A complaint filed recently against SeaWorld San Diego by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) alleges that a veterinarian’s recent visit uncovered great psychological distress among captive dolphins, whales, and other creatures, and urged immediate government intervention.
The complaint, which was submitted Monday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says that in addition to pyschological harm, dolphins in particular showed signs of attacks from other dolphins due to their close confinement. It urges the agency to investigate the situation.
PETA quoted its own veterinarian Heather Rally, who visited SeaWorld and noted that, among other things, dolphins that had skin conditions and depressed immune systems were interacting with the public, increasing the risk to their health. She said despite the fact that some dolphins had “obvious” pox-like skin lesions, members of the public were allowed to put their hands in the water and touch the dolphins without a SeaWorld supervisor present, according to a PETA statement.
Also, Rally claimed it was common to see bullying and fighting between species at the park, leaving rake marks from the teeth of dominant whales and dolphins on the skin of victims. She said she observed dolphins ramming and chasing other dolphins, as well as attempting to slap them with their flukes. Rake marks leave scars that usually heal within a few months, which Rally said indicates that such aggression is commonplace because of how often she encountered the marks.
PETA claims that aggression between cetaceans in the wild is less common than it is in captivity, since in the latter case dolphins are not able to separate themselves from a dangerous situation.
Rally argued that orcas at SeaWorld suffer great psychological stress as well, since they are used to having strong family bonds and swim great distances. An orca would have to swim 1,900 laps around their tanks to equal the 100 miles per day they usually travel, PETA claimed.
Rally said she observed an orca floating “listlessly” in a lateral position at one point, indicating psychological distress or extreme boredom.