One thing I don’t understand: I didn’t even think the orca did the guy in. I’m not denying that these critters are big, fast, powerful predators, but I thought the deal was, the man (he was in his late 20s, right?) just jumped in and drowned or got hypothermia. (50 degrees sounds pretty cold, at least when you’re immersed in it; not much like a swimming pool.)
Anyway, I may have my facts wrong; I heard a report on the radio that might have been too preliminary. In either case, Sea World is about as much at fault as my unborn grand-niece.
The think that irks me about the claim that Sea World misrepresented the killer whale, is that people trying to protect wildlife have been working their heinies off for years to try and give predators some kind of image the people (voters) can relate to positively. The World Wildlife Fund picked a giant panda for its image because people think their cuddly. But the WWF protects all sorts of less-cuddly but still biologically important species. The hope is that dollars that come from panda huggers will eventually make their way into education about biodiversity, tropical forest devastation, etc.
Sea World was probably just trying to do the same thing; people aren’t going to want to save monsters - they want to save intelligent, friendly creatures with cute names. Eventually, the environmentalists hope the average person will realize that all animals deserve respect, regardless of where they lie on the timid/vicious axis (or the cuddly/slimy axis, I suppose). It seems like the idea of this lawsuit is, if you point out the classically nice things about a creature, then you no longer have to respect or understand the creature (or stay the heck out of its home). Either orcas are harmless toys or they are monsters.