Amusement-park operator SeaWorld has been hit with another class-action suit. This time, plaintiffs claim the park hides practices of drugging its orcas, forced inbreeding, food deprivation, and confinement in inadequately sized pens from customers who pay to see them perform.
Lead plaintiff Valerie Simo says in her complaint that the park's marketing pushes an "illusion" that "masks the ugly truth about the unhealthy and despairing lives of these whales," according to a Courthouse News Service report. "This is a truth that, if known to the purchasing public at the time families make the decision to visit SeaWorld...would lead them to seek entertainment elsewhere."
The suit, filed in a San Diego federal court on May 7, goes on to rehash many complaints that first came to light with the 2012 release of investigative reporter David Kirby's Death at SeaWorld and gained traction in the public eye with the release of the documentary Blackfish the following year.
"Concealed from the public is the impact on these animals of captivity in a confined space, the forced separation of young whales from their mothers, the unnatural mixing of whales that do not have the same culture in small spaces, the forced breeding and inbreeding of young female whales, the routine use of pharmaceutical products to unnaturally drug the orcas, the psychological manipulation and at times food deprivation to which they are subjected, the deep rake marks on their bodies that result from incompatibility and cramped conditions, and many other life-shortening and painful experiences from which they have no escape," Simo argues.
Claims put forth by Simo are not new, hers is in fact the latest in a handful of recent cases filed against the park with similar claims. South Carolina grandmother Joyce Kuhl levels similar charges against SeaWorld in Orlando and demands a refund for her family's admission and anyone else who may have visited the park unaware of the complaints about orcas' treatment.
Another grandmother from California also has an active complaint filed in San Francisco in March — hers targets both the San Diego and Orlando parks, as well as a third SeaWorld park in San Antonio, Texas, as does Simo's.
In addition to the refunds sought by Kuhl, the suits argue for an injunction to bar SeaWorld from engaging in what they claim is deceptive advertising implying that orcas enjoy a high quality of life and have "fun" in captivity.