Blackfish Exposed by Former SeaWorld Trainer

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Features, Other Destinations, 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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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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193 Comments

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  1. Well, I don’t know anything about orcas or Sea World specifically, but I definitely know about theme parks and corporations, and so without seeing the documentary I can tell you that there is going to be tension between the people who work for Sea World who are interested in animal protection and preservation, and the people who work for Sea World who are interested in making money. My observations of Sea World is that they do a better job then anyone else in trying to make sure the animals have a nice habitat, but that still doesn’t mean they do a good job. The problem is that Sea World is for profit, and for them to be for profit and also genuinely interested in the welfare of their animals beyond simply being able to make more money off of them the longer they live is always going to be a bit of a conflict of interest. So what it comes down to is that Sea World is not ideal, but it’s the best we have.

  2. Finally a news article that brings out the truth and what Gabriella’s agenda was all along. It’s pretty telling about the person she is when she told Bridgette to wait until after the awards season to speak. WOW. Thank you for bringing this information to light now.

    While no one person or company is perfect (you can’t be perfect) SeaWorld is not bad and nowhere near what the film made it out to be there. The animal care is world class. 23000 animals rescued and millions and millions of dollars donated it speaks volumes for what SeaWorld is all about

    Yes, SeaWorld is an educational place as well. I have personally learned a lot in the park about marine life and our oceans and owe it all to SeaWorld for making me a better steward for the environment.

  3. I will onl visit SeaWorld when they don´t have any orcas or dolphins there anymore. Nothing anybody says can justify the prison that SeaWorld is.

    • I guess we should stop supporting Disney then because they do have disneys animal kingdom and the horses at disneyland/magic kingdom etc. . Is having animals in zoos and wildlife parks ideal no but they serve an informative purpose

      • Whales are not the same as anteaters. Orcas travel tens of thousands of miles in their lifetime. They migrate more then any other marine animal and they’re being contained in tank that’s the equivalent of putting a human in small windowless prison cell for their entire life. It doesn’t matter how many zoologists or scientists or orca trainers try to couter-point it and give the advantages of their captivity, this isn’t about science. It’s about ethics and the general treatment of other creatures. If a group of sociologists and anthropologists wrote a doctorate about the benefits of slavery, would it become any less heinous an act? Of course not. The way I see it, any science-based support of their captivity is completely irrelevant to the point.

      • Hey, elephants migrate hundreds of miles, just like lions, tigers, giraffes. However, they are losing their habitates in Africa and other locations. Sometimes you have to cage them. It isn’t getting better in the open oceans.

        Do you know that the seas are depleted of fish and mammals? Overfishing has caused major problems. Thus, we do keep to keep some animals in captivity, which in some ways, it is about maintaining the species for future generations.

  4. The fact PETA is involved with the “Blackfish” film completely destroys its credibility. I know a lot of people like and support PETA. But they are a completely self-serving organization bent on obtaining maximum dollars through maximum media exposure.

    I used to live near the PETA headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. When they first came to town, they criticized local shelters for euthanizing animals. PETA promised they would find homes for animals. Then, surprise, they were caught red-handed dumping dead animals in local dumpsters. This is the real PETA.

    It’s tragic the makers of Blackfish chose to make a film purely to forward a radical and inaccurate agenda with no attempt to present a realistic point of view. Unfortunately, such situation are all too typical these days. In any war of opposing viewpoints, the truth is the first casualty.

  5. It’s funny, but a lot of people think that only Republicans and big corporations have political agendas and conspire to get THEIR position in the forefront of thought and action. If this article tells you anything, it’s that BOTH sides (right/left, Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative) lie. Both sides obfuscate. Both sides have agendas. And both sides will do ANYTHING to get that agenda through. And, sometimes, it all comes down to one little filmmaker, trying to make it in the world of show-bid’ness! Truth be damned.
    I’m more than positive that there is truth and fact on both sides of the argument, but, as usual, when the two sides do argue, they are rarely arguing about the same thing. One side wants all whales freed and they ignore the benefits, to both the whales and human knowledge about them that can and has been used to help orcas. The other side doesn’t want to free the whales, yet they ignore the genetic disposition the whales have of migration. Neither is willing to meet in the middle and work on a better solution. It’s “my way or nothing” kind of thinking. You can see this same scenario playing out in just about every other argument going on in the world today. The healthcare/Obama Care debate is the biggest example. The right doesn’t want it because it’s causing alot of people who do have healthcare to lose it because it doesn’t meet some government standard. And that’s their argument. The left loves it because millions of people who didn’t have healthcare now do (or will). So, the right ignores the people who didn’t have healthcare and the left ignores the people who are losing their healthcare. Again, it seems like they aren’t arguing about the same thing. There’s no coming together. And the same is happening in this debate on this movie.

    • ” If this article tells you anything, it’s that BOTH sides (right/left, Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative) lie. Both sides obfuscate.”

      I hate this line of argument because it isn’t true. The left will intentionally lie. The right will insist their position is right because they are right, not because it is a lie. The fact that you have to say both are equivalent means you don’t understand that this Blackfish film is intentionally misleading period. The film industry is mostly ran by leftists. The right doesn’t have much of a stake in doing misleading documentaries.

      • Actually, your response pretty much reinforces my post. Both sides think they are correct and have the truth on their side and will do ANYTHING to push that “truth” (read “agenda) through.

      • @TodAZ1: Your response shows that if you don’t have respect of the word “truth”, the truth can mean anything. You call an agenda to be equivalent to “truth = lie”, that’s only true if an agenda is not argued honestly.

        If I wish to win an argument, I will do it honestly.

      • “The left will intentionally lie. The right will insist their position is right because they are right, not because it is a lie.”

        Wow. This is not at all subjective, is it?

      • Correct – honest to your set of beliefs. In other words, your truth. Truth is in the eye of the beholder, Steven. Truth CAN mean anything. It’s facts that can’t be argued. 2 + 2 = 4. Fact. Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior and died for our sins and was resurrected 3 days later. Someone’s truth. Not mine, but someone’s. And many arguments/debates have started based on that truth. And many others. Truth leads to an agenda that, to those that believe in that truth, must be furthered. But it’s not a fact.

      • Do you REALLY believe that, StevenW? Have you seen any right-wing documentaries, like “Michael Moore Hates America,” “Expelled,” “2016 Obama’s America” or “Occupy Unmasked”?

        “Blackfish” is HARDLY a “left-wing” documentary, though I’m guessing (just a guess) you probably didn’t see it.

        The idea that both sides lie, both sides obfuscate is certainly true. As producer Robert Evans put it, “There are three sides to every story — your side, my side and the truth.”

      • Dang, Yoon. You beat me to it.

      • Sorry, how could there be 3 sides to an argument when Tod identified the fourth side, FACTS. So truth equals lie, but does not equal facts.

        How can you I never seen a right wing documentary? Most often they are rebuttals to an existing left wing argument like ones that Michael Moore has made. “Expelled” is quite provocative. Whatever you’re guessing (imaging), keep it up.

      • Fact is not the same as truth. 3 sides to the truth is absolutely correct. Facts only have one side.

      • Fact: something that truly exists or happens : something that has actual existence

        Truth: a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true.

    • Great post. The problem here to me is that Sea World has not come fourth and discussed this other than to put out letters. I think Sea World does in fact help more than they hurt. Yet they do need to address issues raised by this film. Yes, every film has some kind of agenda, but that doesn’t mean it’s all a lie. I hope at some point Sea World will come out and really speak. I also wish some outside third party without an agenda could research this subject and see if Sea World is doing something wrong, or it’s all good, or there is something they can improve. Not sure if the no agenda part is possible.

  6. In the end I agree with the film’s desire to end Sea World’s orca captivity and breeding program. In the end, I also agree with Interviewee Bridgette Pirtle’s desire to end Sea World’s orca captivity and breeding program. Or did I read that wrong? Don’t the film and Pirtle both agree in the end?

    Interviewee Bridgette Pirtle thought the documentary would be about Sr. Trainer Dawn Brancheau as a tribute to her and her work. That’s a noble intent, but what the documentary was really about was far larger than one woman’s work with orca’s. Brancheau, to my recollection, was not demeaned in this film in any way. Rather the film revealed that Sea World was involved in a coverup scandal in a death that was fully preventable – not just one trainer’s death but multiple deaths.

    I have no intention of ever seeing another orca “show” at Sea World or anywhere else. They never should have been hunted down in the wild, separated from their family packs, thrown into pods with unknown orcas, and forced by starvation to perform at our whim.

    As much as I hate that these orcas are trapped in performance stadiums and giant fish tanks, also knowing that these trapped mammals can’t go back to the open ocean is heartbreaking. I don’t think anyone has said it yet, but the orca tanks and shows should be completely phased out. No more breeding/inbreeding and no more stealing baby orcas from the wild.

    I don’t think Pirtle should be offended by the film or the director since they all essentially share the same goals in ending the orca breeding and capture program. Blackfish turned out to be a film that is far larger than what Pirtle imagined, but has a message I think we all need to hear.

    And in case you were wondering, here’s a list of all of Shamu’s shows from Sea World San Diego:
    1966-1971 Doctor Doolittle
    1971-1973 Shamu Goes Hollywood
    1974-1975 Shamu for Mayor
    1975-1976 Shamu the Yankee Doodle Whale
    1977-1979 Shamu Goes to College
    1980-1982 This is Shamu!
    1984-1987 Shamu Take a Bow
    1986-2006 Shamu Celebration
    1987-1988 Shamu’s House of Douse
    1988-1989 Shamu’s Water Symphony
    1989-1991 Baby Shamu Celebration
    1992-1995 New Visions
    1995-1998 Shamu World Focus

    The first Shamu, a female, in the Sea World chain of theme parks was captured in Puget Sound in 1965 and died on August 23, 1971 after six years in captivity.

    • “Interviewee Bridgette Pirtle thought the documentary would be about Sr. Trainer Dawn Brancheau as a tribute to her and her work. That’s a noble intent, but what the documentary was really about was far larger than one woman’s work with orca’s. Brancheau, to my recollection, was not demeaned in this film in any way. Rather the film revealed that Sea World was involved in a coverup scandal in a death that was fully preventable – not just one trainer’s death but multiple deaths.”

      One would think the film makers could say that to Ms. Pirtle rather than lying to her to get her to do interviews for the movie.

      • Of course. But it doesn’t change the basic facts. Both the film-makers and the trainer want the expolitation of these animals to stop.

      • Yep. But, again, perhaps the film makers could have told Ms. Pirtle the truth about what the film was going to be about. They may have found out they had a lot in common. But they chose to lie to her in order to get what they wanted. Tactics like that undermine the message being presented in the film.

      • Good point, TodAZ1. I feel it’s disingenuous to lead the public on like that.

        A couple of years ago, I was driving down the 5 freeway with my boyfriend when we saw a billboard advertising a Shamu show. As someone who didn’t know anything about the subject, I was excited to think Shamu was still alive and performing. My boyfriend got nostalgic as he recalled seeing Shamu when he was a kid. We started planning a day trip to San Diego right away.

        And then I decided to look up Shamu’s age. Of course, it turned out that Shamu had died before either me or my boyfriend were even born.

        And then I found out that the life span of captive orca is significantly lower than that of wild orca.

        It was a definite turn-off to be sure, but I was still considering doing a dolphin swim for my birthday. And then I read “The Dolphin in the Mirror” by Diana Reiss. She worked at Marine World, where I went as a kid; in her book, she discusses the stress captive Cetacea endure in parks like Sea World. Loud noises from roller coasters, crowds, pumped in music, etc., etc., etc. They’re so intelligent, and we keep them in kiddie pools. I can’t. I just can’t.

      • Good point, lynxwilen*

    • Actually the ’77 show was “Shamu Goes to Community College”.

      2017-2019 Farewell, Shamu!

    • Well said

    • Lol sorry, that was lynxwilwer’s point. This format doesn’t cooperate very well with my phone.

  7. All of you Sea World defenders are conveniently skipping over the most important thing the trainer said when asked what she do if she was in charge of SeaWorld:

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

    As a former trainer, I agree. If you knew the psychological pain the animals experience, you would not support keeping orcas and dolphins in captivity for entertainment purposes. It is cruel and inhumane.

    • And you’re skipping over the part where the film maker lied to Ms. Pirtle about what the film would REALLY be about. And also that she told Pirtle to not talk about the movie until after awards season is over.

      See? Both sides are ignoring things about the other side’s arguments.

      • Whether the film has an agenda or not is not the issue. I couldn’t care less about whether or not the film makers wanted to win an Oscar or whether the trainer was misled about the tone of the film.

        The issue is about the well-being of the animals.

        When the trainer said: “I would end animals for entertainment purposes, and stop the breeding program.” – the interviewer didn’t ask her “Why?” Why would she want to end the breeding program?” And you don’t ask that either. Don’t you care why she would say that? What would cause her to say that? Think.

      • Um, no. The article started off being about and ended with being about the movie “Blackfish”. Period.

      • evergreen, you should ALWAYS be aware of the agenda of the film makers. As someone has stated here before, the general public just view documentaries as if they were bona fide “facts” with no other side of the argument. That is hardly ever the case.

        If you agree with the agenda, that’s fine. But agendas of the film makers drive the narrative of the documentary. It’ll be slanted/spun to further that agenda, no matter what.

      • Again, this is the filmmaker’s previously stated reasoning for shifting the focus of the film:

        http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/23/opinion/blackfish-filmmaker-statement/

        The first treatment was supposed to focus heavily on Dawn, but things changed as the film was in production. This has been publicly acknowledged by the filmmaker herself. Here are some excerpts from her statement:

        “I set out to understand this incident, not as an animal activist — because I’m not one — but as a mother who had just taken her kids to SeaWorld, and of course as a documentary filmmaker who unfortunately can’t let sleeping dogs lie.”

        “I can say that my crew and I are all profoundly changed by the experience. I know that killer whales are not suitable for captivity. I am dedicated to spreading the word. The early deaths, the grieving, the boredom, the daily fighting and the attacks — what we learned over two years is impossible to shake. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.”

    • And a nice link back to this article. Nice job, MiceChat!! :)

  8. I have a real problem with this article. It seems so out of the blue and out of step to what Miceage usually provides. The truth and fact finding are what make Miceage great. At that point this article is presented as a universal de-bunking of everything Blackfish brings to light. Most all documentaries have been busted for sensationalizing the truth and Blackfish is no different. The facts that no one can dispute are the following

    1.) Tillikum killed 3 people
    2.) Seaworld lied and tried to say that Dawn slipped and fell into the tank when she died until the tourist video was released
    3.) Killer Whale Families were separated in captivity by Seaworld
    4.) SeaWorld lied about the Orca lifespan

    Not one time does Ms. Bridgette Pirtle discuss that Tillikum is dangerous. At no time does Miceage ask her what about the 3 deaths by one animal?

    What makes Ms. Pirtle an expert on whales and the other trainers in the documentary not experts? Guess what, none of these trainers are experts. Not even Ms. Pirtle. What they do have is a knowledge of what is was like, first hand to work with these animals on a daily basis.

    At no time during this article was the Loro Parque story discussed and her thoughts on what happened there.

    At no time is Ms. Pirtle asked about the blatant lie that Orcas only live for 25 to 30 years in the wild, a claim made by Seaworld for many years.

    If Ms. Pirtle is so right then why did OSHA make the determination that trainers could not come in contact with the whales unless they were behind a 2 ft barricade?

    Ms. Pirtle is right that most of these animals introduced back into the wild do not fair well, but that is because they do not know how to protect themselves nor do they have a pod (family) to protect them.

    I have read some other interviews with Ms. Pirtle that have come out over the past year. At first they were slight criticisms of the film but she ultimately gave the film an endorsement because of the message on animal rights. Now she is changing her tune and she is now condemning a film about animal rights. Why does she feel the need to do this? Makes you wonder why now and if someone is paying her to express her new opinions. What about Miceage? Is Miceage being asked to run this article? Will we see some great give-a-ways from Seaworld through miceage coming up? I really hope not.

    This article really made my suspicion meter jump, I hope it did for others as well.

    Your thoughts?

    • Obviously MiceChat has an agenda to defend Sea World. They are not interested in the whole story.

      When the trainer said: “I would end animals for entertainment purposes, and stop the breeding program.” – the interviewer didn’t ask her “Why?”

      WHY would she want to end the breeding program? What is so wrong with Sea World that would cause her to say that? These are logical questions any inquiring person would ask.

    • Life spans of captive orcas is much less than that of wild orcas. (And pointing to a few captive orcas that have lived long lives is not science. It is merely anecdote.)

      Here are the facts:
      http://www.orcahome.de/lifeexpectancy.htm

    • I can’t disagree with anything you’ve pointed out. I understand that Micechat will naturally defend a corporation that they have a relationship with, especially when the success of this website depends on the viability of the theme parks that gives this website its purpose, but it is unfortunate nonetheless.

      I think 20 years from now, Sea World will still exist, but it will only be about water-themed rides, attractions, and education, and not based on shows that require the confinement of very intelligent animals that are forced to perform tricks for an audience. It is a shame that MiceChat can’t be on the side of positive change in this instance, and instead holds onto an antiquated notion that these animals should be bred to live in poor conditions and completely against their natural instincts so that we can be entertained.

      • “It is a shame that MiceChat can’t be on the side of positive change in this instance, and instead holds onto an antiquated notion that these animals should be bred to live in poor conditions and completely against their natural instincts so that we can be entertained.”

        Please don’t put words in our mouth, and read the article again. We’re presenting her opinion, and what they filmmakers did to get her to interview. While I don’t agree with the methods that Blackfish filmmakers used to get their message across, I do personally believe that these types of shows are becoming outdated.

        There was a time when just about every theme park (Knott’s, etc.) had a dolphin show with tiny tanks, and over the years – they have been phased out.

        I do think Seaworld does lots of good for animals, when it come to rescue and research – and they can continue to do those great things without this form of entertainment.

    • “4.) SeaWorld lied about the Orca lifespan

      “At no time is Ms. Pirtle asked about the blatant lie that Orcas only live for 25 to 30 years in the wild, a claim made by Seaworld for many years. ”
      ——–
      Keep in mind that’s an ‘average’.

      Let me ask you, have you ever actually done research on wild orca lifespans yourself? I mean, not typing in google “Orca lifespan” and reading a couple of websites, but actually really looking into it? Looking at the REAL stats of how old orcas were when they died, how old the orcas currently alive are?

      I bet the answer is no.

      Well, I have.
      Looking at almost 300 individual animals over various populations and the average age they died?
      30.14 years.

      Do you know that in the most studied population of orcas in the world (The most famous one for having the ONLY known ’100 year old orca’ in the world)
      Among those 80 individuals, not a single animal is listed in the age bracket of 50-75 years (Only 2 were in the 76+ age bracket and they way they ‘guessed’ those ages is sketchy at best)
      Most animals in the population are listed in the 11-25 year olds (Which would also suggest that the age bracket above that is when most of them die. That would make 35 years seem pretty reasonable, no?)

      We are not in the 1970′s any more, and these ‘Average ages’ that are spread so widely over the internet are based off GUESSES and estimates from then. 40 years have passed of TRUE study and it’s clear that the data doesn’t add up. Yet no one updates their ‘facts’ do they?

      • You stats are very interesting. Can you pleased cite your sources or where we can find this info? Thanks.

      • Please provide your source. Based on research by NOAA: males typically live for about 30 years, but can live as long as 50-60 years; females typically live about 50 years,but can live as long as 80-90 years

        NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a division of the United States Dept of Commerce.

    • I agree Anaheimhomeboy. It’s the questions that the interviewer didn’t ask Ms. Pirtle that made me suspicious of the agenda of the article. Calling them trainers is a joke; Ms. Pirtle is an entertainer at best. I hope in time she gains some perspective on this she will have deeper thoughts about her “profession”.

  9. It seriously depresses me to see Micechat run this kind of article. When posters acuse Micechat of being overly negative about Disney, aren’t we told that Micechat is holding Disney’s feet to the fire because it cares about Disney and wants to see it do better? But I guess since Seaworld is not Disney then it can escape Micechat’s watchdog style of reporting, and instead we get this piece of “reporting.” All of this is even more heinous since we are discussing an issue involving HUMAN LIVES that were lost. DEATH, people. DEATH was involved here.

    What was the point of this article? For Miss Pirtle to say she was mislead into thinking the documentary would be solely about the death of one trainer? Fine. She thought it would be more about Dawn the trainer who died than about SeaWorld’s attempts throughout the years to coverup and deny charges made against it and its captivity program. Fine. She thought those things. Does any of that change the content of the film? Does any of that change that a human life was lost and that SeaWorld attempted to blame the dead trainer until a visitor came forward with video showing it was not the trainers fault? Does the fact that Miss Pirtle felt deceived about what the film would be about change the reality that Tillikum the whale killed 3 human beings, including a homeless “drifter” whose genitals he bit off?

    Dusty just commented that this article is trying to present Miss Pirtle’s point of view not push an agenda… really? Look at the heading. The line of questioning Micechat did… My god, if Micechat had a chance to confront Michael Eisner or Paul Pressler back in the dark days of Disneyland, would we have gotten this kind of article? Any objective person would say this article is attempting to smear the film Blackfish not just present Pertle’s point of view. What is worse, Micechat is trying to discredit the film by attacking the film’s maker as having a selfish agenda. Well, what about the content of the film? The facts? Have you nothing to say about that? Can you only question the film’s maker’s ego, and not address the fact that Tillikum ate Dawn his trainer’s arm off and yet he’s still performing everyday at SeaWorld, all the while making them millions upon millions of dollars.

    To me, all of this comes off as Micechat smearing the film by going after it’s maker rather than answering the films charges, and then hiding behind Miss Pirtle and saying, “she said it, not us. We’re just reporting here.”

    • Seriously, this is a simple issue. Gabriela Cowperthwaite lied, she manipulated people and put out a film that is manipulative and misleading. This calls into question any and all content in the film.

      • Exactly, CreepyMonkey.

      • I love how the anti-Blackfish people preach about how Blackfish only presents one point of view, but yet Ms. Pirtle expresses a view and it’s automatically the truth no questions asked. I guess you can only question when it’s convenient for you!

    • Agave, you are exactly right. This article bothers me more and more every day.

      To other posters, there is no evidence that the filmmakers lied to Ms. Pirtle. She saw the film, smiled for the pictures and went to the premiere. Why is she speaking out now? A year after the film’s premiere at Sundance?

      • What evidence COULD there be other than Pirtle stating they lied to her?

  10. I realize this is obnoxiously off-track, but I’m willing to be obnoxious for a good cause. I (again) would like orcas out of Sea World, but while we’re discussing decency and recreation: many (often outstanding) Disney Cruise Line CMs work 77 hours a week and/or go 4 months in a row without one day off. Of course, unlike orcas they choose to do so, but I’d like a 60 hour week maximum . . . as a start.

    And now back to getting Sea World to stop keeping the orcas that they caused us to love.

    • Cruise ships are like cities. Just because most people are asleep at night, it does mean the city is that way too. There must always be people making sure the boat stays on course and afloat. There are people making sure the power stays on, the plumbing works, and the passengers and crew have food to eat. I’m simplifying it, but you get what I mean.
      The crew members may not get a full day off, but they do get a couple hours off each day.
      A 60 hour work week is not practical on a cruise ship.

  11. [...] While that development yesterday interested me, something I read today stood out even more.  This morning I spotted an article on an amusement industry site called MiceAge.  The article contains an interview with one of the trainers who was a consultant on the movie Blackfish.  In the interview she blasts the director of the film as being agenda driven and not seeking out the truth.  You can read the interview here. [...]

  12. I know this is such a silly nitpick, and really adds nothing to the current conversation- but why is Ms. Portly credited as Bridgette in the article, and notated as Bridget in the pictures?

    • Ugh. Autocorrect!!! *Pirtle

  13. Stupid auto correct! *Pirtle

  14. While I don’t feel like I can say whether or not Blackfish is right as I’m still processing all of this for myself, I do feel saddened that Bridgette did not feel she could take this story to a news outlet with a little more editorial conviction.

    Amid other typos, the source’s name is spelled at least two different ways throughout this entire article. I’ve come to expect the weak editorial voice, and I don’t come here for literary or editorial excellence. But I think we can all expect a little more than this.