Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SeaWorld Tragedy Impacts US Medical Coding System

NOTE: Descriptive medical and forensic language is used in this article to describe the "struck by" hazard posed by captive killer whales on their human handlers 
________________________________________________________________________


According to Forbes Magazine the US National Healthcare Expenditure (or NHE) is approximately 3 trillion dollars annually. A portion of that expenditure goes to pay approximately 90,000 certified medical coders around the country. 

For those that work directly within the US medical healthcare system you know that the industry, including hospitals, administrators, doctors, nurses, & staff is carefully & nervously monitoring the transition from the current ICD-9 to the ICD-10 system. 


Medical coders are in short supply as the system becomes more complex & detailed 


ICD is an acronym for the "International Classification of Diseases." These diagnostic codes describe what condition you are getting billed for by your physician or hospital. For example, there is a code for low back pain, 724.2 and migraine headache, 346.9. The United States is currently on the ninth edition, and after several delays will be transitioning to the ICD-10 in October. 


The Connection to SeaWorld

As described in the movie Blackfish, killer whales do not harm humans in the wild. And no one in the ocean has suffered a killer whale "struck by" injury. But the same is not true of trainers interacting with SeaWorld killer whales both in the US and abroad. In fact, two trainers have been killed specifically by "struck by" injuries. Both fatalities were attributable to captive SeaWorld killer whales. 

Read about Keto's "struck by" attack at Loro Parque, here




As described HERE, the new ICD-10 codes are being implemented to provide more "detailed healthcare data and a greater flow of that data to improve medical communication, which could contribute to advanced... protocols and clinical pathways." 

Now, as a result of the two tragic deaths in Orlando & Loro Parque, the US medical coding system has adopted a specific diagnosis in its ICD-10 library to address future instances of captive killer whale aggression. And no, this is not a joke: 


Initial encounter



Specific code icon 2015 ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code W56.22XA  

Struck by orca, initial encounter

    2015 Billable Code Not A Principal Dx
  • W56.22XA describes the circumstance causing an injury, not the nature of the injury, and therefore should not be used as a principal diagnosis.
  • W56.22XA is a billable ICD-10-CM code that can be used to indicate a diagnosis for reimbursement purposes.
  • On October 1, 2015 ICD-10-CM will replace ICD-9-CM in the United States, therefore, W56.22XA - and all other ICD-10-CM codes - should only be used for training or planning purposes until then.
  • This is the American ICD-10-CM version of W56.22XA. Other international ICD-10 versions may differ.



Excerpt From Court Records Related to the SeaWorld Tragedy: 

This tragic description is likely the genesis of the new ICD-10 code being implemented in October 2015



Lastly, in an effort to educate physicians, nurses and staff, at least one hospital in Washington state has hung the following poster in its hallways to raise awareness regarding ICD-10 changes. In all likelihood the artists and employees who crafted this piece are not aware of its relationship to actual events perpetrated by incarcerated orca against their human handlers.


This is just another sign that it's time to #EmptyTheTanks


Thursday, June 11, 2015

RIP Sweet Obie

I learned that Obie died yesterday at SeaWorld. He was blind when he died. 

I worked with Obie for just over a year, from 1993-1994. He was a sweet boy back then; Still nearly 2000 pounds in weight. 



My take on walruses, from direct experiences with Obie, Gwen, Slowpoke, and Garfield, are that they are nearly on par with killer whales, in terms of their sophisticated thinking. Maybe it's because they readily understand human vocal commands and you can casually ask them to "come" or "whistle" or "wave," by using plain English. Nothing against dogs, I love dogs, but walruses are, or at least seem, way smarter than the average canine.  


"For what it's worth, Walruses are great whistlers"


And in terms of the danger factor, walruses have large tusks and can do one thing captive killer whales cannot... muscle out of the pool, run you down, and pin you up against a wall, or worse. In general, the four walruses I worked with were very good-natured, despite their incarceration. 
Read about Gwen's sad story HERE 
I remember working with Obie one day when he heard a noise, a bird, or something...  and quickly raised his mammoth head. It was completely non-aggressive but the top of his skull did slam into my chin and broke one of my front teeth off. It was the most significant injury I sustained as an an animal trainer at SeaWorld and I was sent to the dentist for tooth repair. Of note, no incident report was generated from that injury, probably because it was out of the public view.  



 As I remember Obie, it reminds me to say that the walruses and sea lions are kept in a relative hell-hole at all three SeaWorld parks; especially when compared with the Shamu Stadium & the dolphin stadium.  They essentially live in small cesspools surrounded by steel cages. The pools are filled with their own stool and urine, and the facility is on a separate less-sophisticated filtration & treatment system that requires more chemicals; hence the blindness seen in many pinnipeds at SeaWorld. 


I worked at all three animal stadiums at SeaWorld of Florida. In trainer culture, the Sea Lion & Otter Stadium was definitely considered "bottom of the barrel." And this plays out in the media these days when SeaWorld itself points to ex-trainers as being disgruntled because they were "moved to Sea Lion."


In terms of the physical plant, the jail-like smallish hot-tub-sized enclosures were often filled with 4 or more animals swimming tight circles. Area work duties consisted of the daily scrubbing of snot and feces from the walls, floors, food stations and steel bars. Body fluids were everywhere when trainers arrived in the morning to open. When celebrities would come to the park, as far as I remember, they were never allowed to see behind-the-scenes at "Sea Lion." 

Think about it. How many "back area" photographs have YOU ever seen of SeaWorld's pinniped show areas? It's shocking and not fit for public exposure.  


SeaWorld knows this and keeps it hidden. Where's the media? Stossel? 


Former SeaWorld Trainer Jeffrey Ventre with young Obie the Walrus at the Sea Lion & Otter Stadium 1994

Cheesy photo, I know, but notice Obie sticking his head out between two steel bars of his small prisoner's cell. 

This is the real tyranny; intelligent animals in circus shows for corporations that pay low wages to regular employees while making a handful of executives incredibly wealthy. Obie is a victim of SeaWorld's ongoing exploitation of intelligent marine mammals.

It's time to #EmptyTheTanks

RIP sweet Obie 



________________________________


Jeffrey Ventre MD

Former Trainer, SeaWorld of Florida '87-'95
Note: Obie was transferred from Orlando to San Diego 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Rachel & 65 Cities Say Empty The Tanks

It's been a year and we're back. I've teamed up, once again, with #EmptyTheTanks founder & SeaShepherd Cove Guardian Rachel Carbary for some information regarding the 2015 event. We spoke last year about her inspiration for the event, HERE. She told us, "My time spent in Taiji absolutely changed my life. I remember on my trip to Taiji in January 2013, the first time I saw with my own eyes a skiff carrying dolphin killers and dolphin trainers go into the killing cove. They were all smiling and working together. The trainers go into the killing area to inspect the captured dolphins in order to determine if any of the animals there are worth buying." 



The paragraphs below are fresh answers to questions about #EmptyTheTanks in 2015. 

Jeff V:  Rachel, last year was a huge success. How many cities are participating this year compared to last?


Rachel: This year is our biggest year yet. We have 65 locations throughout 20 countries participating. All of the events will take place on Saturday, June 6th, 2015.



Rachel & Friends 2014


Jeff V:  Just so folks that are new to the event can get an idea of what to expect, can you share with our readers the montage video from #EmptyTheTanks 2014?



Rachel: Here is the video highlighting the events that took place around the world last year for the 2nd Annual #EmptyTheTanks





Jeff V: Last year SeaWorld spokespeople were spreading misinformation about the event, here. Have any captivists organized counter protests or tried to interfere this year?


Rachel: I have heard about a couple of unorganized attempts to protest the #EmptyTheTanks events. I am not sure much will come of it, though.
Most of the time these people underestimate our passion and commitment to this cause. Even if they do show up -- we'll be there; we will be seen and heard and we will not stop until the tanks are empty.


Animal justice goes mainstream,  Portlandia 2015, Notice Blackfish Poster on Wall 

Jeff V:  San Diego has consistently brought out big numbers for #EmptyTheTanks. Any idea which cities will have the large turnouts on Saturday?


Seattle #EmptyTheTanks 2014


Rachel: Yes, San Diego always has an amazing number of dedicated activists that show up for these events. I am sure this year will be no different. I think this year we will have big crowds at most of the event locations, especially the SeaWorld ones. I am expecting big crowds in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio. 


Empty the Tanks is an event that even more people know about now. 

We have expanded our reach onto other social media outlets and this is allowing us to interact with more than just the Facebook crowd.



Downtown Seattle is home base for #EmptyTheTanks Global 



Jeff V: The UK and Australia have cities in the mix. What other countries outside of the U.S. are participating and how do you communicate over distant time zones?



Rachel C: This year we have so many countries that have joined in on this day of protest and awareness. Spain has several locations, South Africa is joining us this year for the first time, and we also have a few different locations in Mexico. The countries participating this year are:



US

Canada
Holland
Spain
UK
Germany
Turkey
Belgium
Australia
China
Japan
Ireland
Mexico
Argentina
Hungary
Brazil
France
United Arab Emirates
South Africa
Portugal


Jeff V:  Wherever you are, globally, make sure to help us #EmptyTheTanks on Saturday; whether through direct action or on social media. Spread the word to raise awareness for our cetacean friends that are earning profits for large companies in cruel & inhumane settings. Let's help end the practice. Thank you, Rachel, for leading the way. 


March in Seattle. Same topic "Beneath the Surface" helps to #EmptyTheTanks. John, Carol, Rachel, Jeff 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dr Rose Urges Scientists to Tell SeaWorld, "Stop Misinforming the Public"

NOTE: The email below was published with the permission of Dr. Rose.

The MARMAM e-mail list was established on August 6th, 1993, through the University of Victoria. It is a public e-mail list meant to serve researchers and managers working with marine mammals. As of January 2010 there are approximately 8,500 subscribers to the list. 


_____________________________________________________________


From: Naomi Rose
Date: May 12, 2015
To: "MARMAM"
Subject: [MARMAM] SeaWorld response to MMS paper on age milestones in killer whales


Dear MARMAMers:

Once again, I am compelled to post on SeaWorld’s current public relations efforts. A recent paper in Marine Mammal Science, which went through comprehensive peer-review, indicates that while survivorship rates have improved in captive killer whales, survival to certain age milestones is still poor compared to the wild. (It also found age milestones at which survivorship declined in captivity, suggesting that husbandry practices during these life stages are particularly problematic, such as separating juveniles from their mothers.) A popular article about this paper was just published, in which Dr. Doug DeMaster was quoted, as well as Dr. Todd Robeck, a veterinarian at SeaWorld. The article is here:  





Any members of the Society can read the original paper, by John Jett, Ph.D. and Jeff Ventre, M.D., online at https://www.marinemammalscience.org/journal/read-the-journal-now/

Dr. Robeck, in his capacity as a representative of SeaWorld, is highly critical of Marine Mammal Science and frankly of the peer-review process. (And I must confess, it has not been MY experience that the Society has a “large anti-captivity sentiment in a lot of [its] members.”) 



____________________________________________





Dr. Rose does a Ted Talk on the Topic of Killer Whales at TEDXBend 



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This is typical of SeaWorld – when the company does not like the facts as presented, it attacks the presenter, whether it is an individual or a journal or an academic association. 

In short, its typical response is the ad hominem attack, when it should be a presentation of data that counters the claims of the analysis it is criticizing. SeaWorld, in its ongoing PR campaign, has told people that captive whales live as long as wild ones (see http://ask.seaworldcares.com/?p=131), which is not supported by the peer-reviewed science.


"If the company has data suggesting otherwise, it should publish it."


I call again for the Society for Marine Mammalogy to write to SeaWorld’s executives and ask them to stop misinforming the public about marine mammal science and Marine Mammal Science. I strongly urge marine mammal scientists to publicly respond to this PR campaign. This campaign is how many people are learning about killer whales right now and they are being misinformed.



NAOMI A. ROSE, PH.D.
Marine Mammal Scientist

ANIMAL WELFARE INSTITUTE
900 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20003
P  Please consider the animals and their habitat before printing.

_______________________________________________________________




Information on Dr. Rose & the Video Above

Published on May 25, 2015

The family structure of orcas is destroyed by captivity, and its time to return them to their world, the ‘real” sea world, instead of forcing them to live in ours.

As a scientist for Humane Society International and a marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute, Rose has spent her entire career studying whales and dolphins (cetaceans) in captivity and how society’s relationship with these animals needs to change. Rose travels the world, most recently to Russia and Singapore, to give presentations about the concerns related to keeping cetaceans in captivity and using them in performances. She brings scientific grounding to an often divisive and emotional topic. Her work has been profiled in the book “Death at SeaWorld” by David Kirby; she also consulted on the 2013 documentary film “Blackfish” by Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more athttp://ted.com/tedx



Monday, May 25, 2015

SeaWorld Using Money and Politics to Push Back Against School Kids

Evan Dow Testifies in Favor of the "Humane Treatment" Resolution
How does SeaWorld use politics to maintain captivity in a country that now opposes it? And who is T.J. Zane?


Despite overwhelming evidence that killer whales are not suited for life in sterile concrete pools, SeaWorld continues to spread misinformation, to mislead shareholders, and to hold onto an exploitative business model that the U.S. public has outgrown. Even Ringling Brothers agrees & stated that public attitudes regarding its performing elephants have changed. The circus, now more progressive than SeaWorld, will retire its elephants by 2018.

There is data [on marine mammal captivity] to support Ringling's conclusion. Scientific polling data published in May of 2014, collected by Edge Research, and commissioned by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) &Whale & Dolphin Conservation (WDC), can be viewed HERE




Results: Only 21% of the American public support keeping killer whales in captivity; 50% oppose captivity; and 29% are undecided. With those numbers its clear why some politicians are jumping on board the anti-captivity train. It's now MAJORITY opinion, and politicians win elections on populist issues. 


With that in mind, what gives? 

How has SeaWorld been successful at influencing political outcomes or stalling progress in Washington & California, two states that are more progressive than most?


The answer is money, deals, & continuing to fabricate misinformation. What's odd is how openly dishonest SeaWorld continues to be, including making false statements in public settings that can easily be refuted. Also, they're apparently calling on political favors from recipients who have received donations. 


A good example occurred last week at the Poway School District Board Meeting, San Diego, California, USA, on 18 May 2015. A high school senior, Zach Affolter, submitted a resolution to the school board, entitled:  

"Supporting Educational opportunities for the humane treatment of animals."
After getting push-back from captivity supporters, Zach took the step of revising & watering down the original language of the resolution to say that SeaWorld does offer some positive educational opportunities, as well as other changes. 



SeaWorld's response was to mass email the school board, send employees, friends, & a family member to testify, and to call in a favor from board member T.J. Zane to block the resolution before it could be voted on (see video at 1:30). According to his website:







@tjzane has a foundation  http://www.sandiegoprosperity.org  and is a long-time political fundraiser through Lincoln Club & the city GOP.


From an article by Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego, April 2014:
SeaWorld scored a big win this week when a bill targeting the company [AB-2140] was sidelined – but the park’s influence extends far beyond Sacramento. 
The company’s political action committee has funneled more than $100,000 to federal candidates and national lobbying groups since 2012. In the same two-year period, the company itself has sunk another $12,500 into the political arms of the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, the California Restaurant Association’s local chapter and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
Its executives also wrote checks to city politicians including Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Council President Todd Gloria totaling more than $5,000.

From THIS ARTICLE: A visual of San Diego-based politicians receiving donations from SeaWorld executives, the company or its political action committee since 2012


The Lincoln Club of San Diego is a pro business political action group that recently received $12,500 from SeaWorld. T.J. Zane is the former chief executive. It's worth pointing out that Mr. Zane has done nothing illegal. He's simply exercising a political favor for a corporate constituent that has donated money to his group. Both he and SeaWorld  appreciate the money generated by performing marine mammals. 



"Follow the Money." 



Another notable point regarding the testimony seen in the video is that SeaWorld animal training management continues to fabricate misinformation to suit it's needs. Note that head killer whale trainer, Robin Sheets, lies to the school board. 


Robin Sheets testimony begins at 16:38 in the video

 

Thanks to various lawsuits, some SeaWorld killer whale medical documents are in the public record, including the note above, which states that 80mg of diazepam (Trade name Valium) was prescribed to orca "Ikaika." It is widely known within the trainer community that SeaWorld, and other marine parks, sometimes use medications to "mellow" agitated animals and when transporting animals from park to park. According to ex-colleague John Hargrove, this isn't the first time Mr. Sheets has fabricated misinformation in a public setting. See John's Tweet, below: 



The value of this evidence is that it captures a head trainer spreading misinformation, and also the flow of money to politicians in San Diego. According to the Voice of San Diego, SeaWorld has given contributions to many politicians in California, and nationally. It's our job to hold them accountable by voting out those who put profit before the welfare of the animals in human care.   

Are the stockholders & lawyers paying attention? 


For more on this story read this piece by Jaime at Cetacean Inspiration:
HEAD SEAWORLD TRAINER LIES TO CALIFORNIA BOARD OF EDUCATION

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Food Deprivation at SeaWorld

A Statement on Food Deprivation at SeaWorld 

Recently, the topic of killer whale food rationing & deprivation has made national news as SeaWorld vigorously defends its training practices & launches attacks at critics.

Q: Does SeaWorld use food deprivation?
Absolutely. But decide for yourself



Identical questions were posed to John Jett PhD & Jeffrey Ventre MD, former killer whale trainers. Jett is a visiting research professor at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, USA, and Ventre a board certified physiatrist in Washington state. Their responses are below, beginning with Dr Jett. There is an additional section that summarizes how killer whale food preparation happens each morning. 

Dr John Jett being interviewed by Katie Emmons of Blue Freedom. Katie's film Voiceless will be released this year. 


1. JJ: Does SeaWorld use food deprivation?

Food deprivation was a tool often used when I was a trainer. The concept is straightforward: Reduce the number of calories a whale gets over a period of time and that animal becomes increasingly food motivated. Animals are generally more likely to cooperate with trainers when they are hungry. Food deprivation is a normal component of the training environment, at least while I was a trainer.








2  JJ: Have you ever witnessed food deprivation, or witnessed a drop in an animals food amount prior to a special occasion?

I have both seen and have been a part of depriving whales of food too many times to count. For example, we would often know a week or more prior to August Busch IV visiting the park in Orlando. August Busch IV was the CEO of Anheuser-Busch, the company who owned SeaWorld while I was employed there, and we were always informed by management to cut food bases during the week leading up to his visit. This helped to ensure that Mr. Busch would observe a decent show. Hungry whales generally seemed to perform much better and more consistently, which of course was the objective. 



A bucket of fish. The herring on top is likely the "med fish" which is fed first
I also witnessed food deprivation on targeted animals for specific purposes. For example, Tilikum was often deprived of food prior to teeth drilling or when he was initially asked to go into the (at the time) new back pool (“G” pool). Captive whales are often reluctant to enter new pools, especially when being asked to do so. Food deprivation was also used to help address difficult separations. For example, there was a time when Gudrun (deceased) and Katina were difficult to separate and both bases were cut on a number of occasions so that separations could be reinforced.



Ex SeaWorld Killer Whale Trainers John Hargrove and John Jett talking Blackfish 


3. JJ: What else can you add on the topic of food deprivation?

Food deprivation is not immediately effective as it usually takes at least a couple of days of reduced caloric intake before a whale becomes motivated by their growing hunger.



Jeffrey Ventre & John Jett answering questions at a Blackfish screening 


1. JV: Does SeaWorld use food deprivation?

Yes. One can debate the ethics of withholding food from animals, but it is a tool that is necessary for companies with scheduled orca shows. All performance animals (as opposed to exhibit animals) have carefully managed food base amounts to keep them interested in food & willing to perform

Some animals are clearly more food motivated than others, but ultimately they all must eat. Hunger provides leverage, especially when you consider that even sea lions weigh several hundred pounds & could seriously injure a trainer.

A captive killer whale posing on a scale. This image shows some of the impacts of captivity on Orcinus orca  



















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? 

Does SeaWorld expect the public to believe that whales voluntarily swim into stretchers for transportation to another facility?  Really?

The reality is that most whales become agitated & fearful when the crane rumbles up to Shamu Stadium because they realize that one of their facility-mates, or possibly them, is about to disappear. This is especially true when separating a mother from it's calf. In those situations food deprivation is not only used, but is relied upon, along with plenty of man power.  



_______________ Relevant Videos in this box_________________________

VIDEO: Keto is beached & a wooden 4x4 inch post is placed into his mouth to keep it pried open for a medical procedure. In this case a long tube with a fiber-optic camera is inserted all the way to his stomach. This procedure is called an "endoscopy" and was done to look for paint chips in his gut. Does he open his mouth for this because he wants this? No, because he is hungry PRIOR to this endoscopy. 

VIDEO: Blackfish star Carol Ray describes the Kalina separation story to a full house at #Superpod2. Kalina did not voluntarily separate from her mother.  


VIDEO: Samantha Berg & Jeffrey Ventre discuss trainer-whale relationships at SeaWorld

_______________________________________________________



The head trainer assures potential customers that SeaWorld "would never" withhold food 


Food deprivation is a training reality, and marine circuses should be honest about its use. The famous line that "our animals are doing these behaviors because they want to" is a very insincere way to describe why the animals are
performing many of their trained behaviors, especially ones that are uncomfortable. Granted a roll-over & belly rub is likely more enjoyable for a captive killer whale versus a pulpotomy procedure, but even roll-overs are trained using food. 

Roll-overs have a dual purpose. They are used to portray a trainer-whale bond during a show, which is good PR (and by design), but they also allow trainers to visualize & access killer whale genitalia, a key to SeaWorld's artificial insemination program. 



Wild killer whales are not known to roll over for humans. These behaviors are taught utilizing food & sometimes deprivation.



Withholding food becomes deprivation when it is done in a way to exert extra control over an animal; when it is intended to increase an animal's hunger drive. When I worked there, the order was to "hold the animals at half base," (or 3/4 base, etc.) meaning if a whale consumed 200 pounds of fish on a given day, hold him or her to 100 lbs. When deprivation is sustained, an animal will eventually cooperate for a desired show or husbandry behavior. 

On at least one occasion I recall asking a supervisor, "What do I do with this extra bucket of fish?" The order was, "Grind it."
 2. JV:  Have you ever witnessed food deprivation, or witnessed a drop in an animals food amount prior to a special occasion? 

Yes, both.   The pressure was on when celebrities, politicians, athletes, or businessmen attended live performances. These were scheduled shows and known weeks in advance. Food was sometimes withheld to ensure animal cooperation.


If management needed a vet's approval to cut back food, they simply asked for it & it was done. The veterinarian's salaries are dependent on the show performances, too.

In the lead-up to a VIP visit the routine included scrubbing pool sides with a light bleach solution, removing dead fish from the bottom grates & making sure the VIP saw a good show in a clean stadium. Steps to ensure that important people saw a good show are routine & this translated into
Taima & Jeffrey Ventre in A pool, 1995 
food deprivation for some whales. Taima was a notoriously disruptive killer whale who sometimes prevented shows from happening & who was eventually banished from doing waterwork. I was her primary waterwork trainer in 1994 & 1995. Her food base was cut on at least several occasions that I can recall, primarily to get her to separate into particular pools when asked. She had periods that included refusing to separate out of A pool, and her presence out there meant some shows were cancelled. The show must go on. 





SeaWorld's Food Board & Fish Room Described 


In regard to how food is distributed at Shamu Stadium, here's a summary: 

The ordered food amount is written up onto the food board in the fish room. The board is a clear plastic rectangle hanging on the wall. Grease pencils are used to "make up the board," an actual phrase. The first column is for the whales, the rows are for food bucket amounts, in pounds. 







The buckets themselves are labeled as in the image below. Each bucket contains a mix of fish, mostly smelt & herring, and is weighed & stored in a walk-in refrigerator. Each animal has his or her own buckets, and for shows extra mixed buckets are prepared and hidden around the stadium. The food is placed at positions where behaviors would terminate, so a trainer can quickly spin around, grab some fish and move on with the show. You see a lot of hugs, rubs, and "secondary reinforcers" during shows, but it's all usually backed up (reinforced) by food, just not on every occasion. This approach keeps the whales guessing as to when a food reward will come.


Please click to enlarge. Right click to save for your own blog. 


When an order to cut an animals base comes down from management, a senior level trainer will make up a new food board reflecting those changes. And when the morning crew comes in they will simply follow the new numbers. Questioning management was and is not encouraged. And keep in mind that the term "cut the animals base" is almost assuredly no longer permitted, by rule or unwritten rule. 
We understand that SeaWorld prefers not to call what it does, "food deprivation," so they play word games with this. They prefer phrases like "adjusted optimal food amount" or "best working weight" or phrases to that effect. 


It reminds of Florida Governor Rick Scott banning the term "global warming." Just because SeaWorld prefers to use other terms for its practice of withholding food from show animals doesn't mean that SeaWorld doesn't practice food deprivation.  

 It does. 


Orcas typically ignore humans in kayaks, boats, or SCUBA. Only at SeaWorld do you see them jumping out of the water for food. This mother-daughter pair is Kalina, pregnant here & now deceased (with Laura foreground) & Katina (with JV). 

3. JV: What else can you add on the topic of food deprivation? 

Food deprivation is built into the operant conditioning of free thinking & sometimes unpredictable killer whales.  Food is the primary leverage trainers have & one that is used to maintain control. Only at marine circuses are orcas & dolphins coerced into unnatural tricks for human amusement as well as their very sustenance. 





Call it what you will, but food deprivation is alive and well at SeaWorld. 


_______________________________________________________


FOOTNOTES


We former trainers at Voice of the Orcas have spoken out on the topic of food deprivation at numerous Q&A sessions & also during interviews with reporters & bloggers. Here is just one example from March of 2012. Be sure to read Samantha & Carol's thoughts on the topic here:  former seaworld trainers speak out about captivity

J. Jett & J. Ventre have two scientific writings on the topic of captive killer whales currently in print. One is a chapter in a university textbook dealing with animals in tourism. The other is a peer-reviewed article in the J. of Marine Mammal Science. Stay tuned.