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USDA Complaint Filed Over SeaWorld's Sunburned Orcas

<p>Flickr: Rojer</p>

After word broke that SeaWorld trainers have to routinely paint black zinc oxide sunscreen on their orca whales in order to both mask previous sunburns and prevent future ones, a complaint has been filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking that they investigate the issue.

The PETA-RequestforInvestigationofSeaWorldforFailuretoProvideShade.pdf">complaint, filed by PETA, states that SeaWorld's Orlando and San Diego parks are in apparent violation of two regulations of the Animal Welfare Act, one that affords animals held outdoors protection from the weather or from direct sunlight, and another that protects captive animals from "trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort."

Citing The Dodo's interviews with several former SeaWorld trainers that personally applied zinc oxide to the skin of captive whales at the park, the complaint notes that one trainer even reported that "burnt layers of his skin would peel off in her hands" when she put sunscreen one one male whale.

The main thrust of the complaint calls for more extensive shade coverage, pointing to these photos of the tanks which clearly lack shade cover:

With the hottest month of the year approaching, PETA asked the USDA to direct these SeaWorld facilities to provide relief for the apparent AWA violations.