Blackfish: The Movie SeaWorld Doesn’t Want You to See

Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on July 26, 2013


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Many people look back on their childhood and remember places like SeaWorld with fondness. They think of the joy of watching large, majestic orcas breaching out of blue pools on hot summer days. Through the eyes of a child, these gentle giants seem to be happy, healthy, and enjoying a playful game with their trainers. The truth, however, is that captivity for orcas is a bleak existence, and that some “killer whales” live up to their names. The new film, Blackfish, promises to take you on a tour of this darker, murkier world.

SeaWorld officials refused to be interviewed during the filming of Blackfish, but before the United States release of the film the company went on the attack, sending emails questioning the credibility of the film to select film reviewers in an apparent attempt to stagnate the film’s momentum. But it seems to have had the opposite effect. The film has generated a buzz beyond animals rights circles and has breached the mainstream moviegoers “must watch” list.

Before Blackfish started its theatrical run, ALDF caught up with David Kirby, author of Death at SeaWorld, which covers the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, and other, less-publicized violent incidents. After researching the book, Kirby feels unequivocal about the fact that SeaWorld’s captive orca shows are an unethical form of entertainment.

Still not convinced that keeping orcas captive to entertain an audience is unethical? Watch the trailer for Blackfish, and leave a comment below to share your thoughts about the marine mammal entertainment industry.

You can find a list of theaters and showtimes on the website of Magnolia Pictures.

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We want to hear your thoughts! Are you going to go see Blackfish? Have you read Death at SeaWorld? Did you go to SeaWorld as a child? As an adult? Would you go back to SeaWorld after learning about what goes on “behind the scenes?”

29 thoughts on “Blackfish: The Movie SeaWorld Doesn’t Want You to See

  1. Mira Karell says:

    Captive orcas, elephants, chimps, dolphins, sea lions, big cats … The list goes on and on. I enjoyed shows featuring these trained animals when I was a child. Knowing the truth about their cruelty now, I will never go see them again.

    1. Meezer3 says:

      I totally agree. I remember the one time years ago we went to Sea World…at the time I didn’t think to much about the Orcas…but what upset me there then were grown Chimps dressed in people clothes and paraded around like puppets…I was so upset we left, right then and there. Animals like Orcas and Chimps and anything else wild and free should be left that way and not used to “amuse and entertain us”. If you want to educate people use videos not the real animal locked up for its natural life time and possibly driven mad by it. That same thing happens to men when locked up for crimes.
      Haven’t been back since and never will.

  2. amanda bosch says:

    The lengths that mankind goes to just to make a buck or to be entertained, it’s heartbreaking. I hope that every person that watches this movie acts accordingly. I don’t believe that every zoo/aquarium should be closed. I believe that they can do good things for animals permanently injured in the wild or orphaned. I believe they can be a HOME and hospital to these creatures. But a platform for entertainment, never. Create an eco-safe environment so that they can be healed and released or cared for appropriately for the remainder of their lives. Sanctuaries for animals can be a great learning platform for children and adults without the need to exploit the animals living there. I went to Miami SeaAquarium as a child, to this day I remember wondering how these dolphins and orca survived in the confines of such small spaces.

    Thank you for this film. I am hopeful that change is coming.

    1. Jessica says:

      Thanks for seeing the good that refuges and conservation organizations due for the sick and injured animals.

  3. allison says:

    its animal cruelty, PERIOD! they’re just much larger than the average victim of cruelty. THE PEOPLE AT SEA WORLD SHOULD BE SO ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES…i know if i were you, i wouldnt be able to sleep at night.

  4. Gina LLenza says:

    I can’t wait for this movie to come to Puerto Rico.

  5. Heidi says:

    Me too, went to SeaWorld, and Zoo’s as a child and when I was younger. I say as Mira above here, now that I know about the cruelty, I will never, ever go again. And I tell everyone with kids to THINK before taking them to see animals in captivity.

  6. Jessica says:

    This is indeed a sad thing, if all the information that is provided is correct. However, I do not believe that to be so in all circumstances. I am sad for both the animal in question and the trainer who was killed. I work with a Conservation Field Station where we protect the animals and natural environment in my area. In my dealings, the only animals that I have seen brought into zoos and aquariums are sick and on the verge of death. The veterinarians and biologists do all they can to save these animals and do not mistreat them. We use the medical findings to help with the other wild animals in our area. Having sick animals in the wild is a very serious situation and can affect more then just the animals. I am currently a Vet Tech and in school to be a Marine Biologist. Pointing fingers to say that all zoos and aquariums mistreat animals is like saying all people who drive cars are deliberately killing the environment. I ask that everyone do more research on both sides before pointing fingers and drawing conclusions.

    1. J says:

      Well said Jessica. In fact, much of the videography shared by the crew of Blackfish isn’t even of SeaWorld animals or facilities. It’s simply and outlandish ploy to segment an organization and highlight husbandry tactics from the 90’s instead of current day care and conservation. Ridiculous. Blackfish and its producers should be ashamed.

    2. kittie rose says:

      Thanks for that comment its so true yes there are corporations out there that look to make millions by trying to domesticate these animals at the veiwing pleasure of the public and yes often the profit comes first before the welfare of the animals BUT like you say not all zoos treat their animals in this way sound words my dear it is so important that we educate propperly much love to you and good luck in your studies

    3. Maria says:

      All are wrong Jessica first let me say bless you for caring for the animals. But us humans take these creatures from all they know to get healed or they were abandoned we keep forgetting “they’re wild” they should always be returned to nature. The animal should be looked at with respect that it is a living being and should be returned to where it came from. We humans are at fault those who think there training the animal to those who pay to watch. There not dogs who look for our attention they don’t want nor need it. That’s where we go wrong thinking it’s ok because we’re helping. If your help causes harm it isn’t help is it?

    4. Carol Christoffel says:

      I lived in Alaska and in Puget Sound. I witnessed whales and especially Orcas almost daily and learned from the Native people how special they are. Did you know they have been known to hunt co-operatively with Humans in Edem Australia? While living in Alaska an Orca accidently hit the shoulder of a boy in shallow water mistaking him for a seal.The Orca aborted the attack and his entire pod were very excited drumming the sea with their tales.Boy was fine but felt the pressure wave ahead of the Orca and looked under the water only to be eye to eye with them. Generally they don’t hunt humans especially when well fed and treated with respect….but they can and they are far more intelligent than anyone knows. They were my teachers in many respect….They do not belong in bland shallow tubs of water when they normally swim thousands of miles with an ever changing panorama to look at, and eat a smorgasboard of sea life…..The killer Orca has had enough. And he should not be used for breeding either. I am one that sings to the whales.

      1. Sue says:

        Carol, I envy you. it must be such a privilege to witness these great animals in their own habitat. “Gentle Giant” seems to be the most appropriate nickname for these majestic creatures. Thank you for relating your experiences.

  7. Jim Milligan says:

    This movie will never have the impact that it could if it isn’t released to more theaters.

  8. Sarah says:

    The keepers ( or torturers to be precise !!) should be forced to live in the human equivalent of the way they keep these poor animals.Then they’d think twice the sick bastards !! They get exactly what they deserve when the poor creatures finally snap…which is long after they should have and when the company has already made a ton of money from their horrific existance.

  9. antonette louis-snyder says:

    I compare this to canned hunting! Our ego driven madness to get as close to danger as possible, in our little minds, without the risk or real danger! People with lots of money to blow,and live in their little bubble, keep these Greedy Bastards in business! I think unless you can replicate an animals habitat to the tee, do not house that animal. And since it is impossible to replicate the Ocean, let ALL the marine life go free, unless they are rehabbing an injured or orphaned mammal.They can still have a park and all the stuff that goes with it, just knock off the whole”circus” sideshow! Let them live free as God intended! And to HELL with the Japanese poachers who slaughter them! The Human Race has MUCH to work on! God is Watching, and NOT pleased…I’m SURE!

  10. Krissy Pelkey says:

    I already knew all about it. They don’t swim the same either.
    It’s awful what they do at sea world to dolphins too.
    They lie there and cover up.
    Never been there, never would go.
    I hate what they do to God’s wonderful animals.
    It’s sickening s.
    And ppl, do not swim with dolphins on trips or
    Go to circuses. No joke. Do your research.

  11. Liz Schultz says:

    Using any animal for the entertainment of the human race is cruel but to keep an animal this size in a pool and demand that it do tricks on command is a whole new level of cruelty. All forms entertainment, including sporting events, which involve animals should be banned. Thanks so much for this movie – I think it will do much to get things changed.

  12. sarah says:

    I would NEVER go to such a place as seaworld and I hope I’ve educated my kids enough never to go when they are older either. Will watch the film but not in the cinema, i’d probably end up in floods of tears with the cruelty of it

  13. Tina says:

    I’ve been friends with a trainer for yrs. They bend over backwards to make these animals lives wonderful. From enrichment and training to stimulate their mind and physical care. Should such huge animals be in captivity? Probably not. But, are they being tortured? Absolutely not!

    1. Tatyana says:

      Tina, No matter how much trainers will bend for those orcas, they cannot make their lives wonderful. Simply not in their power. No one’s life is wonderful in jail, right? And here, I heard another one: Orcas are made to perform for their own (orca’s) entertainment, so they won’t get bored. People can justify just about anything if they have enough money.
      Oh, and about torture, – would you say, that taking a child from a mother and shipping it to a different place would be considered torture? Or maybe, if the mother was given drugs not to create a scene, then that would be OK?

      1. Sue says:

        Don’t forget training the child t perform on command, doing tricks in front of crowds of people. Oh, and living in cramped areas, fed by hand the same thing day after day though the normal diet is diverse, and being alone when not performing, never to see a friend or relative–let alone mom–again. What a Wonderful Life!

  14. julie rich says:

    i am disgusted and appaled, sea world is just an amusement/arcade centre which promotes cruelty to animals and it is just beyond belief what people will do to make money and save face. I remember many years ago going to sea world in California and looking at the poor animals, you could see it in their eyes and behaviour that they weren’t happy. As soon as I saw this and told a member of staff, which didn’t seem bothered I left and have never been back since! it saddens me to see this still carries on and in horrific circumstances these animals are taken from the natural habitat and placed in a glass box for peoples amusement.

  15. James H. Metaphor says:

    I also went to these type of events/shows as a child and thought the tanks were too small, but that the animals seemed happy. Looking back and seeing new evidence I am saddened by how wrong I was. From my knowledge of animal behaviours, it is clear these animals aren’t as happy as people think. When a chimp bares its teeth, when a dog pants, when a killer whale opens its mouth, we see a smile and think they’re happy, but in reality the chimp is scared, the dog hot/tired and the killer whale has been trained to open its mouth as part of the show. Watching the trailer I was horrified at the killer whale in the net, it was screaming, how can people accept this? Let alone make money from it. Sometimes I am ashamed of my species and don’t want to live on this planet anymore. Not until we can all grow up and fix our behaviour.

  16. Pamela says:

    There is a saying “Youth is wasted on the young” – how true that is. Like many others I used to love seeing animals in a Zoo or a Circus – but now I realize what those poor creatures are going through and I won’t promote or attend – granted there are many good conservation animal sanctuaries such as Durrell Conservation Trust on Jersey island UK. But the profit making Zoo’s and Circus’s, Bull Fights etc. should be outlawed. Then of course we come to the killing of ‘creatures’ for parts of their body that is mostly unproven to be a magical cure for something or other – the ‘Bile Bears’ comes to mind – check that out on Google if you want to know what ‘cruelty’ is!

  17. Robin Scarisbrick says:

    I went to the Miami Aquarium as a child and remember thinking then that the tank that Lolita was in was way too small. When the show started and Lolita swam out everyone started to cheer and we were quickly scolded and told not to applaud her. The trainer told us it was mating season and Lolita was distracted and that we were not to reward her with applause because she was not cooperating. I was young then and did not understand the gravity of his statements. Now as an adult, and reading about how she was captured and taken from her family in such a horrific way, and being punished for acting as nature would dictate, I am appaulled! I am so sad that all these years later she is still in this same small tank and with no companionship from her own species. I was recently on a cruise to Alaska and was fortunate enough to see a wild pod of Orcas. It was a large pod of at least 20 and they were swimming around our boat and breaching and playing and just enjoying themselves in their natural environment. To think of all the captive Orcas in these small tanks lonely and depressed and deprived of their families is heartbreaking. It’s time to show some compassion and humanity and return these beings to the sea where they belong!

  18. Atomic Bootsy says:

    I took my son to Sea World when he was five. While watching the Killer Whale show, something went terribly wrong. The whale injured the trainer who had to be rescued by other trainers before being dragged and appearing lifeless, behind a screen. The audience was stunned and the show ended abruptly but I will never forget the sight of that trainer being dragged out of the water. Needless to say, that one event formed my thinking on the matter and provoked countless discussions in our home for years to come. We have not been back since to Sea World or to see this show, as we do not support it in any way. Thank you.

  19. Pesky Vrmt says:

    This is a very important documentary! Sadly only a small fraction of people will see it, because you’re right, “someone” out there doesn’t want the general public to see it. Normally, it would have already been uploaded to the Internet (even if it might be in Japanese).

    The makers of “The Cove” and “Earthings” certainly did the right thing by releasing their documentaries. Not doing so is like picketing Kill Shelters and not spaying/neutering your Pet.

    You cannot complain about kill shelters

  20. Pesky Vrmt says:

    Oops, that last part, no idea how it got there, sorry, lol

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