Former SeaWorld Educator Was Given Misinformation, Exclusion and Manipulation of Facts

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I’m thrilled to introduce you to Cody Angeles today.  Cody worked as an Educator/Narrator with additional assignments as a Camp/Sleep-over Counselor and Lifeguard at SeaWorld San Diego from March/April 2008 through January 2009.  As a surfer, he had a passion for educating others about marine animals and wanted to give back to the ocean and make a difference.  He, as with so many, was under the impression that the benefits of conservation and education that SeaWorld advertised were for the greater good of marine animals and our oceans.

Cody describes his training as daily lectures which provided information regarding various animal facts such as physical descriptions, height/weight, swimming speeds, eating habits, etc.  I wonder how these facts were obtained since swimming speeds in a tank are hardly comparable to those in the open ocean and eating habits vary depending on where pods live in the ocean.  He also says that Educators were required to include a section of the presentation regarding conservation and what role SeaWorld plays.  Can you imagine standing at the orca tank talking about conservation as orcas behind you were snatched from their families in the wild?

“Educators were given additional information to use in response to specific questions guests might ask regarding animal captivity, bent fins, animal treatment/nutrition, and animal well-being.  We were also taught to avoid certain key words while presenting over the microphone; anything with a negative connotation regarding SeaWorld or related to animal captivity was taboo”, Cody stated.  At the time, he never questioned any of the information given to him.  He viewed SeaWorld as a huge entity that cared for the environment, and he was told that the animals in captivity were living better than most people.  Cody felt that any park guest who questioned animal captivity were weird, “hippie” or misinformed, but he has now come to realize that he was the misinformed one.  He now regrets not validating those questions, brushing them off, because of what he was instructed to say.

He personally remembers that bent dorsal fin dilemma while he was employed, stating that seeing the orcas daily with their fins bent didn’t sit well with him.  Even then, Cody said that due to mis-information, exclusion, and the manipulation of facts, the educators set responses made sense.  His feelings towards captivity were neutral at the time, because he was under the impression that animals at SeaWorld were either rescued or could not be released in the wild due to illness.  In the meantime, SeaWorld was continually breeding orcas using those who had been captured from their families as young calves.

Cody states that his turning point regarding animal captivity was after watching “The Cove”.  After watching the movie, he began to question and research where SeaWorld receives their animals since they seem to be so fully stocked all the time with no shortages.  Now he is a proud supporter of Sea Shepherd and Earth Island Institute.

He states, “I personally believe that the biggest conflict to overcome would have to be the misinformation that the public has been given.  If the truth is made more readily available, then the public can make a more educated decision behind what they, as consumers, want to continue to support.”

Cody Angeles has a B.A. in Medical Anthropology from California State University, San Marcos.  He currently works as a surf instructor where he is able to educate and show people the animals in their true setting.  “Being able to see dolphins and seals out free has a much better impression than swimming in circles in a tank.”

Huge thanks again to Cody for speaking out.  To contact Cody, comment directly on this post.

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24 thoughts on “Former SeaWorld Educator Was Given Misinformation, Exclusion and Manipulation of Facts

  1. Cody, thank you so much for speaking out about this very important issue. Having read a considerable amount of information about captive orcas and wild orcas, I can’t tell you how great it is to hear what you have to say! John Jett, Jeff Ventre, and Samantha Berg started the process. Thanks for continuing it!

    • Barbara, thanks for the support. Just the fact that this information is being put out for a better public understanding is great to be apart of. Keep pushin’

  2. Hi Cody! I have a question.

    In your time working for Sea World and being at the orca tank, have you ever witnessed any aggressive behavior in the whales or things that made you question the fight to keep them in captivity?

    • I can answer that for you Amanda. Since killer whales are very social and can be aggressive with each other, they display the same behaviors at SeaWorld as they do outside of SeaWorld. Also, they are animals. So even cats, dogs, horses, and yes whales are capable of being aggressive. I was a SeaWorld San Diego Educator for 3 years and Cody must have never done tours where he would seen all the rescues and work the vet staff and trainers put into rescued animals or learned the correct facts from the right people, sorry Cody. You should educate yourself with all the facts before making a judgement. http://seaworldparks.com/seaworld-sandiego/Animals/Animal-Rescue

      • Hi Amanda, thanks for the comment. By no means am I discrediting the work done or time spent by individuals working in the departments you’ve mentioned. I believe there are highly motivated and intelligent people working with Seaworld trying to make a positive difference. But my question to your comment is, in the end what is all that work, that dedication, and commitment truly supporting. Looking beyond the physical animals that are being rehabilitated and cared for, what’s the deeper meaning, or end objective of the entity that is Seaworld Entertainment Parks?

        Again, this is my opinion. To each their own.

    • The only behaviors I personally observed would have to be the Orcas that would damage their teeth on the metal bars/barriers in the tanks. I think this behavior was due to frustration, not aggression. But that’s my opinion and I have no degree in animal behavior.

    • I think group presentations with school groups would be much more effective if the focus was more on preserving, viewing, and supporting animal life in a natural setting. It would also create a more environmentally conscious student and allow them to appreciate nature as a whole. Too much comparison and contrast with the negative sides of marine animal parks can come off too harsh to children, or people in general.

  3. Hi Cody,

    I cannot tell you how happy I am to come upon your story. I also worked as an educator at Seaworld Orlando. Although my time there was brief, it was enough to show me that what this company does is wrong. Lynne, I can see where you are coming from: yes, the rescue work Seaworld does is a great service to the marine environment. Seaworld is one of the only facilities in places like Florida that can house and care for large rescued marine mammals. This aspect of the parks inspires many but I believe this is an unfortunate mask that covers much of the wrong doing that is done, and I believe that the bad far outweighs the good.

    I can confirm that Seaworld gives you certain responses for certain questions and monitors the responses its employees give. Higher level staff members would come to the park in street clothes to make sure we were responding in a manner that was “Seaworld approved” and many people were written up for giving responses that didn’t meet those standards. In fact, write-ups were used as a damage control tactic: too many write-ups would result in disciplinary action or even removal in certain cases so educators were controlled under this fear in order to comply with the image Seaworld wished to portray.

    We were asked to replace words like captivity, capture, and aggression with controlled environment, collected and play-behavior. We were told that dorsal fins collapsing were due to genetics, sun-damage, and the fact that some can get up to 6 ft in height and weigh 200 lbs so it was bound to collapse at some point: the reason they gave to not seeing this in the wild is because nature photographers do not target the “ugly fins”. We were also told that the average life span of a killer whale was 30-40 years and there has not been enough research to confirm other wise. Coming in with prior experience at other marine facilities and pursing a marine science degree, I had issues with some of this and did not agree with some of the information I was being taught, but I figured that Seaworld wouldn’t lie to me, right? Surely their intent was to educate and inspire the public.

    I found more and more this was not the case. I came in shortly after the 2010 attack so we were instructed to concentrate on the fact that Seaworld is AZA accredited and cares deeply for their animals. I have no doubt that this is the case of the people who care for them and work with them every day: if that weren’t the case, I don’t think they would have gone through so much physical preparation, worked at getting experience, and prepared so long to get a very competitive position.

    After suggesting information graphics be put in a certain exhibit, I was told that it would take away from the inspiration experience. At this point, I could not believe that a facility whose biggest defense is the education of the public its captive population provides denied giving more of that education. I felt more like a defender than an educator. So I put my 2 weeks in.

    I also could not stand in front of orca exhibit and watch Tilikum sit a corner for hours at a time and claim that this is normal any more. I felt guilty, It wasn’t right. He was clearly not living a normal life.

    I am not ready to completely come out as silly as it sounds, and I feel more free to share my experience under anonymity. This was my experience and I can only speak for myself.I hope I am headed in the right direction with these feelings: I go back and forth about the experience provided by facilities like Seaworld because I will admit, I was inspired by seeing these beautiful animals there as a child. But I was inspired by the animal itself, not the silly tricks it was doing. The animal should be the focus, not the show of dominance over it.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad you brought up other issues I did not touch on. You have something great to offer when you’re ready! Stay true! Thank you again!

      I can strongly validate what was said about being evaluated by supervisors regarding Seaworld “approved” guest information.

  4. Thank you so much for showing the “hidden” side of these places.I went to San Deigo Sea World about 30 yrs ago.I found much of it educational until I went to a live show.It made me cry.The animals don’t desever to be held prisoners.They are ment to be FREE.

    • Hi Pam, thanks for your support. Hopefully we can spread this often not seen side of marine animal parks. Spread the word!

  5. Hi Cody, hope its not too late to get some feedback. Ill actually be starting my education 3 training next week and up until now I haven’t been able to find anyone else that has had the job. Could you possibly shed some light on what else the job was like? whether it was a difficult one or how the staff was treated or anything? Its my first job so I’m a little nervous.

    • Hi Shaquille, thanks for the comment. As far as the actual job, I had no problems with staff treament or duties. As an educator, you are given quite a bit of animal information to present to park guests. Interactions with patrons and presenting over the microphone are a large part of the job. The job made me better at public speaking and educational instructions. It wasn’t until I personally began to question what information I was leaving out of my presentations due to everything having to be seaworld approved. I began to realize that there was a lot of information being left out or manipulation of facts in order to make animal captivity more appealing. In the end, it is up to the individual, everyone has the right to make their own choice. Don’t let me discourage you from the job, it was a great opportunity for me at the time.

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