Former SeaWorld trainer says captivity has a 'devastating' impact on killer whales

The entrance to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
(Image credit: Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)

For 14 years, John Hargrove was living his dream as an orca trainer, but once he became disillusioned by what he saw behind the scenes, he left the business. He’s now sharing his experiences in a new book, Beneath the Surface.

"I saw the devastating effects of captivity on these whales and it just really became a moral and ethical issue," he told NPR's Fresh Air. Watching calves leave their mothers was upsetting, he said, and SeaWorld "tries to be clever with semantics" by "redefining the word 'calf' by saying a calf is no longer a calf once they're not nursing with their mother anymore, and that's simply not true. A calf is always a calf." He added that the whales would know when they heard cranes that one of them would be taken away, and he would "hear extremely upset vocalizations from whales that are... being taken away, and then the whales that they're being taken away from."

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