Does anyone remember that 12,000-pound killer whale that tragically killed a SeaWorld employee at the "Dine With Shamu" show last February? The orca, whose name is Tilikum, is also associated with two other fatalities: one in 1991 when a marine biology student and part-time trainer fell into his tank and was dragged underwater, and another in 1999 when a man snuck into his pool (why?) and was found dead on the whale's back (GAHHH why why WHY?) the next day.
As if Tilikum's story isn't sad and weird enough, now rocker Tommy Lee is angry at SeaWorld over what he alleges to be inhumane treatment of the whale. Lee recently wrote to SeaWorld about their stated decision to ban any direct contact between people and the captive orca, accusing them of covering up the fact that there is, in fact, one reason humans continued to get up close and personal with Tillikum.
In a letter circulated by PETA, Lee writes:
We understand that you refuse to release this frustrated whale because he is your chief sperm bank, and we know from SeaWorld's own director of safety (as well as videos on the web) that the way you get his sperm is by having someone get into the pool and masturbate him with a cow's vagina filled with hot water. Even during my wildest days with Motley Crue, I never could've imagined something so sick and twisted. Simply put, how can SeaWorld claim that trainers no longer have direct contact with this whale when they are jacking him off?
SeaWorld has responded to the masturbation accusations, saying "our trainers do not now nor have they ever entered the water with Tilikum for this purpose." According to the park, their process of collecting semen for artificial insemination is "no different from techniques used in managing livestock or other species in zoos."
I did the research so you don't have to (you're welcome), and according to at least one animal husbandry article, this probably means there's a dummy orca for Tilikum to mate with, one with an artificial vagina attached to it. Although at least with livestock, "the penis is quickly guided into the artificial vagina with the operator's hand."
So many questions, really. Is someone masturbating Tilikum? If so, is that really considered abuse? How on earth did Tommy Lee, of all people, get worked up about this? Did you know the largest measured orca penis was 8 feet long? And most importantly, where's the optimal place in this story for a Free Willy joke?
Image via TommyLee.com