Gordon Ramsay, the British celebrity chef known for his combative style in the kitchen, is taking the heat himself this week.
Wednesday night's episode of his Fox show "Hell's Kitchen" offered a trip to SeaWorld as a reward for the winners of a cooking contest. The park has been at the center of controversy recently over its captive orca whale treatment.
Invoking details revealed by the CNN documentary "Blackfish," PETA's executive vice president Tracy Reiman wrote an open letter to Ramsay. It reads:
The pressure of a commercial kitchen has nothing on the constant stress and deprivation that orcas endure in SeaWorld's barren concrete tanks–and ever since the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" exposed how the animals at SeaWorld are denied everything that is natural and important to them, SeaWorld has felt the heat...Please, for Hell's Kitchen's sake–and the sake of the animals who suffer every day at SeaWorld–don't tie yourself to SeaWorld's sinking ship.
SeaWorld has been on the defense lately, after several violations of the Animal Welfare Act, dissolving business partnerships, and plummeting stocks. Animal advocates say that keeping and breeding orca whales in captivity induces physical problems and psychosis in the animals.
This isn't the first time Ramsay has provoked anger from animal advocates. During one 2005 episode of "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares," he was serving pizza samples to passersby, when one man asked if the pizza was vegetarian. Ramsay said it was, and gave the man a slice. After the man took a bite, Ramsay revealed that there was actually ham on the pizza, and laughed at the visibly upset man.
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However, Ramsay appears to have demonstrated a soft spot for animals in the past. In 2006, the chef was nearly reduced to tears as he watched footage showing the treatment of pigs at factory farms.
"It's enough to make anyone turn fucking vegetarian, for God's sake." he says.