We don’t write about the website “The Dodo” much. If you don’t expect objectivity or fact-based reporting, then you understand that they exist to push an agenda – facts be damned.
However, they took “writing one side of a story” to a new level. It’s a level master propagandists would be proud of.
They published an article in which critical facts and reality were completely ignored to write a story because it fits an agenda. This article, by the animal rights propagandist Melissa Cronin, cites the same old trainers (most of whom were fired) to sound off on a new accusation that, as the fired ex-trainer Jeff Ventre put it, “Zinc oxide is a way to paint over burns — like a mechanical coat — usually on the dorsal surface of the animal…It’s also for aesthetic reasons, to hide blistering peeling skin.”
Ever wonder why it’s the same people making the same accusations and giving the same quotes? That’s how propaganda becomes reality.
After reading what this trainer wrote, I felt obligated to put this so-called “experience” into context by looking at the two “trainers”. Jeff Ventre has not touched a SeaWorld Killer Whale since 1995. Carol Ray has not worked at SeaWorld since 1991.
To add some oomph to that fact, current and recent SeaWorld trainers say basically the opposite regarding the use of Zinc Oxide. It does not happen in the manner or frequency that Jeff Ventre and Carol Ray have stated.
In order to understand what happens to Orcas at SeaWorld, we decided to talk to a few current and recent trainers about this issue. One current trainer we spoke to worked directly with John Hargrove and Bridgette Pirtle (both involved with BlackFish) at SeaWorld Texas and has over 15 years experience working with and caring for Orcas at SeaWorld Parks. When asked about this issue directly, here is what that trainer had to say:
SW Trainer: Occasionally when whales are not feeling well they will spend more time at the surface. In these times we may apply zinc oxide to help prevent sun damage. We choose black zinc for the black areas and white zinc for the white areas because the other whales have shown that a big black patch in the middle of a white portion of killer whale or a big white patch in a black portion of killer whale seems to affect them. I had to apply this zinc on very rare occasions and truly as a sunscreen to prevent skin damage. I have never covered up any markings by using zinc oxide. Our veterinary staff would definitely not allow us to introduce a non-sterile substance to an already damaged area of skin. In Texas we have somewhere near 90% of our pools covered with some sort of shade structure.
AwesomeOcean: So if you put the black zinc on white part of the Orca the other whales would notice?
SW Trainer: They have noticed. The reactions range from simply looking at the off colored area to actual social displacement by placing the wrong colored zinc in an off colored area.
AwesomeOcean: Have you ever applied Zinc Oxide to sunburnt skin as Carol Ray and Jeff Ventre say?
SW Trainer: It would be a horrible veterinary practice to introduce a foreign substance like zinc to an already damaged area of skin. For damaged areas of skin we typically use something called A and D ointment. It goes on either clear or white and promotes skin healing.
AwesomeOcean: Is this a big issue?
SW Trainer: The only time sun damage really becomes an issue is when an animal is not feeling well and surface rests more than normal. UV rays are mitigated a few inches below the surface of the water. Nature is a beautiful protector.
AwesomeOcean: Over your 15 years experience at SeaWorld with Orcas how many times have you applied Zinc Oxide?
SW Trainer: I’ve applied zinc no more than five times in my 15 years in animal training. A&D ointment only a few times as well.
Since our SeaWorld trainer had to remain anonymous due to personal and professional reasons, we reached out to former SeaWorld trainer Bridgette Pirtle Davis, who has over 10 years experience with Orcas at SeaWorld.
Bridgette was able to confirm what our SeaWorld trainer said and added that the use of Zinc Oxide was so rare that during her 10+ years of experience she never applied Zinc Oxide.
It seems that these ex-SeaWorld trainers, who haven’t been involved with these animals in 20 years or more, just can’t let go of their 15 minutes of fame. Their tales range from stretching of the truth to out right lies.
We reached out directly to John Hargrove to clarify his involvement with the article on TheDodo.com but due to his book launch he was unable to comment. However, he did confirm he personally used zinc oxide as sunblock.
This blatant falsity also shows that Melissa Cronin and the team at TheDodo.com have no regard for fact checking or reality.
It’s about agendas people. Think PETA and their publicity stunts. This is what serious debate has come to.