Blackfish Exposed by Former SeaWorld Trainer

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

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,


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.

Browse Archived Articles by

  • Mazzy21

    The problem with this article is that this ex-trainer who is now supposedly coming out against Blackfish just keeps saying she wants “the truth” told, but never once mentions what that truth is. In addition, she says she wants to end Orca captivity and stop the breeding program. Am I missing something? Sounds like she agrees completely with Blackfish, so what exactly is this article about?? It seems to use a whole lot of words to say nothing at all.

  • Mazzy21

    I feel like this article is doing exactly what it was intended to do – make ‘regular people’ put words into the mouth of this ex-trainer simply due to the title stating that she is supposedly “debunking” the film. Never once in this article does she debunk the film. She says she wants the truth told, but doesn’t expand on that in any way. It’s a single, open-ended sentence that is designed for the public to ‘fill in the blank’. “I want the truth told” implying the truth isn’t being told now, but never comes right out and says that. The article itself is sensationalized. The article itself has an agenda. The article itself is written purposely to put an idea in the public mindset that doesn’t actually exist on the written page.

  • EC82

    She has not “exposed” “Blackfish.” As with most documentaries since pretty much the beginning of the form, “Blackfish” is a movie that has a definite view. The trouble is, SeaWorld never offered its own view in the film, or any opposing view whatsoever. The company waited several months until after the film’s release to issue a carefully worded statement, and that is all SeaWorld has done.

    This is a good, worthwhile topic, and the story here presents a thoughtful, passionate opposing view. But to slam the filmmakers saying they have a “Killer Agenda” is pretty salacious and not particularly responsible. You’re fighting fire with fire, trying to support a theme park you feel has been treated unfairly by filmmakers. And she has an axe to grind because she doesn’t like the way she was portrayed in the film.

    It would have been very interesting to position this article with a headline such as, “Former SeaWorld Trainer Unhappy with ‘Blackfish’ Film” or something a little more reasoned and less “controversial.” Let readers make up their own minds. If you feel the movie unfairly attacked SeaWorld, it could be easily argued this article unfairly attacks the filmmakers. Each side has its story.

    As a viewer, “Blackfish” was incredibly captivating, and quite disturbing when it showed SeaWorld’s court appearance. It was a well-told, well-constructed film that did not present itself as a news piece, but as a documentary from filmmakers who clearly DID have an agenda — though it seemed just as obvious to me that they DID try to get SeaWorld to participate.

    I’m not sure it does anyone any good to have an angry, upset former trainer go on the attack against the film, whereas it might have been a valuable addition to the discussion to simply present her voice and her argument.

    • GarbldeyGook

      Maybe we need a separate documentary about documentary-making, and how any form of journalism will undoubtedly focus on certain things while leaving others out in the service of clarity and brevity.

  • SpectroMan

    Thank you for this story. I’ve always known that Blackfish was one-sided; it’s been AMAZING the hordes jumping on the Sea World hate bandwagon. Just ignorance.

    • evergreen

      I am a former trainer. I am not on a “hate wagon” when I say that living in a small cement pond and being forced to do behaviors for food is bad for the health and well-being of the orcas. And I am certainly not ignorant. How arrogant of you to describe those who WORKED WITH ORCAS as ignorant.

      • TodAZ1

        evergreen, while you may or may not have been a former trainer (we have no way of knowing that for certain, but, sure, why not?) isn’t SpectroMan’s point. He’s talking about the band wagon of people that take ONE look at this film, assume it’s fact because, you know, it IS a documentary and why would the producers lie?

        THIS is the problem with lying to further your own agenda (whether it’s animal conservation or out and out career ambition). It undermines the essential truth you’re getting out to the public.

      • Anaheimhomeboy

        TodAZ1, I am still unsure about what the lie is? Again, there is no proof that Ms. Pirtle was lied to. It is her accusation. If you believe her then you are no different than anyone that watched the documentary and took it as fact.

        The fact remains that Tillikum the Whale killed 3 people.
        The fact remains that Seaworld tried to spin it as an accident and not an attack.

      • TodAZ1

        The lie is that the producers approached Pirtle with the direction the movie would take specifically to get Pirtle’s participation in the movie. Then went ahead and made the movie they originally intended to since the beginning. That’s the lie.

        And what proof do you want? If the producers of the movie came out and said Pirtle is not telling the truth, would you believe them?

  • fnord

    Wow, CreepyMonkey, you are truly creepy!
    And once again I implore Miceage to allow us once
    again to comment on particular posts and then queue
    up with other commenters directly after the post, not
    just in order of when posted, as when a thread gets longer,
    it can be difficult to tell who’s commenting on what.
    It would also be nice if like Facebook, when you comment
    and others also comment after, when you open the site
    it would show when people comment on the same
    This is an issue that has been relevant for many
    years, on pbs and elsewhere, and maybe a little
    over the heads of park enthusiasts. Like Creepy.
    But since we can’t queue up comments after a post,
    if Creepy complains about my singleing him out,
    I very well won’t see it. So I’ll go ahead and mention
    Malin and B & B’s Mom for their input on other

  • CADisneyMom

    I saw this documentary and was just sickened at the treatment of the whales, not when they were at SeaWorld but when they were up north (can’t remember the name of the place) where they were put into a “crate” that was just as big as they were. I respect SeaWorld for helping animals that are injured, that wash up to shore, etc. they treat them, get them healthy and release them back to the wild if they’re able to. Now as for blaming Dawn for what happened I do not believe that was true at all. It said that she wore her hair like that all the time in a ponytail so it shouldn’t have been different at that time. I think he may have mistook her hair for a fish and grabbed it but it certainly was an unfortunate incident. Orca’s, or killer whales, don’t eat humans routinely and in every case they never “ate” them, I believe they may have just mistaken them for seals which is part of their diet. This same kind of incident happens with the lions and tigers all the time at circuses but that doesn’t seem to get attention like this. Animals that were meant to be free in the ocean, in my opinion, should remain in the ocean they shouldn’t be put on display for peoples entertainment.

  • Admiral Boom

    I saw the movie and Iread this article with interest. It doesn’t strike me that she and the movie disagree materially–more tone than facts. And the conclusion she came to (stop breeding and stop using Orcas for entertainment) actually goes further than my own conclusion after watching the movie. It does sound, from her point of view, like the movie makers put marketing the movie over getting all the information and perspectives of those involved out there. That’s too bad, but not particularly surprising and probably about how it goes in any publicity effort.

    • TodAZ1

      I agree, Admiral.

      I think the problem with the producers of this movie is that, in all liklihood, the original concept was extremely sound (the preservation of these animals and exposing the current conditions/way of life of captivity of orcas). But, somewhere along the way, the film ITSELF became more important than the subject matter. And the producers went to extreme lengths to finish it. Even lying to get it completed how they wanted it. The ends don’t justify the means.

      In the end, that kind of thing never ends well and is soon found out by the public and actually hurts the original intention of the documentary.

      • Admiral Boom

        Yet the point I find most salient is Ms. Pirtle appears to agree with the criticism of SeaWorld. She’s unhappy that the movie has a different tone than she expected. But she seems to share the same conclusions as the film about what SeaWorld should do differently (stop using the orcas for entertainment and stop breeding). So I don’t really see how this article provides any defense for SeaWorld, as was implied by the headline “Blackfish Exposed…”

      • Admiral Boom

        And I don’t really think we agree about what you are saying we do TodAZ1. I was saying that publicity is naturally going to focus on certain elements. I don’t think this is “lying” nor did anything I read in this article amount to “extreme lengths” in my book.

  • iceicebergha

    Of course the filmmaker had an agenda. Any filmmaker, documentary or otherwise, has an agenda. As humans, we naturally support causes we believe in; causes that we feel will work towards an outcome we are looking for.

    I’m not entirely certain, but many times a documentarian will set out to make a certain film and, while conducting interviews and obtaining footage over time, will realize that an entirely different film is forming. The Lance Armstrong documentary that was released last year is a perfect example of this – the filmmaker set out to make a film about how extraordinary Lance was, and halfway through, witnesses the unraveling of a crazy scandal. Of course he has to change the course of the film at that point.

    Perhaps the trainer was misled, but this quote –

    “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.”

    - doesn’t convince me. She doesn’t outright say what the filmmakers told her it would be about; in fact, she goes as far as to say that other trainers told her they were going to tell the “truth”, whatever that was.

    I’m not a trainer, but wouldn’t it have been worse if the film ended with SeaWorld having a squeaky clean image? Doesn’t it respect Dawn’s memory more to bring to light SeaWorld’s attempts at a cover-up, then their attempts to place blame on Dawn? Despite how you feel about SeaWorld, I think it speaks volumes about a company that would post-humously treat a well-respected and well-liked employee like that – just throw her under the bus to try and save their own behinds. At the very least, agenda pushing or not, this documentary brings many of those things to light. And, as others have pointed out, the end result and Brigette’s wishes moving forward are the same.

    • TodAZ1

      Someone before brought up the point that Seaworld refused to give interviews for the Blackfish movie. As it turns out, that was a smart thing to do. The film makers would take thoses interviews from Seaworld and edit them to whatever they wanted Seaworld to say. Anyone here, after reading this article, think the producers of Blackfish would just present these interviews with Seaworld honestly?

      Again, this is the problem with lying. It calls into question everything else about the documentary.

      • iceicebergha

        TodAZ1, I never mentioned SeaWorld’s decision to not partake in the interviews. When I am referencing SeaWorld, it is in regards to the way they spun Dawn’s death to the media, attempting to push the blame entirely on Dawn, in an attempt to cover up what truly happened. If you’ve seen the film (which I’m not sure if you have) this comes from the multiple news clips and interviews of SeaWorld staffers on the news immediately following the incident who state that it was her mistake. Perhaps the filmmakers did set out to make a film honoring Dawn’s memory, but SeaWorld did nothing to respect her in the immediate aftermath by placing the blame entirely on her.

        Of course, SeaWorld made a “smart” choice not to be interviewed, but the other side of the coin makes you wonder why they WOULDN’T want to be interviewed if they had nothing to hide?

        In her interview, as shown above, the following exchange happens:

        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.”

        If you see the film, you will realize that the film DOES do a good job of convincing the audience it wasn’t Dawn’s fault – so whatever additional truth Bridgette felt needed to be said, I’m not sure, as she never says it in that interview, either. Also, in her answer, she mentions what she “thought” the film was going to be about. I would accuse the filmmaker of “lying” if the filmmaker outright said to Bridgette “this film will be solely about Dawn” but Bridgette also neglects to tell us exactly what the filmmaker said; she only tells us what she thought and/or assumes.

        I’m not saying the filmmaker is innocent here, but before anyone goes around pointing fingers or saying the film has no merit because someone cried wolf, perhaps a more in-depth reading of her responses is necessary, rather than an immediate reaction.

    • Mazzy21

      Actually I read some random blurb where the filmmakers of Blackfish said the same thing – that they started out to make a movie about ?? I can’t remember, honestly, but that upon interviewing people it just started to morph into what it ultimately became. Now maybe they really did start out to tell the tale of Orca training, which is, of course, a unique career, but we have no idea because this article on Micechat never once mentions what Prittle actually thought the movie was going to be about. She says (in the article) that she thought it was going to bring closure and that it was going to honor Dawn’s memory, but never says 1. in what way she feels the movie failed in that respect, and 2. what specific “truth”s she believes were left out. This article is incredibly, to an unbelievable level even, full of ‘nothing’; no actual content at all, just a sensationalized title and supposed quotes from someone repeatedly saying “I wanted the truth” but never what that truth is. It’s funny how many people on these comments have gladly put words in the article that aren’t actually there (saying things like “the filmmakers lied to her!” but never once does the article say what the filmmakers told her or didn’t tell her, etc.). I think that was the intention though so good job on the part of the PR dept. here at Micechat.

      • The First Star

        That’s correct. I posted the link on the first page and on page 2, I think. I feel like I’d be spamming if I keep posting it. The filmmaker released a statement through CNN in October, in which she said that the whole crew were profoundly changed by the experience of making the film, and that the purpose shifted away from Dawn as they learned more and more.

  • Pingback: Should the Anti-SeaWorld film, Blackfish get an Academy Award Nomination?()

  • fnord

    Evergreen, how old are you? Sea World SA TX ain’t that
    old, but the trainers always free swam with the orcas,
    even being launched into the air by standing on their
    heads. If that isn’t free swimming with orcas, I don’t
    know what you mean. I haven’t seen the ”Shamu” show since the first
    year the park opened, because I became
    aware of the controversy even back then, before this doc
    which I haven’t seen.
    Please tell me that because they were paid to do it
    doesn’t mean you think they weren’t free swimming.
    This was way before the death in question.

    • evergreen

      “Free swimming” means swimming with the animals for fun – no show, no audience, no fish reward. Sea World’s trainers are not allowed to free swim with any animals. The trainers’ interactions with the animals are strictly limited to “work time.”

  • Skyway1

    I need to clear up a few misconceptions here.

    Regardless of what you think of “Blackfish”, the points made in the film were not just dreamed up by the director or animal activists. The film closely mirrors the same arguments and evidence presented in court by the US Department of Labor in OSHA’s case against SeaWorld.

    If you take a look at the transcripts of that lengthy trial, you’ll see that much of what is portrayed in Blackfish was addressed , and in some cases proven, in a courtroom.

    Trainers who currently work for SeaWorld testified under oath that they were unaware of certain incidents of whale aggression. SeaWorld executives were caught off guard when the government was able to show them numerous aggressive incidents that did not appear in the company’s incident log book, which trainers testified they did not routinely got to see. There is undisputed testimony from SeaWorld employees and execs that the company was not fully transparent when it came to sharing information with trainers, a concern highlighted in the film.

    I’d be interested to know if the trainer interviewed by MiceAge was ever shown the 2006 video of Ken Peters repeatedly pulled underwater. If not, why would the company not let other trainers learn from their colleague’s close call?

    At the trial, the trainer who claimed Dawn was pulled in by her ponytail admitted under oath he did not see it happen. He said he saw her pulling her hair from the whale’s mouth after the fact and assumed that’s what happened. A second employee, a security guard,, testified that he actually saw the whale pull her in by her arm. Two employees telling two different stories. SeaWorld chose one version to tell the public, which just happened to be the one that’s made it looks like it was Dawn’s mistake instead of the whale’s aggression. Only those who were there know what really happened. But the people in the film have a legitimate reason to question SeaWorld’s account.

    The government’s killer whale expert, who also appears in Blackfish, gave his professional opinion about how wild whales differ from captive ones. SeaWorld’s expert gave different opinions. So there is a legitimate dispute about such things as whether a whale has a shorter life span in captivity. None of us laypeople know the answer, and the experts can’t even agree on it. Is that not a meaningful public debate to have? And would that debate even be taking place if not for Blackfish?

    Even if the director “mislead” participants and went into the film with a strong bias in hopes of winning an Oscar, so what? Nearly EVERYTHING in the film was also part of the federal government’s court case again SeaWorld. You may not agree with the government’s position or their reasons for litigation against SeaWorld, but at least it shows the film was not just a hatchet job by a crazed activist.

    And one last misconception — CNN did not create or fund the film. Blackfish is an independent film that premiered at Sundance. CNN later purchased the distribution rights to the film. Whether a news organization should also be in the documentary distribution business is another good public debate. But Blackfish was competed long before any CNN employee ever saw it.

    • evergreen

      Thank you for your intelligent, helpful and accurate comments.

    • TodAZ1

      “Even if the director “mislead” participants and went into the film with a strong bias in hopes of winning an Oscar, so what?”

      You’re assuming the producers stopped at misleading only the participants. Who else did they mislead? The public watching this movie?

      If the case against Seaworld and orca captivity is so compelling, so true, so right to the producers of this movie, why the need to lie?

      And just because CNN didn’t originally fund this film and only has distribution rights doesn’t mean they don’t have a financial stake in its success.

  • pachyderm13

    It’s really hard for me personally ,to understand what she wants to say…The reason being is the last questions asked Q. What would do you if you were in charge of Sea World” A. “I would end animals for entertainment purposes and stop the breeding programs” OK. sounds good….Next question Q. Would you take your children to Sea World? A. “Whales were such a big part of my life,and these relationships were very important to me,that I cannot imagine not giving that to my children.So, yes,I would take them to Sea World”…..That last sentence makes me wonder about her credibility She is aware of THE COVE ,Taiji slaughter of dolphins/whales from Sept-Mar.If you know nothing about it,google it. It’s horrific .It happens daily in those months…Fisherman round them up in nets,pick out a couple for captivity and barbarically slaughter the rest,babies included.. They suffer immensely. If people keep visiting marine parks ,this will continue because of the greed and money these people make off of these beautiful animals. selling them to marine parks,etc..If someone disagrees strongly about captivity, and if they love them so dearly, then why buy a ticket for your family only to support what she says she doesn’t support? She says she wants her kids to know the same relationship as she has with whales, but it seems to me it’s a “dream” of sorts, and she doesn’t want to give that up, so she WILL take her children to see them in captivity.She’s suppose to have more expertise and experience, but that sentence does not come across as someone who fully supports what she says she does…..I truly believe that the trainers love these animals.I think Sea World has done some good as well. But I also believe the time has come, and we have learned enough to know that captivity is wrong ..I’m not saying Sea World should close down,they could still do a world of good, but it is time to stop captivity…..I just find this article lacking credibility,in my own opinion.Although many of us have a love for these creatures,I could not bring myself to bring kids,grand kids,or anyone to an establishment that I didn’t support what they were doing.That is just wrong,in my opinion.If you think it’s wrong…..don’t support it. Blackfish is but one documentary, there is so much more information of this subject out there,and it started way before Blackfish. Many people have felt captivity was wrong long ago, it’s nothing new…As far as not feeling right about this or that, there was time to say “I don’t agree with this nor that” I am not supporting this film and I want my side known” But that didn’t happen.If I truly in my heart believed it was wrong,I would have done something about it THEN,and made sure everyone knew my feelings…And I would not have stopped until my side of the story was on that movie or they took me off the movie.I,myself, did not take this documentary as an activist documentary at all. Like I said before,these are my opinions..

  • M69

    While I cannot pretend to know much about the film other than I will not see it, I appreciate MiceChat for providing a space in which another side can be seen, in part because it has not been easy to find an anti-Blackfish headline as readily as anti-Sea World headlines for some time. The trainer shares eloquently that times have changed since some of the worst offenses were made in the name of commercial edutainment, while providing the rescue efforts, partnerships with scientists, and outreach to the public – and not just the park-going public but those who do not tend to visit (like me.) I am not a fan of Sea World or Aquariums or animal parks. However, when I researched this topic after feeling emotionally manipulated by the trailer for Blackfish, I came away with a new appreciation for those who do work on behalf of animals and this planet, and that apparently means Sea World, aquariums and animal parks. !! Lastly but certainly not least: My condolences to Bridgette, her colleagues and friends, and Dawn’s family.

  • jcruise86

    It’s too bad that people saw this on TV screens rather than in theaters. The shots of orcas in the wild made the contrast with Sea World’s pools dramatic on the big screen.

    “Blackfish” received an excellent score on Click on the link below to see many reviews:

    • jcruise86
    • jcruise86

      I meant that “too bad that so many” people saw it on TVs. Of course, many of us saw it in theaters.

      I think a practical response would be for Sea World to saw that orcas will be out by 2020 and dolphins by 2030. That would give them lots of time to develop alternative attractions so tourists wouldn’t be out by 2031.

      • TodAZ1

        Very much agree with your timeline for Seaworld, jcruise. The time to end the animal shows at theme parks has come.

  • agave

    I’m glad to see many more intelligent comments posted here on this topic. A couple more thoughts I’d like to chime in on:

    A poster above says working with animals is dangerous, period. Think of lion and tiger tamers for example. Does that mean we should release all lions and tigers from captivity? My answer to that specific question is, I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. But the difference is, everyone KNOWS lion-tamers have dangerous, if not crazy jobs. But SeaWorld says training killer whales is different because orcas are docile, loveable giants. That is until an orca rips a human being apart, a human being they happened to have worked with closely for a long time. Then Seaworlds got some explaining to do.

    The main crux of the film Blackfish as well as the case made against SeaWorld in court, is that SeaWorld has been deliberately trying to sell the public the idea that working with and training orcas is NOT dangerous if the trainers follow the exact guidelines SeaWorld management set out. IN other words,its not like lion-taming at all. Orcas are not like lions, according to SeaWorld, orcas LIKE to be trained. Every time an orca attack occurs in one of their parks, SeaWorld trots out a carefully worded, no doubt lawyer-approved, statement blaming everyone and everything for the attack, but never acknowledging the fact that orcas can be very dangerous. It was a baby orca crying in a nearby tank that made the performing orca pull its trainer repeatedly underwater for minutes nearly drowning him in front of a horrified audience. Or it was a dangling ponytail on a trainers head that made the orca mutilate and tear her to pieces. One wonders if they have a book of prepared excuses ready for when another attack occurs.

    Through all the attacks and human deaths, SeaWorld will not ONCE admit that there may be an inherent danger in its training KILLER whales to jump through hoops and wave its tail at the audience. And its not hard to figure out why: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ The orcas are Seaworld’s cash cow, without them, they never would have built up its reputation or its fame.

    Look, I don’t believe anyone at SeaWorld, trainer or management, deliberately mistreats the orcas. In fact, they most likely love them. But you can love something and still cause it harm unintentionally. Orcas CAN be docile, even gentle with humans. But they can also be incredibly dangerous. For everyone defending SeaWorld in the above posts, answer this one basic question: even if you don’t agree with the purpose or content of Blackfish, why is it so hard for SeaWorld to just, at the very least, admit that orca training is inherently dangerous, just like lion-taming? Afterall, orcas are predators in the wild. Aren’t they nicknamed KILLER whales? Is it so surprising one will occasionally kill it’s captors?