Hollywood star Matt Damon has thrown his support behind a campaign to close down SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida after the tragic death of a killer whale trainer at the theme park on Wednesday, February 24. Dawn Brancheau, 40, was killed by orca Tilikum during a show with the mammal at the city's SeaWorld aquarium.
Animal rights campaigners at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have teamed up with U.S. showbiz veteran Bob Barker to write to SeaWorld owners The Blackstone Group and appeal for the closure of the complex. In his letter to Blackstone boss Hamilton James, Barker wrote, "The death of (the) trainer at SeaWorld did not have to happen, and I must appeal to you to take strong action now so that it never happens again."
"I urge you to make (a) humane move now and to start moving the captive orcas and other marine mammals to transitional coastal and wildlife sanctuaries. This is not the first time that a trainer has been seized, thrown against the walls of the tank, and held down to drown. I cannot imagine what the sight of such a hideous event would do to a child in the audience...The only thing that people learn from visiting a SeaWorld theme park is how miserable life is for animals held there."
Damon has now voiced his shock at the trainer's "horrible" death, insisting all marine mammal parks like SeaWorld should be "shut down" altogether. He tells U.S. news show Entertainment Tonight, "I think they should just shut them all down. I've never been a fan of places like that."