SeaWorld responds to “Blackfish” – again – this time calling the controversial film ‘propaganda’ with trainers in their defense

in Entertainment, Movies, SeaWorld Orlando, Theme Parks


One month after SeaWorld publicly wanted to “set the record straight” with an open letter urging the world to disregard the quickly-spreading negativity surrounding their animal programs, the theme park company has now issued a more forward stance directly against the film “Blackfish” itself.

Though they didn’t specifically mention “Blackfish” the first time around, it’s clear this time they’re ready to take the film head on, going as far as to call it “false,” “emotionally manipulative,” and “propaganda” – but not a documentary.

SeaWorld’s “Truth About Blackfish” was posted on their web site today along with two videos featuring current and past killer whale trainers, including Mark Simmons, a former trainer who is featured in “Blackfish” itself. The videos show clips from the film with rebuttals from the trainers.[liveblog]

In addition, the family of the late SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheu has also issued a statement in response to “Blackfish,” indicating that this will be their one and only statement. Brancheu was killed while attending to one of SeaWorld’s orcas nearly four years ago but, as the statement notes, “Blackfish is not Dawn’s story.”

Reproduced below is the entirety of the text SeaWorld has issued along with two videos.

Video: Killer Whale Trainer Holly Byrd Discusses Blackfish

Video: Former Trainer Mark Simmons Discusses Blackfish

We object to Blackfish because its two central premises are wrong: (1) that life at SeaWorld is harmful for killer whales and for trainers working with these animals, and (2) that SeaWorld has attempted to cover up the facts surrounding the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, as well the history of Tilikum, the killer whale involved in that accident.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

To make these ultimately false and misleading points, the film conveys falsehoods, manipulates viewers emotionally, and relies on questionable filmmaking techniques to create “facts” that support its point of view.

Here are some significant examples with links to supporting documents:

1. Blackfish employs false and emotionally manipulative sequences concerning the collection and separation of killer whales: Through stock footage and video mismatched to the narrative, the film implies that SeaWorld collects killer whales from the wild and separates mothers and calves.  NEITHER IS TRUE.

  • Collection:  The film depicts a killer whale collection in Washington State that occurred 40 years ago.  It leaves viewers with three false impressions:  (1) that SeaWorld continues to collect whales from the wild to this day; (2) that Tilikum himself was collected by SeaWorld; and (3) that the collections done four decades ago were illegal.  None of this is true.  SeaWorld does not collect killer whales in the wild, and has not done so in over 35 years. Tilikum was not collected by us.   And the collections four decades ago were conducted in compliance with federal laws, pursuant to federally-issued permits at that time.
  • Separation:  The film highlights two separations.  In one instance, involving a whale named Takara, the film leaves you with the impression she was a calf when separated.  In fact, Takara was 12 years old when she was moved.   In the second, involving a whale named Kalina, the film misleadingly shows footage of a calf that is only days old.  Kalina was moved when she was 4 ½ years old because she was disruptive to her mother and other whales.  We do not separate killer whale moms and calves, and in the rare occurrences that we do move whales among our parks, we do so only in order to maintain a healthy social structure.

2. The film relies on former SeaWorld employees, most of whom have little experience with killer whales, and others who haven’t worked at SeaWorld in nearly 20 years:  These individuals, who speak with apparent authority, have little or no firsthand knowledge of the incidents they describe.  Most of them had no experience with Tilikum, and several never even performed with killer whales in the water.  The film’s “cast” is completely unfamiliar with current conditions and techniques at SeaWorld, and are certainly in no position to critique a trainer of Dawn Brancheau’s caliber or her last interaction with Tilikum.

  • The Film includes a SeaWorld video of a female trainer riding a killer whale, while one of the cast members, Samantha Berg, talks about her “experience” at Shamu Stadium.  This segment misleadingly implies that Ms. Berg had relevant experience when, in fact, the video used in the film was shot 10 years after Ms. Berg had left SeaWorld.  The trainer depicted in the video is not Ms. Berg but rather is a current SeaWorld employee.   Of just the 3 years Ms. Berg spent working at SeaWorld, she spent only one year working with killer whales and she never conducted direct training with Tilikum.

3. The film also relies on animal rights activists masquerading as scientists: The film relies heavily on the dubious reflections of scientists who have aggressively campaigned against marine mammal display for decades, and have no expertise with killer whale behavior in captivity.  These scientists include Howard Garrett, Lori Marino and Ken Balcomb. Mr. Garrett, along with cast members Samantha Berg and Carol Ray, joined with PETA in a previously filed lawsuit against SeaWorld. In this lawsuit, they equated SeaWorld’s work with killer whales as slavery under the 13th Amendment. Although their case was promptly dismissed by the Court, their anti-captivity bias is obvious. Likewise, the film relies on the statements of David Duffus, a professor of geography and purported expert in the area of killer whale behavior, whom Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Judge Kenneth Welsch found “has no expertise in the training of captive killer whales.”

4. The film spins an entirely fictitious account of Dawn Brancheau’s death in order to advance its anti-captivity narrative. To support this bias slant, and specifically the idea that Tilikum was a psychotic and violent animal because of captivity, the film engages in a series of false and misleading statements about the circumstances of Ms. Brancheau’s death:

  • In its opening sequence, the film misleadingly cobbles together separate pieces of innocuous training and performance footage, synched with the actual 911 calls, to mislead the audience into believing it is viewing the actual footage of Ms. Brancheau swimming with Tilikum prior to the fatal incident.  In fact, the opening sequence does not depict either Ms. Brancheau or Tilikum, or an attack of any kind.  From the date Tilikum arrived at SeaWorld, no one was allowed to swim in the water with Tilikum, and Ms. Brancheau never did so.
  • Purely for shock value, the film includes a recording of an EMT technician, subsequently proved to be mistaken, suggesting that Tilikum swallowed Ms. Brancheau’s arm during the incident. This is false.  This fact was readily available to the filmmaker in the documentation she obtained from the Secretary of Labor, yet was not included.
  • The film falsely suggests that SeaWorld “blamed” Ms. Brancheau for her death.  We have never done that.  She was our colleague and we mourn her loss to this day.  The film, however, does blame Ms. Brancheau, and it accomplishes this through former trainers with little or no relevant experience. These trainers were not present on the day she died, and callously presume to critique her interaction with Tilikum.

5. To advance both its anti-captivity narrative and its false theories surrounding Ms. Brancheau’s death, the film falsely suggests that Tilikum had become psychotic and aggressive:

  • The film blatantly mischaracterizes the events that led to the death of trainer Keltie Byrne at SeaLand of the Pacific, a park that was never owned or operated by SeaWorld.  Tilikum was one of three whales in the sea pen at the time Ms. Byrne drowned, and the jury in the Coroner’s Inquest (the Canadian investigation of the incident), which considered the testimony of 19 witnesses, did not identify any one of the three whales as the leader in the incident. Nevertheless, the film claims that Tilikum was the instigator, relying upon an interview given by two local residents.  Another key fact never disclosed in the film: David Duffus, who is featured in the film numerous times as an “expert”, was the foreman of this very same  Coroner’s Jury that investigated the SeaLand incident.  Mr. Duffus testified that it was inconclusive that Tilikum was primarily responsible for the death of Ms. Byrne.
  • The film similarly trades in fictional theories about the circumstances surrounding the death of Daniel Dukes, an intruder who broke into the back area of Shamu Stadium after hours and jumped into Tilikum’s pool. The film claims there was a “public relations version” of the death and that Mr. Dukes’ death was somehow caused by an act of aggression by Tilikum. A review of the official Sherriff’s report reveals  that virtually nothing said in the film about our conduct that day is true.  In fact, Naomi Rose, Ph.D., an outspoken critic of SeaWorld who actually appears in the credits to Blackfish, was quoted after the incident as saying “since the body was found on Tilikum’s back, it’s unlikely the whale was behaving aggressively…….The whale was probably playing with the man and continued to play with the body after the man died.”
  • What clearly is supported by the facts is that prior to Ms. Brancheau’s accident in 2010, Tilikum had engaged in numerous interactions with trainers and veterinarians safely and without incident over a period of 18 years. Tilikum remains at SeaWorld, where he cooperates with trainers, socializes with other killer whales and our guests.

6. The film falsely suggests that important facts about Tilikum were concealed from his trainers and that SeaWorld is indifferent to trainer safety:

  • SeaWorld was aware of Keltie Byrne’s death when it acquired Tilikum.  We adopted special precautionary protocols regarding work with Tilikum, including prohibition of performance in-water work.  These protocols were impressed upon all trainers who worked with Tilikum, yet the film falsely implies that important safety information about Tilikum and his background were withheld.  This is untrue.  Nothing was ever concealed from Tilikum’s trainers.  During the OSHA trial surrounding Ms. Brancheau’s accident, SeaWorld provided more than 35 hours of testimony concerning our killer whale program and topics such as our detailed safety protocols and how they are communicated to our trainers.  All of this testimony was in the possession of the filmmakers, but ignored by the film.
  • The film misrepresents, through the use of footage four decades old, that SeaWorld takes a cavalier approach to safety and qualifications of its trainers. This is completely untrue.  The path to becoming a killer whale trainer is rigorous and lengthy: It takes years to be qualified to work with killer whales The film ignores all the steps and protocols trainers must take in order to be promoted through the ranks.
  • In addition to our written safety protocols and extensive training processes, we have invested tens of millions of dollars in state-of-the art improvements, including lifting floors, underwater cameras, and other both passive and active devices, all of which are tied together in our Emergency Response Program.


All of the falsehoods and misleading techniques in Blackfish are employed in the service of the film’s obvious bias, one that is best revealed near the end of Blackfish by a neuroscientist with no known expertise in killer whales. She claims that all killer whales in captivity are “emotionally destroyed,” and “ticking time bombs.” These are not the words of science, and indeed, there is not a shred of scientific support for them.  Rather, they are the words of animal rights activists whose agenda the film’s many falsehoods were designed to advance. They reveal “Blackfish” not as an objective documentary, but as propaganda.


  1. Lucas

    Seaworld must close their pools for life

    1. sperie koda

      Trainers are bought off animal abuser prostitutes. Who cares what they say now.

  2. Chris

    Time to stop with the whales sea world. Not fair for the animals to live the way they are

  3. EricJ

    Think the fact that the movie WASN’T nominated for a Documentary Oscar is a point in Sea World’s favor. I’m not defending either side, but I am wondering how much of the “Sea World is Evil!” is just taking a generic corporate target for their own views, and then clinging to an overly soapboxing documentary as their one bit of pop-culture “validation”.
    As many good points as it makes, I don’t believe -everything- I see in the movies.

    1. sperie koda

      Not being in the running for awards is irreverent. It just means they thought there were better made or written films in that category.

      Eric, you have people lock you in a bathroom for life to make money and you see if you think they are evil or not.

      You your brains and your heart MAN.Take sides…what is wrong with you???

      1. EricJ

        I have this strange inability to be angry. My brain keeps getting in the way. (Or maybe just having a scary dad growing up, and seeing just how disturbing some folks get when they think they’re getting “righteously” angry.) And thus don’t feel my sense of personal identity “empowered” by the Glorious Adrenaline of Cause.
        I don’t respond personally to every single person who I fear disagrees with me because they’re “the enemy”, nor do I call them “Satan”, “prostitutes”, “butchers”, or that the “deserve to die”, etc.

        I listen to both sides. Do I -believe- Sea World? Well, let’s just say a lot more than I believe people who practice the above. The latter will usually abandon all other principles of morality, just to hold up their Big Important One…Now, THAT’S scary, and take it from someone who knows it.

  4. shrkb8

    SeaWorld is quibbling and then adding their misleading dribble. When talking about historical events it is common to use similar footage to illustrate what is being discussed from a historical perspective. But start to examine SeaWorld claims and their latest propaganda piece falls apart quickly.

    Look at their claim they no longer buy captive Orca’s. Note they say Orca’s and not all cetaceans. Look at the NOAA website on Beluga whale import application, and you will find SeaWorld is party to an application to import 18 Beluga whales captured in the open seas off Russia. And you will find several are juvenile, not done nursing. And that the taking is likely a substantial impact to Russian Beluga population and unsustainable. You would think oh so innocent SeaWorld would walk away… nope they are part of an appeal on that decision.

    Now let’s limit it to just Orcas. SeaWorld righteously proclaims they don’t take Orcas captured from the wild. Perhaps not directly, but they do buy orca’s from parks that do take them from the wild, thus indirectly supporting ongoing wild capture.

    I could go on, but SeaWorld’s PR campaign reminds me of the cigarette companies in the 50s and 60s advertising that smoking was not bad for your health. We all know how that played out.

  5. Laila

    Its interesting how many come to defend anticaptivity without even stepping into a park themselves to see if its even true or not. SeaWorld is allowed to defend themselves and chose not to go into that so called Mockumentary because they knew their words would be twisted in order to fuel more propaganda to sway others to their side. THE TRUTH- SeaWorld was sold to Blackstone in Late 2009/early 2010 and since then there has been maybe one move and that was Takara to SWT. she currently lives with both her calves, while her mother Kasatka lives with all three of her calves (Nakai, Kalia and Makani)Since the take over by Blackstone, SeaWorld hasn’t moved mothers from calves.

    What gets to me is that an OSHA member was apart of feeding information to Blackfish and sharing sensitive information and now more exposed things are coming to light about this crappy “film” and people continue to follow along like mindless sheep. Soon enough things will come to light and SeaWorld will continue on just as it has for 50 years PRIOR and hopefully for 50+ more.

    1. sperie koda

      Laila, anti captivity means you are against an animal being imprisoned and therefore tortured for money. If you are for that, then you need to lock yourself in a bathroom for only 2 hours and see how it feels when they must endure that for life. Look in the mirror while you are in there. How are you walking around alive with no heart.

      1. EricJ

        I’ve often HAD to spend that long, when diarrhea hits me early on a Sunday morning. In their defense, however, orcas do not own iPads. :)

  6. Ashley M

    You know, I don’t think that SEAWORLD is in the wrong here. If you can train a dog, bird, tiger, or a dolphin then why now a Killer Whale? Why doesn’t Sea World have science professionals come in and see if they are doing something? Things happen. People die but it doesn’t mean that Sea Word was wrong. For example, pit bull are targeted for killing people, but they are one of the most loving dogs ever. Just because two situations happen doesn’t mean no one wasn’t trying. I am sorry that a trainer died and I am sorry that because of this Sea World is seen as a bad guy but Sea World isn’t. Maybe if we sit back and see how trying to see if from both sides. Trust me I am a huge animal supporter but this is getting out of hand. I also know a killer whale is not a dog but it is use the that fact of a situation that is about the same. If your worried about the Killer whales at Sea World then look at zoo, and things that happen there when a Lion bits some one. Is that inhuman too? No, you look the other way and say that lion bit the hand who feeds him, No big deal. Why is it not like that with Sea world? At least Sea World goes threw hoops and set stuff up to make it the safest place it can be!

    1. Em

      You have brought up the point yourself- zoos are exactly the same! Just because it happens in zoos also doesn’t make it ok. But if we can manage to stop it happening at SeaWorld then maybe this can be the start of something to help combat all animals in captivity. But in addition to this I have a major problem with not only the whales being kept in very small tanks relative to their size, but also the fact that they are humiliated by being made to effectively dance in front of a few thousand people who are cheering and screaming. It is just not right.

      1. sperie koda

        People are working on closing Zoos too for the same reasons.
        Some countries have already changed laws allowing animals in Circuses and Zoos too I think.

    2. Hunter Kilpatrick

      You opened a good dialogue here, yes you can train a dog, bird or tiger to do tricks. And dolphins too but take a note that the outcry is not just for Orcas, but for all dolphins. Now lets consider your argument about other animals. Dogs and Birds are common pets, trained to do tricks in their natural environment, tigers have been know to attack and even kill trainers and are usually put down when they do. Now lets talk pit bulls that you brought up. If a pit bull attacks anyone, doesn’t even kill them, it is destroyed and the owners usually jailed. Tillikum has killed three humans and still does shows daily for the millions of dollars Sea World makes, and is forced to donate sperm to further the bad seed gene of captivity into the breed.

    3. Jan k

      Dogs and birds have been domesticated for hundreds of years. Tigers, bears, lions, and dolphins are trained much like killer whales and you still hear attacks about them like killer whales. These animals should be just left alone, why do humans have to try and control everything? I hear attacks on people from bears and tigers more than killer whales. Zoos and places like sea world should be shut down. The only good places are the ones that rescue and care for the sick and abused, that treat them right. Animals of that sized that are used to roamin wherever they want should not be locked in a pool. They get agitated, frustrated.

  7. fish food

    An intelligent creature like the Orca deserves our respect and should not be kept captive to perform circus tricks. Some humans have no regard for nature and assume that everything on this planet is entitled to them.

  8. christy

    have supported Sea World since I was a child. I now take my children. Anyone who has been to Sea World can plainly see how much the animals are loved and cared for at Sea World. My kids love the knowledgeable staff and the educational information Sea World has to offer. The shows are great but not all that Sea World is about. Blackfish is a crock and I hope Sea World continues the hard work and love and support of the animals!!! Thank you Sea World!!

    1. Nelson

      I don’t think you watched the movie. You “love the knowledgeable staff and the educational information Sea World has to offer?” If you had seen the movie, you would have picked up the contradictory statistics offered by SeaWorld (whales in the wild live for 30 to 35 years but they live longer here in captivity because of veteran care) and marine experts in the field (female whales whales can live up to 100 years or more in the wild, males to 60– this is proven, and in SeaWorld they live 30). And you’ve been to SeaWorld?? So you know how they’re cared for?? How’s that– you saw the show, them being fed and carrying the humans? Where do they sleep? Are they punished by being starved for days? The answer to the former is in small cages, while in captivity they swim up to 100 miles a day. The answer to the latter is yes. SeaWorld’s reply to Blackfish reads like a letter from 1930s Robert Moses.

      1. Warr

        And you Nelson, are going to believe everything from a biased, propaganda-ridden film that is so obviously edited to twist everything to their benefit? They want you to believe them with no questions asked, and they want to inspire a negative emotional response, obviously they did. Why don’t you take inspiration from BOTH sides of the argument and do a little research on your own. Don’t just rely on Blackfish or Seaworld, find all the true facts for yourself. YOU ARE BLIND, if you believe either side at face value. So please get off your little bandwagon, of which you probably never cared or worried about, until you were so easily dazzled by a mere film.

        1. Shrkb8

          And you are going to believe SeaWorld? Their propaganda smells like the ads of tobacco companies in the 50s and 60s that said there is no proof smoking is bad for you.

          It’s not rocket science. Cetaceans swim over 100 miles per day. They dive hundred of feet. If they get into a dominance fight, the subdominant cetacean can swim away. They can’t do any of this in captivity. Don’t mix up cetaceans surviving in captivity with that captivity being good for them.

          1. Warr

            Shrkb8, before you make a pointless downward spiral, let me stop you here. Did you even read what I wrote? Please take a pause and read again. I clearly stated that to believe either side at face value is a blind and ignorant way of thinking, the film Blackfish is pure propaganda. And to believe everything it says is just as false and ignorant as believing everything Seaworld says. So before you jump on the bandwagon, which is Blackfish or Seaworld, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. I’m not saying Seaworld is good or bad, but what irks me is how most people couldn’t give to hoots about Seaworld or the orcas until this film and are now acting rabid over it, which is the films intent. So instead of looking like a fool, simply look at the film and Seaworld skeptically, and then do some sleuthing. Work smart, not hard people.

    2. Hunter Kilpatrick

      Yes christy, what you see is what they want you to see, this is the problem, Sea World does not educate the public on the difficulty and harm captivity could cause, it does not show you the clips of attacks on humans and each other, it does not show you the miscarriages and death. It only shows you the cute tricks.

  9. __

    I remember going to Seaworld when I was just a toddler and I remember loving every minute of it. Coming into the 21st century, there are more outlets that could be used to exploit one’s face and royalties. Exploitation is only right when one is exposing the truth of things. And, although Seaworld may have some say, they work around words…

    They don’t take orcas from the wild… Well, they buy orcas from other places who DO take orcas from the wild.

    It’s just a big misconception. Lives have been lost, and the lives of these animals have been taken from them.

    They’re too intelligent to be held in solitary confinement. They haven’t committed any crime for them to be placed in a tank.

    Please do THEM a favor and release them for the greater good of nature.

  10. Erica Newman

    Regardless of how “well” SeaWorld may treat these whales, they are still not providing them with everything the wild can. The fact that it is 2014 and these animals are being held in captivity as show boats who bring in profit is barbaric and disgusting.

  11. Emma

    I am sure that SeaWorld does treat their animals like “royalty”. But despite this killer whales should NOT be kept in an environment which is so minuscule compared to what to their natural environment. If we compare it to use, it would be the same as keeping us in a cell- do they really deserve that? I find it incredibly arrogant of mankind that we think that’s its ok to keep whales in this environment for entertainment purposes. In many countries dancing bears is illegal so why are we still allowed to make whales effectively dance and it to be ok? And for those that say that the movements of the whales in the shows are natural (i.e. they do it in the wild?), that maybe so but they do not do it in such a routine with a couple of thousand humans watching on screaming and cheering.
    So despite what the movie says and wether the information is true or not true, the bottom line is it has raised awareness of just how wrong and unfair it is to keep whales in captivity.

    1. Boo

      Exactly so. Even if the whales are given the best vet treatment and loved by their trainers etc as Seaworld claims, at the end of the day they are captive animals kept in a cramped, unnatural environment that prevents their normal behaviour. Plus made to perform clown tricks for a crowd. That alone is just plain wrong. Let’s not forget Seaworld is run as a business, not a marine research facility by any stretch of the imagination.

  12. chris

    everyone is just jumping on the hype sea world has had animals since it open and its only now when everyone has a computer do people start complaining so to be fair if sea world closes then all other animal parks should close also even the Disney ones

    1. Shrkb8

      I don’t agree. Some animal parks provide ample habitat for their animals and they don’t use them for entertainment shows. SeaWorld is an amusement park focused on entertainment. Otherwise they’d be an aquarium. Even anti Blackfish trainers have stated that the entertainment shows should stop Anne captive breeding should end.

    2. Heather Reser

      Wrong. There were protestors outside SeaWorld Ohio in 70s-80s all the time…the issue of these animals not being suitable for captivity and especially not for circus entertainment has been out there all this time. The film merely opened the eyes of the public who might never have considered the issue. What was true then is still true today. Cruel and unnecessary to hold these large ocean dwelling sentient beings captive for human’s entertainment.

    3. Hunter Kilpatrick

      Chris, I have been an advocate against cetacean captive breeding and entertainment shows for decades not as you say, since the film came out. And I couldn’t agree with you more, all marine parks and “swim with dolphin” experience facilities must cease capturing wild animals, captive breeding, swim with experiences and entertainment trick shows. Sea World is only one of the many but by their own admition, a leader in captive breeding.

  13. chris

    also a heads up the lady who headed the 2010 investigation of the death of the trainer may be in black fishes payroll

    1. Shrkb8

      And let’s see all the lobbying money of all the marine parks.

    2. Shrkb8

      SeaWorld spends about $4M per year in disclosed lobbying fees. This is without straight political contributions.

    3. Steve Huxter

      There was no payroll. Ms. Padgette, the ex-trainers, the scientists and others who took part in the film did not receive any compensation what-so-ever. As is common with documentary films, a waiver had to be signed stating that you understand that you will not be entitled to financial compensation or reward for participating in the film. Even Bridgette Pirtle and Mark Simmons could confirm that.

  14. Darius

    There is no excuse for the way SeaWorld treats their animals. I’ll never set foot there again.

    1. chris

      have u ever even been there

      1. Shrkb8

        Been there. Embarrassed that I went. I feel empathy for the poor cetaceans. Especially after seeing them in the ocean.

  15. Tammy Henson

    Everyone, please be aware that Sea World agents are joining this discussion to inject positive dialogue in favor of them. This entire statement and their subsequent digital pr tactics should easily demonstrate their desperate attempts to manage their brand reputation. They have lost considerable revenue because of this documentary. Although the filmmaker, like most filmmakers. might have overdramatized portions of the film with stock footage, the details stand up. Do not support this park. They are manipulating animals for monetary gain, not to care for them.

    1. chris

      im more of a Disney agent and if blackfish wins they will attack Disney next also if u read anything at all ur realize sea world is up 300 percent in attendance right now so there making tons of money from the blackfish controversy

      1. Steve Huxter

        Blackfish or no Blackfish. It is simply wrong to hold Orca’s in captivity. In the end all this is not about Dawn Brancheau and out of respect for her family, her name should no longer enter the conversation.

        I’m not sure where you got the 300% increase in attendance. Their latest revenue reports indicates (after a correction of add-ins to their revenue statements to bolster the totals.)that their revenue figures are actually, slightly down.

        No, SeaWorld should not be shut down. They should take some of the billions that the Orca’s have earned the company, end breeding and AI programs, phase out the Orca performances and gradually redevelop and re-brand the company without “Shamu.” Unfortunately, SeaWorld is heavily leveraged and has a huge debt load. Small wonder they are saying just about anything they can to dilute what people have take away from seeing Blackfish. SeaWorld is desperate.

  16. Chaz

    Participants in the film have come out and said their words have been twisted to match the agenda of Blackfish. I think that says plenty about the honesty of all that “documentary.”

    1. Steve Huxter

      The “agenda” of Blackfish was to draw attention to the plight of an animal that it’s director considered to be inappropriate for captivity.

      The agenda was never to shut down SeaWorld, in fact Gabriela Cowperthwaite said exactly that in an early interveiew.

      I suspect she never imagined that so many people would place their selfish desires above the needs of the Orca’s.

      If, and I realize this is a stretch but (if) you could communicate with an Orca and describe to it the two options. Would you like to live at SeaWorld or stay in the ocean; and the Orca clearly understood the options, which would they take.

      1. Chaz

        Gabriela Cowperthwaite lost all credit when she thought it was okay to distort the circumstances of another person’s death to make a point. She cannot justify that.

        People who buy into Blackfish’s propoganda can try to rationalize all they want and convince themselves that the intentions of the movie were just and pure, but the fact remains that more than one party has stepped forward and claimed that Blackfish twisted their words. Between SeaWorld and Blackfish, only one of them is manipulating the truth for monetary gain at the expense of others, and it’s not the company that gives many marine biologists their first encounter with marine life and donates millions of dollars each year for the research, rescue, and rehabilitation of injured wildlife each year.

  17. tracy

    I don’t need to be a biologist or scientist to know these animals should not be locked up in a pool performing tricks. Go to Puget Sound in Washington State and view these animals, you would then understand.

  18. Jess

    I thought that Blackfish doc was very moving and emotional and clearly was meant to evoke emotion. So calling it bias is quite redundant, of course it is biased, the point of view if from that of the Orca trapped in jail, made to do tricks for our entertainment. So what is SeaWorld trying to protect here? Their Orcas or their bank account.

  19. Heather Reser

    Blah blah blah. These arguments can continue and lies can continue to be thrown into the ring, but here’s the issue. The ONLY ISSUE as far as I’m concerned. It is 2014. It is glaringly clear that certain animal species DO NOT belong in captivity for one reason or another. Marine mammals do not thrive in captivity and their being in captivity is doing absolutely NOTHING to help conservation of their wild counterparts. They aren’t kept for any reason other than profitability. SeaWorld can do the right thing and survive as an amusement park – STOP breeding, STOP the circus shows, and consider sea sanctuaries for those whales suitable for that environment. Humans have evolved – we understand and demand rights for animals. SeaWorld must evolve. I’ll buy a season pass when they do the right thing. I’d rather see a Cirque Du Soleil show with human performers diving into pools for a paycheck. I’d love to experience a 4D thrill ride that makes it seem as if we are kayaking in beautiful British Columbia with the Northern Resident killer whale pod! THIS is the future, not sick and toothless whales swimming in chlorine pools.
    Stop fighting the film when the issue is simply that “the experiment is over” and killer whales ( dolphins, sea lions, etc) DO NOT BELONG IN CAPTIVITY!

    1. Steve Huxter

      Well said Heather, Anyone can find out more information about Orca’s online than they can from attending the performances. Being able to be up close and personal to them in order to develop empathy and appreciation is pure malarkey and a weak rationalization. If someone doesn’t know that our oceans are in trouble and we need to protect the inhabitants, they aren’t going to “get it” from a visit at SeaWorld.

      Zoos and aquariums started out for entertainment, when the public first started questioning the value of holding animals captive, the facilities pulled the “research” and “maintaining the species” card as a rationalization.

      The bottom line is… it’s for our entertainment! It’s egocentric, unethical and lacks any empathic concern.

  20. Mike Borg

    Way to fulfill your perceived duty to be a mouthpiece for SeaWorld, Behind The Magic!

    If SeaWorld had a defensible position on this issue they would be able to defend themselves in a debate, or at least a live interview. But they know they can’t, because they’ll get too caught up in that pesky thing called “the truth.” So instead they refuse to ever be interviewed, they don’t respond to most media calls, they won’t engage in debate, and all that ever comes out of them is this kind of pre-packaged, carefully poured over, canned statement.

    At least you, Behind The Magic, allow comments. But SeaWorld would never do that. On their own website, where this giant falsehood was originally printed, there is no way to leave a comment. And if you leave a critical comment on Facebook, or any other social media platform that allows them control, it is immediately deleted.

    As earlier commenters have said, SeaWorld plays the semantics game to try and work around their failings: They say they no longer engage in wild-catching of orcas. But they don’t mention that they’re perfectly happy to purchase someone else’s wild-catch. They don’t say that they keep orcas that they have “rescued” from the wild, even though marine biologists have said that they would’ve been fine to release back to the wild (google “Morgan killer whale”). They leave out that they are *currently* actively trying to import wild-caught beluga whales and dolphins (orcas and belugas are also members of the dolphin family, so it’s all basically the same).

    Regarding the Brancheau family’s statement, I’ll say this: I’m terribly sorry for their loss. They should never have had to suffer through such a tragedy. That tragedy, however, does not give their opinion any more weight than anyone else’s. Many of the people who speak out against SeaWorld are criticized for “not knowing what it’s REALLY like” because they’re not trainers, or weren’t directly dealing with orcas, or weren’t there when the death of Dawn brancheau occurred. But the same things can be said about the Brancheau family. They’re not trainers either. They were simply related to one. And unless seances are real, they also don’t know “what Dawn would’ve wanted.” For all they know, had Dawn survived her ordeal, she might’ve changed course and become one of SeaWorld’s fiercest critics. Of course she was pro-cap when she was alive. She was living her dream, swimming with magnificent creatures, and being paid to do so. Nobody is denying that it must be one of the most thrilling things ever to do what Dawn did every day.

    But the reality is this: if you don’t have an obvious bias, and you put yourself in the place of the orcas (or belugas, or dolphins), and you truly think about it with and open mind, then you know that keeping these animals in what amounts to less than one millionth of the amount of space that they inhabit during a single day in the wild is just plain wrong. In fact, it’s a testament to the restraint of the animals that injuries and deaths don’t occur every day. It’s an incredibly selfish person who thinks that animals are merely here to service humans. And you MUST think that to come to the conclusion that cetacean captivity is okay.

    1. Mary

      Hi Mike, you bring up a lot of great points. I have close friends who are both anti-cap and pro-cap and they each have excellent arguments. However,I still think A LOT more research needs to be done before deciding entirely what is best, especially as news of pollution on the oceans, poaching, and animals on the brink of extinction come to light. I do want to clear up a few things based on your comments since this is the industry I have worked for. As for your comment regarding Morgan and marine biologists saying that she is capable of surviving in the wild. This decision is actually not in the hands of SeaWorld or any other marine facility.This is actually a decision by the government. I know this because I worked for another marine facility. When an animal is rescued and rehabilitated, the government actually steps in and decides if the animal is deemed releasable based on its ability to survive in the wild. If the government decides that the animal is not releasable, it then actually chooses the facility which it feels can best house the animal. SeaWorld is actually chosen the majority of the time based on their facilities,equipment, and staff.
      As far as the comments not being allowed on the page and deleted on Facebook, you will notice that all family theme parks do the same thing. (Disney, Universal, etc.) As a family-based company allowing comments that are derogatory or contain abusive language can severely taint your image with families with young children. I noticed when looking on the Facebook page of SeaWorld, comments that had not been screened yet called SeaWorld staff “murderers”, and “Satan” and contained A LOT of curse words. Any large company needs to be careful of this as it it important to remain professional. The argument of captivity is one that will go on for a while I am sure, and hopefully as we find more and more research we can also find what is best for animals and the environment.

  21. Hunter Kilpatrick

    I can go into depth about Sea Worlds response and the idiosyncrasies in it but here I just want to address the video of Holly. Blackfish never said it was footage of any particular person, it is a documentary and they needed some footage of what was being described, the actions in the video clip match the voice over exactly. It is not a lie, it is not misleading, the only lie is Sea World saying that blackfish intentionally lied to the public by showing misleading footage. Documentaries frequently use stock footage to viusaly show what is being spoken about. And while I am not surprised Disney is backing Sea World I am shocked, you just opened the gate to the fact you have dolphin tanks in Orlando too. Shame on you Disney, Walt would be disappointed as I am and you will not get any more money from me until you remove all your dolphin tanks too.

    1. Hunter Kilpatrick

      I will also like to add one blatant mistruth and admition of it from Sea World. In their own statement you posted here it states “We do not separate killer whale moms and calves, and in the rare occurrences that we do move whales among our parks, we do so only in order to maintain a healthy social structure.” Which is it? You do not seperate or you do only rarely? You cant do both, The statement they do not seperate is followed by a disclaimer. How dumb do you think humans are?

      1. Mary

        Hi Hunter, I do not work for SeaWorld so I cannot speak for them, but I have worked closely with killer whales at other facilities. The truth is that facilities approved by the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums)do not separate mother and calves. The only time they will be separated is when the mother chooses to wean her calf, meaning she actually initiates the separation. This happens often both in the wild and captivity. When that happens these facilities will then assist in the weaning, but only in these cases. I believe the former SeaWorld trainer Kyle actually confirmed that as well. Again, not trying to defend another company, just speaking from years of experience. :)

  22. Fred

    When you get right down to it, Whales should not be forced to perform silly tricks for people’s amusement.

  23. Jessica M.

    Did anyone really fall for thinking that was Samantha Berg in the film anyway? Sam has a face only a mother could love. Holly Byrd is beautiful. It is certainly interesting to say the least watching “Blackfish” completely unravel. The OSHA scandal coming out is the final nail in the coffin. I am glad to see the truth coming out.

  24. Fred

    Not sure if this has been posted here, but it should be noted the the Oceanic Preservation Society has released a rebuttal to SeaWorld’s open letter;

  25. Annalisa

    Blackfish filmmakers response to the Sea World response…

  26. Jay

    Reading all this. The bottom line is. You’ve got Whales. In captivity. Something that, of course isn’t natural – and goes against what is probably natural instinctive living to them – particularly if, as this says – they aren’t ‘separated’ and ‘poached’ as babies. The fact that there is an article here – disputing the rights and wrongs of a documentary that basically focuses on human deaths via animals in captivity is crazy. It shouldn’t be discussion. However you argue the toss, sea-life have – in whatever manner, disturbed or naturally instinctively killed trainers. THAT points to there being something clearly wrong with animals FULL STOP however ‘free’ or ‘happy’ they are deemed, actually being in captivity. Unfortunately for SeaWorld. Without sea-life. what is it? – It’s purely about the money. I read this and am shocked that, regardless of inaccuracies of such documentary – that this argues somehow that Sea world, or any other park company of a similar nature with specifically such fatalities believe somehow what they’re doing is still just to a living existence.

  27. Carrie

    Ricky “banned” me from his Inside the Magic page because I civilly said something against his Seaworlds 50th anniversary post on March 12th. There were people calling each other a-holes and etc and he made an example of me by telling everyone I had been banned. I just didn’t realize he also promoted seaworld as well as Disney. That’s fine. Thought it was funny and typical response you would get on seaworlds page as well. He has his reasons ($$$) just like seaworld. I encourage you to not promote or share his Inside the Magic page. Stepping off the soapbox now and getting back to my peaceful life 😉

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Not true. I tried to email you back but it bounced. You wrote the following on our Facebook page: “Inside the Magic promoting seaworld? I didn’t realize. No thank you. Unlike as of now.”

      And here was my response:

      I didn’t ban you for saying what you did about SeaWorld. As you noted, many people share your opinions.

      I banned you because you said you were going to unlike the page because of the post. Since the “Blackfish” controversy began, I’ve had many people make similar threats only to continue to write about how everyone else is wrong, frequently making further attacks and threats. I don’t need that kind of behavior on the page.

      I will be happy to unban you if you feel you can contribute to the discussion without threatening to “unlike” it. But if you did indeed want to be removed from seeing our updates, then mission accomplished.

  28. Matt

    I only have one question, and in my opinion this is the only question that should be asked. What is in the best interest of the whale? I think hands down the best interest of the whale would be natural freedom, but I am intrigued to hear what the other side of the argument is. Anyone?

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