At a hotel news conference near SeaWorld’s San Diego park, the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) issued a report documenting physical and behavioral harm it says dolphins suffer from their use in live shows and confinement in captivity. Of greatest concern was the practice of trainers riding dolphins through the water while standing on their backs and beaks, said Dr. Heather Rally, a PETA Foundation veterinarian.
At a separate news conference, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc officials defended their treatment of dolphins and denied the shows cause any harm.
SeaWorld faced a public backlash and declining revenues following release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which depicted captivity and public exhibition of killer whales as inherently cruel.
The film, which SeaWorld criticized as inaccurate and misleading, also explored the circumstances leading to the 2010 death of a top SeaWorld trainer, who was pulled underwater and drowned by an orca she had performed with in Florida.
SeaWorld trainers have not been allowed back in the water with killer whales during performances since that incident. In March 2016, SeaWorld announced it would halt breeding of orcas in captivity but that the existing whales would continue to perform as they live out their remaining years.
PETA said about 140 dolphins and some 20 orcas remain at SeaWorld parks.
(Production: Jane Ross)