SeaWorld V. OSHA: Round Two
The continuation of the legal hearing between SeaWorld of Florida and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will recommence on November 15th in Florida, when Sea World will continue to fight against a ruling given by OSHA back in August 2010 that officially reprimanded the marine park for safety violations following the death of a trainer.
OSHA’s citation slapped the company with a willful safety violation--its most severe category--and a $75,000 fine following a six-month investigation into the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau back in February 2010. Media reports of the first week of the hearing and including WDCS’s first–hand accounts of the proceedings indicate that SeaWorld continues to portray its training and safety measures as fool-proof, despite trainer and orca incidents, injuries and fatalities. SeaWorld’s strategy to make the OSHA citation seem unreasonable (regarding its recommended mitigation measures) or inconsistent (targeting just performances, not all trainer-orca interactions) seems to have backfired in the midst of mounting evidence submitted by the OSHA attorneys, and SeaWorld’s orca shows continue to be under fire.
SeaWorld and the treatment of its orcas and trainers are the focus of world attention, and the information that is surfacing as a result of the hearing is astonishing. A forthcoming book about SeaWorld and the history of its orca programs will make its debut on April 24, 2011. New York Times best-selling author David Kirby’s book entitled Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the dark side of killer whales in captivity, although not yet released, was recently nominated by St. Martin’s press for the prestigious 2012 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, which is given out by the Columbia School of Journalism. Death at SeaWorld is touted as “a groundbreaking scientific thriller that exposes the dark side of SeaWorld, America’s most beloved marine mammal theme park” and centers on the public battle with the multimillion-dollar marine park industry over the controversial and even lethal ramifications of keeping killer whales in captivity.
SeaWorld recently announced its largest expansion in the park’s history which WDCS believes underlies its continuing diversification and investment in thrill rides and alternative forms of entertainment in the face of increasing public pressure and scrutiny surrounding the uncertainty of its orca programs. The announcement also indicates that SeaWorld is preparing for trainers to work in the water with the orcas once again.
“The events of this week may determine the future of orca programs at SeaWorld,” said Courtney Vail, program and campaigns manager for WDCS. “Yet media reports suggest the very same attitude displayed by SeaWorld in the first week of the hearing continues—that the hearing is just a formality as they continue to plan for the resumption of in-water interactions with their orcas, in spite of, and in defiance of public concern and OSHA’s investigations”.
The SeaWorld v. OSHA hearing will be held at the same location where proceedings commenced on September 19th. Stay tuned as WDCS provides you updates from the hearing as proceedings continue.
Courtroom No. 1B, first floor
Criminal Justice Center
101 Bush Blvd.
Sanford, FL 32773
WDCS believes it is time to question our culture of cruelty, and calls on the public to be a part of the solution. We are asking the public to walk away from marine parks that depend upon the suffering and confinement of orcas to build their profit margins. WDCS believes that orcas do not belong in captivity and continues to call for the phasing out of orca shows and attractions.