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:


United Arab Emirates
South Africa

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