On Tuesday, November 12, I attended oral arguments in the case between SeaWorld and OSHA in Washington, DC. The following report was originally published at Take.Part.com.
The three-year legal battle between SeaWorld and the U.S. Department of Labor took a dramatic, high-stakes turn Tuesday when attorneys representing the company tried to convince a federal appeals court to overturn a safety violation issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a ban limiting how the park’s trainers interact with killer whales during performances.
At issue is OSHA’s ruling, in the wake of the February 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at the company’s Orlando park, that SeaWorld had violated safety standards, and its order that trainers “abate” the hazard by maintaining a minimum distance and/or a physical barrier between themselves and orcas. Tilikum, the park’s 12,000-pound breeding male, grabbed Brancheau from a shallow ledge, rammed her repeatedly in the water, and refused to relinquish her body for nearly an hour—all as a handful of horrified visitors looked on.
SeaWorld claimed that OSHA had overstepped its authority in issuing the ruling. The company also contended that Federal Administrative Law Judge Ken Welsch, who upheld the abatements after a lengthy trial in 2011, erred in his ruling and overreached in applying the occupational safety law.
DAVID KIRBY is the author of 'Evidence of Harm,' which was a New York Times bestseller, winner of the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) award for best book, and a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and 'Animal Factory,' an acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms which NPR compared to Upton Sinclair’s classic work 'The Jungle.' His latest book, 'Death at SeaWorld,' was previewed by Library Journal, which wrote: “Lives are at stake here, and Kirby can be trusted to tell the story, having won a passel of awards for his investigate work.” Booklist called the book “gripping” and “hard to put down.”
Should some of the most social, intelligent and charismatic animals on the planet be kept in captivity by human beings? That is a question asked more frequently than ever by both scientists and animal welfare advocates… Now the issue has been raised with new intensity in 'Death at SeaWorld,' by David Kirby, just released in paperback.”
-- The New York Times
"A gripping inspection... Hard to put down." --Booklist ***STARRED REVIEW
One of the “great books” of the summer
– The Columbus Dispatch
“A masterful work.” –Seattle Post Intelligencer
"One of the summer's most anticipated new releases." -- Apple iBookstore
#1 Readers Poll Choice for Summer Books
– Wall Street Journal Online
"A real-life scientific thriller.”
– Barnes and Noble
BLACKFISH OPENS JULY 17!
Go see the extraordinary documentary BLACKFISH, from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Coming to a theater near you this summer. For more info, please visit here
And do NOT miss The Lost Whale, a new book about the engrossing tale of Luna the young orca who bonded with people after being lost from his family, by Mike Parfait and Suzanne Chisholm. Click here for more info.
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David is an experienced and engaging speaker who can address all aspects of this fascinating subject - from the natural history of wild orcas, to the ethics of captivity, to the risks of working with animals for entertainment. David has been invited to speak at universities, marine mammal organizations, scuba clubs, museums and other venues.