Former SeaWorld trainer says ‘whales lead lives of desperation at orca prison’

John Hargrove, who left SeaWorld 10 years ago, now fights for orcas in captivity to receive better care than the type to witness at his former job – where he said “stressed” killer whales were kept 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 about 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 a decade ago, now campaigns for captive killer whales to receive better care.

John has warned Brits against visiting the park, alleging that tourist money allows the “cruelty to continue”.

He has also warned the penned-in lives of killer whales in captivity are the perfect conditions for triggering horrific against humans – of the likes discussed in 2013 documentary Blackfish.

The whales are condemned to live out “lives of quiet desperation” which could spark “violent behavior and deadly attacks”, he said in a PETA report published last month.

John is pictured with injuries sustained while training orcas

Animal rights campaigners have demanded the highly intelligent sea mammals be released from SeaWorld.

In 2016, the amusement park said it would stop its captive orca breeding program but keep the whales it already had to provide paying guests “experiences that matter”.

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

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


Melissa Hargrove)

John appeared on a documentary about the tragedy called Blackfish


Melissa Hargrove/Peta)

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

“I can tell you from my 14 years of experience that I personally witness the orcas – as well as other dolphins and marine animals – suffering the same physical and psychological trauma.

“Imagine spending your entire life trapped in a small enclosure.”

He went on to explain how the cash of tourists visiting SeaWorld on package holidays pays for “this cruelty to continue”.

John says many SeaWorld visitors don’t realise how their cash funds the cruelty


Getty Images)

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

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

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

“We had countless serious injuries and near fatalities during my career, caused by many different orcas.

“Confinement causes not only chronic health issues but also extreme stress that leads to violent behavior and deadly attacks.”

Dawn Brancheau was killed at SeaWorld 12 years ago by Tilikum, an orca ripped away from his family after he was captured aged two.

Tilikum was captured aged two and taken away from his family


Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

During his time in captivity, he also killed two other people.

John said: “Confinement causes not only chronic health issues but also extreme stress that leads to violent behavior and deadly attacks.

“We could determine the levels of stress 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 lash out in frustration.

Dawn Brancheau is pictured performing during a 2005 show


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 a natural life.”

He added: “Some visitors, who wouldn’t dream of going to an animal circus, don’t think twice before paying to see dolphins performing tricks.

“I resigned so I could speak publicly to expose what truly happens 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 built on animal suffering.

“If you’re visiting a country where these shows are on offer, vote with your wallet by staying away.

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

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