SeaWorld have been a long time in the making of their defence of Blackfish. It first aired at the Sundance festival on January 19th 2013 as a highly critical insight into the captivity of Orcas (Killer Whales) at SeaWorld’s parks.
Blackfish was the masterpiece of one Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who, as mom had visited the parks with her family, but had later been moved to dig deeper into SeaWorld, following the tragic death of Tilikum’s trainer, Dawn Brancheau.
The Blackfish movie pulled no punches it seemed, and by the time of its general release in July of 2013, had developed a sense of notoriety amongst the general public and animal activist circles.
The main thrust of the movie, being that SeaWorld captured Orcas from the wild, and that once in captivity, their behavour changed, ultimately lead leading to the male ‘Tilikum’ apparently developing a vengeful nature towards trainers.
Since then the Blackfish/SeaWorld duel has been most eventful over the course of 2013/2014, during a time that SeaWorld revenues soared, despite the adverse publicity. In 2014 however, the park operators reported attendance down by 15% over 2013, despite those record results.
Further controversy was noted during 2014, when it came to light that a government OSHA inspector, assigned to ongoing investigation of SeaWorld had been included in a photo-shoot with the Blackfish team on the ‘red carpet’ at the Sundance festival launch of Blackfish.
Now SeaWorld are responding further with a deeply analytical response to the claims and facts in the Blackfish movie.
A 32 page document attached shows a line by line rebuttal by SeaWorld, apparently pouring doubt on some of the key claims asserted within the Blackfish movie.
- Former trainers were interviewed in the Blackfish movie, that had not worked for SeaWorld in some cases for over 20 years. Others were interviewed that had limited experience within the team that looked after the killer whales.
- The Movie asserts that a qualification tow work with the killer whales was that you had to be ‘a good swimmer’. SeaWorld appear to have documentation to disprove this.
- The SeaWorld article alleges numerous editorial and continuity issues that were used to heighten dramatic effect and provide a false sense of authority to the documentary.
- Blackfish gives the impression that SeaWorld, captures animals from the wild. SeaWorld claim that they have not done so in 34 years. No word as to whether this also includes ‘indirect capture’ by other organisations.
As an impartial viewer, (and I mean a genuine animal lover and theme park fan), I’ve watched the Blackfish movie and have now read the Seaworld rebuttal document.
For what it is worth, the SeaWorld document appears to be very well researched (as you’d expect from a business under fire!) and includes detailed referencing of the entire movie’s timeline. 66 points are detailed over 1 hour 11 minutes and 48 seconds of the movie.
From the layout of the document, the style in which it is created and the detail provided in writing, my personal feeling is that this is a factual document rather than an emotional response. In other words, SeaWorld have gone on record with a document that could clearly be referred to in court. With that in mind, I firmly believe that the words are penned with a heavy element of truth.
If SeaWorld were stupid enough to formulate more lies at this point, they would surely be history!
The document isn’t heavy reading, and if you have an hour or so spare, take a look by following the link at the foot of this blog post.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this and comment below.
Please do so however with the deepest respect for the person that sadly started this whole debate; Dawn Brancheau, who tragically lost her life on February 24th 2010.
Follow this link to view the full SeaWorld PDF of its Blackfish Defence Document (PDF)