Our major litigation on behalf of two former visitors to SeaWorld, who paid to attend the marine park in San Diego, CA, against SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. alleges false and misleading claims made by SeaWorld about the health and welfare of captive orca whales. The plaintiffs are represented by Covington & Burling LLP, which is being assisted by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project.
“SeaWorld is luring people to buy tickets based on a pack of false and misleading statements, instead of revealing the cruel and unhealthy conditions that captive orcas have to endure,” states David Phillips, Executive Director of the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute.
“SeaWorld is violating California consumer protection laws and engaging in unfair business practices,” states Christine Haskett, a partner with Covington and based in San Francisco. “We’re working with Earth Island to bring light to this important issue.” The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring SeaWorld to cease making false statements about the health and welfare of the orcas and to make a factual public statement about the orcas, refuting previous false claims.
SeaWorld is trying to force the case out of California state court and to consolidate it with other cases against them and move all the litigation to their corporate home state in Florida.
However, thus far they have failed. In August the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation denied an effort by SeaWorld Inc. to combine two lawsuits and move the cases to Orlando, Florida.
“Keeping separate cases against SeaWorld is best; ours belongs in state court in San Francisco and the other in federal court in San Diego,” states David Phillips.
Results of August 28th hearing
Added Phillips: “If SeaWorld told the truth about the whales’ shortened and stressful lives in concrete tanks, and severe depression and boredom from sterile living conditions, no one would ever go there. Would people bring their children to SeaWorld if they knew the cruelty behind the orca whale circus show? We think not.”
The case was filed in San Francisco in the Superior Court of the State of California and states that SeaWorld misleads the public by advertising false claims, such as:
• SeaWorld claims orcas in captivity live as long as those in the wild, but in fact all of the orcas that have died at SeaWorld did so at an early age, well short of the ages reached in the wild.
• SeaWorld claims they do not separate mothers from calves, but, in fact, separation of calves from mothers happens frequently in the SeaWorld parks. In the wild, calves stay with their mothers for virtually their entire lives.
• SeaWorld claims that the dorsal fins of male orcas in the wild collapse like they do in captivity for virtually all of SeaWorld’s orcas, but studies of wild populations of orcas show only a very small percentage of dorsal fins collapse. The collapse of captive orca dorsal fins is a sign of unhealthy captive conditions, such as shallow tanks that do not allow orcas to dive and swim long distances.
• SeaWorld claims that orcas are “happy” in captivity, but orcas in captivity are severely stressed and live lives of boredom. They have to be treated with antacids for ulcers, with antidepressants, and with antibiotics for infections that occur only in captivity, such as those resulting from severe tooth wear that happens when bored and frustrated orcas begin chewing on metal gates and concrete tanks. They die premature deaths. At least three trainers have been killed by orcas in captivity, including two trainers killed by SeaWorld orcas, and there have been many incidents of injuries to trainers from orcas in captivity. Yet, orcas in the wild have never been known to attack or kill people.
Copy of the litigation complaint. http://immp.eii.org/seaworld-lawsuit.pdf
Online petition to SeaWorld. https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/seaworld-must-stop-false-claims-about-captive-orcas