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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.

Claim #2: We do not separate killer whale moms and calves.

This is a lie and you know it. In David Kirby’s (a respected journalist for over 25 years) book “Death at SeaWorld,” he writes extensively on the removal of calves from their mother. Here is an excerpt:

“The four young whales in the loan—two males and two females— had led lives that could best be described as “interrupted.” There was Kohana, three-and-a-half years old. When she was just shy of two, Kohana was taken from her mother Kasatka and sent to Orlando. Eighteen months after that, she was on her way to the Canary Islands. The other female, Skyla, was born in Orlando to Kalina and Tilikum, but at just two years of age was dispatched to Spain. Then Tekoa was born to the neurotic Taima, who showed aggressive tendencies toward him. In April 2004, SeaWorld sent Tekoa to live in San Antonio, before he was flown to Tenerife in 2006. Keto, 10, was born in Orlando but proved to be a rowdy and somewhat unpredictable calf. Before he was four, Keto was sent to San Diego, where he spent just 10 months before being transferred to San Antonio. Five years later, he was on the plane to Spain.”

You state that on “on the rare occasion that a mother killer whale cannot care for the calf herself, we have successfully hand raised and reintroduced the calf.” Again, this is a lie. You have shipped killer whales all over the world like they were packages, almost never reuniting mother and calf. These “rare occurrences” seem to happen quite often at your facilities judging by the numbers of frequencies at which you have broken up killer whale families. By the way, these “rare occurrences” that seem to, coincidentally, happen over and over again at your facilities is in direct contradiction to the scientific observations of orcas in the wild where mothers almost never reject their calves.

Additionally, the film Blackfish has footage of you separating a mother and her calf. The cries of the mother and the calf, as well as the depression and anguish of the mother, are shockingly clear. I’ll say it again – to say that you don’t separate families is a lie and I am calling you out on it right here, right now.

Claim #3: SeaWorld invests millions of dollars in the care of our killer whales.

This one’s easy and won’t take long. No one cares how much money you spend on your cages. A cage, no matter how gilded, is still a cage. All the money in the world cannot build oceans or repair the psychological damage you have inflicted on these creatures. Your money means less than nothing. I am sure all of the orcas in your care would trade in the $70 million you’ve spent keeping them prisoner for one day of freedom in the ocean.

Claim #4: SeaWorld’s killer whales’ life spans are equivalent with those in the wild.

You guys REALLY need to stop lying. It’s exhausting. Countless scientific reports show that orcas in the wild have an average life expectancy of 30 to 50 years—their estimated maximum life span is 60 to 70 years for males and 80 to 90 for females. The median age of orcas in captivity is only 9. While specific killer whales in captivity may live longer compared to others, overall, they don’t live as long as their counterparts in the wild. You know this. Stop lying.

Claim #5: The killer whales in our care benefit those in the wild.

This argument is my absolute favorite for several reasons. This is the part where you claim “the captivity of a few ensures the survival of the rest.” A very utilitarian approach, and probably your strongest point in all of this debate. Indeed, you state it’s all about the science: “This type of controlled research and study is simply not possible in the wild, and has significant real-world benefits to the killer whales that live there.” Here’s why you don’t have me (or anyone else of reasonable intelligence) fooled.

First of all, let’s be real – you guys are a corporation, a company, a for-profit entity that is interested in making as much money as possible. Profit, not science or research, is your bottom line. To put on a front that you’re in this in any way, shape, or form for the science of it is offensive to those of us who do actually care about conservation, behavioral biology, and field research. Any real scientist will tell you that the best scientific research on animals is done in the wild, not in a cage. Case in point: any lay person attending SeaWorld would think from your shows that killer whales swim in circles over and over and over again. In fact, they swim single file in straight lines throughout the ocean. How do we know that? Through field research and oceanic observations. We also know that their dorsal fins have less than a 1% collapse rate in the wild because the oceanic pressure of the water keeps them erect, compared to the almost 100% dorsal fin collapse rate when kept in a tank. Again, we know this from observation of animals in the wild – not because of you. Your “scientists” are merely paid lackeys who read from a script about the virtues of animals in captivity. Any real scientist would tell you that the ways wild animals behave in captivity is far different than how they behave in the wild. And you’re right, things in the wild can’t be controlled – that’s the beauty of it. It’s like animal reality TV: no filters, no controls, no editing, just the animals doing what they do and how they do it. That’s the best kind of science and that is the science that informs and educates, not the sham science you have going on in the form of keeping the equivalent of dinosaurs in the equivalent of buckets. Let me be very clear about the main point I am trying to make: no wild animal, regardless of species, would ever be held in captivity if there were not some lucrative profitable motivation behind it.

Speaking of dinosaurs, one argument pro-SeaWorld people make is, “if we don’t keep some orcas in captivity, how will be foster an appreciation for them in order to conserve them in the wild?” Here’s my question: if you need to see an animal in captivity, or swim with it in captivity, or watch it touch a ball with its nose in captivity to learn about and appreciate it…then how to children learn about an know about dinosaurs? After all, they can’t touch one, swim with one, see one perform tricks…and yet, kids seem to be fascinated by them and interested in learning more about them. There are even these places called MUSEUMS that contain the remains of these animals where not only people can not only go to in order to learn more about dinosaurs, but ongoing research about how they lived and behaved is happening. How does your logic explain the past, present, and future obsession with animals that cannot be seen, heard, touched, swam with, or observed touching balls with their noses?

Secondly, a desire for more education on a topic does not give you the right to harm and abuse animals either physically or psychologically or to subject them to things that could drive them mad and make them a danger to people and themselves. I can’t kidnap a Japanese person, hold them prisoner, and force them to breed Japanese children b/c I want to learn more about Japanese culture. But I can get myself on a plane and visit Japan. Once I’m there, I can take pictures of Japanese people in their homeland and of their behaviors. I can read a book or academic report on Japan. I can watch videos and documentaries on Japan. I can talk with other people about Japan and compare knowledge and experiences. In this way, I am becoming more and more educated on Japan, and I think I even like Japan! Maybe I will want to dedicate my life to learning about Japan…maybe I won’t. But either way, I am not harming any Japanese person through my actions.

(Writer’s Note: I specifically chose to discuss Japan b/c I know their role in dolphin captures and how they ship wild-caught dolphins to be held captive in aquariums all over the world.)

Third, in your flyer, you actually have the audacity and disrespectfulness to quote naturalist Baba Dioum as saying, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.” This quote comes from a speech he made in 1968 In New Delhi, India, to the general assembly of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In fact, he is a founding member of the IUCN. The IUCN is the group that puts out the “red list” of threatened and endangered species every year; it is the group governments, including that of the US, rely on for information in determining what animals and plants are at risk for extinction. Guess how IUCN determines which animals and plants are at risk for extinction? You guessed it – field research! If you go to the IUCN webpage, you’ll get a look at all of the research projects that they’re engaged in all over the world, and all of the ones regarding animals are being done by scientists who have gotten off of the couch and left their respective homelands to go to their jobs. I highly doubt Baba Dioum would support what you are doing, considering he helped found a conservation organization that relies on field research to do its job. Perhaps you should stop quoting him – the man and his work don’t appear to support your cause at all. In fact, they seem to go directly against it. Then again, considering your penchant for sham research, I would not expect you to fully vet your sources of information before using them.

Lastly, don’t try to sway the public by co-opting “experts” like Jack Hanna (who has no formal scientific training on how to work or study animals and was never an expert on animals to being with). We know that he sits on your board and thus has financial – not scientific – interests linked to the captivity of killer whales. I don’t know if you have seen Jack Hanna’s Facebook page, but if you haven’t, you should head over there –there’s a lot of disgust for that man right now and the American public now views him as a traitor to the cause of conservation.

We are not fooled by ANY of these tactics you use to make a case for captivity benefitting the wild. You should just stop talking.

Claim #6: SeaWorld is a world leader in animal rescue.

Except when it comes to keeping your most profitable animals prisoner. The good you do for some does not erase the evil you put forth on others in the name of money. Greed is what drives you – not love.

Captivity. Think about that word. It’s a word we use when describing pirates or hostage situations: “hostages held captive” or “pirates board ship and hold crew captive.” It’s not a nice connotation and we instantly have a negative reaction when we hear it. I have a similar reaction when I hear about“captive breeding” or “performance animals in captivity.” In a nutshell, SeaWorld employees, all of your points are worthless and without merit. The American public is sick of you. eight out of ten performers scheduled for your Bands, Brews, and Barbecue Festival are sick of you, and school groups are sick of you. You are about to become like the dinosaurs: extinct. Maybe you’ll be the ones in a museum one day. Who knows.

I sincerely hope and pray that the backlash that has fallen upon you continues until you come to the realization that it is time to change your current course of action and to empty the tanks once and for all. Until then, shame on you all – you are simply bad, heartless people.

Very and completely, 1,000,000,000% sincerely,

Amy Costanzo


P.S. Stop blatantly lying to the American public – we are not stupid and we have these things called the Internet and books where we can research and document all of your atrocious actions against the animals you possess. Anything you say in favor of captivity, we will find facts and evidence to refute.

“Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” ~ G.I. Joe

264 Comments leave one →
  1. Jo Rockett permalink
    January 31, 2014 10:33 am

    What an amazing woman! I stand by her every word.

    Also she could of mentioned that when SeaWorld say ‘they are safer at Seaworld than they are in the wild’… How the hell would seaworld know? Secondly, they have been surviving in the world for over 40 million years…. Way longer then we have been around…. They don’t need pur help. Well now that humans do exist, we need to save them from us!!!

    If you support seaworld you need to read real scientific research and not the bullshit they feed you with. They think you are because they are lying to you and you fall for it.

    Why does SeaWorld still have the right to keep them and their parks open?? There is so much evidence against seaworld yet why aren’t they being shut down?

    An animal is no ones property… So why are they still in charge of these animals??


    We will keep fighting until they are free.

    • Jo Rockett permalink
      January 31, 2014 10:47 am

      Sorry was mean to say

      Seaworld think you are stupid… And you are if you believe their lies

  2. Sara R permalink
    January 27, 2014 4:31 pm

    Iv never been yo seaworld but i will never go i watchd a documentri on seaworld n what lies u guys are u do capture them n the wild you do seperate the mother n xalfs and they do live from 60 to 100 or more from what iv researched. Tilikum was the main whale on the video i watched n the part wer dawn had passed its not her fault but dont make a animal do behaviors if u cannot reward them from what i seen… Also they are ocean creatures they dont belong in a locked pool its touture and they cant speak for themselves like us humans can they should be free get dolfins instead their smaller whales belong in huge areas n its wrong to seperate them they may be animals but like anything or anyone they have emotions u guys dnt care about these animals but your damn money and its sad.

    • ari permalink
      February 17, 2014 9:23 am

      i don’t believe that dolphins should be in cages rather than Orca’s but i do agree with almost everything you said. 🙂

  3. Scott permalink
    January 24, 2014 9:46 am

    My little girl is getting really into Whales so I thought I would do a little research and maybe plan a trip to SeaWorld. Articles like this have made me think twice in supporting a place like that. I also came across some disturbing facts here –

  4. Sophie permalink
    January 22, 2014 11:03 pm

    Hi Troy, the best Blackfish 2 would be the emptying of the tanks. . . and their documented freedom journey back into the wild!!!????? Wow!! Can’t wait either!

  5. Jules permalink
    January 22, 2014 7:34 pm

    I hope Seaworld can overcome this and become the park they should have always been, a park based on helping animals, not using them for show and profit. Seaworld, instead of denying and pushing the blame elsewhere, how about you change your motives and focus on helping animals? They DO spend some (little compared to all else) money on rehabilitating animals, and THAT is what they should adjust their focus on. Stop the Shamu show, and start showing off the natural beauty of sea animals, some of whom should be left in the wild, not caged in your parks.

    Maybe that’s something to think about for Seaworld. They don’t have to shut down, they have to change.

    • Sophie permalink
      January 22, 2014 11:00 pm

      I honestly believe that with all the debts they have. . . and getting people to trust them again would be unethical. I think that you don’t have to beg, for someone to be ethical. . . it should happen from the start. They should cede their location to a place which is REALLY interested in only the environmental well being of animals. But you know what? If they are capable of evolution, change and realizing what they’ve done, maybe they should be the FIRST to propose that they will shut down as an entertainment park, and to make up for all the sorrow they have caused so many people and WHALES. . . they will be operating ONLY as an animal rescue and rehabilitation scheme, returning all animals back to their natural habitat.

  6. Kmac permalink
    January 15, 2014 5:20 pm

    In the summer of 2012 my husband and I took our 5 year old daughter to Sea World Orlando. She has always had a fascination with animals particularly Whales and Dolphins. She loves books about whales and has watched several documentaries and videos with me about whales and dolphins. Upon entering the park my daughter immediately asked “where’s the ocean”? After several times of explaining to her there was no ocean in SW, we headed to one of the mid day shows at the stadium. Neither me or my husband have ever been to SW. I’ve always imagined this enormous, sprawling tank….not what I found. Nothing about the show was spectacular, amusing and definitely not educational! It was actually quite depressing watching these magnificent creatures performing parlor tricks in a small and sad tank. After the show my daughter asked an employee “when do you take them home”? The girl asked what she meant, my daughter replied “you know the ocean, do you put the tank on a big truck and take them over to the ocean, it’s not that far from here.” The employee explained they live in the pools and that’s their home and they take care of them. My daughter looked puzzled and said “what pools?” The woman then pointed to the tanks.
    “Oh… The tanks? Whales can’t live in tanks, goldfish live in tanks but I’m pretty sure whales don’t. I watched a movie about whales and they live in the North Pole (hehe)…I think, I know it’s cold and there is a lot of ice and they eat seals but sometimes they live in a different ocean I can’t remember where but it’s the ocean and they swim around the world” The woman looked up at my Husband and said “she’s too cute” which in my opinion was a way of saying ok I’m done with the questions. After that my daughter was not interested in any of the animal shows. She also set out on a journey around the park to find where the whales and dolphins “really lived”. We spent the rest of the day viewing a few other exhibits and riding the paddle boats. SW prides itself on the educational value of having whales, dolphins and many other animals in captivity. Not once did I see or hear anything of educational value. The fact that a 5 year old little girl from Kentucky recognized that these animals were indeed not “at home” speaks for itself.

    • January 15, 2014 6:39 pm

      Wow, Kmac, from the mouths of babes, huh?

  7. Rachel Gateley permalink
    January 13, 2014 3:06 pm

    What disgusts me the most about SeaWorld is their blatant disregard for inbreeding their orcas. You made a TERRIFIC point about the orcas they sent to LoroParque and I wish you would have been dove further into that nightmare. I am certain Keto and Tekoa are related to Skyla, and Keto is related to Kohana as well, and I was told Tekoa and Kohana are related as well, but regardless, all these orcas were sent on a 25 year breeding loan – with the option to renew every decade? If I can trace their genes and lineage and prove SeaWorld is blatantly supporting inbreeding – then they obviously have to know what they’re doing as well. The truth is coming out to the whole world as to how SeaWorld truly doesn’t care about the Orca’s individually, and only wants them for doing backflips and propelling trainers through the air to generate more revenue. SeaWorld is a corporation that has completely disgraced the natural elegance and lifestyle of these awesome creatures by forcing them into unfamiliar behaviors, social hierarchies, families, and breeding situations. No where in the wild would a resident and transient orca mate – except at SeaWorld. Nowhere would related orcas be sent on a breeding loan to another park – except at SeaWorld.

    And this is an honest question – since SeaWorld maintains ownership over all LoroParque’s orcas and their offspring, is Morgan now “theirs”? If so – you certainly own a very recently caught “deaf” (cough*bullsh*t*cough) orca. But – I’m not certain of who claims ownership to Morgan so I could be completely off & wrong on that point.

    • January 27, 2014 7:19 am

      Apparently morgan is listed as one of seaworld’s “assets”

  8. Frank Polifka permalink
    January 10, 2014 4:40 pm

    I agree with your letter but for God’s sake, get someone to proof your writing. “These “rare occurrences” seem to happen quite often at your facilities judging by the numbers of frequencies at which you have broken up killer whale families.” stopped me in my tracks and was quite distracting from your (valid) points…

  9. Amie permalink
    January 8, 2014 3:45 am

    Vancouver had been successful in getting its aquarium to stop caging killer whales. I remember the protests held outside of it with people staying overnight in small cages. I’m really glad to see how much of an impact this film has had on people. For me I’m left feeling sickened by the cruelty and selfishness of corporate greed towards the animals and towards their own staff.
    In Vancouver the focus has since shifted towards the dolphins and the beluga whales. The aquarium is trying to find ways to make keeping them more acceptable, claiming they’ll make larger cages. I’m hoping that the impact of this film will help people notice the plight of the other marine mammals.

    It made me look around to see what I could find and I came across this blog post in regards to “Blackfish”:

  10. Angelique permalink
    January 7, 2014 11:48 am

    I went to “ShamWorld” last week (before I had seen Blackfish) and observed highly questionable and immoral practices. The first tank I saw was the “dolphin nursery”, a small shallow tank which was smaller than the pool in my backyard. It contained 4 adult females and 4 babies. A somewhat pre-pubescent employee explaiined to me that the dolphins are permanently housed there and do not return to a larger tank at the end of the day. They just swim in circles all day and night.
    Second, from the top of the Sham-You Stadium I caught a glimpse of a very small tank almost completely filled by a very large whale. Now I know it was Tilikum. He participated in the show. It was easy to spot him because he was so much larger than the others and his flukes are horribly curled. He jumped onto the slide(?) at one point and struck a pose. He truly is magnificent, one of God’s best creations. I just wish I could have seen his fin stand tall and proud as he swam in the sea.
    Third, according to the OSHA report, all ShamWorld employees should have a barrier between themselves and the whales. For the most part this was in place. However, there is a part of the show where the “trainers” stand on the slide(?) and throw fish into the whales mouths. The whales partially swim onto the slide and open their mouths wide!! The trainers are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are in the exact position a walrus or seal is in when orcas tip an ice floe and the prey slides into the waiting whale’s mouth. Does ShamWorld conduct any intelligence tests before hiring employees (or executives)??
    Fourth, any person who enters a wild animal’s environment (tiger, snake, lion, shark…) risks injury and death. People become angry and restless when imprisoned and I have no doubt that animals do too. Large ocean dwelling creatures who swim the open seas do not belong in captivity. No human can create an environment that is healthy or humane for these whales.
    Fifth, now that ShamWorld and its parent company is a publicly traded corporation, it is now subject to greater public scrutiny. Shareholders will now be able to vote on certain issues and decisions that the corporation wants to make. Financial records will now be available not only to individuals but to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Ooops!
    What will ShamWorld do to rectify the colossal mess it has created? Does anyone dare turn the ship around? Will anyone stop the breeding/rape of the whales? Is there a plan for release? Is there any plan at all???

    • tori permalink
      January 7, 2014 5:18 pm

      this broke my heart! you weren’t some paid filmmaker your just a person like me and you saw first hand the horrors that others are seeing Blackfish. Personally I have never been so SeaWorld, since being a tot I’ve been against containing dolphins or whales so it came to be as no surprise when I saw all the totally sickening behaviors of SeaWorld and its employees. I feel so bad because I truly believe a lot of employees consider themselves animal-lovers but they are blind to what’s actually going on. And anyone who is defending SeaWorld is doing so on behalf of those genuine employees. “oh but they have great vetrenarians” well wouldn’t you protect a million dollar investment too? “they participate in animal rescues” yes this is great but come on its just good PR. Nothing is justifiable for containing intelligent and beautiful creatures. SeaWorld must be stopped, you want to promote sea-life education that’d great you don’t need to torture animals to do it!!!

      • Angelique permalink
        January 7, 2014 6:34 pm

        ITA. If ShamWorld truly wanted to protect and conserve killer whales they would have figured out a way to return them to the wild. Wouldn’t it be great if SW executives and employees used their resources to develop a plan to release as many whales as they possibly could?
        Those men and women would be lifted up by millions of people. The world would applaud them, adore them. What astonishing work could be done! Is there just one board member who will step forward with purity of heart? Will one man or woman try? Even if success is short-lived or not at all?

  11. Rod King permalink
    January 1, 2014 11:42 am


  12. COSMOGIRL permalink
    December 29, 2013 6:06 pm

    Your not alone in feeling helpless. But we can try to make a difference. Voicing our opinion, blogging, protesting. Believe me it’s not falling on deaf ears.

  13. December 29, 2013 12:49 pm


  14. tony permalink
    December 29, 2013 12:53 am

    I just have to say, after seeing Blackfish, I am left with the same feeling after seeing Planet of the Apes, the emotions felt after winning a goldfish at the local fair and days later seeing it belly up, and overanalyzing my dogs’ behavior and asking myself if what we are doing is wrong.

    I think the bigger issue, putting aside he said she said this that etc., is the ethical relationship between humans and other animals. We domesticated canines in a mutually beneficial matter. They protected us, we fed them. After thousands of years of breeding and domestication, they have no choice but to be held “captive,” rightfully so for their now lack of basic survival traits to live in the wild. The first thing to highlight is that humans’ natural habitats and canines habitats are mutual. Humans’ and Orcas are not. How do Orcas benefit from us, and us them, should be better understood and questioned. Sure you’ll get ocean pollution, etc. but this is not the same primal mutuality constructed with the dog man metaphor. Their survival is not reliant on our assistance, nors ours theirs ( without the hypocritical rebuttals about technicalities, etc, … )

    If all this coceivable enslavement of such a beautiful, intelligent, and caring animal so we can bring our 4 year old, snot-nosed brat children (nothing against kids sorry) to a pool for a couple splashes, what a shame on us. Be thanful for these brilliant film makers for believing in something and bringing together our voices, and this cause to the light. Boycotting seaworld is a start, but we should focus moreso on the environmental issues than trying to shut down a multi-billion dollar corp. No use in starting any more wars, we need to save this amazing planet from more destruction.

  15. Elizabeth permalink
    December 28, 2013 6:23 am

    Seems like the American people are like animals in captivity…..the bigger our government gets, the less liberties we have.

    • Inedya Moore permalink
      December 30, 2013 6:44 am

      This is true. Freedom doesn’t mean the same as it did not even few decades ago. Sad.

      • Tod Adams permalink
        March 25, 2014 9:19 am

        I totally disagree with this BS

  16. Vikki permalink
    December 27, 2013 3:01 pm

    Although after these comments, I’m sure I will be labeled as ignorant, heartless or on Sea worlds payroll, I am really just a person who can look at this topic from both sides with a level head. I recently went to Seaworld in San Diego in July before Blackfish was released. I wish I had not gone and my heart hurts a bit when I think of those large orcas in those small tanks with their collapsed fins. Here are some more of my thoughts…where were all the orca activists before the tragic death of Dawn Brancheau? I’m sure they were around, but not in full force like they are today. Why did it take a trainer death to make everyone so upset about these whales? Dawns family has not even become outraged at seaworld over Tilikums actions. With the amount of years Seaworld has been in business, I’m surprised there have not been more deaths. Although there have been over 100 (at least) attacks on trainers..only 2 or 3 (i am sorry i do not know of the exact amount, however seems relatively low, even though one is too many) deaths seems like a miracle. You can get mauled by a dog on the street with a leash with more frequency. Are we trying to free all the dogs because they are held in captivity by their owners? Maybe that is like comparing apples and oranges, I don’t know. Also, I don’t believe Tilikum should be blamed for the death of the man who climbed into his tank after hours. I blame the man for that, however..still tragic. Some people are born in a mansion and some a trailer. I think you get used to your surroundings, especially if it is all you have ever known. I am wondering if all the Seaworld orcas were freed tomorrow, we tracked them, and they all died within 3 months because they could not re-adjust, would we wish Seaworld had kept them? Just some thoughts….

    • December 28, 2013 6:33 am

      Vicki, may I suggest you read “Death At SeaWorld” by David Kirby. You’ll see that there have been many people campaigning for many years for orcas. I doubt being mauled by a dog is the same as being torn apart and scalped as Dawn Brancheau was. Her arm was completely ripped off. Show me a dog that can do that. Dogs and cats are domesticated animals, orcas are wild animals. More like grapes and watermelons.

      • vikki permalink
        December 28, 2013 2:29 pm

        • December 28, 2013 11:28 pm

          Excellent! Just goes to show you can research, so put your skills to finding out about orca advocacy prior to Dawn Brancheau’s death. I imagine the pit bull knew how frustrated Tilikum felt when he did the same to Dawn. Of course SeaWorld wouldn’t shoot Tilikum as the police did to the pit bull simply because he’s worth too much money and is their breeding bull until such time as SW can get their sticky fingers on some Russian orca sperm.

      • vikki permalink
        December 28, 2013 6:12 pm

        Also, I wonder why no one seems to care about the otters or seals or other wild animals contained at Seaworld? Is it because they have not killed anyone? Or is it because they are not as large, so it doesn’t ‘seem’ as bad. And what about all the zoos in the world?

        • December 29, 2013 12:21 am

          Now you’re just being argumentative. If you follow Twitter or look on Facebook you’ll see there is a whole army of people who campaign for the seals. Zoos are another facet of captivity. This particular subject is about SeaWorld and its captive orca. And don’t you think that they are too large to be kept in a puddle?

        • vikki permalink
          December 29, 2013 4:34 pm

          I’m really not trying to be argumentative. I am sorry if it has come off as such. I do feel badly for these whales and all that are in captivity. There are so many issues in this world I wish I could ‘fix’. I know I can boycott places like these, but otherwise, I just feel helpless.

        • December 29, 2013 11:04 pm

          Yes, Vikki, I’m with you there. But we all do what we can and it starts with not supporting for-profit organisations like SeaWorld.

        • Jeremiah permalink
          December 30, 2013 10:05 pm

          Many people feel the containment of all animals for entertainment is atrocious. Dolphins (like killer whales) however, are creatures with intelligence comparable to humans. That makes the case to let them be free much stronger. Mankind thinks it has a right to enslave animals, but when it comes to creatures with such a high intelligence they tend to get be a bit more understanding I think. At least that is the best reason I can think of. I don’t think any animal should be kept captive for entertainment, it makes me sick.

    • Alisa permalink
      January 8, 2014 2:20 am

      I think the protesters only started recently because people have only been made aware recently. Blackfish made people aware of what was really happening, which is the only way that twe would be able to have a stance against it. I know I didn’t sit around thinking about Seaworld and captive animals before I saw the film… and I definitely had absolutely no idea the serious repercussions that being in captivity had on these animals, or the brutality that went along with capturing them, or the in-breeding that was happening, or the families being torn apart, or the abuse inside the tanks, or the attacks on the trainers… or ALL of the horrible truths of the situation…. I knew none of this…. But now that I am educated, I feel very strongly about it…. THAT, I think, is why people weren’t protesting for all these years… because they (we) thought that Seaworld was a good place for these animals…. which is exactly what Seaworld wanted…. but now that people are aware and less ignorant, they can stand up to it.

    • Sophie permalink
      January 22, 2014 10:54 pm

      I really don’t think so. You fail to understand the underlying principle of freedom. A whale would RELISH would LOVE to be in the wild, even if for only ONE day. . . as opposed to spending any more time in that filthy rotten tank. Seaworld IS that awful. Try putting yourself in their “shoes” for even a minute. . . you would be disgusted with what you’re saying right now!

      • Tricia permalink
        January 22, 2014 11:01 pm

        STOP STOP STOP!!!!! STOP anthropomorphizing these ANIMALS. You do not know what they are thinking or feeling, and you have no idea what it is like to be an animal, besides being the humans that we are. At least the trainers have a better idea than any of us do.

        • February 11, 2014 12:15 pm

          Why do these wild creatures need to be trained to do parlor tricks for us? They are trained for a performance, not for the better of the animal. Would any of us, with a conscience, condone food deprivation, emotional and/or physical abuse just so we can get a few minutes of entertainment? I hope that now that we know, we can all do better.

  17. Vikki permalink
    December 27, 2013 2:19 pm

    Shakespeare had an educated objective reply without strong emotion or bias. That is what a well written article/letter/paper should sound like.

    • Vikki permalink
      December 27, 2013 2:21 pm


  18. Vikki permalink
    December 27, 2013 2:14 pm

    You say Jack Hanna should not be referenced since he is not an ‘expert’. You should not be referenced either, since you are not an expert.

    • Ron Lopes permalink
      February 13, 2014 2:48 pm

      But Dr. Naomi Rose should be referenced. And she condemns captivity for orcas.

  19. Vikki permalink
    December 27, 2013 2:10 pm

    Any article that contains this many type-o’s and wrong grammar cannot be respected.

    • Theresa Pugh permalink
      December 27, 2013 3:41 pm

      Typo, Einstein…

      • Vikki permalink
        December 27, 2013 7:13 pm

        Lol, Autocorrect

    • December 27, 2013 7:05 pm

      Someone gave a pint of blood ?

      • Vikki permalink
        December 27, 2013 7:11 pm


      • Vikki permalink
        December 27, 2013 7:17 pm

        At least two trainers gave more than that

        • December 27, 2013 7:26 pm

          You don’t have to be a trainer for that. I can confirm that rake marks bleed very well.

  20. December 25, 2013 9:06 pm

    BLA BLA BLA NOW what are they gonna be FREE

  21. Sharkespeare permalink
    December 23, 2013 9:40 am

    Let me first say that I understand your argument and, for the most part, I agree with your stance. I do, however, have a number of issues with your “open letter” response to SeaWorld (hereon SW). I would also like to preceed the following by saying that I am a marine mammal scientist and I do not receive any funding or assistance from SW in any way (since I noticed that most of the commenters here use that accusation to attempt to discredit opposing viewpoints).

    Let’s tackle this in order to prevent confusion. I agree with many parts of this, however you state that “we cannot breed out millions of years of wild instincts…” This implies that SeaWorld is attempting to do so. You’re right, humans cannot…especially considering it would take hundreds (if not thousands) of generations to do so. As ocra have only been in captivity a short while, this is unreasonable to suggest. It also takes orca a long time to reach sexual maturity which further indicates this would be folly. Add to this, that most of the captive bred orca are fathered by Tilikum (the most notorious orca in captivity) and any geneticist will happily tell you that if you want to weed out a characteristic, its best to use parents that don’t exhibit that trait. Again, you implication supposes that SeaWorld is trying to do this and as I’ve pointed out, they clearly have no intention of a dolphin-type eugenics practice.

    Next paragraph: “May have had a direct financial and consulting role…”, well we shouldn’t base accusations on supposition. A commenter here states that you’re a lawyer and I think that’s something they teach you in law school. They certainly taught that to me in my core curriculum. Plus, you end the paragraph by saying “and I am sure we will find out [i]f you did very soon)”; well then why make the accusation without doing your homework first. Again, its bad form.

    Claim 2, you suggest that SW lied about reuniting mother and calf, but you said yourself that “almost never uniting mother and calf”…you have to accept that it has happened, in which case you yourself have just perjured yourself. SW’s statement may not be the norm, but they even said “on rare occasion”. I wish mothers and calves were always kept together too, but here your accusation would have been better used if it (itself) was completely honest. Then you say the “depression and anguish of the mother, are shockingly clear”…I suppose you have some sort of evidence or scientific paper that discusses depression and anguish of orca? As no paper on the subject has ever been published, I’ll make your answer as “no”. I don’t doubt that there was absolute despair and anguish, but to say they are “shockingly clear” is based on a series of cuts and edits put together to elicit a reaction from the viewer. We have no idea where the footage came from and if the soundtrack matched the scene. The mother you refer to in “Blackfish” had her mouth open during that scene and orca do not make these noises with their mouths…at all. I trust the recounting of the incident, but I do not trust that these images documented that scene accurately. You appear to have taken this section of the film in a literal context.

    Claim #3: SW’s claim is 100% accurate. Your response is opinion. I agree with your opinion, but you in no way can refute SW’s claim. They have (in fact – not opinion) spent a lot of money on their facilities. Is it enough? I agree it is not and it could include the giant screens and sound systems which do nothing for the dolphins, but their report was accurate. BUT, I must also discuss your anthropomorphizing of the orca in your last statement. The orca “would trade in the $70 million…for one day of freedom”? You assuming that orca have a concept of money, economics, pool maintenance, etc? Silly statement and one that you use to garner favor from the readers who agree with you much more than it is a statement of fact.

    Claim #4: SW isn’t lying. Killer whales lives in the wild are fraught with danger. Of all those born, a very low percentage make it to 60-70 years of age. Pollution, ship traffic, disease, and many other factors contribute to the mortality rate. If you use THOSE numbers, then SW’s comment is true. This means every stillborn calf’s age must be averaged with the oldest adult. This drops it in half. Now, is SW’s statement misleading, yes it is, but it is not a lie and you should admit you were wrong. Additionally, to think we have data on every wild orca population and their full reproduction records is foolish and overwhelmingly naïve. There are very few populations that are monitored that closely and all of them are resident pods, no transients. If you want to compare apples to oranges, you need to be much more specific in your claims. Now, do they live longer in captivity…considering there is less than 0.00000001% of the orca in captivity than there are in the wild, it’s a very small control group. I would hypothesize that they do live shorter lives in captivity, but in captivity we know 100% of the records whereas we have very little information about all the wild populations. Simply put – we can assume, but we do not know for sure. Again, I don’t know…other scientists cannot know, therefore how can you know? If you don’t know the truth, then how can you say they’re lying.

    Claim #5: Also my favorite for several reasons. Obviously, you are not a scientist. There is a great deal we’ve learned about them in captivity that is representative of their conspecifics in the wild such as anatomy, blood chemistry, physiology, genetics, reproduction, neuroscience, bioacoustics and so much more. Yes, we did learn more about these aspects and much more than we could have ever gotten from the wild. Why? Because it IS difficult to do this in the wild. What we can’t duplicate from the wild is population, wild behaviors, and that sort of science, but to suggest that we’ve learned nothing scientific from them in captivity is just plain wrong. Also, many of the scientists that conduct these analyses are not SW employees, nor are they compensated by SW. They ASK SW to allow them to come and work with their orca. Permits must be granted from the government, IACUC, and a number of agencies for this to occur. It’s a very long and difficult process and then you have to hope that everyone agrees to let the studies be done. Even certain very successful scientists who are now outspoken activists were among these scientists who partnered up with zoos & aquariums to get this work done. Sure, they say they never would do it again, but they did it in the first place and hindsight is always easy to justify. I don’t blame them…they did not do anything that I think would harm the dolphins, but they DID do the work initially. I have not, nor do I ever want to perform such studies, but my work doesn’t require it.

    Anyone who went to a SW or other marine park who thinks that orca swim in tight circles or perform tricks in the wild is just too…simple (being kind) to understand non-human behavior to begin with. Also I have very serious contentions with a few statements here: 1) “any real scientist…best scientific research is done in the wild…” Really? I’m a real scientist and so are those I work with. Our research is anatomy and physiology (which we still know very little about in cetaceans) and its best performed in the lab. You saying that kind of work is less than “conservation, behavioral biology, and field research”? You’re not a scientist…how would you know? ALL research has a laboratory component and its more than valid enough to justify. In fact, a good deal of behavioral research is extremely subjective, unlike laboratory reduced variable studies. Ask scientists and tell me what they actually say…don’t make blanket statements which are not true. 2) “they swim single file in straight lines” – um, no…they don’t always do this. They can, but there is no evidence that this is typical or even common behavior, PLUS, there is no such thing as a straight line in the ocean. You may mean they swim longer distances with a far destination intent, but they do not swim single file regularly and they do not swim in straight lines. If this were true, then they would be very predictable and orca are anything but predictable. Try watching some in real life and tell me how often you’re scanning the horizon after each of their dives. You think they’ll pop up in one place and they’ll have changed direction underwater. THAT is typical behavior. No, they don’t swim unrelenting tight circles, but you should be more careful how you discuss the differences. 3) “because the oceanic pressure of the water keeps them erect”…no, no, NO. This is ridiculous in every possible context of the concept. It’s the composition, muscular attachment, skin tautness, and a variety of other BIOLOGICAL factors that keep the fin up…not the water pressure. Water pressure is a force and can provide a resistance to fin failure, but it does NOT keep the fin erect. While no one fully understands exactly how this works, it is believed that atrophy of the longissimus dorsi and associated swimming muscles for those orca in captivity and the extreme time period spent at the surface (compared with their wild counterparts) that are the primary factors in fin collapse. Please do your research before making such incorrect statements. Additionally, there is not nearly 100% fin collapse in captive orca…there is near 100% fin collapse in MALE captive orca. It may seem a minor clarification, but it makes your statement VERY wrong. 4) “Your ‘scientists’ are merely paid lackeys who read from scripts…” These scientists are very well respected in their fields and aren’t the ones crafting the messages to the public. They SHOULD be, but they aren’t. Even they have a hard time hearing the information passed on by the public relations departments. Moreover, their vets are the absolute best in their field. There is no other veterinarian that comes close. They frequently consult (pro bono) with rescue organizations (that are not affiliated with SW) and are the definitive source of marine mammal medical care. They can’t always be on scene during stranding events due to contamination issues (don’t want them making the captive mammals sick after spending time in the field). Yes, they are paid by SW, but they are far from lackeys and having known a few…I can tell you their generosity knows no bounds. 5) Comparing dinosaurs and orca? You have any idea how much more people would know about dinosaurs if they still lived? Are you honestly telling me that people don’t gain a huge sense of wonder seeing marine mammals move and react? I agree…it would be better in the wild, but to say that there is no “connection” made at SW parks is (again) just plain wrong. When I’ve given presentations on marine mammals I ALWAYS get a person who relates to me a story about their experiences at a marine park. 100% of the time, without exception. 6) the connection with Japan I thought was clever…I’ll give you kudos for that one.

    Claim #6: They ARE a leader in animal rescue. There is NO doubt about that. They have rescued or assisted in the rescue of far more marine life than has ever existed in their parks. There’s even a show about some of the rescues called “Sea Rescue w/ Sam Champion”. I’ve been on a few of these rescues (still, with no affiliation to SW) and they have been amazing in their generosity, support and expertise. To discredit that is criminal. It has nothing to do with greed. If you want to say it’s to make themselves look good, then I couldn’t factually argue, but those I’ve worked with had nothing to gain in their assistance. In none of those instances did the injured marine mammal end up at SW. Where was their gain? Where was their money? Yes, on one occasion they documented the rescue, but did that affect the lives saved? Not…one…bit. Those dolphins are still out there and swimming free.

    I’m not a fan of captivity. I’d always rather have these beautiful majestic dolphins out in the wild living their own lives. There are instances where captivity could be helpful (though its not done right now) but look at the Maui’s dolphins. They are going to be extinct. What if we could get them in captivity and breed them to re-establish a population (like we’ve done with species of birds and other mammals)? Wouldn’t that be worth it? The knowledge we’ve gained from the orca in captivity could make this a real possibility.

    Here’s where I agree with you. Yes, the time for orca in captivity has passed. We’ve learned our lessons and now it’s time to wean down program. It’s not time to “empty the tanks” because it will have to be a gradual and careful process. That should be the goal. Yes, we’d all like to see open water pens for the orca to either re-assimilate or retire to. It must be gradual, because the orca in captivity likely have very weak immune systems after the time they spent in very clean water (no one is talking about that aspect – I’ve noticed). It will take time and I think it’s plausible. However, to berate every SW employee is just ignorant. You (and those as vocal as you) should direct your comments to the corporate entity that crafts the statements to the public – not the hard working care-takers. So many people idolize Gabrialla Copperthwaite and the former trainers who were in the film, but no one is asking what they got out of the picture. I notice the director nor the film’s distributors have given any money to orca research or the campaign to rehabilitate and free the orcas. Louis Psihoyos (of “The Cove”) has been very outspoken and continued his work in conservation and education. I have not seen that with the people in this film (with one notable exception of Dr. Lori Marino). In fact, many of those in the film had long left SW and had nothing to lose and everything to gain by being in the film. One trainer even waited to join in the film until after he was told he wouldn’t qualify for “wet work” anymore. Is that honesty or profiteering?

    Regardless, I understand your perspective. I agree with your core beliefs, but I didn’t care for the details and that’s where the devil stalks. Keep this in mind, though…watching one film and possibly reading a similar book (both fantastic) does not make people experts, yet many believe they are. I constantly deal with a barrage of questions regarding this topic as soon as people find out my area of expertise. I have to correct so much misinformation from the publications from people so desperate to think they are informed that they argue with those who know a lot more than they ever will. It’s a passionate cause and I respect that, but to bang your heads on the gates of SW will lead to nothing but fractures and hospital bills. I really wish more people would take the time and learn more than the book or the film portray. They are well produced, but they are not the whole story, nor the whole truth. To combat SW with anything less than a significant educated arsenal will only lead to the ultimate defeat of your purpose. You can tell them they are wrong, but if you’re just as wrong…then you have no case.

    • permalink
      December 23, 2013 10:20 am

      Well Mr. Sharkespeare, your letter was quite informative. I am no expert even though I have been on board this quest for many, many years. I agree with you on all your points, however, I don’t think it matters how accurate some of the points are to those of us that just want captivity to end. Yes it will take time and will not be an easy task. I was involved with the Dolphin Alliance” many years ago when they returned 3 captive dolphins to their home in the Indian River. I was privy to most of their research, I saw things that would make most people sick. I just hope to see freedom for all before I die.

    • Amy Costanzo permalink
      December 23, 2013 10:37 am

      Re: “we cannot breed out millions of years of wild instincts” part, my point was (and perhaps I should have made this more clear) that these are still wild animals regardless of how they are obtained, and as such, they are dangerous and should not be kept in captivity for entertainment purposes.

      Re: the alleged role of SeaWorld in the capture of two orcas for the Olympics, I made it very clear that THESE CLAIMS HAVE NOT BEEN VERIFIED. I am not accusing of SeaWorld of anything…yet. You need to reread that part of my letter more carefully.

      Re: the separation of mother and calf…SeaWorld says they don’t do it except on rare occasions. I’m saying they do it frequently. Eye witness accounts of those who were there can verify this. It’s not a false accusation and I’m not perjuring myself at all. Again, you need to read the letter more carefully.

      Re: the money they spend…you’re right, it’s opinion. But it’s a valid opinion. The main point is that wild animals crave the wild, not a cement bathtub. Your divergence into an orca understanding the value of money is wholly irrelevant to the point I was making. I think you understand that.

      Re: the lifespan of orcas…SeaWorld is lying. You are a scientist – please read the research on the lifespan of orcas in captivity v. orcas in the wild. You can start here: Ford, John K.B., Ellis, Graeme M., Balcomb, Kenneth C. 2000.Killer Whales. UBC Press.

      Re: the “favorite” argument…you can’t seriously tell me that the science of animals is what is driving SeaWorld. If they held some orcas captive temporarily to learn about their biology, that’d be one thing – but that’s not what they’re doing. At all. And re: the fin collapse, I have read MANY articles on this – and the most common conclusion by scientists for the reasons dorsal fins collapse in captivity over and over is because there is too much time spent near the surface of the water and because of that, the muscle in the dorsal fin does not get as much as a workout from having to “stand up” to the water pressiure of oceans of deeper depths. So again, perhaps I should have made my point more clear, but the main idea stays the same: because the tanks are too shallow (i.e. not big enough), the lack of water pressure does not give the dorsal fin enough of a workout, leading to its collapse.

      I resent you insuation that you have to be a scientist to a) read scientifically and know the research regarding a topic and b) to be on the right side of this debate. You are correct – I have not been trained as a scientist. But I can read, so after lots fo reading and research on this topic, it isn’t hard to see where the right and wrong in it is. I don’t have a lab or a PhD in marine biology, but lots of people who do seem to agree with the side I am on.

      Re: the animal rescue part…you again miss my point. The fact that they’ve rescued other animals DOES NOT excuse the fact that they are keeping wild animals captive for their own profit. That’s the point I was making, not whether they rescue other animals or not. If you want me to give them “credit” for saving some animals while they treat others terribly, you’re very mistaken.

      And lastly, my “berating” of SeaWorld employees? If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I hold each and every person associated with the captivity of orcas, dolphins, etc. personally responsible for the tragedy that is going on. It a cruelty beyond measure – and if you make money off of it, you are in the wrong. Period.

      • Amy Costanzo permalink
        December 23, 2013 10:51 am

        Two more points –

        1) While you and others who support the the idea of animals in captivity inspiring people (esp. kids) to conserve….maybe it’s time to teach our kids that we’ve evolved past the point of keeping giants in buckets in the name of conservation and that b/c we love them so much, we realize that where they belong is not in tanks for our convenience, but instead the oceans where they came from. Maybe there is a moral lesson here that teaches more about conservation than keeping orcas captive. Ever think about it from that angle? Try to think beyond the SeaWorld gates and about what is best for the animals, as well as the message we are sending.

        2) Regarding field research, I’m sorry, there is no way you or anyone else can tell me that the best research of animal behavior is done when they’re in a cage. That’s just plain ridiculous. Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey (if she were still alive) would 100% disagree with you on that issue, as would any other scientist that has obtained a grant from the gov’t or an organization to perform field studies. Again, you may have a point regarding the physiology or anatomy of an animal if it’s kept in captivity, but there are also ways to perform those studies without keeping an animal captive for long periods of time. Taking samples via tranquelizers, tagging and release initiatives, But like I said, what they’re doing at SeaWorld is so far from research it’s laughable. They’re in it for the money, not the science.

        • LINDA THERMOS permalink
          December 23, 2013 10:59 am

          If I understand correctly Amy. he does not support captivity.

        • December 24, 2013 1:22 pm

          Great article ! Thanks for them !! Belgium also has got its slavers and liers.

        • Theresa Pugh permalink
          December 26, 2013 5:48 pm

          And the funny part it, read in “Death At Seaworld”. $eaworld admittedly stated they could not study the orca’s in the wild. So…how can they assume that they know what they’re talking about? Too many inconsistences in $eaworld’s collective mind. They are doing a disservice to these beauties. they belong in the ocean not performing two bit parlour tricks. FREE TILI! we, as Blackfish are not going away! Period.

    • LanceC permalink
      December 24, 2013 4:12 am

      This was an exceptionally well written response Sharkespeare- kudos to you for it. I found it amusing that several of the replies attacked you for supporting captivity, when you -clearly- do not. While I don’t necessarily agree with your stance on orca’s in zoos after talking to several friends who work for Seaworld, it sounds as if they’ll eventually breed themselves out of existence anyway as it’s illegal to take them from the wild anymore so the argument is rather mute.

      … I also got a great kick out of a poster (obviously not a scientist) believing that we could study marine mammal behavior as easily in the wild as that of terrestrial mammals. Wonder how fast Jane Goodall could swim?

  22. COSMOGIRL permalink
    December 23, 2013 12:06 am

    That is correct! Anyone can make something out of nothing! Duct hose, duct tape, and PVC piping does not make a resting heart monitor as SeaWorld claimed. It doesn’t even fit or cover the cetacean properly. Unless you’ve seen the picture, I wouldn’t go further.

    • Tod Adams permalink
      March 25, 2014 9:21 am

      COSMOGIRL!!, what is your number.. you want to come over 😉

  23. Nicole permalink
    December 22, 2013 10:55 pm

    I’m going to say this again. CNN is making millions of dollars off Blackfish and taking advantage of us bickering at each other. Have any of you asked, is any of that money going back to wild animals/conservation/helping your cause? Please show me something that shows that they are, otherwise CNN is worse than SeaWorld.

    • December 22, 2013 11:33 pm

      Where shall we begin? CNN is (and will again in January) a wonderful outlet at raising awareness about SeaWorld’s deceitful practices. They are indeed making some money from advertising and promotions but it doesn’t compare to SeaWorld’s profits directly obtained from the exploitation of orcas in captivity

      Only difference is…. CNN reports the facts and shows a FACTUAL documentary while SeaWorld hides behind written PR announcements and is afraid to face the truth. Ask them to go on record with ANY news organization to defend orca captivity and support their claims. They won’t do it. Why? Because they can’t.

      If you, or anyone else trying to defend SeaWorld, is so vehement about the good things they do for orcas, why don’t you insist that they come forward on network news and present their case to silence “the uninformed extremists”? Please let us know what kind of response you get from them. Our guess is… cue the sound of crickets.

      In the meantime, aside from CNN, Blackfish is also available on DVD, BluRay, iTunes and Netflix.

      • December 22, 2013 11:43 pm

        … and after you’ve seen “Blackfish”, dive a little deeper and read David Kirby’s “Death at SeaWorld”. Once you know the truth, you can’t hide from it.

      • Laurella Desborough permalink
        December 23, 2013 11:39 am

        I don’t think we can consider Blackfish a documentary. It is an advocacy piece. Anytime you present ONLY one side of an issue, it is obviously an advocacy matter, not a documentary. I am very disgusted with CNN for promoting this film as if it were a documentary. That has made me think that I better be a lot more critical about any presentation on CNN from now on. While I am not involved with SeaWorld, nor have ever been there, I have enough background on animal issues to recognize that something smells about Blackfish…and it is the obvious one sided presentation of information coming from people who are public advocates of no orcas in captivity. That was not a part of the film and was an obvious avoidance of disclosure of bias on the part of those being interviewed. Clearly the film maker knew this but did not bother to disclose it. Clearly unprofessional and bad form and clearly bad form on the part of CNN to promote this film without more vetting first.

        • Amy Costanzo permalink
          December 23, 2013 12:44 pm

          Laurella, SeaWorld was asked repeatedly to take part in the film and repeatedly they refused. Now they’re complaining and calling people who care about this issue “radical activists.” SeaWorld has also declined interview after interview after the airing and release of Blackfish, and instead has chosen to release ads in newspaper, all of which contain statements that are eaily refuted with facts. SeaWorld had their chance to tell their side of this and refused. Boo hoo.

        • December 26, 2013 8:09 pm

          Laurella: who says a documentary cannot advocate something? Besides, how can you possibly have a purely objective documentary? Since a documentary is made by humans, they’re obvious going to contain a point (or points) of view.

      • T.carrington permalink
        December 28, 2013 10:14 pm

        You need to do some research on CNN. They are owned by TimeWarner who is heavily affiliated with the Georgia Aquarium who is IN FACT tied to the captures in Russia, like this “letter” is falsely claiming Seaworld does.

        Here is some info for you, maybe you should look into both sides before you believe it’s all sunshine and butterflies on the Blackfish side

    • December 23, 2013 12:27 am

      Can’t see that CNN have anything to do with it other being a media source/outlet. Find something else to harp on about

  24. COSMOGIRL permalink
    December 22, 2013 8:55 pm

    I didn’t need a marine park to teach me about conservation and the welfare of marine life. I grew up in an era where these parks simply did not exist. I still learned about conservation, cetaceans and other life through a great conservationist Jacques Cousteau.

    I didn’t need a company (SeaWorld) to blow their own horn about ALL the good that they do when they spend less than .05 cents on the dollar for their efforts in a HALF BILLION dollar industry that is generated each year.

    THE PUBLIC would have heard about their efforts if they were sincere in what they do. Truth in fact is the ones that they rescue and can’t be used in their SHOWS are quickly rehabbed and turned back to where they came. Others are not so fortunate and spend the rest of their lives in captivity.

    Finally you cannot produce a DOCUMENTARY FILM based on lies. SeaWorld has told many and continues to do so. The biggest being right in this article on their MULTIMILLION GALLON tanks. In fact Tilikums pen that he spends 24/7/365 in is 28x28x20 or roughly a little under 16,000 gallons. If Tilikum were to dive straight down 2 feet if his tail would remain above the surface because he measures 22′ long!!! He exists today in the equilivent of a toilet bowl.

    So please don’t sell it on the doorstep if you can’t preach it to the choir. Social media has helped the efforts of many to finally out this in the light it deserves.

    • permalink
      December 23, 2013 6:11 am

      Very well said!

    • rae permalink
      December 25, 2013 12:40 am

      Thank you for your exceptional post!

  25. Geiffin permalink
    December 22, 2013 6:54 pm

    The first observation is that the author uses average when describing life expectancy of wild orcas and median NOT AVERAGE when describing SeaWorld’s calculation. An intelligent person would know that these two things are different and cannot be used to make a comparison. This is just another example of word trickery to misrepresent and misinform the public. Intelligent people see this obviously the author and those that blindly believe his rubbish do not. To educate the author the median is the middle number in an ordered data sequence. You can have ages 7,8,9,60,100 and the median would be 9. The average would be much higher. So the author is not lying but being very very misleading but that is pretty much how they operate.

    • LINDA THERMOS permalink
      December 22, 2013 7:38 pm

      To start with this “he” who wrote the letter is a “she”, guess you weren’t paying attention. She is an attorney & no idiot, she is not trying to pull the wool over anyones eyes. The fact is, no matter how you look at it or compare median to average (who really cares) CAPTIVITY IS WRONG & ALWAYS WILL BE WRONG. It is all about the money! Are you on the $eaworld payroll?

      • Nicole permalink
        December 22, 2013 7:43 pm

        In a perfect world, there would be no captivity. Too bad we have run this world into the ground. There will always be animals in captivity because of it. We should be using our strengths and resourses to saving their wild counterparts. SeaWorld is not the enemy here.

      • Theresa Pugh permalink
        December 26, 2013 5:53 pm

        of course they are. Anyone who agrees to kep these beauties in a bathtub has to be on the payroll. or, at the very least, sociopathic. No conscience, no sadness no heart. There’s only one in it for the money and that is $eaworld!!!

    • December 22, 2013 7:55 pm

      @ Geiffin ~ You’re grasping at straws. We did not want to edit (nor scrutinize) every single word of Amy’s heartfelt rebuttal as she is simply a everyday lay-person expressing her views. We appreciate your criticism of wording (as we’re sure Amy does as well), but that does not diminish the fact that orcas in captivity live far shorter lives than orcas in the wild. That is a FACT. And not only have they died much younger (despite SeaWorld’s 3 examples of anomalies), but their lifespans have actually decreased since the advent of SeaWorld’s breeding program. You can access two recent studies here that show that:

      As soon as you have SeaWorld’s studies that show otherwise (other than PR reports in national newspapers with no back-up), feel free to post them here. Or better yet, as soon as you have the real data and studies from SeaWorld, pass them along to us and we will publish them on the front page of The Orca Project.. We’ll keep a spot open for you… but our guess is we’ll never see it. Not holding our breath here.

      • Nicole permalink
        December 22, 2013 8:04 pm

        Animals in human care is a constantly growing process. Compared to other animals in human care, orcas are fairly new to it. We have come a long way as to what orca care was 40 years ago. It is much better than it was back then, it is better than it was 10 years ago, it is better than it was last week. Human care for all animals will only continue to get better. We have not had them long enough under human care to know how long they will live for.

        • December 22, 2013 8:13 pm

          Simple response and question: Our reply (backed by actual data) above shows that life spans are actually decreasing. Why continue this practice? For corporate greed?

        • Nicole permalink
          December 22, 2013 8:22 pm

          We wouldn’t even know anything about them if we didn’t have them in our care. They are ambassadors to their wild counterparts. You all wouldn’t even be interested in them if you didn’t learn about them from SeaWorld first! By boycotting SeaWorld, you are boycotting the thousands of animals that are rescued each year. You are boycotting the high schoolers who learned about ocean pollution and now volunteer to pick up trash at he beach. You are boycotting the future research of ocean conservation. SeaWorld is more than just orcas. They are a top zoological facility. It amazes me how you people don’t understand this, and how you think you know more about their animals than the ACTUAL PEOPLE WHO WORK WITH THEM.

        • December 22, 2013 8:34 pm

          Typical response deflecting the issue from orcas to SeaWorld’s rescue and conservation in other areas such as birds, sea lions, manatees, etc.

          Good deeds do not undo the bad deeds.

        • December 23, 2013 12:34 am

          Maybe Sea World needs this to encourage them to review and revamp their current practises. I am pretty sure that housing them in a better tank with A LOT more room would be an awesome start. It would be a step in the right direction but instead they have abstained from all contact to the “extremist activists” otherwise known as the general public.

        • 00000 permalink
          December 29, 2013 10:03 pm

          “You all wouldn’t even be interested in them if you didn’t learn about them from SeaWorld first!”
          Really? Because all the animals I’m interested in I learned about though documentaries and books. I guess people are just getting too stupid for that kind of learning. Nope, we want to see a whale flop around doing petty tricks for dull minds.

      • December 22, 2013 9:25 pm

        @Nicole Actually we would and do know about them without Sea World … Many marine biologists have been studying them in their natural habitat for over 30 years ! Their information is more accurate as they are studying them in their own habitat … Why would anyone call it research by sticking an oversize mammal in the equivalent of a fish bowl and removing them from their family pod ? That surely would not constitute as research especially as it is FLAWED. The same as your reply #FLAWED

        • Nicole permalink
          December 22, 2013 10:13 pm

          We have had orcas in human care for over 30 years, so your argument is FLAWED. Did you know latest research shows that our presence in their habitat is negatively affecting pods? Here is a researcher for you. Dr. Shaun Noren. She uses marine mammals under human care to further her research to pass laws in order to conserve species in the wild. UC Santa Cruz and Long Marine lab also do constant research to study their animals to help animals in the wild.

        • Cosmogirl permalink
          December 22, 2013 10:28 pm

          Their latest research instruments were made of cellophane, PVC pipe a dryer vent, and duct tape using it on Tilikum….their “research” is irrelevant. Just like the both of you are on the payroll for SeaWorld. You still can’t sell it no matter which way you spin it. THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE….JUST BE TRUTHFUL not this crap.

        • Nicole permalink
          December 22, 2013 10:51 pm

          Who is this “we” you are talking about? Myself nor Dr. Noren are on SeaWorld payroll. Why do you think it’s irrelevant? Because of the items they use? Your argument is irrelevant.

        • dora permalink
          December 25, 2013 12:44 am

          Your paycheck from SW is ready. Pick it up anytime!

    • Christina permalink
      January 21, 2014 7:34 pm

      I’m positive you’re the one being deliberately misleading. Yes, the median is different from the average. Obviously.

      I noticed you didn’t add that quoting the median provides a BETTER general picture of the data than quoting the average. You proved it yourself. You provided a set of data – and the one spectacular exception to the norm completely skews the apparent trend of that data. One whale living to be a hundred does NOT mean at least 50% of whales live to be 36.8 years old. Your set of data does nothing to prove that the average is more informative than the median. Don’t the three small numbers seem to provide more precision than the lone outlier? To illustrate, what about this set?

      – { 5, 9, 12, 7, 4, 11, 31, 48, 14, 4, 7, 100}

      The average of this set is 21. Readers who skim will be misled into thinking that means 50% of orcas live past the age of 21 years. No, that’s just the outlier of 100 skewing the trend. There are only THREE orcas who live past the age of 21, out of twelve. 25%, in short, and not 50%.

      The median is remarkably different: 10. More in tune with the general trend, don’t you think? And yes, it is 10 because the set contains an even number – so this is when you DO take the average between 9 and 11. Bravo, I hope you nailed that one.

      A statistician who actually knows what he’s doing with his data would illustrate this with a beautiful box and whisker plot, but I can’t be bothered to attach a link to one that I make myself because a) it’s been a while since I’ve taken my last stats class, and b) it’s clear you’re either willfully ignorant or haven’t a clue about the critical differences between averages and medians, and why medians are almost always preferable.


      The AVERAGE is the oft misleading “statistic” – one that is vulnerable to outliers, and as everyone knows, outliers are the EXCEPTION to the norm a set of data follows. The MEDIAN is the more reliable statistic to rely on, as anyone who took elementary statistics already knows. So no, actually, the average would be the misleading statistic, and the median is preferable.

      And I apologize if there are any typos in here. I turned off the spellcheck on chrome, and lord knows I shouldn’t have.

      • Christina permalink
        January 21, 2014 7:37 pm

        Just to clarify, this was all meant for @Geiffen. Not sure if that was obvious enough.

        • Christina permalink
          January 21, 2014 7:39 pm

          Aaand to tack on a tad bit more information, the 60 would be an outlier as well. But with such a wild range and the inexcusably tiny sample sizes, neither sets of data should be taken seriously – only to prove a point.

      • Christina permalink
        January 21, 2014 7:42 pm

        Hot damn, I couldn’t even remember how to calculate the IQ range. Everyone, please don’t mind my frothing at the mouth, I know I screwed up my calculations in there somewhere. Just keep in mind that the MEDIAN IS SUPERIOR TO THE AVERAGE.

        Have a good day.

  26. Mike Johns permalink
    December 22, 2013 6:31 pm

    Wao! Speechless! All of the anti-SeaWorld folks need to get a life and redirect their effort into looking after the pollution and problems of animals in the”wild”. Deal with it, you are a very small minority that are angry and sadly won’t change anything. So you made bands cancelled playing at the park, big deal. Look at yourself before pointing fingers.

    • LINDA THERMOS permalink
      December 22, 2013 6:45 pm

      Deal with it? That’s what we are all trying to do, and, there are a lot more of us than you think. There will be changes, you can bet on it.

    • Amy Costanzo permalink
      December 23, 2013 10:11 am

      Actually, Mike, we are changing it – I guess you haven’t seen the news lately, but a lot of people have been boycotting SeaWorld, classes have been cancelling their school trips there, and performers have also been cancelling their appearances. I don’t know what you mean by :look at yourselves”, but obviously you have nothing of substance to add to this conversation.

      • LINDA THERMOS permalink
        December 23, 2013 10:22 am

        I agree Amy.

    • 00000 permalink
      December 29, 2013 2:12 pm

      You enjoy the orca’s captivity for your own entertainment? Sick.

    • U mad? permalink
      December 29, 2013 9:59 pm

      Problems of the animals in the wild? Funny, because that’s where these whales should be.

  27. Steve permalink
    December 22, 2013 6:17 pm

    I’ve read and reread Amy’s letter and found nothing in it that is substantial. It relies on works and researchers that simply do not accept Seaworld’s research method.

    These people believe the only viable research method is in the wild. However, they fail to understand their presence and interaction in any environment alters the findings.

    Other researchers studying the environmental interaction research method and the whale watchers strongly suggests they causing far more damage to more whales in one year than Seaworld could have possibly done during its entire existence. Their interactions are resulting in unnatural behaviors having a negative impact on entire pods.

    Providing enticements to attract animals creates a patterned behavior that places the entire group at a greater risk from predators because predators will identify and capitalize on flaws in the repeated actions. The researchers utilizing the environmental interaction method love to insert elements that would not normally occur. They love to use the “let’s see what happens when I do this” experiment structure. Repeating the inserted action will only find out the primary reaction will be adapted to achieve the animal’s desired conclusion, which will impact the animal’s reaction with natural occurrences.

    They love their method because it has no true baseline. Without a baseline, all of their conclusions are valid because there is no means to refute their conclusion. You should believe them because nobody else is changing the natural environment the way we do so anyone’s thoughts cannot be valid.

    When the environmental interaction researchers and whale watchers stop their interference in nature, which does far more damage to more animals than Seaworld’s methods, they might have something valid to say.

    Remember, researchers love to throw inuendos at other researchers to further their own agendas and distracts from real research. Amy’s reference to dinosaurs was an insightful example. Every few months we find a researcher “discovering” previous researchers were wrong, when they postulated previous researchers were wrong; and so it goes.

    Any research can work around any predetermined conclusion to prove that conclusion. The conclusion will rely on open ends, suppositions and multiple unproven conclusions. Quit being sheep following the asshole in front, literally, of you. Recognize the people you take to be “experts” have predetermined their conclusion based on other unsupported conclusions, based on other unsupported conclusions… The sheep are gathering to an alter on a pyrmid of unsupported conclusions.

    • permalink
      December 22, 2013 6:39 pm

      While you raise a lot of good points, I truly believe freedom is still better than captivity. If the whale watchers are baiting the whales, the law should take care of that. Here in Florida it is against the law to harass dolphins & manatees. Rick O’Barry trained the first captive Orca, the whale died from banging his head into the side of his prison. Was it worth it?

    • Amy Costanzo permalink
      December 23, 2013 10:59 am

      You’re right, Steve – I don’t accept SeaWorld’s “research methods” that involve keeping wild animals in captivity for entertainment purposes. Guilty as charged. My points rely on the opinions, reports, and conclusions of scientists that have no financial incentive linked to captivity. SeaWorld’s is a private corporation that cares about dollars; the science is an after thought. Relying on the SeaWorld’s research re: orcas is like relyiing on the the cattle industry’s research: re: vegetarianism.

      • dora permalink
        December 25, 2013 12:47 am

        Amy, You are absolutely on point. More people support you than not. Your critics are nitpicking about semantics. (Edit by TOP) them!
        Please don’t stop and please don’t back down.

        • Ron Lopes permalink
          February 13, 2014 2:49 pm

          Agreed. Amy you are so right.

  28. Dana Bohince permalink
    December 22, 2013 5:40 pm

    Reblogged this on The Veiled Life: Animals of Unseen Crimes.

  29. Susy permalink
    December 22, 2013 4:41 pm


  30. Jackie Fitzgerald permalink
    December 22, 2013 2:26 pm

    Well done Amy! That has to be the best piece I have ever read. Completely nailed it!

  31. December 22, 2013 2:13 pm

    Reblogged this on Responsible Dog ~ It's all about dogs.

  32. Terri Bourus permalink
    December 22, 2013 12:37 pm

    Excellent. The analogy to pirates is perfect.. Rape, pillage, and kill for profit!

  33. Kaz Toelken permalink
    December 22, 2013 10:51 am

    Thank you Amy!

  34. December 21, 2013 11:05 pm

    Reblogged this on Sherlockian's Blog.

  35. December 21, 2013 7:20 pm

    Sea World is (content edited by TOP)

  36. December 21, 2013 6:01 pm

  37. December 21, 2013 5:59 pm

    The only thing I would add to Amy Costanzo’s open letter to Seaworld is this question for them: If you are so proud of your conservation focussed research practiced, why is it that you completely fail to accurately represent and utilise the field-research finding which have been done over the last few decades, especially on orca’s. If you were really part of the research community, findings would flow both ways, and you would take head of the findings about just how beautiful and amazing orca’s are when allowed to be. Stop treating them like battery-hens!

  38. December 21, 2013 5:25 pm

    • COSMOGIRL permalink
      December 22, 2013 9:02 pm

      The audition losers. Winners selected for captivity. LOSING AT BOTH ENDS

      • Theresa Pugh permalink
        December 26, 2013 6:02 pm

        hate you taiji murdering scum! God is also watching!

    • Megan permalink
      December 26, 2013 12:58 am

      This makes me want to vomit! Shame on you Japan! Your ignorant masses that enjoy this meat deserve to made sick.

      • Theresa Pugh permalink
        December 26, 2013 5:59 pm

        Love you Anonymous!!!!

  39. Belinda permalink
    December 21, 2013 5:02 pm

    Beautifully written-Thank you. Let’s hope this gets to as many people as possible. Would be great if CNN would post on their site. Many thanks Amy!

  40. Sharon permalink
    December 21, 2013 3:00 pm

    Thank you Amy Costanzo for this well written letter. GO AMY!!!!!!!!

  41. Kim permalink
    December 21, 2013 2:22 pm

    Kohana was born to Takara, not Kasatka. Kasatka is Kohana’s grandmother.

    • dora permalink
      December 25, 2013 12:49 am

      It’s still dangerous inbreeding, you dumbass.

      • Sophie permalink
        January 22, 2014 11:01 pm

        Hey, let’s remember that WE are the ones who are on the good side, the kind side, the educated side. Be nice to one another.

  42. Troy permalink
    December 21, 2013 12:53 pm

    Cannot wait till Blackfish 2

  43. December 21, 2013 11:39 am

    This letter repeatedly claims the accuracy of Sea World’s mantra-like lies over the years. There is a saying, “Just because you repeat lies over and over, doesn’t make them true.” And it never will. As more and more people see behind the curtain of lies to understand this is a mega-corporation for profit, willing to make unethical and immoral and push legal boundaries for profit, they are no different then the big banks, only rather then rape and pillage humans, they literally rape and pillage their “product” – dolphins and orcas, because there is always a new Shamu in the wings. They are all Shamu to the prison that is Sea World, and every aquarium that exists. Brick by brick, we will take you down. But you already know that. You’ve collectively dumped most of SEAS stock after just a year. You’ll need some of those anti-depressants you feed the orcas. Welcome to this new world order.

  44. Nicole permalink
    December 21, 2013 11:23 am

    Blackfish is making a ton of money from this…. But how much of their profits are actually going towards orcas and other animals?

    • jmventre permalink
      December 21, 2013 2:49 pm

      Not really true. The cast & crew of the film have made no money on Blackfish. Zero. This has been a “pay to play” endeavor for the cast. We’ve spent thousands getting to places like Park City for Sundance Sarasota, New York, etc. All on our dime. A couple of the film festivals did help with travel expenses, but mostly not. The only entities making money are the distributors of the film, including Magnolia, Dogwoof, and CNN via ratings & advertising. Much of the film was shot in and around San Juan Island, in WA state during Superpod events in 2011 and 2012. No one was given any travel expenses except for the small group of camera operators, sound guy, & associate producer that were working as their day job. It’s thrilling that the movie is reaching so many people, but to say that “Blackfish is making a ton of money” and accuse the people that made the film of not contributing to the cause is inaccurate. We continue to contribute by volunteering time, taking off from work (not getting paid), and reaching out to communities.

      • Theresa Pugh permalink
        December 21, 2013 3:31 pm

        What now, Jm? Have you even watched Blackfish? There’s only one entity in this for money. That, my friend, is $eaworld. I urge you to read “Death At Seaworld.” Or go to YouTube. There are plenty ex trainers’ stories to see. One they had a young untrained girl ride a Killer Whale with just her bathing suit on. Please, educate yourself and find out these things. Be forewarned, if you are any kind of animal lover, this will break your heart! We are the voices for the cetaceans that cannot speak. We are a movement! And we care!

        • December 23, 2013 6:09 am

          Um Theresa Pugh, JMVentre *IS* one of the ex-trainers who appeared in Blackfish. But hey, I’m on your side, or at least the side of the captives but don’t go throwing the baby out with the bathwater without realising who are the other players on “our” team.

        • Theresa Pugh permalink
          December 26, 2013 6:10 pm

          Sorry, my bad. I must’ve read this wrong, somehow. This whole bucket of crap has really warped my mind. Trying to wrap it around why people continue to support a place that imprisons the ocean’s beauties. My apologies JM….

      • LINDA THERMOS permalink
        December 21, 2013 3:31 pm


    • February 16, 2014 4:27 pm

      so true.


  1. The effects of Blackfish! | Plunder for the Planet
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  4. Blackfish | Aeonn
  5. Blackfish | Red Bar Tape
  6. An Open Letter BACK to SeaWorld | Mary Cummins, Animal Advocates, Real Estate

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