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article imageOp-Ed: 'Whale Trainer Barbie' should be Whale Trainer Barbaric says PETA

By Elizabeth Batt     Apr 25, 2012 in Environment
El Segundo - America's favorite doll has taken a dangerous turn says animal ethics group PETA. The creation of a Barbie Whale Trainer doll by toy company Mattel, is "ill-advised," adds the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Describing Mattel's new Whale Trainer Barbie doll as more "barbaric" than Barbie, PETA is suggesting that Mattel's Whale Trainer Barbie, is not only irresponsible, it ruins Barbie's long-term animal activist status. Barbie, PETA added, has been a fur free advocate for animals for years. So, "not much could be in poorer taste than a children's toy that simultaneously glorifies animal abuse and a high risk of personal injury," said the group yesterday.
And PETA has a point.
Barely two years have passed since SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by the orca Tilikum during a Dine with Shamu performance at SeaWorld Florida in 2010. But rather than promoting caution, marketing that targets children, continues to be pushed.
Just for the record, Tilikum broke Brancheau’s jaw and neck; he dislocated one of her elbows, and, according to the autopsy report, tore part of her scalp "forcibly" from her head.
The orca also completely ripped off Dawn's left arm and swam around with it in his mouth, long after her body had been recovered.
So what mother in her right mind, would want this for her child?
Parents should know before purchasing this doll that an OSHA assessment found SeaWorld culpable in Brancheau's death and subsequently smacked the company with a $75,000 fine for a “willful” safety violation.
Furthermore, Voice of the Orcas, a website hosted by former SeaWorld trainers, has revealed that SeaWorld was deliberately obscure about the history of its killer whales, including Tilikum, who has now been implicated in three human deaths.
There is also increasing evidence that cetaceans in captivity do not do well. The latest research being presented at the 4th Florida Marine Mammal Health Conference to be held in Sarasota, Florida this week, attributes two orca deaths at SeaWorld to mosquito-transmitted viral diseases, including the West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis viruses.
The presentation by Doctors John Jett and Jeffrey Ventre in conjunction with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), reveals newly-discovered evidence that SeaWorld's whales were exposed to these viruses because of the unnatural amount of time that they spend at the surface of the water in shallow pools.
With SeaWorld policies and practices being increasingly questioned, this company continues to market their facilities as safe and their cetaceans as happy. But there is a dark history behind this corporation, some of which will be revealed in David Kirby's forthcoming book, Death at SeaWorld.
The award-winning journalist's book has already set the fox among the pigeons. In fact, SeaWorld supporters are so alarmed, that petitions have been launched calling for the book to be banned, before they have even read it.
But the creation of the Whale Trainer Barbie has also managed to piss off two of the most passionate and protective entities on this planet. Mothers and activists. And they are not sitting idle. This online petition by the social media campaign, "Save Misty the Dolphin," (SMTD) was initiated just last night. The campaign recently celebrated success after obtaining a written pledge from Hong Kong airlines, to stop the transportation of wild caught dolphins.
As for PETA, the organization said it has already written to Mattel requesting that if the company continues to sell Whale Trainer Barbie, it should at least make the doll realistic. "Children were traumatized" said the group, "when they witnessed Tilikum pull trainer Dawn Brancheau underwater and kill her by thrashing her into the walls of the tank."
In this sue-happy environment of ours, Mattel would do well to protect itself. Last year, tobacco company Phillip Morris paid a former smoker $300 million in Florida because she needed a lung transplant after years of smoking. The company was deemed at fault for failing to reveal, (or potentially hiding), just how addictive nicotine is.
And former trainers have already shared how they were kept in the dark about the histories of some of the animals they worked with. Furthermore, when SeaWorld initially imported Tilikum from Canada, he had already been involved in the killing of a trainer called Keltie Byrne.
Aware of Byrne's death, and despite concerns expressed by the National Marine Fishery Services (NMFS) over the animal's behavior, SeaWorld imported Tilikum anyway. And when the company was asked by NMFS what measures it would take to prevent a similar attack, prior to and after acquiring Tilikum, the marine mammal park insisted that the incident in Canada had occurred because of "poor pool design" that had no relevance to SeaWorld facilities.
But at the end of the day, Barbie is an all- American icon and owning one is every young girl's dream. So should she really be allowed to inspire children into seeking a career that is inherently unpredictable, uncontrollable and potentially fatal? It's a risky call Mattel, and a terribly slippy slope.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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