SeaWorld sells six sea lion pups to Navy
20th May 2003
The SeaWorld tourist attraction of Orlando has sold six sea lion pups to the Navy for training to patrol harbors for intruders and land mines.
The military already has used sea lions and dolphins for secret operations
In the war in Iraq including at the key port of Umm Qasr, presumably with
Some success. The sea lions will be trained by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego.
Some of them will learn to search out terrorists and other intruders in harbors and other sensitive areas. The easily trained animals will carry a device in their mouth that is linked to a boat above. When they spot a diver they will swim up, press the device to his leg. The device will snap shut, the sea lion will swim away and the boat above will reel the intruder in. There also will be training to ferret out land mines.
The sale was advertised in federal contract listings beginning May 15. The listing will expire Thursday.
Animal rights activists are opposing the sale as inappropriate and cruel to the animals.
"Sea World is a company that markets itself as a public education, conservation and animal rescue organization," said Suzanne Roy, of In Defense of Animals. "Its plan to sell off six sea lion pups to be cruelly trained and deployed in warfare lays bare the corporation's true motives - maximizing profits on the backs of the marine animals held at Sea World parks.
"The plan is deplorable and must be stopped," she said. Fred Jacobs, a spokesman for Busch Entertainment of St. Louis, the owner of SeaWorld, said Tuesday he does not agree.
"They (the sea lions) are going to an organization that knows more about the care of these animals than any other agency," Jacobs said. "We are confident that the Navy has set the highest standard.
"We know with absolute certainty that they're going to have a good life, "he said. He also said that everything they are trained to do is defensive in nature and intended to protect U.S. troops.
"They make it safer for our men and women in uniform. They deserve our support," he said.
Jacobs said a coalition of animal protection group including In Defense of Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Earth Island Institute have opposed SeaWorld's policies and activities for years.
"So it's not a surprise they oppose us now. As far as this campaign goes, I see no merit at all," he said.
Christopher Heyde an Army veteran and a research analyst for the Animal Welfare Institute said he is disappointed in the military's lack of respect for marine mammals.
"I fully support the need to protect our ports and ships, but the best way to do that is through diligence and existing technologies," Heyde said. "I'm not surprised to find Sea World involved in this; they are once again demonstrating their avarice."
Mark Berman, associate director of Earth Island Institute also lashed out at the military's treatment of its animals. "It is apparent that both Sea World and the Navy consider these innocent pups as little more than disposable, exploitable 'systems' to be deployed like so much equipment," Berman said.