Vote of the week: Trainers in the water during the Shamu shows
A judge this week upheld the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's decision that SeaWorld must not allow its trainers in the water with orcas
during shows at the company's U.S. theme parks.
Getting close with Corky the orca, backstage at SeaWorld San Diego
An Orlando Sentinel columnist called that decision "long overdue", while a former SeaWorld employee lamented that physical separation from trainers would be bad for the whales, too.
The judge's decision does not prohibit physical contact with the whales outside show times, which I find ironic because the incident that precipitated all this didn't happen during a show.
So here's my question for you: After reading all the information above, what do you think about SeaWorld ever putting trainers back in the water during its Shamu shows? Should SeaWorld pursue technology that it would allow it to do so? Should it continue to appeal or seek a political solution that would allow the trainers back in the water during shows? Or should it give up that fight, and continue to operate the shows as they have been for the past two years - with trainers out of the water?
As the judge in the case noted, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment enjoyed record revenue and strong attendance last year, with the trainers out of the water, so it's not like the decision has hurt SeaWorld's business. But that doesn't mean that some fans don't continue to miss that iconic moment when a SeaWorld trainer launches from the water and into the air, flying off the nose of a killer whale.
What do you think?
Please keep the discussion going in the comments. And thank you again for reading Theme Park Insider. Have a great weekend! We'll be back on Sunday afternoon with a report from Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.
We saw the Shamu show first in 2008 whilst the trainers were still allowed to perform in the water with the whales. The show was nothing short of breathtaking. It was amazing to see the beautiful creatures perform do lovingly with their trainers. We went back in 2010 and saw the show for the 2nd time, but since that first time, the tragic accident had happened, and now the trainers weren't in the water with the whales. The show was still great to watch but it didn't make me emotional as the first show did. I was not 'amazed' or 'breathtaken' by any aspect and I and my family really felt that a huge part of the show was missing. When we visit Seaworld again in 2014 we may even miss out seein the Shamu show altogether. Accidents happen - planes crash, but we still fly. Cars have accidents but we still drive. We must get the trainers back in the water or I think that in the long run, Seaworld may lose visitors to that particular show.
I remember seeing on two separate vacations the Shamu Show and on both occasions was reduced almost to tears as the trainers were lifted into the air on the nose of the whale.It was one of the most jaw-dropping things I have ever seen - genuine holiday magic. I grieve that as things stand I will never see that magic again. The world is a poorer place because of this ruling.
This is only setting up a precedence to outlaw any animal act that is out there because every animal has a natural survival instinct, where will it stop, no more rodeos? Outlaw dog shows? Gone with Gatorland? Each of these places and shows deal with animals, many that are just as dangerous to humans, could see their way to ending any animal/human show interaction. All of these trainers know the risk, they make the call to be in the arena with the animals and take the precautions that are necessary.
I struggle with this sort of ruling on the part of the government. OSHA should be protecting people from dangers that don't have to be inherent in the work being done: using all available safety tech to make mines and oil rigs safe, ensuring that laborers have the proper gear when cleaning up dangerous chemicals, and so on. This ruling sets the precedent that any occupation in which a person who willing participates in a potentially life threatening activity can be shut down by the government. By that precedent, stunt drivers and actors, animal trainers and stage performers with big cats, sky diving instructors, and all the other mass of occupations in which the worker must choose to commit highly dangerous actions can't do there jobs anymore.
People can buy a pet cobra or aligator. It's not up to the law to say if trainers can go into the water with these animals. That said, I don't care. I don't care for the circus acts.
I'd say that the shows lost their "wow" factor in terms of entertainment. I agree that the trainers know the dangers like stunt drivers do. It's part of their job. I'd have to say that I've noticed that people that don't care for animals just don't "get it" when it comes to animal-human interaction. But there's also the opposite end of the spectrum where some people put the welfare of animals before the welfare of people. There should be a happy median where maybe the trainers are allowed to do the one launch trick and that's it. Something like that. Not all or nothing.
I love Tom Rigg's comment and completely agree (right down to the "bleeding heart liberal" part :-) )
I saw the show last year. The Shamu show wasn't as impressive as the dolphin show. I don't think it is necessary to have trainers in the pool, but they do seem to add interaction with the animals. Maybe the interaction can take place from the pool edge. The problem with the Shamu show is too much splashing from the tail. The whole show is a splash show, which can get old after awhile.
Me and my family used to love going to SeaWorld Orlando when on vacation and since the shamu incident we've been back to Florida on 4 separate occasions. And you know what? Since the trainers haven't been allowed to go in the water we have had no interest in going to seaworld which is kind of disappointing. So yes, SeaWorld has lost some business-Ours. Which is a big shame.
Tom Riggs writes: "This ruling sets the precedent that any occupation in which a person who willing participates in a potentially life threatening activity can be shut down by the government."
From what I recall she was in a wading area, not the water and is was not during a full show. Therefore this rule wouldn't protect the trainer two ways as regards to safety in that instance
Robert Morris may well be correct. However, I have no doubt that the trainer's death prompted a complete inquiry of Sea World's safety program which resulted in the ruling.
Especially since they are allowed to be in the water non show times, what is the point?
I really think they should either allow the trainers back in the water during shows or ban them from entering the tanks at any time. It doesn't make sense to only keep them out during the show, especially when the incident wasn't related to one of the shows. Besides, I'm guessing there is less of a chance of something happening during the show since the whales are engaged in the performance (although I could be wrong). Finally, the whales are wild animals, and trainers should be well aware that they can be dangerous and know that there are many hazards to the job whenever they are employed. Work safety is not a bad thing, but I don't think it should be necessary to eliminate inherent risks that are required in a particular job.
What exactly does this ruling accomplish besides diminishing the quality of the show and wasting valuable taxpayer dollars? They aren't really removing any kind of danger, because the trainers can (and probably will) still be in the water with them backstage. It makes no sense whatsoever.
At the moment Seaworld have put on the best show they possibly can with no trainers in the water with One Ocean.
The problem with more rules and regulations are you follow the rules and then something else happens. You can't keep saying people will be safe from the rules when the rules won't prevent accidents, unexpected situations, and operator error.
OSHA did not "create a new rule." They followed an established process. Someone died. They investigated the incident -- which includes a review of the company's safety program from top to bottom. They evaluated the situation and made recommendations. Sea World was given a chance to question those recommendations in front of a judge and (I assume) has a right to either appeal the decision or to adjust their safety programs and then request that OSHA (or another judge) reconsider the ruling.
But trainers are still going to be in contact with the whales...just not during the show. The danger that this ruling claims to prevent is still there. If someone gets killed in the tank, what difference does it make if they get killed during the show or behind the scenes, other than a crowd being spared a horrific sight.
Mr. Potter writes: But trainers are still going to be in contact with the whales...just not during the show. The danger that this ruling claims to prevent is still there.
OSHA followed their process to create a new rule that didn't reflect the reality of the situation. The trainer was killed after the show. OSHA reacted in the only way they could. They found discrepancies in how SeaWorld may anticipate the reactions of their whales (see article). So SeaWorld is found to be using faulty data or something else. SeaWorld can't explain it or couldn't explain it. Instead of addressing the issue, OSHA decided to do the next best thing. It separated the trainers from the whales during a show. Duh...
Anon Mouse: "After a show, if the trainer is engaged in a relationship building exercise with the whale and there's no barrier, will OSHA be there to explain how their new rule didn't protect the trainer?"
"Or ... If Sea World's attorney stood up in court and contended their procedures were creating a safe workplace ... if the trainer is engaged in a relationship building exercise with the whale and there's no barrier, will Sea World be there to explain how their safety program didn't protect the trainer?"
From what I've read, coming into close contact with the animals is at the very heart of the training. Maybe not jumping off their nose, but feeding them, petting them, and other kinds of positive reinforcement is how they are taught. If you want Sea World and the shows to exist, they have to have contact with the animals in order to train them, at least until they can develop a system that has zero human contact, if that's even possible. Perhaps you should revisit the actual case, which is that an experienced trainer was pulled into the tank while giving the whale a post show rubdown.
Mr. Potter: "It assumes that the knowledge and years of research by their scientists and the expertise of their management mean nothing."
I guess that the risks involved are the same with other shows (flight shows,...) and sports (F1, Diving, ...). It's up to the trainers if they would like to be in the water with the Shamu's. And yes, there are risks involved, bus as stated, that applies to many other shows.
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