Ex-SeaWorld Trainer Says ‘Whales Lead a Life of Desperation at Orca Prison’

John Hargrove, who left SeaWorld 10 years ago, is now fighting for captive orcas to receive better care than the type he witnessed in his former job – where he said ‘stressed’ killer whales were held in prison-like conditions

John Hargrove left Seaworld 10 years ago to campaign for orca rights

A whale trainer who worked at SeaWorld has shared details of the disturbing sights he saw at the theme park where he says orcas were kept in “prison-like conditions”.

John Hargrove, 49, who left SeaWorld ten years ago, is now campaigning for captive killer whales to receive better care.

John warned Britons against visiting the park, arguing that tourist money allows the “cruelty to continue”.

He also warned that the confined lives of captive killer whales are the perfect conditions for unleashing horrific attacks on humans – like those hinted at in the 2013 documentary Blackfish.

Whales are doomed to live “a life of quiet desperation” that could trigger “violent behavior and deadly attacks,” he said in a PETA report released last month.

John is pictured with injuries sustained while training orcas

Animal rights activists have demanded that the highly intelligent marine mammals be released from SeaWorld.

In 2016, the amusement park announced it would end its captive breeding orca program but retain the whales it already owned to provide paying guests with “experiences that matter”.

In the 2013 documentary Blackfish, John said: “The physical and psychological damage suffered by human prisoners in solitary confinement is well documented.

John’s colleague was killed by an orca named Tilikum at SeaWorld in 2010


Melissa Hargrove)

John appeared in a documentary about the tragedy titled Blackfish


Melissa Hargrove/Peta)

“Orcas at amusement parks such as SeaWorld suffer the same fate.

“I can tell you from my 14 years of experience that I have personally seen killer whales – as well as other dolphins and marine animals – go through the same physical and psychological trauma.

“Imagine spending your whole life locked in a small enclosure.”

He went on to explain how money from tourists visiting SeaWorld on package holidays is paying for “this cruelty to continue”.

John says many SeaWorld visitors don’t realize how much their money funds cruelty


Getty Images)

The 2013 documentary is about the orca Tilikum, who killed one of his colleagues in 2010.

John was clear on his position that Tilikum “is not the bad guy in this story”.

He said: “He’s not the bad guy in this story. He’s also not the only orca at SeaWorld to kill a trainer.

“We have had countless serious injuries and near-deaths over my career from many different orcas.

“Lockdown not only leads to chronic health problems, but also extreme stress that leads to violent behavior and fatal attacks.”

Dawn Brancheau was killed at SeaWorld 12 years ago by Tilikum, an orca torn from her family after being captured when she was two years old.

Tilikum was captured aged two and taken from his family


Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

During his captivity, he also killed two other people.

John said: “Lockdown not only leads to chronic health issues, but also extreme stress which leads to violent behavior and fatal attacks.

“We were able to determine the stress levels in their blood, which is why countless orcas were medicated.

“Tilikum was sold to the highest bidder and placed in grotesquely small tanks.

“The confinement made him explode in frustration.

Dawn Brancheau is pictured during a show in 2005


Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“He died in his watery prison cell in 2017 – having spent more than three decades deprived of any semblance of natural life.”

He added: “Some visitors, who would not dream of going to an animal circus, do not hesitate to pay to see dolphins perform tricks.

“I resigned so I could speak publicly to expose what is really happening to these animals in captivity – the only way to bring about change.

“The harsh reality is that they are exploited by a billion dollar industry based on animal suffering.

“If you visit a country where these shows are offered, vote with your wallet by staying away.

“The power to shut down these cruel parks lies in the hands of every visitor.”

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