Over Easy: Blackfish, SeaWorld and Captivity Industry Exploitation

By Crane-Station

Last Thursday, CNN’s ratings increased dramatically when it aired the documentary Blackfish, a film based on footage and interviews that exposes the cruel treatment of captive Orcas at Seaworld. Blackfish focuses on Tilikum, a bull whale captured near Iceland in 1983, when he was two. Tilikum resides at Seaworld, in small pool that amounts to a human-designed prison, where people pay lots of money to the giant corporation, to watch his human-choreographed shows.

Tilikum has sired fourteen offspring, ten of which are living, and he is the largest male Orca in captivity. Tilikum resides at SeaWorld, Orlando. He has killed three people during his captivity tenure; the last was his trainer, who accidently fell into his pool on February 24, 2010. Her name was Dawn Brancheau.

Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family. They are apex predators that live in the North Pacific, Antarctica and North Atlantic, using distinct vocal communication and hunting techniques to organize and hunt cooperatively in pods. Researchers have identified three types of pods, based on their makeup and feeding habits. ‘Resident’ pods prefer a diet of fish whereas ‘transient’ pods feed on marine animals. Vocal dialect is distinct within each pod. Orca groups are matriarchal, organizing around and staying with mothers and grandmothers.

Dawn Brancheau’s death occurred during a show performance with the audience witnessing and the entire (brutal) event was caught on tape. Not surprisingly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an investigation in the aftermath and cited SeaWorld, issuing three safety violations. OSHA demanded SeaWorld make some changes, notably separation of trainers from killer whales, during performances. Seaworld, owned by Blackstone, timely appealed the violations, and was summarily schooled by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Ken Welch, who upheld OSHA’s finding and, not appreciating SeaWorld’s attempt to shirk responsibility, said:

At the hearing, SeaWorld attempted to distance itself from the other SeaWorld parks and from Loro Parque, noting that it is a separate corporate entity. In this way SeaWorld hoped to minimize evidence that working closely with killer whales is a recognized hazard, since many of the aggressive interactions between killer whales and trainers occurred at other parks, and the most recent trainer death occurred at Loro Parque. The record establishes, however, that the operations of all of the parks are intertwined.

When SeaWorld lost in the the ALJ court, it appealed its case again, to the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Eugene Scalia, son of United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, will represent SeaWorld. Ironically, Mr. Scalia served previously as the Solicitor (chief legal officer) of the Department of Labor, having been appointed by U.S. president George W. Bush. The Department of Labor oversees OSHA. The case will come before a three-judge panel of the on Nov. 12.

I see a couple of issues here: 1) we do not have dominion over the Orcas such that we can capture them and subject them to torture and 2) Seaworld is aggressively attempting to dodge the safety issue to workers, to protect their practice of exploitation. I reject any arguments that the Orca captivity industry is for the greater good of whales, or that the practice reflects a good faith interest in conservation, and I think it’s extra disgusting that trainers at these shows flat-out lie to the paying audience about how wonderful the Orcas’ lives are, and how much longer they live than their counterparts in the wild.

SeaWorld’s delay-delay-delay aggressive pursual of this case indicates that they want to get rid of any regulations or accountability whatsoever or anything else that might get in their way of making a living by ripping people off and causing suffering in the Orcas.

If we cared so much about the health, well-being and survival of these gorgeous and graceful whales, we’d clean up the damn oceans and give them a clean house to live in.

Elliott wrote about Blackfish on July 21, 2013, and did a better job of describing it than I did!

Blackfish- The Movie

On Vimeo, 3 minutes (hard to watch)
Orcas in Captivity

even more in-your-face ridiculous bullshit:

SeaWorld’s Killer Whale Safety Protocols Withheld as Trade Secret

17 Responses to Over Easy: Blackfish, SeaWorld and Captivity Industry Exploitation

  1. ay2z says:

    OT, saw this topic on a news site so checked the Dr. PHil site for details.

    Airs Tuesday and Weds this coming week.

    Tuesday – November 5, 2013

    Exclusive: Ariel Castro’s First Victim Speaks Out

    It was a story that shocked America, and in a riveting two-part series, Dr. Phil speaks exclusively to one of the women who lived to tell it. The first of three women abducted by Ariel Castro and held for more than a decade, Michelle Knight breaks her silence to reveal the true story of what happened inside Cleveland’s now notorious house of horrors. She recounts the horrific, unrelenting physical, sexual and mental abuse she says she endured throughout her captivity in Castro’s home. Hear the unspeakable acts of cruelty she says was subjected to, what she says gave her the strength to endure his more than 10 years of torture, and how she says she almost escaped during her first year of captivity! She also reveals what happened when Castro kidnapped his second victim. What took place the very first time they saw each other in the house? What was the dynamic between the two women? Plus, don’t miss part two tomorrow, when she talks about the arrival of a third abductee — and the day when, after so many years of terror, the women were finally rescued.

    Wednesday – November 6, 2013

    Chained, Tortured and Starved: The First Cleveland Kidnapping Victim Reveals All

    Dr. Phil continues his exclusive interview with Michelle Knight, the first of the three Cleveland kidnapping victims to break her silence. Ariel Castro’s first and self-professed “most hated” victim reveals never-before-heard details about how she survived in the house and the day she says she was forced to “prepare” a room for Castro’s third victim. Hear about the remarkable bond that developed between them — how they protected each other, and how they kept each other alive. She also recounts the day of her dramatic rescue. Did she know that one of her fellow captives was planning to escape? Plus, after finally being convicted and sentenced to life in prison, Ariel Castro was found hanged in his prison cell in September. For the first time ever, she reveals how she feels about his death. Don’t miss this emotional conclusion!

  2. willisnewton says:

    As a junior cameraman, I accepted an assistant job on a Sea World commercial over 20 years ago. We shot high speed 35mm film footage of an Orca show at a facility on-site where these magnificent animals performed their routines for our cameras while the usual ticket-buying audience was not present. At one point, the “star” of the show, a new mother was doing a jump and her baby was where she might land and so in mid-air she changed her move to a back flip to make sure she missed her offspring. The trainers were impressed and so were we with the instinct and personality exhibited. As crew on the shoot, I was called upon to be in up- close proximity to the creatures and “looked them in the eye” as close as anyone ever gets to for two days and nights running. Yes I got to pet the baby. No I didn’t get in the pool with them, but at this time the shows included much interaction with the trainers underwater. (Do they still?)

    Basically, it was a sad experience and if it were up to me I would have set them free then and there, no matter how “clever” and “friendly” they appeared to be when beaching themselves for the trainers, or propelling them through the water by their noses. If you have seen an elephant at the circus, it’s pretty similar only imagine an elephant that never leaves it’s cage.

    I was against the practice of holding these animals captive at the time but too shy, cowardly even, I’d admit, to protest by not taking the work when it was offered. I was learning a trade and felt caught up in the game at the time, and wanted to keep getting called for these high paying gigs. For me it was about the opportunity to learn and use high speed and underwater specialized cameras and so I justified it to myself and made my peace with it.

    I also worked on commercials for Wal Mart and plenty of other corporate “bad citizens” as a way to gain experience and pay the bills. In hindsight, we all have to dance with the devil a little bit in our lives in this modern world – obviously I’m typing this on a computer made possibly from conflict minerals and in a factory where I’d be suicidal if I myself were working there – (many factories in china installed nets around the rooftops to catch their despondent workers, look it up).

    The right thing to do is to boycott these places – my kids have never been there, and they didn’t get a dime of my money – in fact, the opposite, but I have to admit I was completely complicit in helping shill this act. Live and learn.

    I am poorer now but no longer take these sorts of jobs. And I’m a lot happier, too.

    If you want to see another compelling documentary about captive sea mammals and the fight for ethical treatment of all creatures great and small, I’d highly recommend THE COVE, although it is not for the squeamish, despite being handled very carefully.

  3. pat deadder says:

    I can’t even watch.Humans seem to be the cruelest species on earth.
    Many years ago the company where my son worked decided to go to marine land for their Xmas outing.My son refused and pointed out the cruelty to these creatures.He was reprimanded but stood his ground.
    Until then I never gave it a thought.Shame on me.

  4. groans says:

    My husband and I happened to be watching CNN last Friday, 10/25, when “Blackfish” came on at 8:30 pm EDT. We rarely watch CNN at that time, so it was obviously “meant to be” that we stumbled onto it.

    We were immediately drawn into and captivated by it (pun neither planned nor rejected). “Blackfish” is an informative, powerful, jaw-dropping, and heart-wrenching documentary that deserves whatever awards exist for that genre. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it and looking up more information ever since. It is a must see, for sure.

    The public was fed lies about the female trainer’s death in February 2010 as well as the death of a man who supposedly went skinny dipping [not] with Tilikum, an Orca at Orlando’s Sea World. There have also been several other Orca-in-captivity incidents that were hidden from public awareness – and the “killer whale” trainers were woefully uninformed and misinformed, as well!

    FYI (but be prepared for a gut-wrenching experience):

    Did you miss the premier of CNN Film’s BLACKFISH on Thursday, October 24 and the encore performances?

    You still have a chance to see it! CNN will rebroadcast BLACKFISH at the times listed below. (NOTE: times shown are eastern standard time. Check your local listings).

    • Saturday, November 02, 2013 @ 3:00am ET on CNN (Friday 11:00pm PT)
    • Saturday, November 02, 2013 @ 7:00pm ET on CNN (4:00pm PT)
    • Saturday, November 02, 2013 @ 9:00pm ET on CNN (6:00pm PT)
    • Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 12:00am ET on CNN (Saturday 9:00pm PT)
    • Sunday, November 03, 2013 @ 3:00am ET on CNN (12:00am PT)

    Source: http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/blackfish-cnn/

  5. I no longer go to Sea World or other venues that exploit animals. Wild animals in captivity almost always seem sad or bewildered. We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

    Off-topic, but just came across this sad piece of news. While I don’t agree with B29s decision to go along with the other jurors when she could have held out and should have educated herself prior to the trial in order to know what to expect, I think Fogen should be suffering like this, not her. It’s not fair to her children.

    : http://madamenoire.com/318276/juror-b-29-now-unemployed-get-evicted-says-zimmerman-trial-ruined-life/#sthash.NZAIBHtl.dpuf

  6. ed nelson says:

    [“a couple of issues here: 1) we do not have dominion over the Orcas such that we can capture them and subject them to torture…]

    2. […”I reject any arguments that the Orca captivity industry is for the greater good of whales, or that the practice reflects good faith… “]

    For sure! The monolithic nature of corporations or what ever they are… mostly fronts for ponsi fanatical predatory behavior, they have taken over even stuff like zoo and circus stuff.

    Somewhere in there is the cannibal that really is in back of the worlds woe. Instinctively protective of its… holdings or, its territory which it sees as… all creation.

    To exploit all things pristine (Ocha a star phenom… among soon to be extinct animals and life forms) are special symbols. (The more anthropomorphic the better) It makes better messaging to hammer us with.

    They must kill the things, (said symbols… ) that cry out against their rapacious natures. In little squeaky voices beneath the sea!

  7. ay2z says:

    In contrast to this ongoing marketing abuse, misuse (or even ‘use’) of highly intelligent and social animals, there is a good story of an Orca from the waters of the Seattle WA area.

    I’ll find a link. Naysayers wanted this ‘orphaned’ (young female, detached from her pod) left to her own devices in the high traffic, polluted and too friendly boaters for her dangerus attention (propellers mame and kill a lone orcha seeking company from ignorant humans, it’s on record).

    Will find a link, it was a good true account of Springer whose family pod was located to the north off the British Columbia coast, and a window of opportunity for her to have the chance at freedom if she chose to link to them again.

    If an orca, or any other whale is caught in a fishing net, the smaller porpoise family members included, they will be sold for food on the Asian markets.

  8. bettykath says:

    I’ve been to zoos in many cities and to SeaWorld. It’s so hard to see the animals in such conditions that I no longer go. There are a few parks that try to provide a natural environment, but even then the cages are there, just in another form. Orcas need to be in the ocean but we’re soiling their home there too. I believe I posted an article about how the Pacific is dead, as in, so little fish that the sea birds are gone, so much plastic that sailing ships have to be very careful when they are becalmed about their propellers becoming entangled in the mess.

  9. lady2soothe says:

    Dozens of Orcas surround ferry carrying tribal artifacts from Seattle to Suquamish Museum.


    SEATTLE — A large pod of orcas swam around a Washington state ferry that was carrying tribal artifacts to a new museum at the ancestral home of Chief Seattle, and some people think it was more than a coincidence.

    Killer whales have been thrilling whale watchers this week in Puget Sound, according to the Orca Network, which tracks sightings.

    But they were especially exciting Tuesday when nearly three-dozen orcas surrounded the ferry from Seattle as it approached the terminal on Bainbridge Island. On board were officials from The Burke Museum in Seattle who were moving ancient artifacts to the Suquamish Museum.

    The artifacts were dug up nearly 60 years ago from the site of the Old Man House, the winter village for the Suquamish tribe and home of Chief Sealth, also known as Chief Seattle. The Burke, a natural history museum on the University of Washington campus, is known for Northwest Coast and Alaska Native art.

    Also on board the state ferry was Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman who happened to be returning from an unrelated event. As the ferry slowed near the terminal, it was surrounded by the orcas, Forsman said Wednesday.

    “They were pretty happily splashing around, flipping their tails in the water,” he said. “We believe they were welcoming the artifacts home as they made their way back from Seattle, back to the reservation.”

    The killer whales have been in Puget Sound feeding on a large run of chum salmon, he said.

    “We believe the orcas took a little break from their fishing to swim by the ferry, to basically put a blessing on what we were on that day,” he said.

    Forsman believes there’s a spiritual tie between the tribe and the orcas. “They are fishermen like we are,” he said.

    It was an auspicious arrival for about 500 artifacts that The Burke Museum had held for nearly 60 years, Suquamish Museum Director Janet Smoak said.

    They include tools, decorative items and bits of bone and rock that date back 2,000 years.

    The Old Man House — the largest known longhouse on the Salish Sea — was located at Suquamish on the shore of Agate Passage, about 13 miles northwest of Seattle. Chief Sealth, for whom Seattle is named, is buried there.

    The longhouse was burned down by the U.S. government in the late 1800s. The artifacts were collected by a University of Washington archaeological investigation in the 1950s, according to the Burke museum.

    In 2012, the tribe completed its new museum, which includes a climate controlled environment. The artifacts will be displayed to illustrate Suquamish culture in an exhibit called Ancient Shores Changing Tides.

    Everyone was talking about the orcas at the Tuesday museum blessing ceremony and feast, Smoak said.

    “Everyone was really excited and moved by the event,” she said.

    The orcas, identified from their markings as members of the J and K pods, were seen this week along several routes between the Seattle area and the west side of Puget Sound, according to Howard Garrett of the Orca Network at Freeland.

    He thought their intersection with the ferry carrying tribal artifacts was uncanny.

    “I can’t rule out somehow they could pick up on the mental energy that there is something special there. Or it could be a coincidence,” he said. “I don’t know.”

    • groans says:

      @Lady – According to “Blackfish,” Puget Sound was originally where the Orca hunting was conducted. But it’s such a disgusting practice and process that Washington put an end to that. That’s why they moved their hunting grounds to Iceland.

      It’s an amazing documentary … and it’s starting right now on CNN!!

  10. fauxmccoy says:

    thanks crane — i cannot imagine what gives humans to think they have the right to capture these creatures from their native environment and force them to perform for our own pleasure. i wonder how they do when released from captivity, i shall have to look that up. first step of course is for audiences to stop paying for such crap.

    my mother always took me to the circus and places like sea world when i was a kid; it just made me sad. i have refused to do so with my own children and she thinks i am weird and depriving them.

    on the positive side, we have ceased most of the blood sports such as bear baiting and even bull fighting is finally on it’s last legs.

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