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What It’s Like To Be Banned From SeaWorld’s Facebook Page

September 9, 2010

SW FB coverIt’s not uncommon for SeaWorld to take down comments, or ban commenters, from its Facebook fan page if it doesn’t like what’s being said. But it is nevertheless an interesting experience.

In case you have never been banned yourself, this is what you get back when you write a very reasoned objection to being banned. SeaWorld’s responses are in bold, and they came from none other than Fred Jacobs, VP Of Communications.

Pretty funny (and revealing):

Dear SeaWorld, I am writing for a couple of reasons and I will be honest in my position within this message. I am a Zoology student who, admittedly, is against the keeping of cetaceans in captivity. From my point of view, I think SeaWorld is a good park, apart from this aspect.

We appreciate your candor, but displaying cetaceans really is at the core of what SeaWorld is all about.  You offer your position in clear terms, however, and we respect your opinion and your right to offer it.

This is my personal opinion but I wanted to be honest within my message. Pending the recent tragedy at the Orlando park, I was directed to email Fred Jacobs r.e. my questions on animal care and although I received an immediate response indicating that he will get back to me straight away, I am still to hear from him – this was over three weeks ago now.

I apologize for the delay.  This, as you might expect, is a difficult time for us.  I’ve had a lot of pressing matters to attend to.

I am quite upset at having just today been blocked from the SeaWorld Orlando fan page on FaceBook.

This is a SeaWorld fan site.  You can say what you please where you please, but we are under no obligation to provide you with a forum that you then use to criticize us.

I have never used offensive or abusive language in any of my posts – rather I will put across my opinion on already existing threads in a passive way, with supporting evidence backing up my points. Only once have I started a thread on the wall and that was merely explaining a publication by Graeme Ellis which the SW admin team misquoted statistics from (I explained what the actual statistics were in reference to and I knew this because I had been in communication with Graeme Ellis myself).

Again, I’m not sure why you feel it is your right to criticize us on our own Facebook site.  There are thousands of Web sites, and probably dozens of Facebook sites, devoted to the debate over marine mammals in captivity where your comments would be appropriate.

As far as Graeme Ellis’ work, we are familiar with it.  I’m not sure of the precise context of your comments about longevity, but I can guess what they are.  You should recognize that until every member of a group of animals is studied from birth to death, estimates of longevity in this species are just that, estimates.  Ellis himself acknowledges the variability of wild life expectancy in this species: “During the period of growth, mean life expectancy of females was 46 years (31 for males)…”  Mean life expectancy of his study group, the Northern Resident Group in British Columbia declined to 30 years for females and 19 for males.*

SeaWorld has been in existence for only 46 years.  We have made continuous improvements in husbandry, veterinary care, life support, water quality and exhibit design for killer whales over that period.  The question is this:  Will the killer whale calf born next month at SeaWorld Orlando live as long as a calf born on that same day in the Northern Resident Group and will that calf live as long as a calf born on that same day in the waters off Iceland or Alaska or Argentina?  The answer?  No one knows.  What I can tell you is that there are many, many species that live longer — far longer — in a zoological setting than they do in the wild.  As technology improves so will captive lifespans

* “Life History and Population Dynamics of Northern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus Orca) in British Columbia — 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals.”

As someone who has a huge passion for orca, having worked with the likes of the WDCS, BDMLR and Dr. Ingrid Visser, I am deeply upset to have been treated in the way that I have by the SW admin team.

WDCS, like Ingrid Visser, has stated its opposition to SeaWorld many times.  Both want places like SeaWorld to close forever.  That is their right, but we disagree completely with what they stand for.  I’m not sure why you feel that an association with WDCS or Dr. Visser gives you the right to criticize SeaWorld on its own Facebook site.

I have myself been to SW two or three times and even participated in two of the behind-the-scenes programmes. I am from England, not the USA, but I am under the impression that like in England, America believes in freedom of speech so long as it is respectful and polite.

You have a clear right to say what you please.  You do not have a right to say anything you please on our Facebook site, however.

I have been nothing but respectful and polite and so am deeply upset to find that I have been removed from commenting on this page. I hope I can have at least some explanation as to what offence I have caused for this to have happened, if not a reversal of the situation. Many thanks for your time and I really do look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely, XXXXX.

But wait, our intrepid commenter was not satisfied with SeaWorld blowing her off on what she believed to be a distortion of Graeme Ellis’s work. So what did she do? She wrote Graeme Ellis, of course.

The reason why I am emailing you is because there is a bit of a debate going on on the SeaWorld fanpage (as well as a few other pages) on Facebook at the moment. There are a number of people who are trying to raise awareness about certain areas of research conducted which suggests that captivity isn’t great for certain animals (especially dolphins). I believe that it is important for people to make an informed decision about marine parks and captivity of certain animals and that education is so very important, so long as the information is presented in an honest and polite manner.

A recent rebuttal from the SeaWorld administration team recently quoted your research. However, myself and few others are under the impression that this research has been misquoted. It reads as follows:

“Peter F. Olesiuk, Graeme M. Ellis and John Ford, three of the world most respected marine mammal scientists and individuals who have studied longevity in wild whales for years, recently wrote in the peer-reviewed proceedings of the 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals that female killer whales in their study group had a mean life expectancy of 31 years and males just 19 years.”

They used this particular sentence as a defence for keeping orca (and other dolphins) in captivity when someone questioned how captivity can possibly be justified when captive mammals are dying at a faster rate than their wild counterparts. I believe they are quoting the following (although I can’t find the 31 years for females):
“For males, 77% survived to the mean age of physical maturity (19 years) during the initial period of unrestrained growth, but this dropped to 56% during the more recent period of no net change.”

I am finding it difficult to understand the article, but I am aware of statistics published in your 1990 report for the IWC suggesting that female orca have an average life-expectancy of 50.2 years (80-90 maximum longevity) and males have an average life-expectancy of 29.2 years (50-60 maximum longevity) and I am under the impression (from the WDCS report I mentioned earlier) that these findings were also published in your 1994 “Killer Whales” publication.

There is much argument going back and forth about this, as well as about your opinion on captivity. So I thought, who better to ask than Graeme Ellis himself!

Yes, who better? And back came Graeme Ellis’s response:

Hi XXX, If you go to the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat web site (CSAS) and check out document 2005/045 you will see where the SeaWorld types picked the statement that met their needs. Basically the mean life expectancy for the resident type killer whales dropped during a time when both N&S resident populations went into decline caused by increased mortality rates which correlate strongly with a decrease in Chinook salmon abundance (their primary food). See attached publication. I hope this helps explain what appears to be a change in life expectancy. Since about 2001 the populations have reversed this declining trend, so life expectancies should return to what was previously published. Cheers, Graeme

So go the PR wars over the morality and humanity of captivity of marine mammals.

We think SeaWorld, and Fred Jacobs, are going to be in trouble when this fact-loving, and admirably persistent, student graduates and has more time.

Sea World Believe

Hard To Believe?

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa cotton permalink
    July 27, 2016 5:37 pm

    I’m now banned and all of my posts have been removed. So I’m now posting all over the ‘net, rating sites like Yelp & so on. Takes more than that to shut me up

  2. Katrin permalink
    March 9, 2011 4:23 am

    I agree with a comment from someone on facebook, being banned is a badge of honour. Sadly I’m not banned but I couldn’t bring myself to ‘like’ their page in order to post….. I am banned from a Disney forum that has a SeaWorld section though, despite remaining perfectly polite and backing up every single point I made with relevant evidence…. I am quite proud of that!

  3. Delfina permalink
    January 11, 2011 9:26 pm

    Seaworld is in the business of making money, not education.

    Are any of you also banned from MSQ facebook page as well? Any comment that mentions Lolita’s tank size seems to be a valid excuse for them to ban you.

  4. Michelle Buzas permalink
    September 11, 2010 1:16 am

    I also wanted to say thank you for sharing this example of how Seaworld misrepresents the facts about wild orcas in order to try to maintain a positive public image.

  5. Stubborn.Student permalink
    September 10, 2010 3:46 pm

    Prior to this correspondence, Fred Jacobs was perfectly polite and friendly… even appearing keen to help. This man deals with the communications side of SeaWorld – I would be interested to know what expertise he has in marine mammals?

  6. Lyndzy Gordon permalink
    September 10, 2010 3:40 pm

    I completely agree with what you said you Jeff. This is so true…

    “What is wrong about this is that SeaWorld says they are about education to inspire people to care about these animals in the wild. However, their actions here show that they educate by taking scientific studies out of context to promote the captivity of orcas. And when someone explains the correct context, their comments are deleted and they are banned. Clearly, for SeaWorld, it is about the control and twisting of information, not about education.”

    This could not have been said any better.

  7. Jeff permalink
    September 10, 2010 3:01 pm

    Seaworld certainly has the right to moderate their facebook fan page, and to delete comments. I have seen many friends get banned. What shocked me about this incident was that the comments in question here were not negative comments about Seaworld or about captivity. The comments that lead to the ban were to explain the conclusions of a study that Seaworld was mis-interpreting regarding wild orca life exectancy. What is wrong about this is that SeaWorld says they are about education to inspire people to care about these animals in the wild. However, their actions here show that they educate by taking scientific studies out of context to promote the captivity of orcas. And when someone explains the correct context, their comments are deleted and they are banned. Clearly, for SeaWorld, it is about the control and twisting of information, not about education.

    An aside, a Fred Jacobs quote above that stands out:

    “SeaWorld has been in existence for only 46 years. We have made continuous improvements in husbandry, veterinary care, life support, water quality and exhibit design for killer whales over that period. The question is this: Will the killer whale calf born next month at SeaWorld Orlando live as long as a calf born on that same day in the Northern Resident Group and will that calf live as long as a calf born on that same day in the waters off Iceland or Alaska or Argentina? “

    I think we have the answer to that question.

  8. Lyndzy Gordon permalink
    September 10, 2010 2:32 pm

    This is great and very informative. I just spent my entire Labor Day weekend on the SeaWorld fan page page speaking out about captivity and they haven’t blocked me yet…. YET. However almost all the fans on the page have reported my profile – I’m still there though!

    The SeaWorld page admin was responding to some comments from fans requesting they clean the ‘trash’ off the fan page and I commented asking if anything I had said violated the fan page guidelines and that what I was posting was educational and SeaWorld has to expect these kind of discussions on their page when they are involved with something as controversial as marine animal captivity. So far I have received no answer from SeaWorld only insults from their fans.

    If it’s not slander and does not go against their guidelines then I don’t see why we can’t speak about it? The SeaWorld admin who spoke to this student did not say anything about them violating fan page guidelines but rather that the fan page isn’t there to turn into a forum to criticize them.

    I’m going to to quote them on this and ask them if I can speak about captivity in general – without using SeaWorld’s name. That way it would not be criticizing them but rather giving fans educational information that they may never know if not posted on the SeaWorld fan page.

  9. September 10, 2010 1:54 pm

    Great piece. Demonstrates SeaWorld’s need to control the flow of information fed to their fan base. It would be difficult for them to put fans in the stands if they were made aware of the truth, so SeaWorld tells them only what they want to hear… and makes them “Believe”. As a card carrying member of the “Banned from SeaWorld’s Facbook page”, I’ve seen firsthand how quick they are to squelch the truth. It’s their M.O.

    I hope this student remains persistent and continues to shed light on the truth.

  10. Michelle Buzas permalink
    September 10, 2010 1:41 pm

    Yes, I remember this clearly. I admire this particular student’s ability to remain respectful regarding Seaworld’s blatant misrepresentation of this study. I find it offensive that Seaworld insults the intelligence of the general public by flat out lying to them and expecting everyone to just “BELIEVE”.

    • September 10, 2010 1:46 pm

      Michelle, we understand you were banned, too. If that’s true, what was your experience?

      • Michelle Buzas permalink
        September 10, 2010 2:38 pm

        I was able to post for a while, but when the Seaworld fan page admin referenced this study (misrepresenting the findings) in an effort to make the life spans of their captive orcas seem typical, I was also one of the people who called them on it on the wall of their fan page. They made the same claim during an interview with KGTV, here:
        http://www.10news.com/download/2007/0518/13349802.pdf

        They claimed that the females in this population of orcas that Olesiuk, Ellis, and Ford studied had a mean life expectancy of 31 years, and that the males had a mean life expectancy of 19 years, and then stated that some of their orcas have lived beyond the life expectancy of these orcas.

        What they didn’t state was that for the majority of this study which covered over 3 decades, the mean life expectancies were 46 for females (maximum longevity 80 years) and 31 for males (maximum longevity 60-70 years). Seaworld used a period of 8 years during the study, when there was a decline in the population’s food source, hence a decline in life span, to compare their captive orcas.

        Their exact quote: (I have a screen shot)

        Seaworld: “Julia- on your question about captivity. This is simply not true. Peter F. Olesiuk, Graeme M. Ellis, and John Ford, three of the world’s most respected marine mammal scientists and individuals who have studied longevity in wild whales for years, recently wrote in the peer-reviewed proceedings of the 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals that female killer whales in their study group had a mean life expectancy of 31 years and males just 19 years. We have no idea where you’ve gotten All species of cetaceans die prematurely in captivity, but it’s nonsense. We have whales that have lived more than 30 years in our parks and are still going strong. one of our whales, Corky, is more than 43 years old. She has lived in a zoological setting since 1969.”

        Nonsense? Really? Had they paid attention to the entire study, they would have known that those life expectancies are an anomaly and only reference a period of 8 years which directly coincided with the decline in salmon that is this population’s primary food source. Not only did they reference a period of this study when killer whales were dealing with food scarcity, but they compared the MAXIMUM longevity of their captive killer whales with the MEAN LIFE EXPECTANCY of the wild killer whales during this 8 year period. Completely deceptive tactic. After I pointed this out on their wall I was banned from the page.

        Anyone can read the true findings of this study here:
        http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/CSAS/Csas/DocREC/2005/RES2005_045_e.pdf

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