Photo: Swimming with Orcas
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals banned SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. from having employees who train orcas, known as “killer whales,” from swimming with the sea mammals in its aquatic parks.
The court rejected the appeal entered by the company, which has 11 parks in the United States, against the safety regulation issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration of the U.S. Labor Department which bars workers from approaching these potentially dangerous creatures.
With two votes in favor and one against, the court of appeals upheld Labor Department regulations and ruled that the company’s safety measures were inadequate and did not protect workers sufficiently.
The company may now enter a plea to have the case taken to the Supreme Court.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration requires in its new safety regulations that physical barriers be installed between trainers and orcas.
These rules were established in 2010, several weeks after the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was in charge of an orca called Tilikum that had already killed two other people, during a show at the park in Orlando, Florida.
The cetacean, which weighs 6 tons and has been 40 years in captivity, came to the Orlando SeaWorld in 1991 preceded by its fame of having killed a trainer in Canada, and, in 1999, was linked to the death of a tourist who had sneaked onto the premises and was found lifeless in Tilikum’s tank.
The orca returned to the show in 2011, and since then no similar incident has occurred.
Tilikum became the leading character of the “Blackfish” documentary that premiered last summer and which reopened the controversy over animals being held captive to provide entertainment.