Ex-SeaWorld trainer slams ‘world of suffering’ orca shows and calls for boycott

An ex-SeaWorld worker has called on Jet2holidays to stop selling tickets to "world of suffering" sea life shows.

Former orca trainer and author John Hargrove penned an urgent letter to the travel company's CEO, Steve Heapy, claiming the shows turn the creatures into "unwilling circus clowns" and shouldn't be supported. Mr Hargrove, who worked with 20 orcas over the course of his decade-long career, says he has realised the shows are cruel – and can lead to some pretty devastating outcomes for humans and animals alike.

"I wanted to share my firsthand experience as a former senior orca trainer at marine parks in the hope that you’ll conclude, as I did, that these facilities cause orcas a world of suffering and are not worthy of your support," Mr Hargrove wrote.

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The animal expert explained the environments orcas and other marine life were kept in were often inadequate and could lead to physical health problems as well as psychological distress.

Living in concrete tanks can cause the animals to gnaw on "anything they can", including the sides of their enclosures – which not only results in damage to the equipment but can also injure the creatures.

"Most [orcas] develop ulcers, and all of them develop infections due to their living conditions," Mr Hargrove added. And it's not only bad news for the orcas – Mr Hargrove explained killer whales kept in cramped living quarters could become violent and even pose a risk to humans.

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The trainer explained he saw firsthand "the inevitable aggression that stems from [orcas'] frustration and lack of enrichment" while swimming with Keto, a killer whale born in captivity in 1995. On Christmas Eve 2009, he brutally killed trainer Alexis Martínez at Loro Parque in Tenerife, where the creature still lives to this day.

Loro Parque is one of the destinations Jet2 still sells tickets to. On its website, the travel company describes the day out as "an absolute must for animal lovers".

However, Mr Hargrove – who has worked with orcas that now live at the park – has a different view. "I urge Jet2holidays to be on the right side of history by ending the promotion of attractions that exploit orcas for human amusement," he continued. "Orcas and other dolphins belong in one place and one place only – the ocean."

Mr Hargrove has thrown his weight behind a PETA campaign calling for Jet2holidays to drop marine parks from its books. Nearly 45,000 other supporters have also voiced their concerns alongside PETA, including former The Smiths singer Morrissey.

The Daily Star has contacted Jet2holidays for comment.

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