SeaWorld has been in a fight since 2011 with Marineland of Canada and now court records show that experts believe some of the marine mammals in the San Diego attraction were fed with psychoactive drugs.
The orcas, including the prized killer whale Ikaika, were given the drug benzodiazepine,a type of drug that includes the common human medications Valium and Xanax.
The orcas’ mental health issues, SeaWorld’s critics say, are a direct result of their keeping the mammals in captivity.
Jared Goodman, Director of Animal Law at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), told BuzzFeed that he believes the leaked documents will play a key role in SeaWorld’s future.
The veterinary records show that orcas at SeaWorld are given psychotropic drugs to stop them from acting aggressively towards each other in the stressful, frustrating conditions in which they’re confined instead of funding the development of coastal sanctuaries – the only humane solution.”
SeaWorld has long been considered a flashpoint for people angry about the plight of captive whales. The documentary Blackfish has reinforced that position. Blackfish details the story of Tilikum, the captive whale first captured in the wild in 1983. The whales genes are found in more than half of the whales in SeaWorld’s current whale collection, and has fathered at least 21 whales from artificial insemination.
Fred Jacobs, a spokesman for SeaWorld, defended the medication in a statement.
“Benzodiazepines are sometimes used in veterinary medicine for the care and treatment of animals, both domestic and in a zoological setting…These medications can be used for sedation for medical procedures, premedication prior to general anesthesia, and for the control of seizures. The use of benzodiazepines is regulated, and these medications are only prescribed to animals by a veterinarian. Their use for cetacean healthcare, including killer whales, is limited, infrequent, and only as clinically indicated based on the assessment of the attending veterinarian. There is no higher priority for SeaWorld than the health and well-being of the animals in its care.”