Addressing Some Criticism Of Blackfish

Here’s an interesting comment posted by “Future Orca Trainer” in the Comments section of this post about the Q&A that followed the Blackfish screening at the Sarasota Film festival last Friday:

An email from Jenna Costa Deedy, author of The Winter Dolphin Chronicles:

I think that Blackfish is just a movie that is doing more injustice to Dawn’s memory and the whole 2010 SeaWorld tragedy by making money off the whole situation. Yet, I find it funny that of all the five ex-trainers featured in that movie, only one of them did work with Tillikum and I don’t why the other four get to have a say on his case all because they are “activists” who once worked at SeaWorld for a period of time, but only John Hargrove worked longer than eight years at two SeaWorld Parks in San Diego and Texas, but NOT Orlando. It would not surprise me if SeaWorld and Dawn’s family intends to sue the filmmakers of the movie for defamation of character and emotional distress because a lot of people have come to the point where they are just getting tired of seeing Dawn’s death being exploited for money when they should honor her memory based on how she lived her life.

Though I strongly suspect that Jenna Costa Deedy (who has a blog and apparently is an aquarium intern) has not seen the film, I am highlighting the comment because I want to address some of the points, which seem to be making the rounds on internet forums. I hope people who support SeaWorld and killer whale captivity will have the courage and open-mindedness to see Blackfish. And that we can continue to debate the issues raised. So here’s a start:

1) Of the five ex-SeaWorld trainers featured in Blackfish, one was a Tilikum team leader (who got in trouble with management when he refused orders to start masturbating Tilikum every day to stockpile his semen). The others, however, all spent time around Tilikum. The only ex-trainer who was not around Tilikum much was John Hargrove, though he did spend some time at the Florida park (even though he never worked there). And Hargrove does not speak about Tilikum.

Update: Carol Ray, one of the former-SeaWorld trainers in Blackfish, e-mailed to clarify that she had left SeaWorld Orlando by the time Tilikum arrived. So the three trainers in Blackfish who had direct experience with Tilikum, and speak about him in the film, are John Jett, Jeffrey Ventre, and Samantha Berg.

2) None of the trainers were “activists” while they worked at SeaWorld. They were all thrilled to be SeaWorld trainers. It was the experience of working at SeaWorld that changed their views on issues related to keeping killer whales in captivity.

3) More broadly, while the story of Tilikum and Dawn Brancheau is the backbone of the movie, Blackfish delves into issues that ALL SeaWorld’s killer whales face. John Hargrove, for example, discusses the separation of young calves from mothers, and an incident in which Splash and Orkid pull a trainer into the pool and nearly drown her. The former trainers who were interviewed all speak about their personal direct experience, and are not asked to speculate about topics about which they have no first-hand experience or knowledge.

4) I don’t know whether any of Dawn’s family has seen the film, and what they think of it if they have. But Blackfish does everything it can to be respectful of Dawn, and her love of working with killer whales. Her death is not shown (though the Dine With Shamu Show that led up to her death is reviewed and dissected to show that Tilikum’s work with Dawn just before he killed her was not as flawless as SeaWorld has asserted). And, most import, Blackfish honors and defends Dawn by strongly rebutting SeaWorld’s initial effort to suggest that she made a mistake, when in fact she was following SeaWorld protocols with the same professionalism and discipline that made her such a great trainer. In fact, that is one of the major takeaways of Blackfish. Dawn is not defamed in any way in the film. She is portrayed as a passionate and talented killer whale trainer who was let down by the system in which she worked, and suffered the ultimate tragedy.

5) None of the trainers in Blackfish were paid anything to participate. They agreed to be interviewed because they want people to understand the reality of killer whale captivity as they experienced it. Anyone who knows anything about the economics of documentary film-making knows that almost all documentaries lose money. People nevertheless make them because they are passionate about a subject, and passionate about telling stories. That was what motivated the making of Blackfish. If it ends up making any money, it is the investors who will be rewarded for the faith they had in Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director, and in the importance of explaining what happened with Tilikum and Dawn. And if that is the case, hopefully they will turn around and invest in another great documentary production!

79 thoughts on “Addressing Some Criticism Of Blackfish”

  1. Thanks for writing this, all the lies that pro caps are spreading about this doc is

    Don’t worry about Jenna, she thinks anything that is anti cap related is deformation. She said she was going to sue me for deformation once because I called her a hypocrite on Tumblr. She’ll probably say this comment is deformation lol.

    Keep up the great work. Can’t wait to see Blackfish.

  2. Interesting. I’m guessing Jenna is ‘Future Orca Trainer’?

    While reading her email, it feels coated with a manufactured truth she’s formulating out of her own fear. Even if she hasn’t seen the film, she’s aware she may have to confront the terrifying reality she participates in. In college, money invested, friends…if she cracks open and thinks about it will she have the strength for it all? To abandon her blog, parts of her identity of not only what this film exposes, (what she’s invested in) captivity of these glorious animals.

    I’m not an activist. I’m like many have become aware after seeing the film. More will. Should she see the film, as one who loves working with these animals, can she turn away from these painful actions in parks, the harrowing cries of orcas?, What will that do to her? Her investment will collapse if she does not turn away. For her to voice it, she hasn’t. She may have her email response manicured just so and false, she is about to confront it. That’s a scared girl still holding on tightly. Word is getting out. Fast.

      1. I am not Jenna and I actually couldn’t agree more . Also, I saw Blackfish , it is nothing more than disgruntled employees and activists . Those are their experts , and all they wanted to do was shut Seaworld down because they believe they are better in the ocean . I saw the movie there is sooooo many misleading facts and not to mention , to use Dawn the face of Seaworld at the time ? Her family actually made a statement when the movie came out and it was very clear “this isn’t Dawn’s story”. I think every single person knows Dawn loved those whales , and to have these activists groups exploiting her death , yes exactly what it is . First of all NOBODY knows why that happened , nobody . We can all guess but we don’t , and in that movie it’s literally ex Seaworld employees that didn’t even work with the whales from 20 years ago . The one that did work there John Hargrove , which probably had the most experience whether it was the film itself or John , shows him with a bloody face which makes you think omg a whale did that to him .. nope .. didn’t tell you he was sliding out from one of the platforms and hit concrete nothing to do with a whale , or how about the ken peters video that makes you think it’s Dawn’s , complete misrepresentation. If you see comments from ken Peter’s or ex employees or the fact that her family released that statement when the film came out . They don’t tell you about the 13 million that Seaworld gave to the care and conservation of animals or the millions rescuing them . I remember how much I loved Seaworld as a child , the memories and are you telling me those trainers didn’t love these animals but the only goal these activists groups care about is where they are living . Also , I love when they say forced into doing tricks , really tell me exactly how you force a 9000 lb animal to do anything he she didn’t want too or speaking of that didn’t they say seaworld starved them ? So how do you explain Tilikum coming in at 7700 but his end weight being 12000, oh yeah that’s starving them . Their goal was to shut seaworld down , their only goal . It’s also cruel again whether right or wrong it’s the only life they knew and what are they going to do throw them back in the ocean . That is beyond cruel ! The only thing I fault for Seaworld for is their safety measurements, there should have been lifts in every pool and their should have been some sedative or tranquilizer that if it ever got as it did with Dawn Brancheau that would put them down . And before any of you say anything yes that’s what you do it’s called protection and that probably would have been the difference that day . She would probably still be alive . So thank you PETA for literally misleading people ( because none of us listened to a single word you said before ) and taking literally the face seaworld and using it for your own selfish reasons .. literally ruined it for everyone else . Your making misleading comments , for your own selfish reasons.. and you have the audacity to say anything about seaworld. If you want to read something read “what’s wrong with blackfish “ by Isaac Wad by the way everything he comments about he backs it up with fact! You won PETA and you annoying activists group literally ruined it and the worst part about it you used someone’s literally tragic death who I’m 100 percent sure if she was here today she wouldn’t agree .

    1. I am sure there is a lot of truth in what you are saying. The facts are on the side of anti-caps (the suffering of the captive animals) but hurling them at pro-caps is like hitting an impenetrable force field, fear, the need to dominate another being, the need to feel special, questioning their foundational beliefs are all powerful forces. Is there a way to soften the anti-cap agenda (freedom for animals) in such a way that can be accepted by pro-caps?

    2. Cries from orcas? John Hargrove ignored the alleged cries of these animals for 14 years, all of the sudden, he got demoted and move to sea lion and otter for waiting to tell management about a gate. Sam Berg and Carol Ray both were silent until Brancheau was killed. They said they knew something was amiss when they worked and yet were silent for more than a decade and a half

  3. Thank you for talking about this, Tim. I really hope these people will take the time to read the post, but you know they will probably just close their eyes and pretend it didn’t happen. Hope to get a Blackfish screening in Vegas!

  4. OK.. well, Tim, I wasn’t expecting this to be posted. But, since it is, here’s something else: I think these trainers are doing it for fame. I mean, why didn’t they leave SW sooner if they thought something was wrong?

    I, personally, don’t think “anything anti cap related is deformation”. Yes, there’s some truth to it.

    Tell me why the poster for “Blackfish” makes Tilikum look like a monster or something, and then some other anti-caps go and try to justify Tilikum( I don’t hold a grudge against Tilikum, but anti-caps are just contradicting themselves.

    1. There are so many responsible mature replies you could have given Future Orca Trainer, yet you question the publicity shot for a movie?

      1. Or how about the fact that it’s just a bunch of pessimistic haters , that anything out of their “normal “ means it’s wrong , it’s funny you have all seen them behind the scenes and you see how much love is given to them . It literally makes me crazy , these animals were fed for, cared for and loved for, played with and You can see how much love she/they had , they had no safety precautions in place which is literally insane to me , that’s where I fault seaworld 1000 percent , these are huge animals and just like anything can happen ..for example .. you hear about those dog lovers who have rot weillers who they adore and the dog adores him back and you hear a story about how it turned on it’s owners , it happens that’s why safety measurements should have been in place , ( everything they did after the fact the vests, the floors )and they should absolutely have a tranquilizers something anything that you could inject to take them down , don’t care what you activists think because human life trumps animal mammal whatever EVERY time. That being said doesn’t mean in any way shape or form to turn around and start killing and hurting animals . Protection only, but come on , and this is where I will attack Seaworld , they even said it themselves at that level of crazy or whatever made that animal crazy that day ( which is where my focus lies ) to find out exactly what made him snap , and don’t tell me other orcas don’t snap I just read a story online recently (2021) about a killer whale “in his natural habitat” that dragged this guy down and deep in the ocean I forget what reason if he had his knife or something that set him free . But the point is it does happen and no not a lot but it does and that’s my point it could be anything personality , specific action . Yes I’m rambling , my point is seaworld said tapping the hands or the bucket of fish nothing was going to stop him. “ Exactly so why was there no “only in emergency situations only “ type of plan?. That’s where you can fault Seaworld . But this activist and the movie Blackfish which is crazy , you are taking a woman who worked for the company that all you do is criticize and literally where do I begin with the misleading information ? The fact that they say in one breath your starving them ( no not when tillkium came in at 770 and left at 1250) really ? Or they are forced to do tricks ? Really ? I’m pretty sure a 1000-1200 lb animal is not “ forced” to do anything they don’t want . You forget about the fact that they fed , exercised them, played , cared for , had doctor check ups abd either the animals are really good actors or it is what it was happy . I can’t stand these activists, they say all this stuff about one party ( seaworld in this case ) which I fault them too but they don’t say any good and I’m not pro seaworld for all their actions but they gave millions to these animal funds and you activists take pretty much the poster child of seaworld , and exploit her death for your own theories and that’s what they are theories , and to get your voice I guess heard cause I just tuned you people out before , but you mislead people off someone’s death who clearly thought the other way. So now you annoying activists have won , you took jobs away , you took precious memories that I will forever have in my heart that my girls will never get, not too mention for those whales that are still there you took away the only family they ever knew and you made money off it . So thanks for being the people I always believed you to be , and I can add hypocrites to the list . Is that how you enjoy life ? Literally taking a tragic situation literally worse ! Add depressed people on top of it . Making it miserable for everyone else for “ what you Believe is the way and the only way .” I knew there was a reason I tuned you people out to begin with . I guess I will be writing again the next, can’t wait to see what you destroy next

    2. I don’t think any one holds a grudge against Tilikum he is just an animal that is some were that he should not be. The only people who hold a grudge is seaworld as they can’t move him to any other park out side seaworld

    3. Well, it was publicly posted in the comments section, so I presumed you didn’t mind people reading it. It contained a number of points and assertions that I hear are making the rounds in the online forums, so I thought it wold be worth highlighting and addressing. Wasn’t aiming to call you out specifically in any way, just to feature and address the points in your comment.

      Regarding the movie poster: it’s a movie poster. It is supposed to intrigue and engage the imagination, which I think it does. The movie is about the enigma of Tilikum, who has killed three people. I think the movie poster conveys that. At the same time, I wouldn’t judge the movie based on the movie poster. I urge you to see it, and I’d like to hear your thoughts after you have done that.

      1. Well said Tim, I find the poster exactly that, intriguing and engaging to my imagination. When I view the poster , monster is the furthest thing from my mind. Tilikum is an Orca who didn’t have a choice, he had no say in his life, if there is an enigma about him it seems to me that Seaworld is somewhat responsible for that.

      2. Hi.ive now watched blackfish a number of times and also encouraged friends and family to watch it.sadly I was one of the people who was caught up in the seaworld bubble I’ve never been but watched TV adverts or YouTube clips in awe of those lucky trainers and believed the whales had a great life I’m ashamed of myself for being so blind and naive blackfish has inspired me to look further than the end of my nose what I’m finding scares and saddens me but also intrigues me and is pushing me to find out more !!!!! Watch it at least once it will change your life for good

      1. Jordan, while Jenna may not have intended her e-mail to become a point of discussion, I think the discussion that has resulted has been interesting, (hopefully) helpful, and respectful. And I think that is a good thing because everyone, no matter what their view, can hear the arguments on both sides and make up their own minds.

    4. No one is trying to make Tillikum out to be a monster. They are trying to show that he is a self-aware, intelligent being who is suffering mentally from his captivity. That is a dangerous thing. There is no justifying captivity, no softening of the message. It simply has to stop. It is cruel. It’s time for us to evolve.

      1. Evolve? to what – stunted test tube humans?
        Tillikum has mental problems? LOL!
        If he can’t behave, put him down – Just an animal.
        What does deep fried orca taste like?

      2. Such a bigoted and self serving statement. So sad there ever were Humans that feel like this. I said feel and not ‘think’ because thinking is not required for such a statement.

  5. One large detail that sticks out in my mind is how people are so quick to talk for Dawn. It angers me to the core. So many people speak for her about the accident that caused her death. She was a wife, she was a daughter, and was a friend and an animal ambassador hero. If she were here today, would she give up her life for her job? Unfortunately, we all know Dawn is not here to speak to us about this accident. It saddens me to think that people are so quick to make decision for her that this film is doing her an “injustice” when she lost her life. If she had survived who is to say she would or wouldn’t support this film?

  6. If anyone is making a crap load of money it is SW!! UGH… All most of us want to do is educate others that these beautiful beings do NOT belong in captivity… plenty of video/pics of whales, dolphins etc. show this either at SW or in the wild, as well as just simply reading up on researchers notes to confirm this fact!!

  7. Tim, thanks for writing this. Just for clarity, I worked directly with Tilikum (as opposed to just being around) especially when opening the stadium. In the a.m., a Sr Trainer is usually paired with one or more junior staff, and conducts morning sessions, including exercise, play, learning, relationships, husbandry and more. In 1994-95, i usually opened 1-2 days per week. This involved direct, hands on contact with Tilikum. During show situations, I was typically with a waterwork animal (Kat/Tai), thus would rarely work him in shows, but it did happen, from time to time. In regard to fame and fortune, I’m personally down (net loss) about ten thousand due to hotels, travel expenses, and lift tickets involved with places like Park City and Sarasota. In regard to speaking out, and as stated at the SFF Q&A, most of us got into this position by default. We did have an opinion, which we’ve shared. Had other current and former marine mammal trainers stepped up to the plate, there’d be plenty of “fame” to spread around. None of us have a history of activism. If any current or former trainers want to join our expanding group, please track us down at Voice of the Orcas.

    1. I am by no means an ex- marine mammal trainer but I would like to share my story with you. I grew up and still live in Ohio about 45 minutes from what was the Ohio SeaWorld. I grew up at Shamu Stadium. When I was 17 I had been accepted as a student for a internship/career workshop (at this time the park was Six Flags). A week before I was to start my internship working at Dolphin Cove I received a phone call that I will never forget. “We must cancel your internship because the park will be closing down permanently. We are very sorry.” I didn’t let this setback stop me from my dream. I went to college at Kent State Univeristy and graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in Psychology. During my undergrad at Kent I was fortunate enough to become a professional dog trainer. I figured if I could not work at SeaWorld I may as well train animals somehow! Today I have 5 years of professional dog training experience and I am an AKC Evaluator for their Canine Good Citizen Program. I am currently working towards my CPDT (Certified Professional Dog Trainer) title. My 5 years of experience training dogs has also allowed me to gain valuable insight to the marine mammal industry. The past 5 years has allowed me to reflect on Dawn’s death, read the book “Death at Seaworld,” watch several whales die including a few of our past Ohio whales- (Sumar, Kalina), and allow me to form an opinion for myself. It took me a long time to come to my conclusions. I am very anxious to see the film “Blackfish.” In response to Robin and Future Orca Trainer : I am that person who has gone to college, spent thousands of dollars, earned a degree, and I have 5 years as a professional trainer under my belt so I could one day become a marine mammal trainer. I am not ashamed but rejoiced that I could find a career that I love. I may never train a killer whale but sure can train dogs! I can direct my passion to the animals that really need training. Thousands of dogs need help in shelters and dogs that are rescued from shelters often need training. If SeaWorld and their IPO continues to skyrocket as Blackfish becomes more public there are other career paths you may take that will fufill your dream. Jeffrey, thank you for being a voice for the orcas. If I can share my voice even as a professional dog trainer, I am happy to.

      1. Dana, can you get ahold of me on Facebook? I’d like to go into dog training & I’d love to discuss various aspects of doing so. I’m pretty good with dogs as it is but nowhere near a professional. All creatures great and small love me for some reason. I think it’s a phermone thing. However I’ve had some pretty mortifying episodes at petting zoos. Our next door neighbor had his daughter’s Rottie in his yard for a month or so. The first day he was there he exploited a hole in our fence, made it bigger & came into my yard. That night I was in my yard looking at the stars & all of a sudden I see this gigantic (he’s huge even for a male) black thing coming directly at me. I thought it was the Chupacabra or something & nearly passed out. But no it was Ceaser coming to visit. We became friends in about 3 minutes. During his visit he would spend his days in my yard having a ball with my three Shelties waiting . He was extremely patient while waiting for me; he’d be so happy his entire boddy would wiggle. At any rate I’d appreciate your input. Thanks

      1. Perhaps you should have made that more clear from the beginning instead of replying in the comments as if you were.

        Besides, I was talking about the comments she has left elsewhere (FB, Tumblr, forums, her site, the petitions she made..etc).

    1. Three years after Dawn’s death, what seems like to me to be “pro Sea World PR material” is still being posted to her Facebook page. I really don’t think it is being done by a family member.

      I saw BlackFish when it opened locally last month. For me personally there was little new information. I think everything was well represented. Sadly there were less than a dozen people in the theater. I was unable to attend the opening showing so perhaps there were more then.

      1. They are watching now, Russell. As a newly formed “activist” for the Orincus Orca and Dolphins in captivity, we Blackfish Brigade..(find us on Facebook) are dealing with a lot of people who are now saying that we (collectively speaking) who support Blackfish, and remain an active voice for the voiceless, are demeaning Ms. Brancheau’s death. The hate some of these people spew is staggering. The one thing that seems to escape most people’s attention in Tili, in fact did kill 2 previous trainers. Had Ms. Brancheau been informed, perhaps she would be alive today? It is to my understanding that OSHA was the one who delegated all wetwork, after Ms. Brancheau’s death was to be stopped. And from what I understand, Seaworld is the one trying to get that overturned. If you get a chance watch the Keiko story on YouTube that shows the whales transition from Mexico to Newport Beach where Keiko was set free to a Sea Pen. If you have not yet seen it, it documents the Orca’s steadfast rise from a sick whale to one who got better in the sea water. His pap virus cleared up, he gained weight and was taught how to forge for food. It is sad that he did not last too long in the wild but near 30 years is pretty good, I feel, for one who has been captive
        for so long. What we are fighting for is not the closure of SeaWorld but the emptying of the tanks of all Cetaceans. I do not believe they are thriving in a cement pool, entertaining people like circus clowns.

      2. One of the 2 previous deaths you speak of was not a trainer, but a civilian who snuck into the tank at night.

        There are other lesser known/talked about factors at play here as well that is the cause of the current problems with Orcas and other captive cetaceans. Two of the Orcas I personally got to know are now considered “Problem animals” by Sea World that is a result of their over three decades of operant behavior modification, social and food deprivation that has been put upon these individuals to bend and mold them in to something they are not, show animals forced to perform stupid tricks for their daily food for human entertainment.

        I would have no fear or hesitation to get in the water with them, as they had repeatedly invited me into the water back then as I trust and respect them. This is not just jumping into the water as some poorly informed people might think but would require a short time for reintroduction so they have a chance to remember me and once again invite me in. I feel this would even be possible with Tilikum after a proper introduction. They are being required to show huge amounts of trust in humans by beaching them selves and subjecting themselves to other thing while the humans interacting with them show much less trust of them. This was not the case decades ago and the cetaceans are aware of this drop in trust of them by their human handlers.

  8. Tim,

    I find it interesting that the good deal of the conflict seems to be over the trainers reasons for going public with this information. Who would know how captivity is affecting the Cetaceans besides current and former trainers? The people who are around them most and not higher management. Perhaps an additional source of information.

    I got to personally know four of Sea World’s Orcas when they were in the public access petting pool in San Diego 1980. They were in this pool with open public access for over a year that I know of and no one was ever hurt. This is with untrained Humans interacting with untrained Orcas and everyone is fine. Enter 3 decades of training to be a show animal. Obviously something has changed over the past 3 decades to turn gentle giants into one not so gentle.

    Where was OSHA while such “dangerous and wild creatures” were in a publicly accessible display back then? Apparently they weren’t dangerous then as OSHA didn’t say anything about it. What has been done to them [ mentally as well as physically ] in or by captivity to turn them violent?

    If Orcas were really that dangerous, would Sea World and OSHA have put them in a public access tank like this? It's all…

    Posted by Russell Hockins on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

  9. I like how in this article, it states that this movie shows how great and passionate Dawn Brancheau was with her job, I’m very glad this isn’t demeaning her in any way. I also like how it briefly explains who was interviewed in the movie, and their history with the SeaWorld Parks. The thing I do not like, however, in the “teaser”, they showed Katina and her trainers, and that gave me the vibe that every time a trainer enters the water with an orca, there is some sort of aggression shown, which isn’t true. They were performing a simple stunt and the clips they showed makes it look like the orca is going after the trainer. Nevertheless, I’m interested in seeing the movie. I am, indeed, a pro-cap, and I have a dream much like several others: I want to be an orca trainer, and unlike some of the other pro-captive people, I don’t resent the movie without even seeing it, and I’m interested to see what they have come up with. However, a movie isn’t going to change my mind about the career I want, nor are peoples’ comments. I’m really hoping other pro-captive people watch this movie as well, because it’s not a valid argument if you don’t understand both side, so we’ll see.

  10. Thing is… Jenna’s a young, bright woman who is having the experience of a lifetime @ her internship. I’m anti-cap and yet I could see myself being enthralled by that kind of daily experience with the animals… would love that kind of connection, but it’s not on the animals’ terms! (There’s no respect for their space or biological needs. They come close probably just looking for food.) And then to be confronted with “crazy” news that the entire industry exploits these magnificent creatures… what to do??? Go against captivity & shoot myself in the foot?…. Or resist the truth? – that is orcas, dolphins, etc. don’t belong in captivity. Like, if I change my mind about captivity, what does that say about me? It’s just a very confusing time for people who strongly believe in captivity especially now that the realities of the industry are being exposed. Change is scary when you believe in something so strongly. Regardless, sooner or later captivity will be a thing of the past. Just do the research – YouTube has the raw footage – there aren’t multiple truths regarding captivity.

  11. Great response Tim. Always good to address some criticism, especially when a lot of pro-caps are pushing it as “truth”. You won’t believe how many people I’ve seen who still think this movie is for “profit” :/

  12. Okay, there’s a lot of things that I have been wanting to say and in fact discussed with one of the former SeaWorld trainers that has joined those in the Blackfish documentary. I’m a big fan of what SeaWorld does because it is clear, unfortunately not to all, that it is so much more than a theme park. Throughout my life, I’ve had the opportunity of visiting SeaWorld here in San Antonio many times. It has become an interest of mine to be involved in the animal training field at some point in my life. I once had the opportunity to message one of the former SeaWorld trainers that has joined the film, Bridgette Pirtle, and I would ask her questions about the park and the animals when she was still a trainer. She absolutely loved her job and never said anything wrong about it. It was until she “left” her job that she got involved with all this anti-captivity issues. Once again, I started exchanging messages with Ms. Pirtle. Unfortunately, everything I told her that I saw ridiculous about the way the film has been promoted and the unbelievable teasers which are obviously arranged in a way that make it seem like the whales at SeaWorld are extremely furious caused her to block me from all social media sites. This is incredible considering that most of you people involved with the film say things such as: “hope people who support SeaWorld and killer whale captivity will have the courage and open-mindedness to see Blackfish. And that we can continue to debate the issues raised.” When someone comes along like me and starts talking about the way the film is being promoted, I was suddenly not allowed a voice and Ms. Pirtle cut me off and could not answer anything I told her from what I was thinking based solely on the poster, the teasers, etc. Jenna’s points are very valid in most of the comments she has posted on this site. I would absolutely LOVE to see the film and I’m looking forward to it whenever it is possible for me to see it. I’m very open to any discussion, but from all that I HAVE been able to see (such as the poster and the teasers, etc.) this doesn’t seem like anything except the need for fame and most importantly – a group of former trainers that are extremely upset with the company that, to my prediction, asked them to leave.

    1. Peter, you might want to read this article from the VOTO blog re: Bridgette Pirtle – it explains why she chose to leave the company and started speaking out about captivity:

      I’ve also let Bridgette know about your comment and asked her to respond directly here with a comment as well.

      The way the film is being promoted (along with the poster) as Tim has already pointed out – is to intrigue people and have them question what they think they know about killer whales in captivity. I think you will find, if you are able to see the movie, that you will be surprised by SeaWorld’s actions in capturing killer whales from the wild and how the animals are treated in captivity.

      I’d also like to point out that when I was working there, it was nearly impossible to face the truth about how the whales and trainers were being treated. And that is by design.

      SeaWorld trainers are NOT union employees and there is no option to speak out publicly about what you see wrong with the animals’ treatment and still expect that you will have a job. Basically, you’d either have to stay and not say anything, or quit and start speaking out. Third option would be to say something while you were still employed there, and then management would simply find a reason to have you fired.

      Most of us who are speaking out in the movie can do so because we no longer expect to be working in the industry and we are not in fear of losing our jobs since it’s been years since any of us were employed by SeaWorld and we are all professionals in different career paths.

      However our hope is that more recently employed trainers, like Bridgette, will step forward and tell let people know the truth about what is actually going on behind the scenes. Sadly, Bridgette has mostly affirmed everything we have been saying, showing that very little has changed at the company since the late 80’s and mid-90’s when most of us were employed there. (Speaking of which, the killer whale stadiums have not been renovated since the late 80’s despite the millions of dollars the park has poured into other areas such as upgrading food service locations or building roller coasters, but that is another topic for discussion.)

      There are a relatively small amount of jobs in the animal training industry, and an even smaller number of killer whale trainer jobs at any given time in the world. And most of the parks around the world who keep killer whales are in some way connected via “breeding loans” or by sharing killer whale sperm in order to breed animals in captivity. Thus, there would be no way to say anything in public and still expect to have a job ANYWHERE in the industry.

      I’m sure many of the trainers you spoke with had opinions about things that they kept to themselves.


      1. Thanks for your response, Sam.

        Well, I still find the promotion of the film startling. And yes it is intriguing to the average viewer’s eye, but I’m sure you know that it will be seen as a joke to people who have been following how the trainers work in the water with the animals as it is merely the aftermaths of waterwork interactions placed together to make it seem as if the whales are attacking a vulnerable trainer.

        When it comes to the kind of “ultimatum” that is placed on trainers when they work there, then how come many of the ones that have been there for let’s say 20 years, have not left the company yet. I mean, after all from what you are saying, it must be an awful feeling to know you can’t speak out about the treatment of the animals in captivity, right?

        I did read that interview with Bridgette a while ago, before you replied to me, and I have mixed feelings about it.

        Either way, I DO look forward to the film and I’ll love to be able to follow up with my thoughts later, as it may (in some way) change my current stance on having these incredible animals under human care.

    2. Peter,

      I remember you and I shared a number of exchanges through various social media outlets. I was more than happy to take part in discussions regarding my experiences past and present, especially with an individual like yourself who has shown such enthusiasm for the animals I have devoted so much of my life to.

      When I began to feel that your replies became more accusatory and condescending rather than constructive, that is when I decided to no longer respond. As I still understand it to be true, I do continue to encourage you to reserve any final judgements surrounding the themes expressed within the film until you have the opportunity to see the documentary for yourself. As I had shared with you earlier, the film is “honest but direct” and viewing the heartfelt, genuine revelations shared by individuals in the movie will certainly add another layer of depth in understanding another’s point of view.

      You voiced concerns surrounding certain people involved within the project as being too activist to maintain an unbiased approach to such a delicate subject. Naturally, when you have a group of people as diverse as those congregated in the film, there are going to be varying perpsectives amongst each individual. There are people in the movie who’s involvement in the industry spanned over two decades with nearly all of their experience coming from working alongside killer whales, while others were given the opportunity to spend time with the orcas for only one year. Even with such drastic differences in experiences and although there may be some topics not seen eye-to-eye, we each respect one another for the opinions each of us hold on the subject at hand. As I said, “We each take our own paths and have unique perspectives.” Although some approaches may come across more intense, we all share the same motivation. We are standing up and speaking out for the animals we love and care so much for.

      As shared with you early on in our correspondence, making the initial decision to step away from the industry and essentially from the animals I love above all was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I encourage you to regain the open mind you had in our first talks and continue to seek out what will become your own understanding and your own belief. I have found my truth through the journey I am taking that began on that first day I walked into Shamu Stadium. I am continuing to take each step, every day with confidence that I am striving towards gaining perpsective and a much more enlightened understanding of the purpose of existenece and what these animals mean to myself and many others. I believe that the unique experiences I had while working at SeaWorld, the exciting twists and unexpected turns I have had since, are all guiding me towards a place that will ultimately provide these animals that you and I both care so much for with the respect and a regard for the quality of life that they truly deserve.

      1. My thoughts on the people and the ideas that are making this documentary possible were never meant to be accusatory and I apologize if they seemed that way. I was just expressing my opinion and well, what I see from my point of view – which I believe there are many people out there with the same view. It is something that I will mention over and over again until I see the film. I do believe, at this moment, that this is going to be very biased. I do think that Gabriela gathering the trainers and manipulating the footage as it has been manipulated is a great marketing tool.

        I do look forward to watching it and like I told Sam in an earlier comment, I will follow up with my thoughts on it after I watch it – which may or may not change my current stance on this issue.

        Thanks for your response, and again I apologize for my rant earlier.

      2. For Peter, let me be succinct: Get over yourself & stop maligning a film with your negativity; a film which you have not seen. You do not have the power to predict anything. How can you speak of bias? You’re basing your opinions on snippets you’ve seen online. How would it feel if I had only read about you prior to meeting you & came to a negative decision or perspective of you? Wouldn’t that be seen as narrow- mindedness? What if I spread my views around to others who may be meeting you at some point; very prejudicial. Your predelictions stated here as well as on other sites don’t do anyone any good. So get ahold of yourself & do the right thing. Please refrain from posting anymore negative comments until you’ve seen the ENTIRE film. Then & only then will your comments sound knowledgeable. And your ignorant ravings will cease sounding like those of the village idiot

  13. “4) I don’t know whether any of Dawn’s family has seen the film, and what they think of it if they have.”

    Considering Dawn’s story is the backbone of the film, it would have been a classy move to get the families approval prior to the film. And by classy I mean an imperative…

    1. I’m not sure, I could be completely wrong. But for some reason I feel like I read somewhere that there WAS some sort of contact between Gabriella & the Brancheau. However take this with a grain of salt. Scout around & find the truth. it would be good to know.

    2. I actually don’t think that Dawn’s death is the backbone of the film. It was the catalyst, I am sure. But surely the driving theme of the documentary is the issue of cetacean captivity and the effect it has on the animals involved?
      And I believe Dawn’s family WERE invited to contribute to the film.

  14. I wrote the first post here in reply to a post from Peter which states that he tells ALL that the film is more anti cap than anything. Poisoning the well so to speak. Oh and this post has been deleted. Just who deleted it is what I’d love to know.

  15. In reading this article and the following posts I feel compelled to reply to the pro caps. Let me tell you something about me: I am no animal activist. I’m just a Mum, from London (UK) who has always loved whales and dolphins. One of my lifelong dreams was to visit Sea World in Florida to see these amazing animals for myself. Until the tragedy in which Dawn lost her life. It is only then that I stumbled upon the work on Tim Zimerman, David Kirby and others. What I discovered astounded me and saddened me beyond words.

    I was very fortunate to see Blackfish at Sundance London on 25th April. And for those casting aspersions without having seen the film, let me tell you, it was beautiful yet heart wrenching. To those who aspire to train cetaceans and think former trainers are ‘in it’ for reasons other than those specified, let me tell you the most imperative thing I learned: all the trainers involved in Blackfish LOVED those Orcas. They developed genuine bonds and relationships with these beautiful creatures – how lucky! Was it really lucky though? To see a being that you love and care for suffer mentally physically and emotionally? Neither Tilikum or any other orca was portrayed as a monster. But as intelligent and emotional beings whose experiences have affected them in negative ways. You can say the film was one sided…. And it was. Because sea world declined to comment. Because let’s be honest, the old ‘educational purposes’ argument is a bit old now.. And what else do they have??

    To future orca trainers, if you are indeed training to work with these amazing animals, isn’t one of the most important lessons you have learned about the brains of orca’s? The unrivalled levels of emotional intelligence? The family bonds that run deeper than our own?? Surely you have learnt this. And if you have, how can you put your hand on your heart and say orcas are to be happy in captivity? Happy to be pulled from family members? That this is a stimulating environment for them? That they don’t deserve more – deserve better?

    Sea world and other aquariums should be applauded for the fact that they brought these animals into public view many years ago, allowing humans to learn of their intelligence and emotions and behaviours… But now that we know what we know, now that we have learnt so much about them, isn’t it time to let them be?

    I understand a pro caps passion in wanting to be with these animals. I know I would love that experience. But is it ok to put our own passions above the welfare of these creatures we claim to love??? I don’t think so.

    I urge anyone who is forming opinions without seeing Blackfish, whether pro cap, anti cap, baseball cap, to withhold judgement until seeing the film. And after seeing the film, being very, very honest with themselves.

    Like I say, I am no animal activist. I’m just a mum, who has a moral compass.

  16. I volunteer at a Marine Hospital in the ICU for Sea Turtles, where she used to be a “trainer”. This young lady should be ashamed of herself. She started a petition to STOP Blackfish the movie on and it only has 18 signatures. She complains that Profit trumps sensitivity with the death of this trainer at SeaWorld, yet doesn’t mention that SEAWORLD’s revenue last year was 1423 Million……..Who exactly is profiteering?

  17. I just want to say that while I don’t necessarily agree with keeping large cetaceans in captivity I also don’t agree with propaganda. If this were a fair unbiased look at the industry it would be a VERY different film. To be honest why would SW agree to participate in this film knowing it was led by former disgruntled employees and animals rights activists that are inherently against their existence? One of “experts” in this film is a former employee who was fired for abusing an otter, thought that is obviously not mentioned. The neuroscientist used in the film is also an animal rights activist, so again a biased opinion. Also having spoken to former colleagues and friends of Dawns (totally removing any and all animal rights elements here), they find this film a slap in the face to Dawn and her memory.

  18. Thanks, Tim, for this article. I particularly like section 4. I thought the film was very respectful of Dawn’s memory and work at SW. More so than anything SW has done to honour her memory. I felt that Gabriela dealt with the issue sympathetically and with great tact.

  19. It’s a huge violation keeping these animals captive!

    We are in 2013 people! We know better, yet Seaworld continues to exist!! I would NEVER go there!!

    If people want to know about Orcas, go on a trip to see them! Jack Hanna needs to take off his rose colored glasses.

    Most people in the US don’t even know or care about recycling, so I doubt the average American would get of this huge injustice.

  20. Enslaved Orca to it’s trainer: ” Mommy will you help me?” (How can an Orca speak of despair, but to do something overtly naughty ?)

    Trainer: ” Keep up the show, and shut up or I will deprive you of more food if you don’t obey!”

    Prisoners in jail kill child abusers first as they know how it felt to be helpless and abused, too……..

  21. As an animal trainer with many friends at seaworld, I really feel compelled to comment on this article given the overwhelming number of comments condemning the park. While I certainly don’t work with whales (I train birds and small terrestrial mammals), I have several friends at seaworld who I’ve spoken with at length about the film. If you really do your research, you’ll find some interesting things in blackfish. Remember the scene where the baby whale is separated from mom? It’s mentioned in this article. Real tearjerker… but does anyone remember how old that whale was? If memory serves, it was around 4 years old. They only mention this briefly though, likely because the ‘baby whale’ separation you watch isn’t a 4 year old (ie -ADULT-) killer whale. Yes, they are adults by age 4, but they’re showing a several month old calf during this scene. Why? Wouldn’t it be more poignant to point out how young this animal is if it was so traumatic?

    As animal experts, they should have caught this. Unless of course the scene they were showing was a voluntary separation by mom and baby for a routine medical exam, something they are trained to do from birth. You CAN’T do a medical checkup on a large animal with a several thousand pound mom trying to protect it, so you either have to tranquilize mom or train them as seaworld does to voluntarily separate into two areas for a short few minutes. I’ve seen this same type of trained separation behavior at countless other AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) facilities, as tranquilizing mom should ALWAYS be a last resort. And as for the stress of separation, most killer whales (males especially) leave the pod by age 4, or at least begin to move apart socially from their mothers. So with that stated, they’re talking about separating two whales that in all likelihood had already separated by this time. While I obviously can’t comment on the actual ‘separation’ itself due to not being there, I can comment on this scene- the filmmakers wanted to demonize seaworld and make them appear to ‘force apart’ family units, but they didn’t have anything to back that up with. So they manipulated the audience into believing that a -baby- whale was forced away from mom, something that just. Isn’t. True. But by god, they did a damned good job of convincing us of it.

    I’ve worked with animals for enough years to see firsthand how little most people know about animal care… but even with that said, I’ve been horrified at how good a job blackfish does of manipulating our emotions. Even friends of mine who work with me have been duped by some of the claims of blackfish, and only realized it after we’d done a ton of digging and carefully re-watched scene by scene. As much as I’d love to go on my usual soapbox rant about how people who don’t know anything about animal care make the most ruckus and do the most damage, I have to admit that blackfish does an EXCEPTIONAL job of bending the truth about things and pulling the wool over our eyes. I hope that those who have been ‘moved’ by blackfish do the right thing- do your research, reach out and TALK to people who work with animals, and don’t become an armchair activist. Get out in the field and find out how YOU can help to care for the animals of our planet, and learn both the right and wrong ways of doing so. blackfish does raise some good points in the sense that taking killer whales from the wild is wrong… but given that killer whales AREN’T taken from the wild anymore and Tilikums capture was over 30+ years ago, this entire argument is pretty pointless. All the film serves to accomplish is to dramatically harm conservation efforts through it’s horrid portrayal of zoos and aquariums, an offense I find unforgivable.

    1. This generates two questions/points for me:

      1. Do you have a reference/citation for 4 years being an adult for an Orca? All other references I have read state they mature anywhere from 10 to 15. This could change some peoples opinions about the four Orcas (Kasatka, Katina, Kotar, Canuck II) that were in a public access petting pool at SWSD in 1980 at the age of 4 and how it was their young age that made it “OK” for them to be in the display.

      2. The 2006 “attack” on Ken Peters by Kasatka some experts say was triggered by the fact that she was separated at the time from her calf and could not go to it when it was calling her. If they are trained to accept this separation, why did this attack happen?

      Orcas are still to this day being taken from the wild. Perhaps you have not heard of the eight that were recently captured in Russia?

      1. 1) I’ve done some digging myself and found conflicting info on the sexual maturity number- Wikipedia claims females sexually mature at 15, while other sites such as list as early as 6 years old. While this is younger than 4, almost all sites agree that orcas reproduce every 3-5 years on average, and no sources (that I’ve found) claim that the young orcas specifically assist with the rearing of their mothers offspring (the entire community may assist, but I have yet to read that the offspring themselves assist as part of their development, something seen in several great ape species). This means that unless there is some large aspect of their behavioral development that scientists have missed out on for years, killer whales become adults (not sexually mature adults, but independent adults) somewhere around the 3-5 year mark as their mothers no longer care for them as offspring. This isn’t to say they lose all connection, but Blackfish -itself- states that the young ‘baby’ Kaleena had become ‘quite disruptive’ and was ‘challenging her mom’. These are exactly the words we use to describe to the public that ‘shit is hitting the fan’ between animals (no zoo likes to claim their animals are attacking one another), so it doesn’t surprise me at all in retrospect that the animals were moved if this was the case.

        2) Who are the experts that claimed the attack happened due to calf/mother seperation? I read other experts claim in a cbs article ( that it could have happened due to her having a bad day, a spat with another whale or her being ‘grumpy due to a stomach ache’. Granted, that’s not a scientific journal (though at least they cite their source as Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research), but I didn’t see one in your response either (if there is a scientific review of the incident and a factual analysis of the event itself, please post it- I’d be very interested in the read). Honestly, I have no idea why the whale did what she did without being there myself, but sometimes something just pisses an animal off. Case in point, I have a nasty scar on my thumb from a macaw- said bird was on my arm one day when she saw a trainer she liked more than me, and she bit the hell out of my thumb to let me know it. Animals -always- have reasons for their actions, but sometimes they’re not so clear, and you really have to understand the entirety of a situation to deduce the cause. If they -did- force the two whales apart that could have led to the incident, but again, from my understandings they don’t ever force apart mothers from their calves (precisely because this sort of thing WOULD HAPPEN in that scenario, and a trainer of 16 years like Peters would know that).

        As for your final point, I hadn’t heard about that incident till you mentioned it. However, I should have clarified in my original post- it is illegal for North American Companies to take killer whales from the wild (as it should be), but not so for other countries with lax conservation and animal protection laws (like Russia) from doing so. What happened recently was wrong, plain and simple. Frankly, that doesn’t justify what Seaworld did 35 years ago, but 35 years ago I had no rights as a gay male, so nuts to the 80s I say! Comparing the cultural norms of 35+ years ago with today in an attempt to demonize something that is no longer deemed acceptable (or even LEGAL in the US) seems a little odd to me, which is a -big- problem I have with Blackfish.

        I hope that satisfies your questions. If you can find any papers or journals on the development of killer whales in the 3-5 year age, please post them- I had a tough time finding studies looking at this in depth. While I don’t disbelieve the statements of my friends from Seaworld nor doubt my own extrapolations from the data that’s out there, I’d like to hear if anyone’s studied this particular time frame of development and could shed further light on the issue, for or against my statements.

      2. 2. IIRC, It was in a video of the incident I came across online in an interview of former trainers, although I think it may have been in Blackfish as well. The calf was apparently calling repeatedly for mom and Kasatka was not being allowed to go to her because of the show. The separation was “voluntary” (they are trained to do this), the calf had apparently been “interfering” with mom’s performance in previous shows and the separation was deemed necessary. Show importance over the welfare of mother and calf.

        Maybe it was just the timing of it but it seems likely due to their tight social structure. It might have been due to a LRS to a requested behavior she thought she did correctly. I did not see the full actual show, just the released video of the “attack”. I put attack in quotes because I do not call it an attack. Dawn was attacked, but not Ken, he was “reprimanded”. Kasatka is also one of the Orcas I personally got to know when she was in the public petting pool at SWSD along with three others, Katina, Kotar, and Canuck II. Kotar is the one you see in my icon pic. These four interacted with thousands of park visitors over the course of more than a year and no one was ever hurt. EVER. They were said to be between the age of 3-5 during this time. Not so now after more than 3 decades of operant behavior training along with social and food deprivation used to bend them into show animals who perform stupid circus tricks for their daily food for human entertainment. Something they are not out in nature.

        I understand about animals being upset, I have my own cetacean rake marks as evidence of creating a unintentional social faux pas that I was “reprimanded” for. I’ve been involved in three different interspecies communications projects including Dr. John C. Lilly’s JANUS project. I am well versed in getting along with Cetaceans without the need for fish to coerce interaction.

    2. Russel points out a good few of the holes in your argument that I wanted to address, but another is the fact that in the wild, orcas stay in their pods their WHOLE LIVES, males included. Even Free Willy got that one right. Never would one observe a juvenile orca leaving its family to fend for itself, let alone one as young as 4. For God’s sake even the grandmothers of the group are often seen leading wild orca pods.
      Another point, you say that attractions such as Seaworld and zoos are in the interest of conservation. Now I am all for trying to create a collection of animals in captivity because their existence in the wild is virtually nonexistent, however this kind of programme would be most beneficial to animals in some kind of safari park set up or, for marine mammals, in vast coastal sea pens. To say that Seaworld are making an effort at orca conservation is downright lies! Firstly, the only orca pods in any way endangered are only at risk because of humans capturing members of the pod for use in these parks which are just a hideous example of mans cruelty and abuse of some of earths most stunning and magnificent creatures. Second, if you want to conserve a species, try your best to keep their habitat natural and see to it that the animals are as healthy and happy as your means allow. Tiny chlorinated pools, forced socialisation with no means of escape between incompatible orcas and pulpectomy of the teeth are not factors for a happy killer whale.
      Anyone who would fight to keep these magnificent animals in captivity is a pathetic excuse for a human being in my opinion.

    3. We wouldn’t have to care for them if we left them in their natural habitat. It sickens me that anyone would try to defend slavery in any form.

  22. I apologize if I offended you someway, Russell- that was not my intention. I certainly didn’t mean to imply you didn’t understand the topic, but it seems from your response that that was how you viewed my statements. Again, that was not my aim in responding, and I apologize for any miscommunication. However, I’m not sure how exactly to interpret your comment.

    I have no doubt in my mind that former trainers could make such claims about a traumatic mother/calf separation leading up to an incident. On the surface, it seems quite believable. But to believe such claims would not only discredit these former trainers abilities at understanding cetacean behavior, but also the 17 years of experience Peters had… 12 of which were spent with the whale in question, meaning Peters would have -definitely- understood the bond the whale had with her calf. Any trainer who has worked with young cetaceans and their mothers (or any large motherly animals), especially in a free contact environment, would HAVE to understand distress calls and know the potentially violent agitation they could lead to. To get in the water with a several thousand pound predator agitated over separation from her calf would be an accident waiting to happen, if not outright suicide. While I’m not claiming the story must be false, the -only- way it could have been true would have been if Peters, the former trainers in Blackfish and every other trainer present that day were either complete reckless idiots, terrible at their jobs or outright suicidal. If the distress calls were loud enough for multiple trainers to recognize them (repeatedly, as you stated), there really is no other reason for the trainers to have continued in the water.

    I am not at all questioning your understanding of cetacean behavior- in this case, I am questioning the trainers who told this story. To hear such calls and not act to keep a colleague from a potentially fatal interaction is… well, a questionable call at best. So again, while what you heard could have happened, I just don’t find it all that believable. As it’s been said time and time again though, those who weren’t there can’t know the past, so I suppose your argument and mine will have to stand together in the absence of a physical recording of the events prior to the accident.

    As I said several times above, I again apologize- your expertise was never in question. If anything, I’d hoped to learn more from you on my above extrapolations regarding adulthood in killer whales! I hope you and everyone on this board have a Merry Christmas, and have a happy new year!

    1. You didn’t offend me Lance, it is just that I am not an “arm chair quarterback” in these matters as some people (not meaning you, or anyone in particular) think sometimes. I have some real world experience (though not as a trainer) that I explain from time to time to be sure people understand where I draw my information from.

      The difference is that the trainers are “under the gun” to do the shows despite and unwillingness from the Cetaceans or problems that may crop up. I was not in my interactions, it was the Cetaceans choice to approach and interact with me. This is never the case in a show situation. “The show must go on” as the old saying goes and it usually does with few exceptions. There are several pieces of video on the web that show these instances where it is clearly obvious the trainer had been injured but kept smiling and continued with the show. It is their job after all. Some can put up with the Cognitive Dissonance that comes up from this and can continue in the job, others can only take it for so long before they have to leave a job they love to be free to speak out about the problems with out fear of reprisal or losing their job.

      I myself wanted to be a trainer back then, but after getting to know the Orcas (as well as many other Dolphins) first hand as I did changed that. Working closely with them can have an effect on oneself and how you view them. There are not many people outside the training field that have had such close hands on interaction with Orcas as I have. It was a unique experience that I was fortunate to have.

  23. I am not really in favor nor denial of this post. Maybe it is true, and maybe it is not. The movie does make several great points but it also lacks any REAL evidence. I feel terrible for the poor whales if this is happening but if not, making a big deal over it is unnecessary. I feel like in order to respect Dawn we need to keep her memory untarnished and stop bringing back painful memories to her family. (via books movies, articles, etc) If people do feel that strongly that something is happening at Sea World………Then do something! Stop just sitting on the computer and arguing with other people you hardly know! And if you don’t help, you are just as bad as the people who argue with you. When I was little my father gave me a saying, “Don’t argue with a fool because those looking from the outside wont know who the fool is.” And for all the people who believe the movie is rubbish, stop fussing about it with other people. Carry on your day and stop worrying about the negative things people say towards you.

  24. So, what do you have to say about the documentary? If you were a critic what would you say?

  25. Actually here is the breakdown.

    John Hargrove never worked at Sea World Orlando.
    Samantha Berg was not assigned to Tilikum’s team and never worked with him.
    Kim Ashdown only worked with whales for 4 months, never did waterwork and was never assigned to Tilikum’s team.
    John Jett worked with Tilicum.
    Dean Gomersall never worked with the orcas. He worked at whale and dolphin stadium, not shamu stadium.
    You already clarified that carol ray never worked with Tilicum

    Also several of these people have not worked at Sea World in at least 15 years, and so were ill prepared to answer questions about the state of training, safety or the whales at the time of the film or Dawn’s death. Nor were any of them anywhere near as experienced enough to critique Dawn who had more experience than any of them.

    I’m not a big fan of animals in captivity. I took my kids to the zoo once and the circus once and never went back. I have never taken the to Sea World. I think there is a lot of that could be considered fair criticism of Sea World. This film is not one of those things.

    1. What do you care if it’s ‘fair or not’? That’s like saying a documentary should present Adolf Hitler’s regime in a ‘fair’ manner. How do you present an atrocity as anything else? Keeping enormous wild animals in small enclosures is cruel. Keeping them in manufactured social groups is unnatural. Removing their calves when they rely on staying in family groups is meddling with nature. SeaWorld is a concentration camp for animals. All the fluffy toys and merchandise can’t hide that fact.

  26. I watched Blackfish for the first time and for the next week, just researched everything I could get my eyes on. Tim Zimmerman, you’re spewing what you’ve been fed by the industry. The level of information available now on this subject compared to when the actual incident happened is ten fold. I actually took my granddaughter to SeaWorld this summer because I was ignorant. I am so sick to my stomach for feeding into that lie that I’m creating a grassroots effort in my community to educate children and adults of the truth regarding killer whales/orcas in captivity. I specifically have turned 136 families onto Blackfish, parents, children, grandparents and friends have taken the message and are pushing it forward to people they know. There is a comment at the end of the film that says, fifty years from now people will look back and question how society could have been so barbaric to allow this captivity. I hope that consciousness hits much sooner.

  27. I really admire all trainers that work with orcas. However I think that you would have to be off your rocker to work with an animal that has the potential to be so dangerous.

  28. You’ve got several of your “facts” wrong. Check them again please. Example: Samantha Berg did not work with Tilikum.

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