Blackfish Exposed by Former SeaWorld Trainer

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Destinations, Features, SeaWorld Orlando

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Published on January 09, 2014 at 3:00 am with 193 Comments

We recently sat down with former SeaWorld Trainer Bridgette M. Pirtle to talk about her involvement with the production of the film BlackFish. We were amazed by what we learned, and we think you will be too.

Bridgette Pirtle first visited SeaWorld when she was 3 years old, and immediately became obsessed with whales.  In 2000, Bridgette was accepted into the killer whale apprentice program at SeaWorld San Antonio and began working with sea lions, otters and bottlenose dolphins, which lead to 10 years of experience with killer whales and eventually becoming a Sr. Trainer.


Bridget performing at SeaWorld San Antonio

On February 24, 2010, Bridgette and the other trainers were all called in by management and informed that there had been an incident in Orlando, and that it had resulted in the death of Sr. Trainer Dawn Brancheau.  Bridgette was devastated by this news. Dawn was her hero, a person whom she looked up to.   In the days and weeks after this incident, Bridgette’s parents and grandparents would tearfully plead with her to stop working with whales out of fear that what happened to Dawn could happen to her.  In the end, Bridgette decided to leave SeaWorld in March 2011.


In September 2012, Bridgette began to look for ways that she could share her love for the animals that she worked with at SeaWorld, and this is when she discovered “Voices of the Orcas,” which is run by four ex-SeaWorld Trainers, Samantha Berg, Carol Ray, Jeffery Ventre and John Jett.  When Bridgette initially spoke to the trainers, they told her that there was a movie in production about Dawn and Tilikum and that they were going to tell the truth.

When I asked Bridgette what that “truth” was, she explained:

“The truth is that it wasn’t Dawn’s fault.  And that was the most important thing to me.”

It was after this call that Bridgette was introduced to Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of Blackfish. Here’s Bridgett’s account of what Gabriela told her the film would be about:

“I thought she was making a movie that was going to be more respectable to the memory of Dawn, more understanding of the unique lives of killer whale trainers, the unique circumstances under which killer whale training is conducted now, and the loss that the current trainers felt and currently feel.  I thought it would give some sort of closure; that it would give some sort of answer, create harmony, and it didn’t.”


Credits for the movie BlackFish with Bridget Pirtle

We then asked Bridgette what her contributions to the film were. She responded:

“I contributed footage and insight into the recent context of killer whale training at SeaWorld. I was invited by the executive producer, Tim Zimmerman, to attend the film’s premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Although I was asked by the director if I could provide an interview for the film, I declined due to time constraints and an uncertainty about the path I was going to tread in this unknown and foreign territory. I did take part in a few ‘Q&As’ and agreed to hold off on sharing my own story and experiences until later, once a distributor had been obtained.”


Bridget with the trainers featured in BlackFish in front of a theater in Park City, Utah  for the Sundance Film Festival

In January 2013, Bridgette traveled to Park City, Utah, where she would meet with the others involved in the film – John Jett, Jeffery Ventre, Carol Ray, John Hargrove and Samantha Berg.  While they were getting ready for a question and answer session, Samantha Berg said to Bridgette, “They are going to choose you to be our spokesperson, because you are pretty and you look like Dawn.”  This immediately did not set well with Bridgette, who still mourns the loss of her hero, Dawn Brancheau.


Bridget Pirtle at a Q&A with the BlackFish Crew
Left to Right: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Bridget Pirtle, John Hargrove, Samantha Berg

According to Bridgette, before the first screening of the film, Dawn’s family requested that they be allowed to view the movie in the privacy of their own home. When Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite refused their request, Dawn’s family then asked if they were going to like the movie, to which her response was, “No.”

Bridgette still had high hopes for the film before her first screening. She shared:

It seemed to me, with the information that was given at the time, that maybe there was someone capable of telling Dawn’s story and defending her in a compassionate and respectful manner.”


The BlackFish Crew after a screening

However, after her first screening of the film at Sundance, Bridgette had a different reaction:

Blackfish was a complete ‘180’ from what was originally presented to me.  Now, it’s almost like my worst fears are unfolding in front of me. When I first spoke with Tim and Gabriela, I truly felt like they were as passionate about the animals’ welfare as I was. I felt they believed in the relationships and respected my experiences and insight.

I’d love to be able to shed a bit if light on the dark side of the exploitation and fallacies behind the film Blackfish and its ‘faces.’ My intentions are simply to speak honestly and promote a responsible way to care for these animals.

Samantha likes to mention SeaWorld’s desire to conceal and hide the truth in regards to aggression videos. Honestly, she didn’t see the videos because she wasn’t experienced enough. In Texas, our management team felt it was important that all of our trainers at Shamu be aware of what the animals were capable of.

It also has always bothered me that in the beginning of the movie, Gabriela included the audio interview with the EMT that mentioned that Tilly ‘swallowed it.’ This is an immediate example of how something was included to sensationalize and exploit what happened when we knew for a fact this was not true.

One of the most disappointing things included in the film was Jeff and Sam’s critiquing of Dawn’s last session. There are quite a few double standards that are entwined within and around the film that became apparent to me as I began to ask the right questions and ultimately trust in my own beliefs and my own experiences. This one sat wrong with me from the first viewing. Seeing a veteran of 16 years be criticized by individuals unaware of Tilikum’s history, people unaware of Dawn’s relationship with Tilikum, and people who hadn’t a clue of the context of the current state of killer whale training – much less the context of that session – was disgusting and disrespectful.

Jeff Ventre was fired for multiple safety violations in the water with killer whales. Sam wasn’t given the opportunity to gain enough experience to begin to critique Dawn’s actions. John Jett felt Tilly was ‘frustrated’ based on poor observations from a poor behaviorist. These trainers were poor with their relationships – if they believed in them at all – and they were poor behaviorally.

Dawn would not have made the decision to continue on with a session if Tilly was behaviorally poor, as these three imply. In the words of Jeff, it is in my ‘humble opinion’ that their disrespectful insight is from inexperienced trainers suffering from ‘trainer-itis’ who did not have the privilege or opportunity to make a connection with the animals they briefly worked with long ago.”


Bridget Pirtle, John Hargrove and Gabriela Cowperthwaite

It was in the aftermath of the movie’s release, and going mainstream, that Bridgette pieced together a radical agenda behind Blackfish, and of the four trainers at “Voices of the Orcas”:

“Samantha says that breeding Tilikum is comparable to breeding pit bulls. According to her, SeaWorld shouldn’t use Tilly’s genes because of his history of aggression. But they like to say that Tilly’s ‘psychosis’ is a result of his captive environment. Is it nature or is it nurture? With the activists it seems to be whichever is most convenient to serving their purpose. Tilikum is a result of his environment in order to end captivity, and then he is a poor source of genes to end breeding.

The majority of the most current and most experienced insight was neglected from the film. With the exception of John Hargrove, there was a noticeable absence of relevant and credible killer whale experience from an individual who was aware of the situation before, during and after the incidents at Loro Parque and SeaWorld.”

We asked Bridgette, “What do you think Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s goal was with this film?”  

“To win the Academy Award®. Once it was apparent that there was no real interest in revealing the whole truth, I knew it was another person’s attempt to capitalize on the tragedy of the story of Dawn and Alexis.

I know firsthand that any attempt of an experienced trainer looking to speak on behalf of the animals was quickly dismissed. Attempts to publish articles that presented a more fair, honest and unbiased perspective were eventually nixed at the very last minute. It was naive of me to seek to expose the truth that contradicted many of those within the film via CNN, the company which had a vested interest in the success of the film.”


When asked what she thought SeaWorld could do about the criticisms which were brought up in the film, Bridgette answered:

“In the eyes of the film, there is only one acceptable response: Free them all. This is illogical and irresponsible, and any experienced trainer will agree. Even history tells us that reintroduction has not proven successful in the past. SeaWorld looked into improving the facility with a whale ‘treadmill.’ Seeing the company invest in the animals was something I applauded immediately. This was enrichment. This was exciting and encouraging. And my accolades were heavily criticized by activists who wanted only to mock the action. It’s unfair.”


Of course, I wanted to know if after all of Bridgette’s experience she would recommend anyone see Blackfish. Her response:

“No, not unless they have someone like me to explain what is missing.”

What would Bridgette do if she was in charge of SeaWorld?  

“I would end animals for entertainment purposes, and stop the breeding program.”

And finally we asked, would you take your children to SeaWorld?

“Whales were such a large part of my life, and these relationships were so important to me, that I cannot imagine not giving that to my children. So, yes, I would take them to SeaWorld.”


When Gabriela Cowperthwaite found out that Bridgette would be speaking out about the film, Gabriela called Bridgette and reportedly told her to, “Please wait until after award season to criticize Blackfish.”

Since we spoke with Bridgette, we’ve also heard from other trainers, including Mark Simmons, who feels that Gabriele also deceived him. We hope to bring you more stories from the folks who work at SeaWorld, past and present, whether they worked on Blackfish or not. There’s no way for us to know everything that is absolutely right or wrong with the film Blackfish, but the more folks we hear from the more clear the picture will be. Blackfish may be getting a lot of media attention, but there is clearly some troubled water swirling around the film, as evidenced by the comments of people who worked on Blackfish and who now feel they have been betrayed by their Director.

Video of Bridgette performing with SeaWorld San Antonio’s Orcas:

Bridgette is now trying to distance herself from Blackfish and “Voices of the Orcas” as she begins to explore ways for her to help improve animal care which is free from a radical agenda.  You can follow Bridgette on Twitter at @BridgettePirtle

About Eric Davis

By day, Eric is in Marketing and Social Media. But on the weekends, he's a theme park addict. Eric is a frequent contributor to MiceChat's Orlando Parkhopper columns and tends to focus his efforts on what's new and what's news at Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

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  • SparkChaser

    ‘After award season’? I wonder if a film like this would even be remotely considered by ANY academy. Families watch this and they know it’ll get plenty of criticism, would an independent film get chosen in the first place?

    • sonnyz

      It could be nominated for best documentary.

    • ericmryan

      The film is one of the 10 remaining films eligible for this year Documentary Feature Oscar. 5 of those 10 will be announced as nominees next Thursday morning. BLACKFISH is expected to be one of the 5.

      • Sifferz

        Indeed it is. I desperately hope it doesn’t win, especially when more important movies like Invisible War are here to contend with one-sided trash like this. Much like Super Size Me, this feature infuriates me because so many people blindly buy into it because it is a “documentary”, which obviously means you can believe everything it says, right ?

  • Jeff Kober

    Blackfish depicts a view of a greedy Sea World that hides the truth and wants you to “ignore the man behind the curtain.” In truth, Sea World is composed of hundreds if not thousands of trained professionals who for dozens and dozens of years have provided exemplary animal and marine care in an accredited zoological institution. The people of Sea World are not perfect, but they have worked hard for the benefit of those who care about these incredible creatures. Meanwhile, Blackfish is not a documentary, it’s a propaganda film with an agenda. And now with one of only a small handful of trainers interviewed coming forward and saying that this film is misleading, I wander who is really “behind the curtain.”

    Thanks for providing this interview. And thanks to Sea World, who has give millions of people a better understanding of the oceans around us.

  • StevenW

    While Bridgette criticizes the movie for leaving out facts, she is just as much the radical. Why would she say “I would end animals for entertainment purposes, and stop the breeding program.” if she didn’t think there is something wrong with SeaWorld.

    The training could be improved for the safety of the trainers and care of the animals, but nothing is perfect and SeaWorld should continue to offer what it does best. The theme park pays the bills. The shows are just as much education as it is entertainment.

    • BradyNBradleysMom

      I don’t know. I don’t think the shows are very educational. They’re all pretty much the same show they have been doing since the 70s. The whales swim around, splash people, jump in the air. That’s not very educational.

      I think it’s great to be able to see these animals in tanks…they are very impressive. To me they are so big it’s almost like seeing dinosaurs or something. But, the shows to me are kind of lame. And there are plenty of videos on YouTube to watch. No need to keep doing this every day in real life. Just have SeaWorld make a really good film of the splashing and jumping and we can watch it over and over again forever. Let the animals they have now continue to live in tanks at SeaWorld but don’t get any new animals, and when the current ones die do not replace them.

  • jcruise86

    Thanks, Eric!

    I still want orcas out of American parks. This article uses the word “trainer” as if being an animal trainer at a theme park is as prestigious and scientific as being an actual marine biologist.

    Ironically, Sea World deserves credit for helping to make the public concerned about orcas, and many people now want them to have even better lives. Keeping these giant, migrating animals in tanks that are too small for them and splitting up their families as if they were happy puppies will hopefully stop–just as small, iron barred concrete cages have mostly disappeared at older American zoos.

    Sea World already has “Pets Rule” with dogs and cats. They should become “Animal World” to increase their opportunities. Along with Busch Gardens Tampa and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Animal World parks could still be fun and continue to increase visitors love for animals.

    • evergreen

      “This article uses the word “trainer” as if being an animal trainer at a theme park is as prestigious and scientific as being an actual marine biologist.”

      Exactly. Amount of education it takes to be a trainer: Zero.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    OK, here’s my issue with Ms. Pirtle and her “coming out against Blackfish” moment: she (unlike many other animal trainers out there) HAD a moment to tell her truth, on camera. Mr. Simmons, if I recall the film correctly, does just that, and presents an opinion for a changed, safer captive orca marine park industry. For whatever reason, she chose NOT to engage in her story on camera for the director. Now, that’s her choice, but if she wanted ‘Blackfish’ to have more variety of perspective, she should have appeared on-camera. Mr. Simmons did, as did the other trainers interviewed for the film.

    The same thing is true for SeaWorld, itself, actually. If the goal was balance (or at least the attempt to create a variety of voices to mitigate against bias,) and clarity, and fair discourse, don’t repeatedly decline interviews for the film.

    I’m not getting into what is true or false or otherwise about Blackfish, but if Ms. Pirtle finds more false than true, it’s her own damned fault, honestly, for not going on camera and presenting her perspective on the reality of SeaWorld and marine mammal training. I mean, that was a prime opportunity; she had a Golden Ticket and chose not to go to the Wonka Factory.

    Again…I’m certainly open to multiple perspectives regarding orca captivity (I think the proper reaction to ‘Blackfish’ is research and “what now,” not “free all whales,”) and I’d have loved Ms. Pirtle’s testimony to have been peppered into ‘Blackfish.’ I found all of the trainers to have really different personalities and “takes” on life at SeaWorld (Pirtle discredits her, but I loved Samantha and I’m totally with her. I don’t care if I’m the first newbie on the job or the oldest orca trainer left: if a trainer gets crushed by a rogue orca I think I should know about it if I’m going to get anywhere near the orcas. Or if the giant new male breeding whale just killed someone in Canada? Yeah, that might be a memo to…at least…the animal trainers. I’m pretty sure the janitor on the Manhattan Project was told by Oppenheimer not to get too close to the uranium, for Chrissake.) I thought the trainers all brought a series of strands, of voices to tell the story. The sad thing, for Ms. Pirtle, is that she had the opportunity to be one of those voices, to attempt to set the record straight, or at least convey her own, expert take on what was going on. She didn’t, and thus, she’s going to have to live with that, and the grain of salt her late-blooming vocalization will inspire.

    • Eric Davis

      Mr. Mark Simmons gave 3 hours of counter points, has over 20 years experience with Orcas, was the trainer who brought Tilikum from Canada to the US. And he was only used for about one minute of the film. So it didn’t matter who got interviewed, it was getting cut out if ti didn’t fit the narrative.

      • shoewee

        I’m with Eric, AaroniusPolonius, its all about what the Director’s world view is. All they want is for the trainers to say words that they can cut and use as a mouthpiece for their world view. I work in a field that hates dealing with the presses because we worry that they are going to take what we say out of context and twist our words. I’m sure that’s what the Director of Blackfish did with some of these trainers.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Mark Simmons is in every interview packet throughout the entire film. He pops up EVERY TIME. And what’s more, he consistently contrasts the narrative. He, in effect, makes it interesting.

        Also, why are the trainers coming here, to MiceChat? If she and others are concerned that Blackfish is exploitative, and that it doesn’t give a fair voice, why not go to a major media outlet? This is now daily news across the mainstream media in one form or another.

        Moreso, if she’s really concerned that the primary reason for “Blackfish” is to win the director an Oscar (which sounds pretty horrid, considering the living creatures and dying trainers that are getting her that award,) than call up a major news outlet. CNN will GLADLY take the publicity, good or bad, as they’ll make bank either way. But this is a theme park geek site! If she wants some level of credibility and impact, go to NBC, ABC, CNN, CBS. Even Fox.

        However, if she wants to bitch with the rest of us about MyMagic+, welcome.

    • CreepyMonkey

      AaroniusPolonius frankly, you are commenting from a position of relative ignorance. As someone who has heard the entire interview I can tell you first hand that Bridgette had the best of intention about her participation in the film and if you read the article she was deceived by Gabriela Cowperthwaite as to the purpose and focus of the film. How could she have “told her story” in the film when she believed she was WAS telling her story and helping the animals she loves so much.

      I respect and admire Bridgette very much coming out now and speaking out about the film. She’s been looking for a way to get the truth out there and now she finally has.

      If you haven’t realized yet, nothing that doesn’t fit the agenda of the film makers made it into the film. Blackfish is a propaganda piece that has a dark agenda that does nothing to better whales or animals in general.

      • CreepyMonkey

        AaroniusPolonius says, “than call up a major news outlet. CNN will GLADLY take the publicity, good or bad, as they’ll make bank either way.”

        Did you not read the article? She has tried to take her story to CNN and they “nixed” the articles because they have a vested interest in the film succeeding. The reason she is coming out to the Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast is because we are a voice that listened to her story and are willing to help her get her message out there.

        Frankly, I’m beginning to find your objections puzzling at best.

    • Skylala

      ” but I loved Samantha and I’m totally with her. I don’t care if I’m the first newbie on the job or the oldest orca trainer left: if a trainer gets crushed by a rogue orca I think I should know about it if I’m going to get anywhere near the orcas. Or if the giant new male breeding whale just killed someone in Canada? Yeah, that might be a memo to…at least…the animal trainers.”

      You do know that when the incident of the trainer being crushed by the orca happened, Samantha didn’t even work at SeaWorld?
      No, you probably didn’t know that, because the film wants to manipulate you like that.

      You do know that when she started working at SeaWorld, it was 3 years after the incident, at a different facility, and she didn’t even work with orcas and at the time had no intention to work with orcas?

      She did NOT start working with orcas until about a year and a half at SeaWorld, yet she knew about the incident 6 months after starting work at SeaWorld…

      As this article states, the people who were supposed to know WERE told about it. Not some

    • You know they edit documentaries, right? If the information she provided wasn’t used, why on earth would you think the interview she could have provided would have been used?

    • ilovedisneyland90

      she COULDNT tell the truth because she would probably be edited out! So she thought ahead!

  • shoewee

    I’m so glad I saw this article. I knew Blackfish exposed some bad parts of Sea World, but I also know that Sea World has done an amazing amount of good by helping hurt animals and teaching the average person about them. I still remember going to Sea World Ohio and seeing them for the first time. I was mesmerized. I wanted to be a marine biologist. I struggled with science, but my love of marine animals has never wavered. It killed me to watch her video at the end because that was what Sea World was. Now its just a joke with the shows. You can see the bond between the whale and the trainer. Its there. I am sure the animals were devastated when the humans could no longer come in the water with them, lay with them, lay on them, pet them, encourage them physically. There has to be a happy medium. I think she says to end the entertainment because now its not showing the same interaction between the two species. Now its just having the whales do tricks like a circus. Its lost its intimacy. How sad. Thank you for sharing this, it makes me feel a little better about Sea World. I still worry how they treat Tilikum though. Tilikum is a very depressed whale.

    • evergreen

      Sea World’s trainers were never permitted to free swim with the orcas, even before the fatal incident.

  • OprylandUSA

    Unfortunately, “Blackfish” got what it wanted. It did, indeed, make the shortlist for the Academy Awards Best Documentary category. Time will tell if it will make the official nomination, but I’m betting it will. Sadly.

    To me, it always seemed just like that… crass promotion of itself.

    • dazyhill

      If “Blackfish” did make the cut for the official Academy Awards ballot, only members of the Academy who attended screenings of each of the documentary films can cast votes in the Best Documentary category. (The same rule applies to short films.)

  • While I’m not thrilled with the idea of Orca in small tanks, it’s quite apparent that Blackfish is a film with an animal rights agenda based in emotion over reality. The director of the film appears to have lied to Bridgette, Mark and others to get the story that she already knew she wanted to tell. She used these trainers to hang her false narrative.

    There’s no doubt that Blackfish has had a negative impact on SeaWorld and I’d also like to see others who worked on the film or who work for SeaWorld speak up against the inaccuracies in the film.

    Here’s the open letter that SeaWorld recently posted about Blackfish:

    SeaWorld: The Truth Is in Our Parks and People

    An Open Letter from SeaWorld’s Animal Advocates

    Inaccurate reports recently have generated questions about SeaWorld and the animals in our care. The truth is in our parks and people, and it’s time to set the record straight.

    The men and women of SeaWorld are true animal advocates. We are the 1,500 scientists, researchers, veterinarians, trainers, marine biologists, aquarists, aviculturists, educators and conservationists who have dedicated our lives to the animals in our care as well as those in the wild that are injured, ill or orphaned. Whether it’s a sea lion, manatee, sea turtle or whale, we are on call 24/7.

    Here are some important facts about SeaWorld and our work:

    SeaWorld does not capture killer whales in the wild. Due to the groundbreaking success of our research in marine mammal reproduction, we haven’t collected a killer whale from the wild in 35 years. In fact, only two of the whales in our care were collected by SeaWorld and they continue to be in our care today. In addition, our research has led to a much greater understanding of whales in the wild, giving researchers important scientific insights surrounding marine mammal reproduction.

    We do not separate killer whale moms and calves. SeaWorld recognizes the important bond between mother and calf. On the rare occasion that a mother killer whale cannot care for the calf herself, we have successfully hand raised and reintroduced the calf. Whales are only moved to maintain a healthy social structure.

    SeaWorld invests millions of dollars in the care of our killer whales. In the last three years alone, we have invested $70 million in our killer whale habitats and millions of dollars annually in support of these facilities. Our habitats are among the largest in the world today. They are state-of-the-art, multimillion-gallon environments of cooled and filtered water that allow for the highest and safest standards of care. We give our animals restaurant-quality fish, exercise, veterinary care, mental stimulation, and the company of other members of their species.

    SeaWorld’s killer whales’ life spans are equivalent with those in the wild. While studies continue to define the average life span of killer whales in the wild, the most recent science suggests that our killer whales’ life spans are comparable — indeed, five of our animals are older than 30, and one of our whales is close to 50.

    The killer whales in our care benefit those in the wild. We work with universities, governmental agencies and NGOs to increase the body of knowledge about and the understanding of killer whales — from their anatomy and reproductive biology to their auditory abilities. Some populations of wild killer whales have been classified as endangered or threatened, demonstrating the potential critical nature of these research opportunities. This type of controlled research and study is simply not possible in the wild, and has significant real-world benefits to the killer whales that live there.

    SeaWorld is a world leader in animal rescue. The millions of people who visit our parks each year make possible SeaWorld’s world-renowned work in rescue, rehabilitation and release. We are constantly innovating when it comes to this care: Our veterinarians have created nursing bottles to hand-feed orphaned whales, prosthetics to save sea turtles, and a wetsuit to help injured manatees stay afloat during rehabilitation. Whether it’s the result of natural or man-made disasters, SeaWorld is always on call and often the first to be contacted. We have rescued more than 23,000 animals with the goal of treating and returning them to the wild.

    Naturalist Baba Dioum put it best when he said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.”

    At SeaWorld, this has been our calling since we first opened our doors 50 years ago. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. More than 400 million guests have visited SeaWorld. We are proud that their experiences here have a lasting and positive impact on them, and on the world in which we live.

    The truth about SeaWorld is right here in our parks and people. Our guests may enter our gates having never given much thought to the remarkable animals in our oceans. When they leave with a greater appreciation for the importance of the sea, educated about the animals that live there and inspired to make a difference, we have done our job.

    • red barchetta

      There are many articles pointing out the inaccuracies and lies of their open letter. Here’s just one such example:

      • CreepyMonkey

        That is just another letter posted by the radicals who support Blackfish. The so called “facts” in it are distortions of the truth. The real truth is, the people who made Blackfish lied about what they were doing, manipulated the film so it would elicit an emotional response from its audience based on falsehoods and misleading facts, and the film is faulty to its core. Any film based on lies and distortions is not a documentary; by definition it is fiction.

    • jcruise86

      Thanks, Dusty.

    • evergreen

      You are ignoring the basic fact that keeping these animals in small cement tanks and forcing them to perform for food cuts their life spans short. It is is cruel and inhumane. As a former trainer, I wish there was a way I could get you to see the truth. How do I do that:? How do I get you to feel the pain that these animals are feeling? It requires you to open your heart and, apparantly – based on the comments posted here – none of the Sea World defenders are willing to do that.

      • DisneyPhreak

        Exactly. What is so hard to understand how very awful the life of a killer whale in captivity is like. And as another person posted, very odd that this topic is on a Disney blog.

    • The First Star

      I don’t think she lied.

      She explains in this piece ( that as a mother who took her kids to Sea World, she originally set out to tell the story of Dawn Brancheau. But as she delved deeper into the material, she realized the real underlying problem was the treatment of the animals and the resulting development of mental/behavioral issues.

      Since I already knew that the scope of the subject shifted during the production of this film, this MiceChat article did not surprise me or change my attitude towards Sea World.

    • The First Star

      I posted the rebuttal of a leading expert on the Sea World forum. It’s too long to post here, but it can be found here:

      • evergreen

        Thank you for posting that.

  • Advent

    This article really seems like picking nits, and with how sensational that headline is it really makes me question the relationship between MiceChat and SeaWorld.

    You even admit that she and the film have the same goal of ending the Orca shows and breeding program!

    Come on, guys. You sound like damage control at the tobacco companies, trying to discredit the science rather than own up.

    • If you’d like to believe that Blackfish is accurate, then just go right on believing that. We can’t make you change your mind, nor are we trying to. We are simply presenting the testimony of one trainer who worked on the film and was lied to by the director and we now have the comments of a second trainer who claims that he was also lied to by the director.

      • TodAZ1

        And, Dusty, you’re presenting the other side of the argument. Something which the film, apparently, didn’t feel the need to do. Who could possibly argue with both sides of the argument being presented?

      • Anaheimhomeboy

        Dusty I respect you, but how can you say you are simply presenting the testimony of one trainer when the name of your article is “Blackfish Exposed by Former SeaWorld Trainer” “Killer Agenda”? Your response is condescending to the readers of the site “If you’d like to believe that Blackfish is accurate, then just go right on believing that”. And lastly it is alleged that Ms. Pirtle was lied to by the director of Blackfish, its’ not a fact.

        P.S. I am not the type of person that would say I’ll never read your site again. Nor am I trying to be mean, just having a spirited debate.



      • Yoon

        From your comments above, you seem to be making the claim that this documentary cannot be trusted because it has an agenda, and therefore is not objective. Should we apply the same level of skepticism to this article? Does Sea World, one of their employees, or this website, for that matter, not have an agenda?

  • TVsRobLowe

    What I think is interesting is who funded the film and when it was released:

    ‘Blackfish’ premiered approximately 2 months after SeaWorld stock went public. CNN and PETA funded the film, with PETA being on SeaWorld’s board of directors.

    Someone is trying to sink SeaWorld stock and using the guise of a ‘documentary’ to do it, in order to perform a hostile takeover at the lowest price. It’s no secret that Time Warner, CNN’s parent company, is a former owner of SeaWorld Australia and is currently seeking the rights to open and own SeaWorld parks in Southeast Asia.

    Even on Disney World’s guest surveys, more guests choose only SeaWorld as the answer to “Are you visiting any other theme parks on your trip”. Why? Because SeaWorld offers something that both Disney and Universal do not offer. In the theme park world, SeaWorld is valuable and unique.

    Whoever swoops in a purchases them can come in and declare “We’re going to change things” and be hailed as a hero, and with that, stock will grow.

    Follow the money.

  • airick75

    I have long had conflicting thoughts over things like zoos and Sea World…as Dusty said above, I’m not thrilled about the idea of orca’s in captivity either. But, here’s a thought for you:

    Is not having a dog, which you keep inside your house or yard – with closed doors, or a fence, or even at times a leash, a very similar thing? (Notice I don’t say “exactly” but it’s an idea worth considering for its similarities). Don’t you do these things because otherwise the dog would run away, wild and free? Oh, you say he/she wouldn’t because dogs often come back to their families? That’s exactly what has happened when they’ve tried to free orcas. Same with horses, actually.

    I think the Sea World issue is a complex one- as the trainer interviewed indicates. Even she is still torn over her feelings. I don’t think anyone should be pointing fingers.

    • airick75

      P.S. Micechat, please add a like/dislike style feature…at least a “like”…to the forums. Those would be fun and helpful, especially in a discussion like this.

      • jcruise86

        I “dislike” this idea. There is enough simplicity out there.

    • Yoon

      It’s not even close. Dogs have been domesticated and have been living closely with humans for thousands of years. Even most feral dogs tend to live near/around humans and depend on trash/scraps humans leave behind for survival.

      Whales are very intelligent, but they are NOT domesticated. Just because we can train them to do tricks for our entertainment does not mean that there is a symbiotic relationship between the two species.

      Furthermore, you analogy is a bit off. You cannot compare putting a 6 ton animal in a large tank to giving your dog free range in your yard. A more apt comparison would be to compare it to a dog left in a large cage but is never allowed to leave it for its entire life. This comparison is even more faulty when you consider the fact that killer whales can migrate over 100 miles a day. Dogs do not have the same biological urge to migrate as whales do.

      • jcruise86

        Good post, Yoon.

        Now the beautiful elephant in the room. Would dolphins be next?

        Maybe Sea World should announce that all orcas will be out of its parks by 2020. They might get a lot of extra visitors over the next 5+ years. Remember Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade and the crowds that saw it before it left . . . FOREVER!

    • DisneyPhreak

      You can’t seriously be comparing domesticated dogs and horses with whales…

  • ranman101

    After months of spreading lies about the SeaWorld parks, Blackfish has finally been exposed by Orca trainers who worked on the film.

    I’m concerned that the editors are such experts that they can call what’s in Blackfish lies. As pointed out in previous post….

    What would Bridgette do if she was in charge of SeaWorld?

    “I would end animals for entertainment purposes, and stop the breeding program.”

    So she also has concerns. I think Blackfish raised lots of questions. The interesting part to me is that Sea World has refused interviews. This needs to be looked at from an unbiased group. People here are biased (not all) based on this is a theme park website. The film crew also has a personal stake, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem at Sea World.

    I understand that many of us have learned so much from Sea World, and am not anti Sea World. I just think everyone needs to stop taking one side or the other. Lets have someone look into this and see if Sea World can make things better, or if they must stop.

  • RosevilleDisfan

    Whether or not, you think it’s right for SeaWorld to keep and train orcas seems to be a separate issue than keeping an animal that has killed 3 human beings. I am an animal control officer in CA and we put down animals that have attacked humans, for those of us in Animal control it would be a public safety matter. Why is this situation any different. I can’t even imagine keeping an animal that has Killed 3 people, this seems crazy to me. When that poor girl in Vancouver was killed this animal should have been put down, not sold and allowed to kill 2 more people.

  • Jungle Trekkie

    Sea World probably does deserve a lot of credit for introducing millions of people to orcas and inspiring concern for their conservation and welfare.

    Until the last few decades we didn’t know much about orcas or their culture in the wild. Now we know that they have very complex social systems and ecology.

    Is there a large and complex enough facility to adequately house captive pods of orcas anywhere in the world? Sea World would obviously argue yes. The scientific evidence doesn’t seem to bear this out.

    Can Sea World or any institution adequately house and care for cetaceans? That is the ultimate question that captive institutions need to address.

    They have been treating cetaceans as circus animals rather than authentic conservation ambassadors. If they can find a way to adequately house cetaceans and meet their mental and physical needs in a captive environment and move away from circus type shows to genuinely educational ones then the public would probably accept captive cetaceans. If not, then they have a very long and probably losing PR battle on their hands.

  • Mousecat

    I am always amazed about how things change. If it were not for SeaWorld who would actually care about Killer Whales? They would have been tossed in with sharks and giant squids to be feared. SeaWorld personalized them, made plush toys that could be hugged, and got kids interested in the animals. Now that generation has grown up and they want change.