Troubled waters

Troubled waters

PETA members to appear for allegedly interfering with Rose Parade’s SeaWorld orca float 

By André Coleman 02/26/2014

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Fifteen adults and a 12-year-old girl arrested for protesting a SeaWorld float in the Rose Parade are due to start appearing in court Monday to face charges of interfering with a special event.          

Police arrested the group at the Jan. 1 parade for alleging trying to stop the heavily guarded SeaWorld float, which depicted a boy snorkeling among sea life, including orcas.

“The charges are not totally unexpected,” said Lisa Lange, a vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which organized the local protest. Lange was arrested at the New Year’s Day event. 

The charge carries a $200 fine, according to PETA attorney Matthew Strugar. The group originally was scheduled to answer the charges on Feb. 3 but charges had not been filed by that time and no one from the City Attorney’s office showed up at the hearing. According to state law, prosecutors have one year to file charges in some cases involving misdemeanors and infractions. 

“We will use the court date as another opportunity to protest the world’s animal abuse,” Lange told the Pasadena Weekly. “We look at the court date as another opportunity to encourage the world not to go to SeaWorld.”

SeaWorld has been under fire since the July 2013 release of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary “Blackfish,” a critical depiction of the treatment of orcas in captivity which has been shown several times on CNN.

The film follows the case of Tilikum, a 2- or 3-year-old killer whale that was allegedly physically abused by SeaWorld trainers after being caught in 1983 and placed in cramped quarters at the British Columbia Sealand of the Pacific entertainment park. In 1991, three orcas killed a trainer. According to the documentary, Tilikum wasn’t the instigator of the attack, but he did participate in it. 

The park closed shortly after the incident and SeaWorld Orlando acquired Tilikum. In 1999, Daniel Dukes, a visitor to the park, evaded security and was able to spend a night in SeaWorld Orlando. He entered Tilikum’s tank at some time during the night and was found dead the next morning. In 2010, trainer Dawn Brancheau was dragged into the tank and drowned by Tilikum, which pulled her under water either by her ponytail or her arm. That same year, SeaWorld was fined for three safety violations, including two connected to Brancheau’s death.

The controversy surrounding the documentary led several groups to cancel appearances at the theme park, including The Beach Boys, Pat Benatar, Trace Adkins, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Cheap Trick, Heart, Barenaked Ladies, Martina McBride and .38 Special. Several school districts also announced they would no longer allow field trips to the venue.

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