A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

SeaWorld vs. OSHA – Day Three

When orcas attack

Kasatka at SeaWorld San Diego

Early in the third day of the hearing, OSHA (the Occupational Safety & Health Administration) showed a 2006 video of trainer Ken Peters being nearly drowned at SeaWorld San Diego by orca Kasatka, who’d been captured off the coast of Iceland in 1978.

Author and journalist David Kirby described the video as being “horrible, scary and long – 10 minutes of attack.” You see Kasatka taking Peters by the foot and dragging him toward the floor of the pool. Then she lets him come to the surface to a grab a breath, and then drags him back down again. There’s little doubt as to the conscious deliberation of what this killer whale is doing. At the end of 10 minutes, and having ignored four sets of attempts by other trainers to distract her, Kasatka lets go of Peters. (Here’s a report from the day it happened.)

Questioned about this event, Chuck Tompkins, corporate curator of zoological operations for the parent company of SeaWorld marine parks, said, “I look at that, and that is a well-trained environment.” He then admitted that Tilikum did not respond to similar attempts on the day Brancheau was killed.

OSHA attorney John Black challenged Tompkins over the internal log that, according to SeaWorld, analyzes every aggression incident over the last 23 years. Black pointed out a number of events that were never included in the incident-report log.

“We missed a few,” Tompkins replied.

Black pointed out that SeaWorld still hasn’t completed an incident report analyzing the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau.

OSHA is still reserving its option to show video of the death of Brancheau. It is said to be gruesome in the extreme, and members of Brancheau’s family are in court at the hearing. If it is shown, it will doubtless quickly find its way into the public domain through the Freedom of Information Act.

Side notes

In her blog at the Seattle Post, Candace Calloway Whiting points out that SeaWorld has a very poor record in hiring people from ethnic minorities. “For whatever reason, you just don’t see black trainers doing water work with killer whales. As a matter of fact, you seldom see anything but pale faces from SeaWorld when cameras are trained on them.”

The Orlando Sentinel challenged the judge’s attempt to ban anyone from publishing direct quotes from the court proceedings. The judge backed down, but then ordered all laptops and other electronic devices to be turned off.

Blackstone, the corporation that owns SeaWorld, saw its stock take a dive yesterday. Here’s the graphic of its activity Monday thru Wednesday:

And last night, Anderson Cooper once again interviewed author and journalist David Kirby, who is attending the hearing:

See also SeaWorld vs. OSHA – Day Two