SeaWorld loses appeal in OSHA whale proximity case

Posted Monday, April 14, 2014 8:43 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a regulatory safety finding against SeaWorld in the drowning of a trainer who was pulled under by a killer whale at the theme park. In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court said SeaWorld’s challenge to the finding was unpersuasive and that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission was correct when it found that the SeaWorld park in Orlando, Fla., had violated a federal workplace safety law.

Read more from The Washington Post.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 9:04 AM

I totally agree with the dissenting judge here. Some occupations have inherent risk around them, and the government is not an expert in evaluating these situations. Working with animals can be inherently dangerous, and it's a risk that the trainers are aware of. If they can appeal further, I hope they do.

Disclaimer: I work on a contract basis for SeaWorld Parks, but have nothing to do with zoological operations. This is solely my opinion.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 10:26 AM

While the movie Blackfish is prob over done, it still bothered me that these animals were taken from families, so the whole concept of SeaWorld and Zoos has always bothered me. I grew up watching Born Free and cried as a kid watching the Lions being trained to go back into the wild instead of a zoo. Animal trainers, skydivers, race car drivers, professional atheltes equals what Jeff said, there are dangers in some professions.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 12:40 PM

Except that most (if not all) of the current Orcas at the parks were born in captivity. How would they train an animal to live in the wild?

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Monday, April 14, 2014 4:23 PM

You're most likely right, Jason. I have often wonder when was the last time they actually removed an Orca from the wild. I willing to bet a long time ago.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 4:51 PM

SeaWorld hasn't removed an orca from the wild in more than 35yrs. Only 10 of SeaWorld's current collection are wild born. Of those, only 2 were removed from the wild by an expedition commissioned by the SeaWorld owners of the 1970's. Their other 8 wild born orcas were acquired or rescued from former marine parks that were no longer able to provide care for various reasons.

I believe SeaWorld has 28 orcas all together with 23 living withing the 3 U.S parks.

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Monday, April 14, 2014 10:57 PM

One has to ask, does this set precedence then for other animal shows? The next time a tiger, snake, walrus, sea lion, elephant, alligator, etc. bites or injures a trainer during a performance, is that automatically the end of that too?

For me, it just seems like common sense that any time working with an animal there is always inherent risk involved. I would say 99% of animal trainers acknowledge and respect this fact while assuming there is never going to be 100% safe. Clearly it is in the best interest of a company to do everything to minimize that risk, for the most part I think SeaWorld has done that as they learn from incidents that occur with any of their animals....let's face it, if every week a trainer was injured SeaWorld would be out of business.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 1:04 AM

mlnem4s said:

For me, it just seems like common sense...

Well, there's your problem.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 5:52 PM

I'd be willing to bet more athletes have died of professional sports injuries than animal trainers have died from their profession. We KNOW more soldiers have died. Will the court system put an end to those professions?

It is ludicrous, really.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 8:52 PM

Not to mention that SeaWorld does more good for animals than every bleeding heart that posts their latest blurb about Blackfish and the evils of the corporation. Combined. In one hour.

On a related note, we spent over a decade living in Columbus, and I had quite a few friends who worked at the Columbus Zoo (impressive, even if you find zoos dull...worth a visit). From the aquarium, to the elephants, to the big cats, I had a chance to take more than a few sneak peaks behind the scenes, and I have rarely witnessed people so passionate about their jobs, and their level of love and care for the animals far exceeded every individual I have ever known who whines about the cruelty of zoos and places like SeaWorld.

In a sad twist of reality, the SeaWorld trainer's death is being used politically and financially in a manner that I am certain she would cringe at, to say the least.

Last edited by OhioStater, Wednesday, April 16, 2014 6:45 AM
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Friday, April 18, 2014 5:48 PM

OhioStater said:

In a sad twist of reality, the SeaWorld trainer's death is being used politically and financially in a manner that I am certain she would cringe at, to say the least.

What's extra sad is that Dawn's family made a recent statement about how they feel that the trainers are all just this passionate about their jobs and that they weren't happy with the way things were portrayed in the doc. Makes you wonder.

I'm curious to see how this is going to affect the future of the parks, too. While I get that there have to be some safety regulations brought in, can that be done with proximity rules? I dunno. Thinking out loud, mostly, but...

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Friday, April 18, 2014 6:22 PM

I think the term "documentary" might be granting excess credibility.

From what I've seen from those featured in the movie (in statements made after its release), the term "hit piece" seems more appropriate.

Last edited by rollergator, Friday, April 18, 2014 6:22 PM
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014 12:16 PM

rollergator said:

I think the term "documentary" might be granting excess credibility.

From what I've seen from those featured in the movie (in statements made after its release), the term "hit piece" seems more appropriate.

Yeah, I've yet to make myself sit down to watch it. Something tells me it would piss me off, and not for the same reasons everyone else was. i've heard it's a giant piece of crap.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014 12:43 PM

I haven't watched it for the same reasons, and also because I'm kind of boycotting it...and I generally don't boycott things. But mostly because I have very little interest in watching alleged inaccuracies about a park chain I have yet to visit, and because...well...I'm not really a whale sympathist. Unless maybe they're truly being mistreated. Captivity ≠ mistreatment.

Last edited by Vater, Tuesday, April 22, 2014 12:46 PM
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