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SeaWorld Sedates their Whales with Valium-like Drugs
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The famed SeaWorld park chain, critized by animal advocates, has been treating some of their marine mammals with psychoactive drugs, According to a document obtained by BuzzFeed. A sworn affidavit filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice states, trainers give their orca killer whales, the psychoactive drug benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are a type of drug that includes common human medications, like Valium and Xanax. There has also been a dispute over the transport of the prized killer whale, Ikaika, to SeaWorld, between the park company and the rival company Marineland.

SeaWorld’s critics are saying that the orca’s mental health issues are a direct result of keeping the mammals in captivity. Jared Goodman, Director of Animal Law at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), told BuzzFeed that he believes the leaked documents will play a key role in SeaWorld’s future.


“The veterinary records show that orcas at SeaWorld are given psychotropic drugs to stop them from acting aggressively towards each other in the stressful, frustrating conditions in which they’re confused instead of funding the development of coastal sanctuaries- the only humane solution,” Goodman said. There are many questions about the drugs that are given to the whales.

SeaWorld has been dumbfounded by a documentary called Blackfish. The story tells of a killer whale named Tilikum, who has been accused of killing three people but is still owned by SeaWorld. A spokeman for SeaWorld, Fred Jacobs, defended the medication in an emailed statement. “Benzodiazepines are sometimes used in veterinary medicine for the cure and treatment of animals, both domestic and in a zoological setting,” Jacobs said. “These medications can be used for sedation for medical procedures, premedication prior to genral anesthesia, and for the control of seizures. The use of benzodiazepines is regulated, and these medications are only prescribed to animals by a veterinarian. Their use for cetacean healthcare, including killer whales, is limited, infrequent, and only as clinically indicated based on the assessment of the attending veterinarian. There are no longer higher priority for SeaWorld than the Health and well-being of the animals in it’s care.”

PETA’s president, Ingrid Newkirk, accused SeaWorld of “pumping these marine slaves full of psychotropic drugs in order to force them to perform stupid tricks.” Orca Research Trust founder, Ingrid Visser, said the drugs are likely treating a condition caused by captivity, and that their violence is the result of stress, not native aggression.

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“They do not cope with being kept in these tanks. They survive to some degree, but they don’t thrive to any degree,” Visser said. “They show stereotypical behaviors that are abnormal, repetitive behaviors like head bobbing, chewing on concrete, and self mutilation by banging the side of their heads on the side of the tank, and there isn’t a single orca living in captivity where you cannot see one of these behaviors, and in many of them you see multiple examples of these behaviors.”

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