Two years after the premiere of Blackfish and five years after a captive orca killed his trainer during a performance, SeaWorld is still sputtering along, somehow. Although attendance has fallen by 4.2 percent and shares are down 40 percent, its parks still brought in 22.4 million visitors last year and the company is in the middle of a rebranding push. That’s why—for those of us who don’t want to live in a world where a species whose breathtaking intellectual capacity we are only beginning to understand are abused and driven insane on behalf of the hot dog-wielding masses—this latest development is so important: SeaWorld has been hit by three class-action lawsuits in less than a month, The Guardian reports; the most recent suit demands that SeaWorld be upfront with the public about the miserable, life-threatening conditions of its performing orcas.
San Francisco residents Mark Anderson and Ellexa Conway, both former visitors to the San Diego park, are seeking a court order requiring SeaWorld “to cease making false statements about the health and welfare of the orcas and to make a factual public statement about the orcas, refuting previous false claims.”
Earth Island Institute, based in Berkeley, California, is described as the “driving force” behind the class action suit; Anderson and Conway will be standing as representatives of the general public. Mark Palmer, assistant director of the Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, told the Guardian: “We want to force SeaWorld to tell the truth.”
Two other class action lawsuits have been filed recently, both also claiming that the company misled visitors about the conditions of the orcas. These lawsuits, however, are seeking refunds on behalf of millions. The first lawsuit, filed in California, targets all three SeaWorld locations (in San Diego, San Antonio, and Orlando); the second targets the Florida park.
The plaintiff for the Florida lawsuit is Joyce Kohl, who is looking to get her money back (roughly $100) after a 2013 visit—and the money of all visitors to SeaWorld Florida over the past four years, which could cost the company billions. Kohl’s suit details the orcas’ horrifying living conditions, which she was unaware of when she visited the park: that the whales swim in chlorine solution “many times stronger than household bleach”; that they’re forced to roast in the sun in pools as shallow as 8 feet only to have their sunburns covered by black zinc oxide; that they’re deprived of food for days and even weeks in the name of training; that they’re forced into incestuous breeding arrangements and kept in close quarters that spur violence and injuries.
SeaWorld hasn’t responded to the latest suit, which was filed today, but made a statement following the previous lawsuit claiming it “appears to be an attempt by animal right extremists to use the courts to advance an anti-zoo agenda,” and that “the suit is baseless, filled with inaccuracies, and SeaWorld intends to defend itself against these inaccurate claims.” They’ve also recently started airing a new commercial, in which an animal rescue staffer says, rather jauntily, “we don’t collect killer whales from the wild, and we haven’t for 35 years.”
Image via Associated Press
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