For immediate release:

To Mr. Stephane Le Foll, Minister of Agriculture, Mayor Jean Leonetti , Mayor Christian Estrosi and Mr. Eric Ciotti, President du Conseil General des Alpes Maritimes,

On behalf of our international membership, we wish to make a formal complaint to the government of France regarding the mistreatment of animals at Marineland in Antibes. 10 days after the deadly storm that ravaged south eastern France killing 20 people and countless animals, we are saddened and outraged to learn, this morning, of the death of “Valentin,” an orca whale who lost his struggle to survive in a tiny, inhumane, mud-filled enclosure.

Post storm, the only information on Marineland’s prisoners — those who died and those who survived, comes from the very people responsible for their wellbeing.

To our knowledge, no one from the animal protection community, including marine animal experts, were allowed in to help with rescue efforts. The communiqués from Marineland’s management were vague and propagandistic. There is a news black-out with zero transparency about the status of the animals there.

An investigator was dispatched and found a scene of total devastation with many animals missing. An employee had been told to not speak about all the deaths. We understand that the “petting zoo” of land animals was completely wiped out. The pictures Marineland was not able to hide show the reality — there was no rescue, only a cover-up. There was no working generator. There was no effective preparedness plan in case of an emergency.


This is a catastrophe and a scandal.

“It appears they starved animals to death with no intervention,” said Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals, “They’re all criminals and neglectful sadists, too.”

No matter how painstakingly Marineland management obfuscates the truth, it is, thankfully, impossible to hide a giant animal like an orca whale. Valentin didn’t die of old age. He died because he was held in captivity and had no escape. We all saw the videos and drone photographs of enclosures full of mud — a deadly situation for any animal unfortunate enough to be held captive there. The tragedy for the marine animals who died and those who barely survived is that they were but meters from their natural habitat, the sea, but could not access it.

Not only did Marineland’s animals die in captivity, they died because they were in captivity. Marineland must be held accountable.

As we celebrate the wise ruling of the California Coastal Commission stipulating the prohibition of SeaWorld’s orca breeding program and restriction of transport of orcas, we are asking the French government to take a leadership position and close down Marineland in Antibes. Marine zoos are not educational, provide no public service, are abusive to animals and only serve the people who are profiting from them. Wild animals belong in their natural habitat and if, because of their protracted captivity, they cannot be rehabilitated to live in the wild, arrangements ought to be made for them to live out their lives in a non-profit sanctuary.

We are asking for an independent investigation of what happened at Marineland and for its results to be released to the public:

1. Did they have generators, how many, and if so, what was done to get them working?

2. At what point during the storm did rescuers arrive to help rescue animals and were they Marineland employees or outside contractors? Were municipal first responders called to help?

3. How many and which offers of help by animal protection organizations were turned down?

4. Was there a disaster preparedness program and how did it fail?

5. How many animals died and what species were they? How many have been injured? A full accounting including veterinary records and results of necropsies must be made public.

6. Why did it take a full 10 days to make the enclosures habitable?

7. Will Marineland be allowed to purchase and replace dead animals and will insurance companies pay for the purchase of new animals?

8. Will Marineland be given financial or physical help with taxpayer money? Will the French government subsidize any of the cost of the devastation and rebuilding?

9. What happened to the third polar bear?

We accuse Marineland of criminal neglect resulting in the suffering and death of animals in its “care.” France has recently ruled to raise the status of animals to sentient beings and now is the time to test this ruling in court. This ruling must be applied. They are not mere words to be tossed about by ambitious politicians — if animals are sentient beings, legally, than it is up to the government of France to ensure that they are treated as such.

On behalf of our membership and, more importantly, on behalf of the animals it is our mission to protect, we ask that you take action to prevent Marineland from continuing its inhumane operation and that the remaining animals be sent to sanctuaries.

Tragically, there is only one positive outcome of the storm that devastated the Marineland prison for animals — the animals who died there in the mud will never again be forced to perform stupid tricks for food in order to entertain unaware, empathy-challenged ticket buyers. They are finally free.


Carole Raphaelle Davis, director of campaigns, Europe, Friends of Animals

What you can do to help: Contact The Embassy of France

Washington, D.C.

Tel: (202) 944 6000

Tell them to free the prisoners of greed in Antibes.