Tenerife’s Loro Parque has lost a defamation battle against an animal rights charity over treatment of orcas at the marine park.
A Spanish court has thrown out a defamation lawsuit bought against PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – in which Loro Parque sought €100,000 in damages.
The case was brought after PETA published photographs in 2015 showing the killer whales covered with scars and wounds, which it said had come from the animals being kept in too close proximity to each other.
Other images showed severe dental trauma, which PETA says captive orcas typically develop from gnawing on tank gates and walls. Another (above) showed an orca with a collapsed dorsal fin, which PETA says is the result of having inadequate space to swim and dive.
Dismissing the case, the judge ruled that PETA’s views, which are based on expert analysis and research, were protected under Spanish laws on freedom of expression. The judge ordered Loro Parque to pay undisclosed legal fees.
"To say that orcas are suffering in Loro Parque’s dismal tanks is accurate, not defamatory," said PETA director Elisa Allen. "PETA is calling on the marine park to stop trying to conceal these animals’ suffering and start moving them to coastal sanctuaries."
This year, France and California announced bans on orca breeding and countries such as Chile, Costa Rica, and Croatia have banned keeping cetaceans in captivity, while others – including Brazil, India, Nicaragua, and Norway – have highly restrictive standards that make the practice nearly impossible.
The last dolphinarium in the UK closed more than 20 years ago, but many tour operators are still selling tickets to overseas marine parks.