469 pages, no illustrations
Death at SeaWorld centres on the battle with the multimillion-dollar marine park industry over the controversial and even lethal ramifications of keeping killer whales in captivity. Following the story of marine biologist and animal advocate at the Humane Society of the US, Naomi Rose, Kirby tells the gripping story of the two-decade fight against PR-savvy SeaWorld, which came to a head with the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. Kirby puts that horrific animal-on-human attack in context. Brancheau's death was the most publicized among several brutal attacks that have occurred at Sea World and other marine mammal theme parks.
Death at SeaWorld introduces real people taking part in this debate, from former trainers turned animal rights activists to the men and women that champion SeaWorld and the captivity of whales. In section two the orcas act out. And as the story progresses and orca attacks on trainers become increasingly violent, the warnings of Naomi Rose and other scientists fall on deaf ears, only to be realized with the death of Dawn Brancheau. Finally he covers the media backlash, the eyewitnesses who come forward to challenge SeaWorld's glossy image, and the groundbreaking OSHA case that challenges the very idea of keeping killer whales in captivity and may spell the end of having trainers in the water with the ocean's top predators.
"Kirby makes a passionate case for captivity as the reason orcas become killers (and) tells the story like a thriller. His argument is, for the most part, fair and persuasive [...] We probably can't free the orcas in captivity today, but we could make the current group of captive killer whales the last."
- Wall Street Journal
"A chilling depiction [...] Kirby lays out a compelling scientific argument against killer whale captivity"
- New Scientist
"A gripping inspection [...] Hard to put down."
- Booklist (***Starred Review)
"Thorough and disturbing [...] One of the great books of the summer"
- Columbus Dispatch
"SeaWorld got a firm slap in the form of journalist David Kirby's fascinating and deeply disturbing book."
- Christian Science Monitor
"An outstanding book [...] very-well written, extremely well documented, and timely."
- Psychology Today
"#1 Readers Poll Choice for Summer Books -"
- Wall Street Journal Online
"An informed narrative that strongly suggests that despite their name, only when captured do the mammals become dangerous to humans. Free Willy, indeed."
- New York Daily News
"A masterful work."
- Seattle Post Intelligencer
"Eye-opening poolside reading [...] Death isn't supposed to pop up in environments carefully choreographed for family fun."
- San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Kirby has done his homework and does an excellent job of educating the public about orcas in the wild, as well as highlighting the dangers inherent in keeping these highly evolved, intelligent animals in captivity."
"A real-life scientific thriller."
- Barnes and Noble
"One of the summer's most anticipated new releases"
- Apple I-Bookstore
"A new book examining the dark side of keeping killer whales in captivity has slammed SeaWorld for its treatment of the enormous beasts and for massive safety failings which still haunt the world famous marine parks."
- Daily Mail (UK)
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David Kirby is the author of Evidence of Harm, which was a New York Times bestseller, winner of the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors award for best book, and a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and Animal Factory, an acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.