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A thousand tourists hold their breath as a giant killer whale leaps skyward, the sun gleaming off its smooth back.
As if auditioning for a Disney movie, the two-and-a-half ton leviathan performs an elegant backflip before landing with a thunderous splash.
Thursday - Afternoon - SeaWorld - San - Diego
It's a Thursday afternoon, but SeaWorld in San Diego, California, is packed with visitors, many of them British, all drawn by the undisputed star attractions: ten huge killer whales performing two shows daily.
Who would not be moved by such a magnificent spectacle of nature?
Accounts - Creatures - View - Ridden - Disease
And yet who would not be disturbed by the accounts now emerging of how these intelligent creatures are imprisoned away from public view, ridden with disease, and separated from their family members in what one former SeaWorld trainer last night described as a 'house of horrors'?
It is once the sun-burnt crowds have drifted away that SeaWorld's killer whales, or orcas, are herded off to backstage pools where, with little room to dive, they swim listlessly in circles, often banging their heads against the concrete sides in boredom or frustration.
Week - Death - Kasatka - Environment - SeaWorld
Or worse, as last week's death of disease-ravaged Kasatka made clear. 'Euthanised' after falling incurably sick in her artificial environment, she is the third SeaWorld killer whale to die this year alone.
And this, in the outspoken words of Kasatka's former trainer, is 'a disgrace to humanity'.
John - Hargrove - SeaWorld - Expert - Tears
John Hargrove, a SeaWorld expert turned whistleblower, is in tears as he describes the orca's fate to The Mail on Sunday.
'What continues to go on in parks like SeaWorld is an abomination,' he says.
Claim - Captive - Orcas - Help - People
'They claim captive orcas help educate people, and for years I bought into it. But Kasatka lived in misery, in barbaric and horrific conditions, and died in agony. She lived out her days in a house of horrors – and I was complicit in selling the lie to the public.'
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