SeaWorld and OSHA Do Battle in Federal Appeals Court

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

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.

About David Kirby

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.”
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One Response to SeaWorld and OSHA Do Battle in Federal Appeals Court

  1. Pingback: Is There a Legal Case Against SeaWorld?

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