Another ex-SeaWorld employee has taken a stand against the embattled theme park, offering details that will surprise no one. She joins the ranks of numerous former employees who have publicly criticized the company. Others can only condemn it behind closed doors because the company has enforced gag orders or threatened lawsuits against most who have tried to blow the whistle.
Sarah Fischbeck, a water quality diver who worked at SeaWorld San Diego from 2007 to 2013, recently told the Dodo about her harrowing, firsthand experience as an employee with the company.
In an exclusive interview with the website, she said, “If people knew what I know, or saw what I have seen, [SeaWorld] wouldn’t sell another ticket.”
Like so many of these accounts, it begins with the orcas.
Recently, a PETA Foundation veterinarian visited SeaWorld Orlando. Dr. Heather Rally found rake marks on a number of orcas and other dolphins. Rake marks are injuries on an animal’s skin that are inflicted by the teeth of another animal during an aggressive attack. With no place for subordinate animals to escape, these attacks can result in painful and serious injuries. Fischbeck confirmed the attacks and pointed out that they occurred with alarming severity and regularity because of the frustration and stress the animals experience in captivity.
Fischbeck said that while raking, the orcas tore off each other’s skin and that the dead skin looked like strips of black rubber at the bottom of the tanks. Employees, she explained, took the dead flesh home to their families—as souvenirs.
And it wasn’t just the orcas who suffered.
Fischbeck described litter found in the penguin enclosure, which led to health problems in the animals; the unnatural breeding of animals like Ruby, a beluga whale who violently and repeatedly rejected her calves but was still used to breed; and how a baby dolphin ran into a wall to escape aggression from other dolphins and ultimately died, after which the mother of the calf wouldn’t leave his or her side. Other dolphins ended up on the concrete outside the tanks. Just as Dr. Rally reported, Fischbeck saw walruses compulsively regurgitate food.
Like PETA, Fischbeck was critical of SeaWorld’s unnatural breeding programs, saying she thought some of the dolphins’ aggression was a result of it. SeaWorld has long floated the idea that the company’s breeding of the animals, especially orcas, is natural, but the process sounds anything but. When breeding orcas, a team of trainers will sexually stimulate a male orca, collect his sperm, and then forcibly shove tubes into the female victim’s vagina. If she resists, she may be removed from the water, where she is unable to swim away or fight back.
Fischbeck also commented on work culture at the park, saying that those who questioned the company’s policies were instantly fired. In her account, she calls out the troubling disregard for the animals and employees at the corporate level, claiming that trainers were valued based on appearance, not experience and skill, and that the workers who spent time with the animals on a day-to-day basis had no say in what happened to them.
She added a chilling detail about the polar bear exhibit—that it was stocked with guns.
“They’re actually trained to kill their polar bears,” she told The Dodo. “Once a month the trainers go to shotgun practice … and in the trainers’ room they’ll post, like, who has the best target practice.”
Fischbeck voluntarily left SeaWorld in December 2013. You can read her detailed original account here.
What You Can Do
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