Republican New York State Sen. Greg Ball recently introduced a bill that would prohibit “the possession and harboring of killer whales in aquariums and sea parks" across the state -- a noble cause for sure, brought into focus this past year by the anti-Sea World documentary Blackfish. Ball's bill, however, contained some fishy language.
In the United States, dolphin and marine animal parks, like SeaWorld, have become a part of an $8.4 billion industry. Accustomed to living in the ocean, and having an infinite amount of space to swim in, dolphins and whales are actually faced with several health problems that shorten their life span and cause insanity when they are place [sic] in captivity.
And here's the text from 17-year-old Donald Rapier's January blog post, "Exposed: Blackfish Documentary Affects Big Business and How Anyone Can Help Make a Change":
In the United States, dolphin and marine animal parks, like SeaWorld, have become a part of an $8.4 billion industry. Accustomed to living in the ocean, and having an infinite amount of space to swim in, dolphins and whales are actually faced with several health problems that shorten their life span and cause insanity when they are placed in captivity.
Pretty similar, huh?
Rapier, a junior at Lindblom Math & Science Academy in Chicago who wrote for HuffPost as part of the OpEd Project, told the Times-Union he was "shocked" by Ball's plagiarism.
"I’m a little disappointed that they wouldn’t reach out to me or even cite me," he told the paper. "I don’t think it’s hard to put things in your own words. … I hope they haven’t plagiarized before.”
As The Times-Union points out, another paragraph in Ball's bill appears to have been lifted from a Los Angeles Times interview with the director of Blackfish.
Ball initially didn't respond to the Times-Union's request for comment, but did manage to shoot off a sarcastic tweet:
— Greg Ball (@ball4ny) February 20, 2014
Reached for comment by The Huffington Post, Sen. Ball's office issued a more apologetic statement from Colin Schmitt, Ball's Director of Operations:
"We thank [Times-Union reporter Casey Seiler] for bringing this oversight to our attention concerning this inter office document used to briefly summarize a bill. This simple yet sloppy action taken flies in the face of the high standards of our office. We have taken immediate and appropriate steps internally to address this oversight and address the staffer responsible. All memo language is being reviewed and will be corrected if necessary. We also thank Casey for his interest in preventing the abuse of animals, and bringing much needed attention to Animal Advocacy Day."
As Capital New York points out, "No killer whales currently reside in any New York aquariums."