concert series due to concerns raised by the film, SeaWorld has fought back with a list of responses that they have called an open letter from SeaWorld’s “animal advocates.” While their representatives have declined to share how much money was spent putting this response out there, it is almost certain that SeaWorld spent thousands of dollars getting the letter published in eight major U.S. newspapers.

If you have read the letter, you might be finding it hard to separate fact from fiction as it is filled with SeaWorld’s spin on the captive marine mammal industry.

Sea Shepherd would like to present a few counterpoints to SeaWorld’s arguments that will hopefully clear up any confusion.

SeaWorld does not capture killer whales in the wild. Due to the groundbreaking success of our research in marine mammal reproduction, we haven’t collected a killer whale from the wild in 35 years.”

While SeaWorld admits that they have two orcas in their “care” who were captured in the wild, they leave out the violent and traumatic captures that these orcas endured. Footage of a notoriously brutal orca capture in Penn Cove, a capture which tore apart a family of orcas and left some dead, can be seen in “Blackfish.” Those responsible for the capture even sank the bodies of the dead whales in an effort to hide their deaths.

Tilikum’s capture took place off the coast of Iceland in 1983, when he was only 2. He was sent to SeaLand of the Pacific, before enduring a stressful transport once again to his current prison, SeaWorld Orlando.

Many of SeaWorld’s orcas were, indeed, born in captivity. Many of them are the offspring of Tilikum, who is used as SeaWorld’s breeding machine. SeaWorld’s marine mammals are often inbred, offspring of two mated members of the same family, resulting in a range of genetic abnormalities and mutations. That is the truth of SeaWorld’s “groundbreaking success” in marine mammal reproduction.

The letter also conveniently leaves out the fact that SeaWorld plans to take some of the 18 wild-caught beluga whales that the Georgia Aquarium is currently fighting so hard to get their hands on. Some of the belugas would be split between SeaWorld Orlando, San Antonio, and San Diego as well as other captive facilities. Why does SeaWorld support the captures of members of a healthy population of beluga whales from the wild, while claiming publicly that their orcas don’t come from the ocean?

“We do not separate killer whale moms and calves. SeaWorld recognizes the important bond between mother and calf. On the rare occasion that a mother killer whale cannot care for the calf herself, we have successfully hand raised and reintroduced the calf. Whales are only moved to maintain a healthy social structure.”

As you can see in “Blackfish,” SeaWorld has in fact removed calves from their mother’s side and transported them to their other parks. Just as any mother would mourn for her child, the orcas have cried out long-range vocals looking for their young, taken by SeaWorld.

Even if this is old footage, it is quite possible that SeaWorld continues this practice. They continue to breed marine mammals, including orcas. Some are transferred between facilities to breed or to perform. In the wild, orcas live in large pods, and in some populations, calves stay with their mother for their entire life.

Regardless, the way to “maintain a healthy social structure” for orcas, animals who live in matriarchal pods, is never to separate a mother from her calf.

“We give our animals restaurant-quality fish, exercise, veterinary care, mental stimulation, and the company of other members of their species.”

The “restaurant-quality fish” being served to these orcas refers to thawed dead fish, contrary to their natural hunting behaviour in the wild. These fish are filled with antibiotics and vitamins to combat the effects of captivity on these often stressed, sick whales.

Wild orcas get moisture from the fish that they consume, but the frozen fish provided at SeaWorld have lost most of the moisture they once contained. So, SeaWorld feeds its orcas massive amounts of gelatin each day for hydration.

While some of these orcas may be kept with members of their species, these artificial pods are not the families that they would live with in the wild. Tilikum often remains alone, and now spends most of his time floating listlessly at the surface of his tank. He is used as a “stud” for SeaWorld’s continuous supply of captive and in-bred orcas (perversely, marine park staff masturbate males in order to collect their semen, which is used to impregnate females), and occasionally he is forced to provide the “big splash” at the end of SeaWorld’s performances. The in-breeding has led to unhealthy offspring and many babies have been stillborn.

“SeaWorld’s killer whales’ life spans are equivalent with those in the wild.”

This is a lie that SeaWorld has been feeding to the public for years. They claim “no one knows for sure how long orcas live,” a claim that has been refuted by marine biologists and orca researchers who have spent the greater part of their careers studying the lives and natural behaviors of orcas in the wild.

SeaWorld’s claim that the life spans of captive and wild orcas are comparable is shattered by the real numbers. In the wild, the average life span for males is 30 years and 50 years for females. Males can reach an estimated maximum age of 60-70 years old, and females 80-90 years old. While SeaWorld points out “five of our animals are older than 30, and one of our whales is close to 50,” this is highly unusual for orcas in captivity, including those at SeaWorld. Many die before those ages, and some even before reaching maturity.

“The killer whales in our care benefit those in the wild. We work with universities, governmental agencies and NGOs to increase the body of knowledge about and the understanding of killer whales — from their anatomy and reproductive biology to their auditory abilities.” 

SeaWorld’s “research” on their captive orcas benefitting wild orcas is a stretch, to say the least. Captive orcas are mere shells of their wild counterparts, unable even to engage in the most basic of their natural behaviours or live in their natural social groupings. The collapsed dorsal fin that you see in captive orcas is something that SeaWorld claims is also common in the wild, but in fact is rarely seen in wild orcas. It is a sign of stress, illness, injury or other conditions.

killer whale5 killer whale6 killer whale1 killer whale2 killer whale4

“SeaWorld is a world leader in animal rescue.The millions of people who visit our parks each year make possible SeaWorld’s world-renowned work in rescue, rehabilitation and release…We have rescued more than 23,000 animals with the goal of treating and returning them to the wild.”

While SeaWorld does rescue, rehabilitate and release ocean wildlife, this statement included in their letter is disgracefully misleading. The animals released by SeaWorld are most often manatees, sea turtles, and other animals who cannot be used as “performers” in their shows. Dolphins and whales and other animals such as sea lions rescued by SeaWorld who can be forced to perform tricks for food are kept and used as performers.

We have yet to hear conclusive findings on the actual success of SeaWorld’s rescue and release program. They do not follow up and report on the survival of the animals who have been released from their care.

In addition, according to its 2011-12 Annual Report, SeaWorld has given only $9 million dollars over the last decade toward conservation efforts. That means for every 100 dollars in revenue they bring in, they donate approximately 1 cent toward saving the animals in the wild whose captive counterparts they are exploiting. That’s .0001 percent of their income going to help animals in the wild. I think that might be the most telling point of all — that, in fact, SeaWorld is really nothing more than a money-making enterprise.

The bottom line is that SeaWorld is part of the massive machine that is the captive marine mammal industry, an industry willing to spew whatever lies it can in order to keep you spending your money at their parks. This industry is inextricably linked not only to the deaths of the animals in their tanks, but to the deaths of marine mammals brutally slaughtered in Taiji, Japan where dolphin trainers work side-by-side with dolphin killers to hand-pick those who are suitable for captivity – those who are “prettiest” and without visible scars.

SeaWorld does not want you to know what “Blackfish” made so clear, and what our volunteer Cove Guardians continue to show on the ground in Taiji every day: captivity kills.

As that message spreads, a new generation is leading the way for a future of freedom for marine life. Children have begun to speak out and say that they will never spend another moment at SeaWorld or other marine parks that hold orcas and other dolphins and whales in captivity. Students have even gotten regular school trips to SeaWorld canceled.

Children may have small voices, but they also have powerful voices because they represent change. This may be the hardest hit to SeaWorld yet, as these future adults will usher in the end of support for the captive industry and a shift toward protecting marine mammals where they belong — in the wild.

Sea Shepherd has a call to action for our many enthusiastic and dedicated young supporters. You are a huge part of spreading Sea Shepherd’s message, including exposing the truth behind SeaWorld and other marine parks. We would like all Sea Shepherds — whether young in age or simply young at heart — to send us a picture with a sign stating your New Year’s Resolution — to never attend SeaWorld or other marine parks again.

You can even send us a video and tell us why this is your resolution for 2014 and beyond.

As a thank you for speaking up for these imprisoned animals in captivity, we will pick a winner from the entries to receive a special Sea Shepherd prize package!

You can send photos or links to your videos to: nomoretanks@seashepherd.org.
All entries must be received by January 4th, 2014 at 5pm PT.

Spread the word for 2014 and beyond: Captivity kills.

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Abused and abandoned puppy found with hind legs broken

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“OMG…Watch the video…what is wrong with the world, again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not kids that did it…my heart breaks for this precious little angel. I hope those who did it are caught & beaten with plywood or a baseball bat…see how they like it.!! You have no idea how hard it is for me not to type what I really want to type about the scum bag that did this…but then, if your anything like me…hopefully you do, because you would type the same. I will try to get updates on this, or if others get them, please post a copy to me, thanks!!”

SAN ANTONIO—An abused puppy was discovered abandoned in the woods, with both hind legs broken. Animal specialists believe that the dog might have been hit with a baseball bat.

San Antonio Pets Alive, a nonprofit group, is now trying to save the life of the five-month-old Labrador and Shar-Pei mix.

Havana” was found sitting in the woods by a park ranger who brought her to San Antonio Animal Care Services.
When she arrived, she was barely able to move around and had to balance all of her weight on her two front legs.
X-rays revealed that she had two broken knees, and that she will need surgery to correct them. The surgery is expected to cost over $1,000 per leg.
But now, the animal is receiving a second chance at life.
Dr. Susan Isreal with South Texas Veterinary Specialists has agreed to do the surgery pro bono.
Isreal says the bones in Havana’s back legs are severely displaced and have already started to heal incorrectly.
She and her medical team will use pins to correct the problem so that the puppy will be able to go on and have a normal and happy life. Havanah’s surgery is scheduled for Friday morning.

‘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

Deputy put on leave after 2 police dogs die in hot SUV

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A Bexar County Sheriff’s deputy was placed on administrative leave this week after the two police dogs he cared for were left inside a sweltering county vehicle overnight, killing them, authorities said.

Metro daily – Deputy Steve Benoy, left, of the Bexar County Sheriff K9 Unit salutes as he holds his dog Blitz, as taps are played for Andor, badge number 007, who was retired today during a memorial service after passing away June 27, 2007, Friday, July 6, 2007

Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Benoy, who has been with the office for 23 years, is on a 10-day leave while the department investigates the deaths of the two Belgian Malinois. Although authorities said they believe the dogs suffered from apparent heat exhaustion, Animal Care Services is conducting a necropsy.

According to Deputy Chief Ronald “Dale” Bennett, Benoy drove the dogs to his Adkins home, 23 miles east of San Antonio, after he got off work around 2 p.m. Tuesday, just like he did every day.

“He had a routine,” Bennett said.

But Benoy then left town for the night. When he returned home Wednesday, the dogs weren’t where he usually keeps them when at home, Bennett said.

Instead, Benoy found the dogs where he had left them: in a county-owned Chevrolet Tahoe fitted with dog kennels. Animal Care Services was called to retrieve the bodies.

Officials did not immediately release the names and ages of the dogs, but Bennett said one was a narcotics dog and the other was assigned to patrol.

“It’s just a very tragic accident,” Bennett said, adding that Benoy “is completely devastated.”

Benoy, who Bennett said has been a K-9 handler for 13 years and spent 10 years before that on patrol, declined to comment Thursday on the deaths.

The sheriff’s office is conducting dual investigations, one to rule out animal cruelty and the other for administrative purposes. Bennett said a decision on any further action against Benoy won’t be made until the investigation is complete.

“After the 10 days, it depends on what the investigation reveals,” Bennett said, adding that Benoy is “one of my most dedicated guys.”

According to state law, a person could face a charge of animal cruelty if the offense is committed “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.” The charge is a Class A misdemeanor.

Two years ago, a Bexar County K-9 named Duke died of medical complications after he was left in a patrol car for 15 minutes with the air-conditioning running. Duke hadn’t been acting normal earlier in the day, officials said at the time, and his handler was making arrangements to take him to the veterinarian. No charges were brought in that case.

Handlers take their animals home overnight, Bennett said, and the county pays for their kennels. Benoy has other dogs of his own and also raises horses, he said. The county’s policy regarding care requirements for police dogs was not immediately available Thursday.

Sharon Gregory, the executive secretary of the Veterinary Medical Association of Bexar County who also manages a vet clinic, said handlers work with their police dogs during the day and go home together at night.

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Deputy-put-on-leave-after-2-police-dogs-die-in-3737733.php#ixzz229GTB6RZ

San Antonio puppy victim of egregious animal cruelty

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Animal Care Services of San Antonio calls the condition of ten-month-old terrier mix Logan one of the worst cases of animal cruelty they have ever seen. The small dog had been beaten, kicked across the room, and strangled. A good samaritan turned his owner in to the authorities, and now Logan is finally on the road to recovery.

The cruelty towards this small dog had been an ongoing situation, and no medical help was ever given. According to KSAT-12 Antonio, Logan’s veterinarian Dr. Laurie Curd has treated the puppy for a broken leg, pelvic injuries, and bruises all over his tiny body. Two operations have helped his rear legs, and it is hoped that Logan will soon be able to walk again within a few weeks. And despite the injuries and the abuse, Logan’s caretakers state the puppy is bright, friendly, happy and always willing to plant a kiss or two upon someone’s face.

Logan’s owner will be charged with animal cruelty and abuse. There are two types of animal abuse. Canadians for Animal Welfare Reform describes active animal cruelty as the deliberate intent to harm an animal by creating immediate pain and suffering. Passive animal cruelty is classified as willful neglect and results in prolonged suffering.

Statistics related to animal abusers are alarming. An animal abuser is five times more likely to commit violent crimes against humans, and most began as children from some traumatic childhood experience. Experts agree that children can display such conduct disorders by eight-years of age. Why do people abuse animals? Many violent adolescent offenders begin hurting animals to shock people or for their own amusement.

Others see it as an opportunity to enhance their own aggressiveness or retaliation against someone they feel has done them a misdeed or injustice. Still other animal abusers have anger issues or sadistic tendencies. Now that animal abuse is much more publicized in the media, it is up to every person to report any act of violence against any animal immediately to local police or to the local animal control organization.

If you suspect violence, it is your moral and civic duty to report these terrible crimes immediately. Animal Care and Services are asking for donations to help Logan through his ordeal. He should be ready for adoption within a month. If you would like to read more about Logan, you can follow his continuing story on Facebook by clicking here. If you would like to donate, please send your tax deductible contributions to Animal Care Services, c/o the ACS Churchill Fund, 4710 State Highway 151, San Antonio, Texas 78227. Click here for a short video of Logan as presented by KSAT-12 Antonio. Continue reading on Examiner.com San Antonio puppy victim of egregious animal cruelty – National Pet Rescue | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/pet-rescue-in-national/san-antonio-puppy-victim-of-egregious-animal-cruelty#ixzz1qcsY7vH8

San Antonio -Animal Care Services is calling it one of the most horrific cases of animal cruelty they’ve ever seen, after a small dog was severely beaten, leaving him unable to walk.

The 10.5-month-old puppy, named “Logan” by ACS, was said to have been abused over a period of time, and most recently, was kicked, thrown across a room, and strangled.

A good Samaritan alerted ACS about the abuse.Dr. Laurie Curd, a local veterinarian caring for Logan, said the dog sustained broken legs, bruises, and pelvis injuries, which requires surgery on numerous locations on his body.

 

“Considering his first visit with us, he now is bright and friendly and happy,” said Curd. “He gives kisses, and he’s just a wonderful boy who will give someone a great home.”

While ACS tries to find Logan a new home, they say they want to bring awareness to the issue of animal cruelty and mistreatment.

“There are so many people out there that have really bad things, anger issues, and things in their lives,” said Curd. “I think the pets are the form of things that they take it out on.”

A criminal case against the person responsible for abusing Logan is now underway.

Click here for news & video of abused dog

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