Sea World Captivity Debate Has Animal Rights Activists Running Wild On CNN

The Sea World tragedy that took the life of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau continues to wreak havoc on the typically civil world of zoology. Last night on Larry King Live, Jack Hanna once again assumed his position as spokesman for the marine biologist community and, with the help of former Sea World head trainer Thad Lacinak, debated a second round with Jane Velez-Mitchell and fended off some personal attacks from animal rights activist Ric O’Barry.

The segment on whale rights more closely resembled a rerun of Crossfire than an Animal Planet special. The highlight of the discussion was easily the rapid deterioration of the discussion between O’Barry and Hanna from a reasoned debate to a competition between the two to see which would more effectively be able use personal attacks to brand the other an animal abuser. O’Barry — who was once a trainer himself but left the “spectacle of dominance” because he felt the practice of keeping a whale in captivity was cruel — opened the show with his side of the story, but the tone of the discussion quickly shifted when, in his response, Hanna noted that O’Barry “is one of the few people in the world– the Marine Mammal Protection Act– that had to pay a $60,000 fine for trying to release two dolphins into the wild, one of the few people ever fined by this institution.”

O’Barry didn’t mince words in his response. Rather than address Hanna’s point, he nonchalantly noted called Hanna “a dyed in the wool PR hack for zoos and dolphin abusement parks,” to which Hanna replied: “I’m very proud of it, too.”

Is it good news for the political world (and bad news for cable news ratings) that political talk show debates are being eclipsed in their personal offensiveness by a bunch of biologists?

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