A Whale of a Problem

Rough water continues to swirl around the normally placid pools at SeaWorld, which recently appealed an administrative law judge’s decision to uphold an OSHA safety violation citation against the theme park after the killing of trainer Dawn Brancheau by the orca Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando in February 2010. SeaWorld thinks its business model depends on putting trainers back into the water with killer whales, and it’s trying to make that happen. Yesterday, the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission declined to hear SeaWorld’s appeal, so it’s going to have to go to the U.S. Circuit Court for further redress.

The appeal process coincides with the release of a page-turning new book that chronicles the death of Brancheau and other victims of captive orcas, as well as the many instances of serious trainer injury at SeaWorld. David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld: The Dark Side of Shamu and Killer Whales in Captivity tells the backstage story there and includes statements by SeaWorld trainers and officials, as well as visitors.

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