May 31, 2012
HSI and HSUS Applaud Ruling on Trainer Safety in the SeaWorld OSHA Decision
Groups call on SeaWorld to end captive orca displays
The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International applaud the ruling made by Judge Ken S. Welsch upholding the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s citation stemming from the death of a SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau, during a performance in 2010. OSHA’s August 2010 citation directed SeaWorld Florida to abate the hazard of interacting with orcas by allowing trainers to interact with these animals only from behind barriers or equivalent levels of protection.
Welsch, an administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, ruled that Sea World’s safety protocols were inadequate to protect employee safety and upheld the abatements ordered by OSHA, concluding that it is never truly safe to put trainers in the water with the ocean’s largest and most intelligent predator. “Once a trainer is in the water with a killer whale that chooses to engage in undesirable behavior, the trainer is at the whale’s mercy,” wrote Judge Welsch. The person’s survival is completely dependent on the whale and Judge Welsch felt this was insufficient protection for the trainers.
“This ruling is beneficial for worker safety, but it is time for SeaWorld to rethink the public display of orcas,” said Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for The HSUS and senior scientist for HSI. “These are social, intelligent predators who live in family groups in the wild, traveling up to 100 miles in a day. It is time to end the show.”
Rebecca Basu, 301.258.3152, firstname.lastname@example.org