Thursday, November 17, 2016

Walt Disney Company: Alligators (2016)

Lane Graves, the boy attacked by an
Alligator in Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
Ethical Controversy
On June 14th, 2016, a small toddler was vacationing with his family at the Grand Floridian Resort in Walt Disney World, located in Orlando FL. While wading in the shallow water on the beach of the surrounding lake, Lane Graves was grabbed and dragged into the lake by a wild alligator, and after an unsuccessful attempt to save him by his father, died from his injuries. Search and rescue recovered his body the next day, and the incident was ruled an accident by investigators. The event became national news, and shocked many who saw the resort as a safe and family oriented place. The parents of Lane Graves decided they would not sue Disney, and it is unknown if Disney provided them with a settlement. The At the time, Disney had signs posted telling guests “No Swimming”, but none warning of the dangers of Alligators. There also several reported sightings supposedly given to hotel staff. At the time, no barriers were in place that could stop the alligators from coming ashore, and were a known problem to employees across the property. This event has not been the first accidental at Walt Disney World, with numerous events in the past resulting in employee or guest deaths, along with numerous OSHA workplace violations.

Milton Friedman
There are several stakeholders in this situation. The most important in this situation is Disney’s customers. These recent events have resulted in one’s death,, and a traumatic experience for several more. Ones life was in danger in a situation where one should not have to worry about their safety from wild animals. Walt Disney World has its own dedicated team of zoologists, safety professionals and environmental engineers, who had a knowledge of the presence of alligators in its waters. General employees may be affected as well, as this is event caused a lot controversy and hurt Disney’s reputation. With over 70,000 employees, and the largest on-site employer in the country, major business losses could trickle down in the form of reduced paychecks, reduced hours, policy change, or layoffs.

Milton Friedman, a nobel prize winning economist, theorized the concept of individualism, which states “The only goal of business is to profit, so the only obligation that the business person has is to maximize profit for the owner or the stockholders”. This recent event reflects the idea of Individualism within Walt Disney World. Even without  an environmental team, it can be assumed that alligators are present every body of water in Florida. Even with permits to remove the alligators from their property, no protective barriers were put in place to prevent these alligators from coming ashore in to high traffic areas. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Executive Director said “"They have a full-time staff observing these waters and they have essentially an open permit system where any time they see an alligator or a complaint is called in, it can be taken out," (Wiley). The main reason Disney did not install protective barriers is mostly likely their image. Disney Parks are known for their pristine image, heavy themeing, and perfectionism when it comes to appearance. Their flagship park was built with a system of underground tunnels for this sole purpose. A barrier along the lake may have ruined the image of a lakefront resort Disney was trying to achieve. Disney Parks domestically earned 12 Billion in profits in 2014, so there is no shortage of money to used for improvements. A simple solution could have been an underwater system of nets and barriers t o deter alligators from coming to shore.

Utilitarianism is the idea that a business should strive to maximize happiness for all parties involved in its business dealings. In this case, Disney chose to maximize the happiness of many of its guests, at a cost to their safety. No protective barriers in place at the lakeside beach created a more appealing view for the patrons of Disney’s hotel, which would effectively increase the happiness of their customers. More happy customers would cause an increase in revenue at the parks, which would then increase the happiness of the Disney company. All of this was at a statistically insignificant risk. In the entire state of Florida, there is on average less than 1 alligator fatality per year, and with around 18 million people visiting per year, the chances of an incident like this happening were slim to none. Disney chose to accept that risk, but at the cost of a young boy's life

"No Swimming" signs in Disney World,
before the alligator attack
Kantianism is the idea that you should “Always act in ways that respect and honor individuals and their choices. Don’t lie, cheat, manipulate or harm others to get your way. Rather, use informed and rational consent from all parties” (Salazar 17) . It is based around 4 main ideas, which are to  act rationally, allow people to make rational decisions, respect people and their needs, and be motivated by good will. A Kantian would believe that Disney followed the first two of these principles. It could be assumed that by using statistics to determine the need for a safety barrier was a rational initiative. They also allowed people to make rational decisions. Although there were no signs warning of alligators, there were signs in place telling people not to swim in the waters. If Disney had true good will, however, they would have put up some form of protective barrier to prevent any possible injury to thier customers, no matter how statisticly insignificant. In their Animal Kingdom park, all animal exhibits are enclosed to prevent them from interacting with humans. A large lake with wild alligators should be no different.

Disney World begins to build barrier walls after alligator attack
Virtue Theory
Virtue Theory is the oldest of all the ethical theories, and was developed by Greek philosopher Aristotle. It is based around looking at one’s own actions, as well as their potential. It is based around four main virtues, which include courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. In this situation, Disney was not explicitly honest with their guests, by not explicitly warning them of the presence of alligators. Any Floridian would assume that there may be an alligator in its waters,  but Disney did not take into account that most who visit their parks are vacationers coming from different parts of the country and world. “Disney’s resorts are populated by out-of-staters who are unfamiliar with alligators should also have been considered in warnings and signage. In Florida, we know not to jump in”( Shriner, USA Today) . They did however, exemplify a large amount of courage in the aftermath of the event, installing protective barriers around the lake, and removing alligators from the rides in their parks out of respect to the boy killed.

Splash Mountain Alligator Sighting
Disney did not perform up to par in this situation in ensuring the safety of their guests from a known problem. They were well within the ability to either install safety barriers, or to ensure better monitoring of the wildlife population surrounding the lake at their hotels.Disney's safety mission statement states that "The Company aims to minimize risks and associated costs by providing quality and professional technical services that foster the safest environment possible for guests, cast members, and property". The lack of saftey barriers did meet the standards set by this statement. A second safety net should have been in place besides a warning sign on the beach, similar to how a skydiver always jumps with a parachute and backup parachute. or similar to how a zoo has enclosures around it's animals, Disney should have some form of enclosure around a known alligator population on its property. According to the OSH ACT general duty clause, each employer “Shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees”. Having wild alligators roaming the property where employees work could be considered a serious hazard, and would not be deemed safe according to OSHA standards. If a space is not completely safe to your employee’s standards, why should it be tolerated for your customers?? There have been numerous sightings of alligators at Disney’s parks, including some entering ride areas inside the parks. Disney should try and do more to ensure alligators are kept separate from their customers and workers on their 48 sq mile property

Action Plan
There are several approaches Disney could take to prevent this problem from occurring in the future. The first is through the use of permanently installed barriers to deter the alligators and humans from entering each other’s respective habitats.More efficient methods of alligator control, repellent, and removal will also prevent incidents like this in the future. Disney, however, did respond to the incident well, and began the installation of fences around the lakes immediately following the incident in June. It should not necessarily stop at the lake. Alligators have been known to get in waterways of Disney's rides in the past. “They explored the waterways inside the Magic Kingdom near the famous Splash Mountain ride. Disney guests have spotted gators here before the Lane Graves tragedy and posted the videos online” (Inside Edition).  With many rides using a boat & water as a method of transit, along with several lakes scattered in the parks, Disney should install more barriers to prevent an incident like this from happening.
Image result for disney alligator barriers
New Disney World alligator barrier to protect guests

Monitoring, removal, and prevention could be an effective solution to this problem . Disney currently has permits to remove any nuisance alligators on their property, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife department. Monitoring of the population in their guest areas should be increased substantially to prevent an event like this from happening again. There were numerous sighting reports given to hotel staff the night this event occurred. A more diligent environmental control staff could have possibly prevented the attack on the young boy. There are also a various amount. There are also various chemical control methods which could be used to deter alligators from coming to designated areas. Both of these preventive structures should deter an event from happening in the future


Allen, Stephanie. "Boy's Death in Disney Alligator Attack Ruled an Accident." N.p., 23 Aug. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016

Yu, Roger. "Disney's Liability, Prior Knowledge Questioned." USA Today. Gannett, 21 June 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

"Walt Disney: Corporate Rap Sheet." Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016., By Jenny. "Florida Wildlife Agency Ends Disney Alligator Attack Investigation." Miamiherald. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

Edition, Inside. "After Boy's Death at Disney, Alligators Are Still in the Water Near Resort - Inside Edition." Inside Edition. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

Salazar, Heather. The Business Ethics Case Manual: The Authoritative Step-by-Step Guide to
Understanding and Improving the Ethics of Any Business. Print.

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