Controversial theme park, SeaWorld, has come under fire as two ex-trainers have claimed whales were drugged and starved - resulting in stomach ulcers and signs of self-harming.
Jeffrey Ventre, aged 55, who first started working for SeaWorld in 1987, said, at first, he 'felt honored' to be working with marine life but soon noticed the animals displaying signs of 'extreme distress'.
"The job is more akin to a stunt man or clown performing with captive animals using food deprivation as a motivator," Ventre told the Sun Online. "The whales and dolphins were stressed and this caused stomach ulcers."
"So they got meds for that. They also got chronic infections, so they got antibiotics. They were also sometimes aggressive or hard to control so they could be given Valium to calm their aggression.
"All whales were getting vitamins packed in their fish. Several got daily antibiotics, including Tilikum, for chronic teeth infections."
Ventre also claims the theme park gave its trainers 'scripts for educational shows' that contained incorrect information about killer whales - including their average life expectancy.
"We also told the public that dorsal fin collapse was genetic or a fairly regular occurrence in the wild, which is isn't," he added.
Exposing the industry
John Hargrove, an ex-SeaWorld trainer that resigned in 2012 due to animal-welfare conditions, has also spoken out about the theme park.
He told the Sun Online: "I worked with some whales that were on medication every day of their life and have personally watched whales die at very young ages from disease.
"It was the most difficult decision in my life to have to walk away from the whales I loved to be able to become a whistle-blower and expose the industry."
Virgin Holidays controversy
Earlier this month, Sir. Richard Branson's travel firm, Virgin Holidays, announced it would no longer be selling tickets or packages to SeaWorld - in a bid to stop sales and promotion of captive whale and dolphin attractions.
A spokesperson for SeaWorld branded the move 'disappointing', saying that Virgin had succumbed to pressure from animal activists who 'mislead and manipulate marine mammal science to advance their agendas'.
The decision was, however, welcomed by many, with PETA Director, Elisa Allen, telling Plant Based News: "Hats off to Virgin Holidays, which has made a big splash by scrapping all tours that go anywhere near captive whales and dolphins. It's left TUI, which lines its pockets with the profits from partnerships with marine 'abusement' parks, in the dust.
"In these parks, orcas – who belong in the ocean, where they swim up to 140 miles a day – are forced to spend their entire lives in cramped tanks, swimming in their own waste, deeply distressed, and robbed of a real life."