Friday, November 21, 2014

Businessweek Article Exposes that SeaWorld Lied in Federal Court

There were interesting revelations in Atchison's article with Businessweek
In this interview with Bloomberg
Businessweek, SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison not only reinforced the notion that SeaWorld management is inept, see Dodo's take-down, here, the article inadvertently demonstrated that Kelly Flaherty Clark, curator of animal training, lied under oath in a federal courtroom in 2011. 

First, as depicted in the OSHA v SeaWorld courtroom scene in the documentary film, Blackfish, SeaWorld lawyer Carla Gunnin questions curator of animal training, Kelly Flaherty Clark regarding the connection between SeaWorld & Loro Parque. See 1:56 in the Blackfish trailer: 

As a reminder, this trial was national headline news, heavily attended, and widely followed. It began on Monday, September 19, 2011, lasting about two weeks, total. It was held at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, FL, USA, with Federal Judge Ken S. Welsch presiding.  John Jett PhD and I were subpoenaed by Judge Welsch. You can view my subpoena, here

[The fascinating court transcript, filled with SeaWorld "whoopers," can be found & downloaded here. The exchange reported below is on page 133]


SW ATTORNEY:  Ms. Clark, I just have one more question for you. You mentioned something about Loro Parque, and I just want to clarify for the Judge. Is that a park owned by SeaWorld in any way? 
CURATOR KELLY F. CLARK:  No, it is not. 
SW ATTORNEY:  Are they affiliated to your knowledge with SeaWorld? 
SW ATTORNEY: That's all I have.

Article by @TheBattWoman on Loro Paque: Incident report into park trainer's death raises concerns

For the record, curator Clark and Dawn Brancheau were close friends. In this article & video (60 Minutes Australia) they were described as "best friends."  Kelly was also Dawn Brancheau's boss, and sent her to Loro Parque. Relevant because Gunnin adds the phrase, "to your knowledge," which is a potential back-door out. 

The bottom line is that Kelly Clark had demonstrable knowledge of the association between SeaWorld and Loro Parque, as well as of her "best friend," whom she sent there to help train the SeaWorld killer whales; and also to help train the Spanish trainers. Thus, the phrase, "to your knowledge" doesn't provide her with an out. 

She knew.

This photograph demonstrates the connection of SeaWorld & Loro Parque. 

Next, because it was the SeaWorld attorney, questioning her own witness, it demonstrates a tactic. One that was planned and designed to separate SeaWorld, legally, from it's relationship with Loro Parque, and culpability in the death of Alexis Martinez. [Note: This is where the article comes into play]. 

Bloomberg Businessweek:  Saving SeaWord article

Paragraph Two: Atchison and his team have dealt with fallout from Blackfish, the documentary that shed unwelcome light on the lives of SeaWorld’s most valuable assets, the 29 four- to six-ton killer whales, or orcas, kept and trained at parks it owns or helps manage.   [Emphasis added]

Paragraph Nineteen:

"SeaWorld hasn’t participated in capturing wild orcas since the practice was banned in 1972Of the 29 whales it manages, five were captured—including Tilikum     [Emphasis added]

Those statements confirm three things. First, that SeaWorld helps manage Loro Parque, proving that Kelly Flaherty Clark made a "bold-faced lie" under oath, and as demonstrated in the movie Blackfish. Secondly, that SeaWorld considers the 29th orca in its collection, Morgan, a company "asset." And thirdly, that Atchison lied regarding when SeaWorld stopped capturing orcas. In the chart below, note that Morgan was wild caught in June of 2010. And also note, here on CNN, this week, that former SeaWorld collector, Jeff Foster, describes capturing orcas for SeaWorld well into the 1980's.  [Warning, video below contains graphic footage]

See chart below, which was provided by WDC and can be downloaded here.   

Name of orca
Capture or birth date

SeaWorld California
1.   Corky 2
Wild caught, 12/1969
2.     Kasatka
Wild caught, 10/1978
3.     Ulises
Wild caught, 11/1980
4.      Orkid
5.      Nakai
6.       Kalia
7.      Ikaika
8.   Shouka
9.         Keet

10.    Makani

SeaWorld Florida
11.      Katina
Wild caught, 10/1978
12.     Tilikum
Wild caught, 11/1983
13.        Kayla
14.          Trua
15.       Nalani
16.         Malia
17.      Makaio

SeaWorld Texas
18.       Takara
19.     Kyuquot
20.           Unna
21.            Tuar
22.          Sakari
23.         Kamea


Loro Parque
24.      Keto
25.    Tekoa
26.  Kohana
27.     Skyla
28       Adan
29.  Morgan
Wild caught, 06/2010

Perhaps these "bold faced lies" will be of interest to the Rosen Law Firm, which has filed a class action suit against Atchison, Blackstone, & other SeaWorld management. In it the suit questions the company's credibility and asserts that SeaWorld misrepresented its value, ripped off investors, and covered up its cruel practices with killer whales. 

Based on personal experiences, this is nothing new for SeaWorld. 


Jeffrey Ventre is a medical doctor licensed in the state of Washington and is a board certified specialist in the area of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Jeff was a marine mammal trainer at SeaWorld from 1987 to 1995. He worked with John Jett PhD, Samantha Berg, and Carol Ray, at SeaWorld in Orlando (as well as Kelly Clark & Dawn Brancheau). The four ex trainers continue to spread the word regarding cetacean captivity as a group known as "Voice of the Orcas."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Cure For Toxic SeaWorld is Blackfish Bill AB-2140

Amidst the Blackfish backlash, toxic SeaWorld throws a bone to California politicians and Wall Street

Instead of responding to public pressure & collapsing stock, SeaWorld doubles down on captivity. In lieu of taking the proverbial high road  (phasing out shows, placing its female killer whales on oral contraception, & leading the way on coastal sanctuaries)  SeaWorld pompously announces more captivity, more pools, more breeding, and international expansion. 


What just happened & what can the Animal Justice / Blackfish Movement do about it? 
(Hint: AB-2140 & more Blackfish)

All Eyes on California

The proposed Blue World Project is a media play. Plain & simple. 

[Rolled out to a live audience with a suspenseful unveiling, complete with rumors planted the day before, & some ball-park figures provided to Wall Street. It was a spectacle]

Back to reality, there isn't much information on how the proposed "Blue World Project" would impact the Mission Bay ecosystem. As recently as 2012, SeaWorld was cited & fined for polluting it. Subsequently, its hard to believe that SeaWorld can begin digging a massive hole on city property, with additional water treatment equipment, without due process. This would include environmental impact studies and approvals from regulatory agencies including the California Coastal Commission and the city itself. SeaWorld leases the land from San Diego. Check out this excerpt from Frank Gormlie of the  San Diego Free Press 23 October 2012:

SeaWorld is not just any corporate entity. Outside of the thousands of birds crapping in the water, one of the biggest polluters of Mission Bay is SeaWorld itself. Just earlier this year, SeaWorld was fined $6,000 for dumping excessive ammonia and animal waste into the Bay. (See Fox5 video here and “SeaWorld Cited for Exceeding Mission Bay Effluent Limits” in an article by Matt Potter, March 20, 2012 in the San Diego Reader.) 
SeaWorld is the largest discharger of water into the Bay and has been a known polluter of the body of water, as the bay has been on California’s list of impaired water bodies for several years as it does not meet the Clean Water Act standards.

A large proposal that will likely require city & regulatory approval 
Next, note the relatively long timeline for implementation, and also how it will happen one park at a time. This gives the #SeaCircus plenty of wiggle room and lowers risk. 

If AB-2140 passes, the San Diego "Blackfish puppy-mill idea" will likely evaporate, as breeding captive killer whales would then be illegal. Faced with that, SeaWorld could halt the plans, or even shift the project to Orlando, a site that makes more sense, once you remove the politics. I discuss this in a moment.  

Artificial insemination into a young female with ungloved hand
In general, company officials have made it clear that expanding the breeding program is a big reason for the proposed addition. In regard to its business model, which includes the unethical 
artificial insemination (AI) of unnaturally young female killer whales, CEO Jim Atchinson told The Today Show earlier this week...
“We make no apologies for what we do and how we do it.” (SeaWorld)

Here's the deal:  SeaWorld is banking that this gesture will win it votes in the California legislature, and don't expect quick action. I predict major construction on Blue World (at least in San Diego) will not begin until after a final vote on AB-2140 is counted. The company may stage a "ground breaking ceremony" for the press. But one shovel-load does not dig you a 50 foot pool with added water treatment capability, plumbing & an "orca treadmill."

Hence, all eyes on California!

Assemblyman Richard Bloom needs help from a growing coalition of concerned citizens. Consider following Mr. Bloom, and spreading the word about AB-2140. These are live Tweets, from him:  

More Blackfish Leads to a Broader Community

The Blackfish Effect will continue to happen. Intermittent airings by CNN, stellar sales at Amazon for the DVD, and availability at Netflix & Red Box continues to bring aboard more and more people that wish to end captivity. Some fine folks hope for the right of "bodily liberty" for "non human persons." These awakened friends add to a growing army of regular people that seek justice for killer whales, an end to poaching, sensible regulation of farms, and more oversight for corporations.

SeaWorld is worried, and they should be, because a critical mass of informed consumers has been achieved, with backlash coming from people & students from all walks of life, as well as from both sides of the political aisle. For us, as a community, its time to craft the transformational political change we need, and that involves taking on a corporation at the ballot box. The Blackfish Effect needs to be converted into political action. That is happening, and please tell your friends. 

The animal justice movement is growing with each airing of Blackfish. Thank you Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and producer Manny Oteyza

"Once you see it, you cannot un-see it." 

True. Blackfish is a one-way door, a gateway, and a powerful tool. SeaWorld is currently caught in the "Blackfish Effect." To get a sense of what the Blackfish Effect is, see how it has affected the lives of some of the cast members of the film:

Excerpt from a Q&A at Superpod-3. Of note, Superpod-4 is scheduled for July 20-24, 2015. 

Why San Diego? Yep, It comes back to AB-2140

Considering that the Orlando park is more profitable, sees more visitors, is home base for corporate headquarters, & has cheaper construction costs, you'd think that the Blue World Project would start there. So what gives?  

According to this report by WKMG-TV / Orlando, CBS Affiliate, as well as the SeaWorld web page, "The San Diego project is expected to open in 2018. New killer whale homes will then be constructed at SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Antonio."

Choosing San Diego is a strategic business move. This accomplishes at least five things for SeaWorld: 

An Artist's Rendering of the proposed "Blue World Project" 

1. Shows that they're doing something in response to public sentiment & collapsing stock value

2. This proposal provides cover to vote down Blackfish Bill AB-2140SeaWorld gives a lot of money to campaigns in California, and politicians are happy to take "donations." 
Assemlymen who might buck public opinion & strike down the bill, can now cite "Blue World Project" as an example of how the company is evolving. 

To get a feel for public opinion in the state, watch this heartwarming video about three young ladies who delivered 1.2 million signatures to the California Assembly in support of a bill that would ban captive breeding of Killer Whales in the state.

3. It shows Wall Street they're "all in" and gives pro-SeaWorld Voice of San Diego plenty of feel good stories to publish. VOSD hosted a good live debate, but tends to frame SeaWorld's presence in San Diego as a beneficial, economic one, without much regard for the killer whales suffering in captivity. When captivity of killer whales gets reduced to economics, by Wall St, or VOSD, it misses the point. The coverage has been helpful to SeaWorld. 

Atlantis The Palm was heavily promoting its marine park on Emirates Airlines
4. The new pool, if AB-2140 is shot down (i.e. SeaWorld gets its wish), will become a #Blackfish "puppy mill" for SeaWorld's overseas expansion. In my opinion SeaWorld couldn't be happier with the ongoing Russian captures (more genetic material), and is looking carefully at opportunities in the United Arab Emirates, specifically Dubai, where there is already a large marine life park itching to get some killer whales. 

I've written about this with co-author John Jett PhD in an upcoming textbook chapter regarding animals in entertainment. I believe that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is gearing up for killer whales, and combined with company statements, will likely get them from SeaWorld. This effort, to breed animals as quickly as possible, is a way to get more animals into places like the UAE, for a very hefty price tag. 

Personal Photo. Departing Dubai International Airport. Boeing 777. Emirates Airlines. 

Placing killer whales into a region where temperatures regularly exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit, with little regulation or oversight, is a disturbing thought.

5. It changes the conversation, at least temporarily. SeaWorld has been getting bashed in the media, lately. This is a way to change the subject, for a while (see image of "Blackfish Wednesday") 

With plenty of money, a desire for Killer Whales, and pre-existing captivity infrastructure, Atlantis The Palm is a predictable destination for SeaWorld and the killer whales it is actively breeding. Note: Air temps in Dubai regularly exceed 120 F

SeaWorld Just Doesn't Get It

In general the proposed Blue World Project is a striking indicator that SeaWorld really doesn't get it. It also points to the incompetence of the management team as described in this Dodo article by Keneth Leher. His five points are worth restating:

1.  The SeaWorld brand is now tarnished, at best.

Toxic? Likely. The brand represents the torture of whales for an increasing population of concerned citizens. If you love whales (and who doesn’t), you don’t like SeaWorld. 
2.  Wall Street has turned on SeaWorld.
The stock is down over the last year by 45% and $1.6 billion in market cap has evaporated. You can sometimes fight City Hall, but it’s nearly impossible to fight Wall Street. And Wall Street is done with SeaWorld. 
3.  Consumers are turning away from SeaWorld.
Attendance has dropped 4.3 percent over the first 6 months of 2014. It takes forever and a day for consumers to return to a company once they have walked away. And they usually never come back. 
4.  The internet has turned against SeaWorld.
Blackfish,” The Oceanic Preservation Society, The Dodo, over 100,000 users on and many other sites have made it their business to actively campaign against SeaWorld’s mistreatment of animals. SeaWorld can’t survive that, plain and simple. 
5.  Incompetence. 
SeaWorld has proven itself totally inept in dealing with one, two, three and four. They haven’t got a clue.

Get active links to all of these Blackfish Wednesday Headlines HERE

In summary, SeaWorld really doesn't get it, and hopefully changes can be made in middle & upper management that will improve the quality of the management team & improve the future lives of the killer whales in its care.  

"Blue World Project" does not address the issue of broken teeth, collapsed dorsal fins, diminished quality of life, social strife, and shortened lifespans, all of which are caused by captivity. 

Blackfish remains a critical tool in a growing movement. Lastly, AB-2140 is the cure for what ails Toxic SeaWorld

Jeffrey Ventre, MD, is a physician, Blackfish cast member, and former SeaWorld trainer from 1987-1995.