The death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in an encounter with a killer whale was a tragedy, but SeaWorld believes a Federal Judge has gone too far restraining trainers interaction with the whales. Not just too far, but made the decision based on faulty assumptions. Yesterday the theme park asked the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to review the ruling.
Among the reasons for appeal, SeaWorld says:
- The judge’s decision is faulty because it assumes that in-water encounters with the Killer Whale is only dangerous during show performances. SeaWorld presented evidence that this was not the case, but the Judge ignored it in his decision.
- That the judge assumed a video presented by OSHA had evidence which it didn’t. Specifically the video from the family at the Dine With Shamu show took. The actually incident was never shown in court, therefore it could not be used as evidence, SeaWorld states that the video does not, in fact, show the incident.
- That American Zoological Association guidelines were not considered by the court and accepted as the defacto standard of care for Killer Whales.
- That the 18 years of no incidents with Tilikum at SeaWorld’s facility were ignored and that incidents more than 20 years prior and not at SeaWorld were given undue influence.
- That the judge failed to consider that Tilikum was just one animal and that each killer whale is unique and has their own needs and habits.
- That OSHA’s main witness had no experience with captive killer whales.
Some of these seem pretty egregious oversights on the part of the judge. Of course, I’m not a lawyer. SeaWorld and its lawyers say that these reasons and more mean that the Judge’s decision should be overturned on appeal.
It appears the process of the original hearing is tilted heavily in support of OSHA’s point of view and that the appeal is when SeaWorld really gets to have its side of the argument considered. We’ll keep an eye on the case and see how far this goes.