SeaWorld trainer responds to PETA commentaryCommentary, Entertainment News, Online Only, Section 4A, Top Highlights Sunday, October 4th, 2015
Killer whales are thriving at SeaWorld
I read with dismay the Sept. 3 guest commentary (San Diego LGBT Weekly issue 181) by PETA’s Gray Caskey urging the LGBT community to unite against SeaWorld. I am a proud member of San Diego’s LGBT community, and I completely disagree with the distorted portrait Ms. Caskey painted of our park. There is no organization that is more dedicated to the physical, social and mental health and well-being of animals, including killer whales, than SeaWorld. I’ve had the honor of spending the last 20 years of my life at SeaWorld caring for some of the most incredible animals in the world. I know firsthand SeaWorld’s commitment to animals, because I live this truth every day.
My parents couldn’t afford to take my family to the Pacific Northwest to observe killer whales in the Puget Sound. Instead, it was my elementary school teacher who held my hand while I encountered my first marine mammals. It was an educational field trip to SeaWorld where I met Shamu, dolphins and other animals at the park. That experience, even at a very young age, changed my life forever. I knew that when I grew up I wanted to work with these amazing animals. It took years of hard work and determination to earn a degree in psychology, gain animal care experience and learn how to swim. One of the happiest days of my life was when earned a position within the zoological department at SeaWorld and ever since I have been committed to giving these animals the best care possible and sharing them with millions of visitors every year from all over the world.
I don’t make these comments casually. During my two decades at SeaWorld, I’ve not only devoted my life to killer whales, dolphins, pilot whales and sea lions, but, as part of our Rescue Team, I’ve come to the aid of hundreds of ill and injured marine mammals stranded on the beaches of San Diego County. Rescuing an animal that is near death, giving it a second chance at life, and returning it to the ocean is something I cherish. I don’t do this because of a pay check. I, like my fellow trainers, do this because we love these animals. Regardless if it’s day or night, weekends or holidays, I am there for our animals. The relationship and bond I have with them is very special and something I wish everyone could experience. When I have a chance to talk with our guests after a show, especially young kids, and I can connect them to our animals, I know I’m making a difference in their lives and helping them gain a better understanding of and respect for all animals.
As part of our ongoing commitment to the health and welfare of our animals, we will be spending $100 million to expand our killer whale habitat. This will be the fourth expansion of their habitat here at the park. We are also contributing $10 million to killer whale research.
I was offended by Ms. Caskey trying to draw a connection between the LGBT community’s struggle for equality and how we care for our animals. Such a comparison is beyond obtuse. And her condemnation of Nicole Murray Ramirez, a San Diego icon, was equally insulting. I want to thank Nicole for supporting SeaWorld and speaking the truth about all the great work we do as the real advocates for animals.
After 20 years at SeaWorld, I am as passionate about animals as I was when I was a little kid. The trainers I work with at the park not only share my passion, they have become my life-long friends. Together, we spend most of our waking lives with our animals and we know that they are healthy and thriving.
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