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New Poll: Should SeaWorld Face the Public?

January 24, 2014

Documentary film 'Blackfish'

Documentary film ‘Blackfish’

SeaWorld continues to come under fire for its response to the documentary film ‘Blackfish’. Today, the supposed leader in the captivity and display of killer whales side-stepped an invitation to debate the facts portrayed in the highly acclaimed film… instead opting for continued strategized press-releases.

SeaWorld executives refuse to defend their pre-prepared statements with any media outlet or public forum and also continue to block and/or suspend any member of the public that attempts to question or inquire about orca captivity on SeaWorld’s blogs and Facebook pages.

Though being awarded every opportunity to share their side of the story in the making of ‘Blackfish’ and author David Kirby’s book ‘Death at SeaWorld’, executives at SeaWorld have instead strategized to discredit both with predetermined corporate press-releases without opportunity for rebuttal, clarification or a debate on the facts.

David Kirby: 'Death at SeaWorld'

David Kirby: ‘Death at SeaWorld’

As a steward of these amazing beings, held and displayed under United States animal welfare regulations, should SeaWorld come forward and debate the issue in a public forum instead of hiding behind a veil of corporate self-promotion?

Please vote in this poll hosted by PollDaddy and let your voice be heard:

An Open Letter BACK to SeaWorld

December 20, 2013

LETTER of the DAY: In light of SeaWorld’s recent media push, a former casual visitor Amy Costanzo, now a practicing attorney, cc’d The Orca Project on her letter to SeaWorld executives and shares her views on the marine park’s self-serving (and costly) attempt to “set the record straight“.

Well done Amy! We couldn’t agree with you more. You can read SeaWorld’s open letter to the public HERE (published as full-page advertisements in U.S. Newspapers) and then read the response from this everyday caring citizen here:

Dear Ms. Bides, Mr. Jacobs, and all other SeaWorld employees (including Mr. Jim Atchison),

I read your “open letter” (read: flyer) this morning in the Orlando Sentinel. It seems that the American public has grown wary of you and your operations since the release of the film “Blackfish”, and rightfully so. Since you are inclined to make public statements regarding the alleged care of animals, specifically orcas, in your custody, as a member of the public, I am inclined to respond to your claims.

Claim #1: SeaWorld does not capture killer whales in the wild.

It is true that the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 prohibits entities like you from removing marine mammals from their natural habitats. However, science and the incidents at your facilities have shown and informed us that we cannot breed out millions of years of wild instincts embedded in animals via evolution and biology. Even if you are not physically removing orcas from the wild, you admit to breeding them repeatedly in captivity. This is akin to prisoners having children in prison and those children remaining in prison for their natural lives. All you are doing is breeding wild animals for your own entertainment purposes. From my perspective, this is no different than breeding wild animals for circus performances, for canned hunts, or for the fur industry. You are not better for breeding wild animals in captivity instead of capturing them from the wild – stop pretending that you are.

Additionally, recent reports have indicated that you may have had a direct financial and consulting role in providing captured orcas for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, in that you were part of a consortium seeking an orca permit in Russia and helped pay for research there to justify the latest captures. The reports claim that you and other companies interested in obtaining more killer whales for entertainment venues communicated with White Sphere, the company tasked with capturing the killer whales for the opening ceremonies, in order to advise them on the best practices of taking killer whales out of the wild. These reports have not been verified, but I doubt they are far from the truth. If you did this (and I am sure we will find out of you did very soon), then your statement that you do not capture killer whales in the wild is a bold-faced lie.
…..Continue reading Amy’s letter to SeaWorld executives →

SeaWorld has no ‘Heart’- but Fortunately We Do

December 12, 2013

Ann & Nancy Wilson of "Heart"

Ann & Nancy Wilson of “Heart”

UPDATED January 09, 2014:

The silence at SeaWorld is deafening… and getting quieter by the minute.

In the past month, nine musical groups: Barenaked Ladies, Willie Nelson, Heart, Cheap Trick, Trisha Yearwood, REO Speedwagon, Martina McBride, .38 Special and Trace Adkins have cancelled their performances due to the documentary film Blackfish. All were scheduled to appear at SeaWorld Orlando’s concert series “Bands, Brew & BBQ” beginning in February.

The film creating the musical defections centers on the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Debuting earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, this critically acclaimed documentary has brought to light the realities of keeping orcas in captivity to millions of viewers and has reached a fever pitch among families, advocates, celebrities… and yes, music icons.
…..Continue reading and watch 3 incredible wild orca videos hosted by HEART →

SeaWorld vs OSHA goes to Washington DC

November 11, 2013

US-CourtOfAppeals-DCCircuit-SealUpdated November 12, 2013: SeaWorld took its case to Washington D.C. today as they continue the appellate process in an attempt to overturn citations issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) following the death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. (link to the audio file of today’s oral arguments below)

Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is representing SeaWorld in its appeal against the Department of Labor (DOL), OSHA’s governing body, as they attempt to repeal the federal order and citations that sharply criticized the marine park operator’s safety measures. The abatements required will essentially end SeaWorld’s signature orca/trainer performances.

The younger Scalia, formerly the Labor Department’s top lawyer, along with the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, went before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit headed by Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Judges Judith Rogers and Brett Kavanaugh. Oral arguments have concluded and the case is in the hands of the judges. It could take as long as several months before a decision is handed down.
…..Continue reading & listen to the COMPLETE audio of the oral arguments →

Op-Ed: Former SeaWorld Ad Writer’s Anguish post Blackfish

November 5, 2013

An amazingly talented woman who once created major advertising and public relations campaigns for SeaWorld is having a drastic change of heart. After viewing the documentary film Blackfish, Cara Wilson-Granat will no longer list SeaWorld as a former client on her resume, but instead seeks healing as she prays to right the wrongs of the past… and the present. The California based author and inspirational speaker submitted an op-ed to The Orca Project and we are pleased to present it to you here… in her words:

San Diego, California – Years ago when I was a copywriter for an advertising agency in Los Angeles, one of my favorite accounts was writing for SeaWorld. I could barely contain my joy writing the ads, radio and TV spots that touted the “touching experience” of SeaWorld. Oh the delight I felt when I first met Shamu and was able to experience a world of magnificent marine mammals supposedly there for the edification of humans to see the sea wonders up close. A devout animal-lover, I thought (as did most of the creative team) I was participating in the preservation of Orcas seemingly delighting in this magical environment of hands-on trainers soaring through the choreographed acts with them. Oh how very wrong I was. And oh how deeply ashamed I am today for being a part of this vile travesty. I never knew or saw SeaWorld in the truest sense. I bought the lie…

Documentary film BLACKFISH

Documentary film BLACKFISH

Today, I can no longer remain silent in my fury and anguish after just viewing the extraordinary documentary, Blackfish, which reveals the profound cruelty of Orcas, primarily those at SeaWorld. This is a film that must be seen by the world because it uncovers that which most of us never knew nor wanted to believe, that these “happy” whales flipping and breaching on command are indeed, miserable, highly stressed, sickly, going insane, deeply grieving, separated from their natural habitats, their familiar pods—babies and mothers screaming for each other, all isolated in cruel and abusive ways that are unfathomable. We can no longer sit by nor support this immoral madness and applaud in delight. It would be no different than cheering on the destruction of life itself.

I can’t contain the massive sorrow that I feel right now knowing that those brilliant mammals, with complex brains, languages and family structures equal to and even superior to humans, are living out their brief lives so horrendously. All because of greed under the umbrella of “family entertainment”—making fat the coffers of the SeaWorld corporation and destroying these gentle beings before our very eyes. When left alone we are learning, Orcas never kill or attack humans; they live long lives in close-knit family bonds—vocalizing in unique ways of communicating in distinct languages that we’re only now beginning to understand. This is true for dolphins as well.
…..Continue reading more from Cara →

BLACKFISH Hitting the Waves on CNN

October 24, 2013



UPDATED February 15, 2014:

While continuing to shock, mesmerize, and inspire moviegoers worldwide, the documentary film BLACKFISH splashed its way onto CNN with a series of interviews, teasers, and unprecedented promotional advertising leading up to a nationwide broadcast on October 24, 2013. CNN also aired numerous encore presentations in the days that followed and the film is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix and for download at iTunes (see below for ordering info).

After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013, this critically acclaimed film has gone on to receive praise at numerous film festivals around the globe, and has seen a successful run amid sold-out crowds in movie theaters worldwide and has raised the social consciousness about the captivity and exploitation of killer whales . “Blackfish” has been nominated for “Best Documentary” by BAFTA (British Academy Film Awards) and was short-listed by the U.S. Academy Awards for “Best Documentary”.

Brought to us in conjunction with Magnolia Pictures, CNN Films and distributed by Dogwoof, this outstanding documentary film has received rave reviews from movie critics for its exceptional work bringing the controversial yet important realities of keeping orcas in captivity to attention of millions of viewers.
…..Continue reading to learn more about Blackfish and how you can see it! →

Marineland of Canada Exposed: Former Animal Trainers Discuss Lawsuit in Exclusive Interview

February 26, 2013

Former Marineland trainer Phil Demers and "Smooshi"

Former Marineland trainer Phil Demers and “Smooshi”

Since the early 1970’s, 17 killer whales (orcas) have died at Marineland of Canada with an average age at the time of death just over 8-years-old. Over the same time period SeaWorld has lost 36 orcas at its 3 U.S. parks with an average age just under 14-years-old.

Although recent evidence has suggested that wild, male orcas live an average of 30+ years and females 50+ years (and many well into their 80s, 90s or longer), it is truly unusual that one marine park, SeaWorld, would sue another, Marineland of Canada, citing numerous concerns over animal welfare. In what is normally a close-knit, secretive and self-governing industry, it is rare that dissention amongst their ranks would expose their shadowy inner-workings.

However, this was the case in 2011 (reported HERE by The Orca Project) as an international custody battle pitted these two marine parks against each other as SeaWorld attempted to regain custody of Ikaika (Ike), a young male orca on a breeding loan to Marineland.

…..Continue reading more on this story →

SeaWorld Killer Whale Trainer Attack Video Goes Viral

July 25, 2012

The shocking video depicting a killer whale dragging and dunking a trainer at SeaWorld San Diego has gone viral and is being aired by all major news networks in the U.S. and abroad.

The November 29, 2006 attack on trainer Ken Peters by a killer whale (Orcinus-orca) named Kasatka led to an investigation by California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, much akin to the more recent OSHA investigation into the brutal death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

Although the injuries sustained by Peters were relatively mild by comparison, the video which was shown in court proceedings this past Fall led Administrative Law Judge Ken Welsch to describe the footage as “chilling” as he ruled to uphold the charges in the SeaWorld vs OSHA case. SeaWorld was appealing the OSHA citations issued to the marine park after Dawn Brancheau’s death.
…..Continue reading and watch the full 15 minute video →

SeaWorld Ponders Defeat in OSHA Ruling. Trainer Death May Alter Industry Forever

June 4, 2012

THE FINAL RIDE? Trainers perform waterwork with killer whales at SeaWorld of Florida moments before the 2010 tragedy.

By months end, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment must decide whether it will accept the decision handed down by an Administrative law judge last Wednesday. The order by the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission fundamentally upheld citations issued to the Orlando, Florida marine park by OSHA following the brutal death of killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau in February 2010.

SeaWorld appealed the August 2010 citations during nine days of highly publicized hearings last fall. At stake was the most egregious violation “for exposing animal trainers to struck-by and drowning hazards when working with killer whales during performances”.

“OSHA’s intent has been to ensure the safety and health of employees who work with SeaWorld’s killer whales in performances,” said Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. “In his decision, the judge has upheld the OSHA citations. That is a win for the employees of SeaWorld.”

In his rather scathing order, the honorable Judge Ken Welsch unequivocally highlighted the “very high gravity” of SeaWorld’s apparent knowledge of hazards that resulted in the death of the veteran trainer.

…..Continue reading more on the decision handed down to SeaWorld →

Government Report: Killer Whale Lolita’s Welfare at Risk

April 25, 2012

Lolita at Miami Seaquarium ~ August, 2010

A leaky pool, sanitation issues, and a deteriorating roof at Miami Seaquarium’s killer whale stadium are threatening the welfare of orca Lolita and the dolphins housed in the oldest, smallest, and most decrepit marine park pools in the United States.

A recent inspection conducted by the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) found several issues with the structure which poses a risk to the marine mammals housed in this facility which are supposed to be protected by the regulations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The structural deficiencies may also pose significant risk of injury to employees and the hundreds of daily visitors to the Key Biscayne entertainment facility.
…..Continue reading →