SeaWorld Tries Super Hard To Show Its Orcas Aren't Starved ... And Still Fails

<p> Shutterstock </p>
<p> Shutterstock </p>

Does SeaWorld starve its orcas before performances?

This is the question swimming around Twitter the past few days, after SeaWorld released a video in response to concerns about whether its orcas are deprived of food before performing. The company flatly denied ever using food deprivation as a training technique, but some former trainers say that's just another big lie.

"I have both seen and have been a part of depriving whales of food too many times to count," John Jett, a former SeaWorld trainer, shared on a blog created by former SeaWorld trainers, "Voice of the Orcas".

"Hunger provides leverage," added Dr. Jeffrey Ventre, a physiatrist and former SeaWorld trainer, who alleges the tactic was especially employed when celebs, politicians or wealthy businessmen were scheduled to attend. "These were scheduled shows and known weeks in advance. Food was sometimes withheld to ensure animal cooperation."

"We would never deprive the whales of the food that they need," SeaWorld says in the video, part of SeaWorld's revamped branding campaign crafted to temper fallout from the documentary "Blackfish."

They even cite an old tweet from former trainer and outspoken SeaWorld critic John Hargrove, though he recently tweeted that food deprivation was "common & was approved by management & vets."

As "Voice of the Orcas" puts it: "If you think about it, how else could you coerce an orca to separate from its family, remain motionless for teeth drilling, or pose for photos on a slide-out for 20 minutes without a hunger drive?"

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story suggested SeaWorld hadn't denied claims about food deprivation. The company did deny the claims, although former trainers disagree.