Valium was given to whales at SeaWorld to keep them calm, court documents reveal, but use of such benzodiazepine drugs on marine mammals is not always illegal and turns out to be very common at both aquariums and rescue facilities, a Discovery News investigation has found.
A "Clinical Notes Report" presented to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in a case between SeaWorld and Marineland documents that a veterinarian at SeaWorld gave diazepam (Valium) to at least three orcas in 2006 in order to control their behavior. The vet mentions that "we will try to mellow him," in reference to a male orca named Ikaika.
In response, SeaWorld sent the following statement to Discovery News:
"Benzodiazepines are sometimes used in veterinary medicine for the care and treatment of animals, both domestic and in a zoological setting. These medications can be used for sedation for medical procedures, premedication prior to general anesthesia, and for the control of seizures. The use of benzodiazepines is regulated, and these medications are only prescribed to animals by a veterinarian. Their use for cetacean healthcare, including killer whales, is limited, infrequent, and only as clinically indicated based on the assessment of the attending veterinarian. There is no higher priority for SeaWorld than the health and well-being of the animals in its care."