Rexano editorial by Zuzana Kukol, March 6, 2007

On November 29, 2006, San Diego, California, SeaWorld Adventure Park’s trainer Kenneth Peters, 39, was bit and held underwater several times by the 7,000-pound killer whale during a show at Shamu Stadium. He survived suffering only a broken foot and is back at work.

According to various news reports, a recently released report by California Industrial Relations Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (Cal/OSHA) claims that Swimming with captive orcas “is inherently dangerous and if someone hasn’t been killed already it is only a matter of time before it does happen”.

But just because it might happen doesn’t mean it will, and even if it does happen, why shouldn’t people be free to choose their profession and what level of occupational hazard is acceptable to them as individuals?

People love adventure and feel of that adrenaline rush. How popular would NASCAR be if it was 100 percent guaranteed that nobody will ever have an accident? Who would spend lots of money and countless hours watching noisy cars go in circles?

Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a naturally produced hormone released from the adrenal glands whenever danger threatens. It boosts the supply of oxygen and energy-giving glucose to the muscles making the individual more mentally alert and physically strong, where only vital bodily processes occur. In medicine, epinephrine injections can be a lifesaver for heart attack or asthma victims.

And now the government wants to in effect prevent us, thru intrusive over-regulation, from having an access to our own naturally produced adrenaline that results from going to see safe ‘Killer whale’ shows (or simply keeping exotic pets or going to circus), where something ‘might’ happen, but most likely won’t. The suspense keeps us ‘alive’, on our toes, instead of zombie like existence 100 percent safe and boring world would offer, assuming total world safety is even an achievable and realistic goal.

How can you speculate that it’s only a matter of time before someone dies?” Mike Scarpuzzi, vice president of zoological operations, was quoted as saying. “We’ve been doing this for 40 years and no one has died. We’re the experts.”

After SeaWorld officials met with state investigators objecting to the report’s findings and recommendations, state authorities backed off promising to consider the objections and revising the report

“Much of the information in the report reflects a complete lack of understanding of the complexities of marine mammal biology, behavior and husbandry,” Scarpuzzi said.

The incident also brought up an animal rights (AR) tinted debate over the captive keeping of wild and exotic animals. Supposedly orcas (aka killer whales) have no history of attacking people in the wild, while killer whales in captivity sometimes do.

Well, it is not surprising ; although killer whales inhabit all oceans of the world, they are most numerous in the frigidly cold Arctic and the Antarctic bodies of open water, and no sane person would ever swim there and if they did, the hypothermia would kill them before any killer whale could even get to them.

Trainers of captive orcas also spend many more hours having full body contact with them than anybody with the wild killer whales ever could.

If this ban it all ’if it could cause harm’ (but likely won’t) hysteria continues, it will not be long before even prescription life saving adrenaline will be banned, since it too has extremely rare but fatal side effects. And in that scenario, nothing will save Cal/OSHA officials from their heart attacks resulting from ever so stressful job dealing with killer whales or other adrenaline boosting ‘dangerous’ critters.


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