According to CNN, Jose Luis Barbero was found dead in a car Saturday afternoon in Mallorca, Spain. He had not been heard from since Tuesday. Barbero went missing hours after a new video was released accusing him of abusing dolphins.
It was with sadness, outrage and frustration that I received the news this morning that Jose Luis Barbero was found dead in Spain. Initial reports suggest that he allegedly ended his own life. He was a husband, a father and a grandfather who dedicated nearly four decades to caring for animals. We at Georgia Aquarium were proud to have had him serve periodically as a consultant to our organization over the past eight years. His service with us was exemplary.
After allegations were levied against him, we took the situation very seriously. Georgia Aquarium began a search for truth in hopes of disproving these unsubstantiated claims. Sadly, he and his family received death threats, and groups and individuals rushed to judge him. He was not given the right or the privilege to be considered innocent until proven guilty, a principle I hold dear. His death is untimely, unnecessary and unjust.
We were not given the chance to thoughtfully and thoroughly review the allegations against him before activists, consultants and some in our own community tortured him with enough hatred to cause him to allegedly take his own life. I hope the death of Jose Luis Barbero teaches those who were quick to condemn him a lesson about being hasty to charge and indict.
We will continue to operate Georgia Aquarium with dedication, devotion and pride in how we care for and about our animals — as well as the people affiliated with our organization. We will continue to serve the community and be advocates for animals around the world, as we have done since our founding. We will never condone any injustice, such as the one done to Jose Luis Barbero.
We mourn with his family, his friends and all those who must contend with this terrible loss.
In February the first video surfaced allegedly showing employees at Marineland Mallorca mishandling dolphins. On Friday another video was released on YouTube. The animal rights group that posted it says it shows Barbero and other trainers under his direction slapping and kicking the mammals during training sessions.
The Georgia Aquarium had planned to hire Barbero as a new Vice President, but put their decision on hold after the videos were released. It has turned the videos over to forensic consultants to review to verify the legitimacy of them. The aquarium called the first “extremely questionable” and “crudely edited.”
The Georgia Aquarium released a statement on the investigation in Barbero Friday afternoon:
Our search for truth into the allegations against Jose Luis Barbero continues. Until our investigation is complete, we will not make any decisions regarding his employment, so at this time, Mr. Barbero remains in Spain.
We are committed to making decisions based on factual information and very thorough analysis. We have a zero tolerance policy against the mistreatment of animals and continue to investigate every aspect of this matter. We appreciate your patience and support as we sort through this difficult situation.
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