What SeaWorld and "Blackfish" Mean for San Diego
Voice of San Diego
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Attending the debate
- Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist with the D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute; she was a key consultant for "Blackfish" and likely helped craft the so-called Blackfish bill;
- Susan Gray Davis, former UC San Diego professor who wrote a book about SeaWorld San Diego and can speak to local contributions;
- Dr. Todd Robeck, Vice President of theriogenology and is responsible for the company's breeding and reproduction program;
- Kristi Burtis, worked with SeaWorld more than 25 years, supervisor of animal training and is currently a killer whale trainers.
The debate can be seen here
Naomi Rose's review can be seen here
Take note of the admitted things from Seaworld that the 'so called activists' have been saying for years and which Seaworld have said are not true. The Seaworld vet Dr Robeck proves that some of those things stated by Seaworld in recent videos etc are misleading and NOT TRUE.
1. The dorsal fin information they put out WAS misleading it is only 1% of the wild population.
2. From the trainers point of view - only those who have actually been to Seaworld care about those orcas. Seeing them on TV, documentaries etc isn't the same. Tell that to the UK and the majority of countries who don't and wont have them captive!!
3. From Susan - saying the park is educational is AMBIGUOUS the lease says the park has to be educational, but her study shows it is very closely tied to the marketing. Science education experts independant of Seaworld need to do the study again.
Difference between good education and bad. - Good education doesn't lead you to the purchase of products
4. Naomi Rose - Seaworld need to start telling the truth about the impact captivity has on the orca. What they say in the guise of education is just not true.
5. Seaworld vet - She is absolutely right on the dorsal fin collapse. There lifestyle is not the same as they would have in the wild there is NO WAY you can replicate that. It was misleading I'll give you that, you are right it is less than 1% Lie 1 uncovered.
6. Seaworld vet states the dorsal fin is made of cartilage. He is a vet?? The fin is made of collagen.
It is a true physical manifestation of being captive.
7. Seaworld vet produces teeth picture from John Ford, which is of a shark eating killer whale, as we know sharks have skin like sandpaper and the orca's at Seaworld do not eat shark! Type 1 killer whales show significant tooth wear indicating they use the same foraging method, but they are not down to the gum line as Seaworld orca's who don't forage are.
Naomi Rose - this shows captivity as a habitat results in conditions which cause health issues.
See tooth wear of killer whales from Seaworld below, they don't eat sharks and as we see from the trainers feeding them, don't forage either.
|Corky, teeth just about gone.|
|The deterioration of Morgans teeth|
Every Seaworld orca has some issue with their teeth, see here how can that be when Seaworld say they provide superior dental and veterinary care?
|Captive orca chewing concrete|
Lie 2 - Seaworld are not providing superior dental care they are merely dealing with the damage
8. Seaworld vet - their longevity HAS been worse in the past. Statistically I cannot say we are doing better, and produce a graph of an incomplete data set, then produces another showing the wild population are doing better than those at Seaworld, but their longevity has gone up. The graph reflect mortality that shouldn't have occurred.
|This is NOT TRUE as revealed by Seaworld own vet.|
9. Seaworld vet - you can't expect improvement in a few years - it isn't a few years they have had 50 years to get it right and still haven't.
The things Seaworld state orcas in the wild have to endure - pollution, looking for food, predation etc and those orcas out there still outlive Seaworld orca.
Naomi Rose - this is 50 years of work, if they haven't yet equalled the longevity of a well studied wild populations let alone beyond it, they have been given 50 years, no one should give them anymore.
10. Are there any benefits to captivity
Naomi Rose - back in the 60's the situation was grim, they were being shot at it was an eye opener to see them being friendly etc in captivity. When studies were done in the wild they learnt family groups, there weren't thousands of them, only hundreds of them and so on.
There was a value initially, but very rapidly the work in the wild caught up, by the 90's biologists knew there were heavy costs involved with captivity. 20 years on again and a lot of my colleagues are realising it is time to stop this, as 50 years in plenty enough time to decide whether you can do this.
Susan - my study showed it was the Marine Mammal Protection Act that forced Seaworld to produce what it called a research agenda. The MMPA made it that if you applied for a permit to capture or display these animals you needed to show it was for research or education. One of Seaworld's founders was a marine biologist so a small institute called Hubbs was incorporated and after 1972, they expanded the publics aware ness of the institute. The study showed it wasn't a particularly robust research agenda.
Seaworld vet - they have published 50 articles in the last 50 years. Those research publications can be seen here and read like a history of Seaworld, I have tried to explain them all in the link.
Question if Seaworld are studying captive killer whales and people want to preserve wild killer whales how does the research apply.
Seaworld vet- behaviour studies - no direct correlation to wild populations
studies on how they react to the environment do apply
Naomi Rose - the recent Seaworld paper on metabolic rate is a note, not a peer reviewed paper
Seaworld list it on their website as one, the Seaworld vet agreed lie 4 uncovered
Seaworlds website states Studies at SeaWorld have added significantly to the natural history of killer whales the Seaworld vet stated above, no direct correlation to wild populations - lie 5 uncovered
Naomi Rose - Seaworlds research output has been pathetic. She has produced 30 papers in 25 years.
11. Seaworld vet states they have a healthy breeding population of killer whales, have had 29 calves in the past 25 years. Yet the total of animals in the collection is only 29.
12 Seaworld Shows - Quote from OSHA v Seaworld case after Dawn Brancheau's death
Its 20/20 hindsight engaged by the government how a company cannot continue to offer its product, its like if the government came in and told the NFL that close contact was banned.
Seaworld trainer response - we rescue 23000 animals that was due to human cause things like not enough fish in the ocean, pollutions, trauma. Because we have animals in our care we know how to better care for them. There is a great benefit to what we do. (WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THE QUESTION ON SHOWS) Because we have close contact we can gain measurements etc.
13. Q Explain the relationship you have with them - how can they make a choice or make relationships or friends with you, are they thinking feeling beings behind the glass?
Seaworld trainer - Absolutely, I can ask a killer whale do do something and it chooses whether to do it or not. Relationships as we only know human relationships, I would call it a trust and respect.
Like a dog? - yes absolutely.
When Blackfish say they are even more sensitive than humans, they may even have more cognitive thought what is wrong with that, what are they missing when they say that?
Its a difficult question, you are trying to compare animals with humans and its the only thing we have to compare.
Vet - its a tough question they are intelligent wonderful creatures, are they going to be flying jet aircraft next week, No, they are intelligent animals and deserve respect.
Back to the show riding a killer whale etc why is that so important? Why is an attorney fighting so hard to have the trainers in the water during a show, Why is that so important?
Seaworld trainer - I'm not saying its important, its one way we interact with these killer whales. This is how the public experience the killer whales. You don't see the work that Dr Roebeck does, you don't see the learning, the husbandry all the things that take place behind the scenes. The shows are what you know, its exciting, its one way we interact with them. People ask how do you get a job, its inspiring.
Susan - I think they are the key to the brand. It subtlety shows people in charge of the animals. Its done in a skillful artful way but that is what people are seeing. It is interesting to see that the trainers haven't been in the water since the OSHA decision and it shows that this brand can be forced to change.
To Seaworld vet - has there been any change, has it had an effect on the animals.
Seaworld vet - NO but they are used to that and its something the whales want. You can see that with Keiko, he grew up with dolphins and no other killer whales and the interaction was everything to him. I was talking to a trainer from Oregon his favourite game was to tip a raft. This bond is very important to them and to take it away, I can't read their mind and there are no changes in health parameters but it must have an effect.
Naomi Rose the fact they come up to Christie (Seaworld trainer) and ask how do I get your job proves they are selling a product and that product is the bond that is exactly what the OSHA attorney said. They are not selling conservation and protection of these whales but a purely captive element. The bond is clearly real they are intelligent social animals, BUT that isn't what they are supposed to be doing.
Having to watch a show in order to get inspired about conservation is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Clinging to an old business model is not innovative.
Seaworld vet - the shows do inspire you. We are always looking to improve our shows and if you have ideas that are constructive we are always welcome to hear them.
Shouldn't they be looking at ways to improve the lives of those orcas not the shows?
Susan - the shows allow people to have feelings about the animals, sometimes those feelings aren't always controllable sometimes they turn into a feeling that the animals shouldn't be in captivity.
Seaworld vet - I agree 100% everybody here all care about these animals but we have different opinions on what is good for them or not. Seaworld is effective and creating a connection and we are not trying to control it one way or another. Everyone is energised not because of people shooting them with machine guns but because they were brought and we were all able to see them inspire us for the future.
Although Seaworld had to keep being dragged back to the show question, their vet stated that the lack of waterworks since 2010 has had NO effect on the health parameters of those orcas what so ever.
14. Regarding the bill being passed
Naomi Rose - one of the members at the hearing said there is no reason it cannot be passed, there are seapens in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, there are seapens all around the world for dolphins. The engineering principles are established, and there is no logistical reason why they can't exist.
The main focus of the bill wasn't about seapens it was about stopping the breeding programme, and phasing the animals out. I honestly believe it would be better for their wellbeing to have more space and be in natural sea water, and be in a natural environment, but still enclosed and still receiving human care as it is very clear many of these animals will never be able to return to the open ocean.
Would they survive a seapen?
Naomi Rose, I will regret this but Keiko survived a return to a seapen. The reason I say I regret this is bringing it up in this environment as people out there are saying I am responsible for killing Keiko. He made that transfer to the seapen without any problems at all.
Seaworld vet - we are not interested in seapens, one of the persons who worked with Keiko claims when the seapens move the pier would become unstable, they had to use daily adjustments to get the sea pens to stay in place, there is a huge amount of noise (what about fireworks and music? ) This is what Mark (Simmonds the ocean embassy dolphin catcher) like water torture, squeaking, grinding etc, we had to switch the hydrophone off as it drove us crazy. Seapens have their own problems with noise reverberating off the bottom, boats, pollution and hurricane. (Things wild orca experience every day lol)
Naomi Rose - I do hope you take those concerns to the US Navy and tell them these are the concerns you have for their facility in San Diego. They have 70 dolphins there in a sea pen right in the middle of a shipping lane, with traffic in and out of San Diego harbour.
Seaworld vet - as soon as the US Navy get killer whales we will have that discussion.
Naomi Rose - they have dolphins
Seaworld vet - I thought we were here about killer whales.
Yet Seaworld profess to advocate for the care of animals.
15. Question - are moms and calves separated?
Seaworld vet - we don't move dependent calves
At what point are they dependant
Seaworld Vet - when they are not nursing or requiring them mom for their health and well being. Wild do stay together for life but that is not the case for all eco types.
States seaworld orca are type 1 yet gives a quote for transients and off shores. Why give them as an example because it shows these animals have an ability to adapt. Our habitat is a different environment again and they adapt well. See website here
Lie 6 - yes we do separate moms and calves
|Lie - they do as confirmed by their own vet.|
Naomi Rose studied resident and transient, transients separate about 10 years old, but do periodically reunite as they always have that mother and calf bond. They don't live right by their sides as residents do but they do have lifelong bonds. Seaworld have no transients in their tanks now, Kanduke being the last.
Given that captivity is another habitat I fail to understand why extra effort isn't made to accomodate a natural history pattern that is apparent in several different eco types. It would be an enormous step forward in improving their welfare. Its cruel.
Seaworld vet - an assumption is being made that we don't respect the bond we don't move calves but we do move juveniles, there has been 12, this is what we have done and our animals are doing quite well.
Naomi Rose A specific animal Skyla - what was the criteria you used when you sent Skyla to Loro Parque she was less than 2.
Audience - she was more than 2 - (SHE WAS ACTUALLY 2 YEARS AND 3 DAYS OLD.)
6 of Seaworld killer whales were moved between 2 and 4 years old.
Seaworld vet - I don't believe what you say but I can't dispute it. What I can say is the animals are doing quite well. Why do wild orca stay together, why do they do that - because they co ordinate food activity, (they could do that with a group of strangers)
Naomi Rose - Kohana - sent very young to Loro Parque - she was bred twice and rejected both calves, one of which is now dead, one hand raised. Was that appropriate that she had no adult female to supervise her or mentor her?
Seaworld vet - she was around other calves and we have had mothers younger than her raise calves, (she was 8 when she gave birth). Yes that did happen, was it ideal ABSOLUTELY NOT, but due to our expertise in raising rejected calves we were able to get that calf through that moment and one of them is alive today.
Lie 7 - why would we do that? Killer whales have approx 17month gestation, Kohana gave birth in Loro Parque at 8 years old, she was not pregnant before she left the USA
Lie 7 why would you work for a park that just shot itself in the foot and admitted that YOU DO DO THAT??
16 Seaworld jobs - What about the people who depend on Seaworld for jobs. If the loss of the orca shows meant the demise of Seaworld could you look them in the face and say it was worth it.
Naomi Rose - I am proposing an evolution in their business model, I don't see why they should go out of business. If they stopped the breeding programme they would still have these animals for another 30-40 years by Seaworld calculations. Monteray Bay Aquarium is one of the most successful in California and it has NO marine mammals.
Seaworld won't know until they try. Marineworld Africa USA still successful but don't have killer whales anymore.
Q. Seaworld has an agreement with the city that at least 75% of their exhibits need to be animal or conservation related.
Naomi Rose - and there would be no way of renegotiating that?
Maybe but would Seaworld be interested??
Seaworld vet - Lets talk about the breeding programme - its a very import part of their lives, to interact with juveniles, its one of the instincts all animals possess.
We have a thriving population that is breeding successfully.
Naomi Rose - I would dispute that but Ok talk
It is a model, this population is the only one that can provide information and benefit those in the wild. As Dr Rose mentioned the wild is not pretty. Right now they are collecting feces from killer whales in the wild wouldn't it be great to be able to collect it every day and compare it to the wild. Stopping the breeding programme would be a huge mistake. Second of all Seaworld is not interested in changing the model of killer whales in San Diego or anywhere else period.
We are open to suggestions to improve what we do but not open to suggestions that are not constructive.
Naomi Rose - and that answers your previous question.(It certainly does Seaworld ARE NOT open to changing anything to improve the lives of those orca, preferring the shows)
17. Q Dr Rose how hopeful are yo that the live marine mammal shows will be banned in California within the next 10 years - summed up as - what is going on with AB2140.
The bill was referred for interim study, it is going to be reintroduced next session. The interim study has already begun. It is my firm belief that the committee who participated in April up to that point their main point of reference was a film, a documentary Blackfish, and they want to understand the issues better, they want to have more basis, more foundation for any vote they take and I was very much in support of that so this interim study is very important.
Lie 8 - the bill was not thrown out or buried, it wasn't a win for Seaworld as many stated.
18. When we wrote about this issue many said ' why not let the market decide'.
Naomi Rose - that is fair enough and I believe the market will decide. I would hope it doesn't take 10-15 years as I believe the animals are suffering now. The 54 killer whales currently in captivity are suffering now, and sea pens with human care would be a vast improvement.
Seaworld vet declined to comment - stating move on
19. Hasn't the killing of trainers proved that these creatures suffer psychological harm in captivity.
Seaworld trainer - Absolutely not, we are working with large animals, there is inherent risk working with any animal
Q So people shouldn't be concerned that this will happen again?
Seaworld trainer - Of course but we have had millions of interactions with these animals that have been safe, so unfortunately there have been some incidents and we are learning from those and hopefully our safety practices will continue to improve.
Seaworld vet - lets put it in perspective there are approx 20 people per year killed by cattle, 50000 incidents per year with horses, working with large animals is inherently dangerous everyone knows that.
They sign up for the job, its a choice we all make when we ride our horses.
So its the trainers fault for signing up if they happen to get killed??
Naomi Rose - the failure rate, or mortality rate if you like, is greater than we as a population accept for cars.
Seaworld vet - I'm not a mechanic I am a vet
We have 1.6 million interactions and 7 that required outside care. Lie 9 there are at least 11 incidents logged on here requiring hospitalization or worse.
Then there is this one too, another lucky to be alive. Although Orky was not in a Seaworld park at the time he was then bought for their breeding programme. What reputable breeder breeds an animal with a history of killing, yet Seaworld have done it over and over?
This is a voluntary job, people sign up for it and it is inherently dangerous, at some point we have to take responsibility for the risks we assume on ourselves, we cant go around having people tell us, we can't ride a horse, we can't work we cattle, we can't have a dog, we can't have a python. Whatever you want to restrict us on this is a choice and all the information is there that people make every day.
Seaworld seem to be missing the point that riding a horse is a choice, in business the business owner has a responsibility to ensure staff safety and welfare, what ever the business model is, that was the basis for the OSHA hearing, the training looking for precursors failed, in many cases there were none and as a business safety is their responsibility.
20. for Christie Seaworld trainer, you mention that the killer whales have a choice please discuss what happens if killer whales decide not to perform.
Seaworld trainer - One of the things we have learned is how to communicate when behaviours are incorrect, we have hand signals to communicate a particular behaviour if they decide not to participate they simply won't engage in that behaviour over the years and because of our experts we have learnt that pausing for a few seconds we call it an LRS least reinforcing scenario, communicating to the animals they are incorrect, but with the killer whales we reinforce them on a high ratio for accepting the failure. We know as humans failure is a great way to learn if we reinforce the animals for not participating, they will learn hey I am just going to hang out. Most of them do participate but if they choose not to we pause for 2 or 3 seconds and move on.
As part of our job we know each individual animal and we are trained to look at the group, and look at the social dynamics and determine, was it a failure on our communication part, is there something going on in the group, sometimes we bring animals out into a show and they don't participate at all, we interact and hang out with the animal, lining them up, rubbing them down, interacting with them out in a show environment. One of the ways we can vary what we do with them.
Q one of the things said is if they don't participate they don't eat.
Seaworld trainer - well thats not true
Seaworld vet - I would be the first to stand up and say that isn't acceptable, they have a minimum base for their nutrition, they get their base every day, whether they participate or not.
Q - so reinforcement isn't food.
Seaworld trainer - its not just food, food is one thing, most people don't know we feed them all their food in that interaction, then interact with them in a show, as trainers we are very creative we have such bonds with these animals we don't need the food, so for those of you who think we are training based on food, forget it, food has a very low reinforcing property, it loses its reward very quickly.
Seaworld vet - they get their food no matter what and they are intelligent animals, we have to be smart enough to make it fun for them, otherwise they choose not to participate, its that simple. Its a good opportunity to clarify that issue.
VOSD - when you see them being fed, you wonder how else does it happen.
21. Why is this issue such a big deal?
Naomi Rose - thats a really good question, first of all, there is an ethical question here, I do not want to take away 10's of thousands of jobs, but if those jobs are based on a practice I find unethical I think as a society we should work to figure out other ways to interpret those jobs.
Secondly - why is it so important as in the case of orca's we are only talking about 54 animals, but as said early 24 million visitors visit Seaworld, and 180 million visit Aquariums every year. Thats a lot of people getting everything they know from this source, which from my perspective as a scientist is giving out biased and incorrect information, so if you are trying to tell people the truth about what needs to be done in the wild and about conservation based on lies you are telling a lie and they are not going to learn what they need to learn to care about these animals habitat. They are going to think that by going to Seaworld they have given up the office, I just spent $84 today to get in the gate as its my job and I am being told that the money is going to conservation and its actually not because its a for profit corporation and they have shareholders to be concerned about.
We got that data right - in a state assembly committee hearing the Seaworld San Diego president said they had spent $750000 dollars on its animal rescue programme in 2013 and that pencils out at 0.05% of the companies total revenue. However that does not incorporate other things Seaworld does and they will not release that information, they say because they are publicly traded.
Lie 10, this is true despite Seaworld saying it isn't.
Seaworld vet - I want to comment about your ethical question, just because you disagree ethically doesn't mean society has to change, we all have different opinions and society is an amalgamation of many different opinions. Often the majority rules
Naomi Rose - the market will speak
Seaworld vet - when people know the truth that our animals are thriving and doing well and the benefits they can provide to wild animals they are going to be as excited about them as I am and thats my opinion.
Back to the issue of conservation - Seaworld has had 5 different owners since 1989, it hasn't had the continuum, but as a veterinarian every single time we have needed money to do something to buy facilities or go save an animal, anything animal related there has never been an issue.
Naomi Rose - I think its really great that this issue is being discussed. I have been doing this for over 20 years and this just would not have happened 15 years ago even 10 years ago, so its a sign of progress just being on this stage and I am very pleased about that. I do believe the market will speak and as I said to you Scott I just hope it doesn't take that long. Market forces are slow, and I honestly think the animals need help now, so I just hope the market works fast enough so we can all work constructively work towards an evolved business model.
Susan - I have one take away. I believe the animal rights movement has really changed and grown and gotten stronger in the last couple of decades and I have been very struck by the outspokenness of these issues I think thats very interesting and very noteable.
The second thing I would like to say is brands change, brands have changed over time and brands can also be hurt and be vunerable. For example Walmart and McDonalds have been taking it on the chin for paying such low and anti union wages, the same thing is not untrue of Seaworld in the vunerability of its brand and its anti union and low wage status as well for many of the people who work there. When brands dont jive with reality thats when they become vunerable.
Christie Seaworld trainer - Well as I said for the last 26 years I have actually been caring for animals at Seaworld, Ive rescued, Ive rehabilitated, Ive given up a lot in my life to help Seaworlds mission and I can't tell you strongly enough, they have inspired me as a person and my goal every single day is to connect with people so they can help the wild population. I meet people every single day and what strikes me most is the kids, and I think there is one aspect to having animals at Seaworld that we haven't covered today and that is they do connect with kids and I tell you I just got a visit the other day, I won't tell you her name. I met her 4 years ago and randomly asked her if she wanted to come meet a dolphin she was about 4 years old and after the interaction her mother grabbed my arm and said 'how did you know' I said how did I know what? This little girl is in foster care she has been abused multiple ways she's never been made to feel special, I've never seen her smile and I can't believe how much interaction she had with those animals. This shows the power these animals have to create something in this childs life she never had. Shes 8 years old now they come every year to see me and say hello and she's a well adjusted little girl. Its not because of me its because of those animals, they make a difference not just in my life, not just kids but everybody out there.
( how do the abused children say in the UK where there are no captive mammals go on then? They too turn out to be well adjusted kids, it has absolutely nothing to do with the power of those animals and everything to do with realising that the person who abused her is bad, not all people abuse or hurt, the problem is with the abuser. I personally think that is a sick example and an insult to abused children worldwide if she seriously thinks that those dolphins aided in her recovery).
Seaworld vet - I think its important to understand that everybody who works with these animals, (crying) on a daily basis, sorry I am getting emotional, we dedicate our lives to them. We are truly the advocates of these animals, everyone that works there is dedicated to them. Dr Rose does too we just have a difference of opinion. Everybody that works at Seaworld is an advocate for that animal who is a part of their family and these animals are doing well, and I guarantee you that if they weren't doing well you would have a mass exodus of veterinarians, animal trainers, activists, they would be with Dr Rose, but they're not.
The reason I am getting emotional is I am thinking about my son who was born 9 weeks ago and I would rather be there with him but I chose to come here, and the thought of him not being able to have the experiences I had, the emotion, the connection, its horrible. Seaworld is very important for the lives of the next generation, they are very important to keep this connection up, its incredibly important for the wild animals and if we can do a better job getting the message across, we will take advice, but we will continue to improve, and invest in our facilities and continue to make Seaworld the best place to go to have experiences with these animals.
Some of the twitter comments to the #Seaworldchat link show the public feeling from the debate.
Ah, I'm sorry
Ah, the old 'animal ambassadors make people care' line. Explain the UK. No captive dolphins. Explain dinosaurs.
so basically SeaWorld, for us to care about animals it is imperative that we first capture, confine and be entertained by them
DR. NAOMI ROSE KICKED SLAVEWORLD'S PROFITING AND LYING ASSES! VICTORY FOR THE REAL TRUTH TEAM!
I am so embarrassed for the two Seaworld representatives. Damn. Do they realize this is being recorded?
It's so sad that
the orca trainer contributed very little to the discussion I felt
Since they haven't got a leg to stand on,
Take home from debate? Anti-cap arguments grounded in science whereas
Most of the comments seem to run along the same lines, with many people upset by the child being used as an example, the fact that the likes of the UK have no captive orcas so Seaworld using the same argument over and over that they have to be seen in a captive facility to inspire people to preserve and care for them is really rubbing people the wrong way.
Seaworld made it very clear they are not prepared to move to seapens so we all know that a fight will have to be pursued.
I personally think this example shows a win win for all. No lost revenue for Seaworld, none of the issues Seaworld say Mark Simmons states about Keiko's release and more importantly a much better as near as natural as possible environment for those orcas, where people can actually learn from some of the natural behaviours those orcas will perform and the orca will not miss out on the human bonds they have created.
What do you think?