Why Blackfish is Misleading, Unoriginal, and Stupid

Blackfish, the Documentary About Seaworld

“See Blackfish!” they say, especially if you watch videos on YouTube featuring captive dolphins and whales. “A haunting, mesmerizing, psychological thriller,” one critic raves. The film opened to a warm reception at the Sundance Film Festival as well as probable Oscar buzz, and it was scheduled to air on CNN on October 24th.

But is everything in the recent documentary film Blackfish true?


Before the film came out, my review of the trailer was met with flagrant opposition. A few commenters offered some valuable information about the subject (which I include here) but most declared that I was ignorant and stupid for assessing a film that I hadn't seen.

When I first viewed the trailer, I found it highly unsettling and knew that many novices to the subject of animal behavior, animal welfare, and captive animal criticism would retain many unflattering, one-sided views of more than just the famed aquatic parks. Even the director of this film has stated, "We sometimes hear of dogs mauling other people, but in these cases we don't seem to hear about them attacking their masters," which is completely incorrect.

Many of the critics to my article erroneously presumed that I was also new to the subject of Seaworld, orcas in the wild, and the controversy of captive cetaceans because of my lack of emotion that matched theirs, but I’ve followed it for over three years, starting with the grisly photos of Kandu V’s death. The trailer simply embodied the debate, and that’s what I sought to respond to.

But here’s the thing—I was really providing my assessment of a mindset that is rapidly gaining momentum in our society.

Now that I have seen the film, did it haunt me, move me, or rub my nose in some truth I didn't know when I wrote the review of the trailer? No, I have seen at least 80% of the footage that Blackfish offers on Youtube. In fact, Blackfish even left a lot of things out. I found this very surprising, as I had heard that even readers of David Kirby’s Death at Seaworld would see and learn new things. After many lectures in my comments and past following of this topic, I felt as though I’ve seen this documentary before. Did I ultimately prematurely criticize Blackfish for non-existent elements with my trailer review?

Let’s review my main original points:

  • Does Blackfish make the argument that orcas, which are presented as friendly and harmless to humans in the wild, attack humans because they are suffering from psychosis in captivity? (Yes.)
  • Does Blackfish dedicate a large portion of its running time to exploiting the deaths of trainers (and others) for shock value even though most viewers are really only concerned with the welfare of the orcas, not humans? (Yes.)
  • Did Blackfish romanticize and anthropomorphize wild orcas? (Yes.)
  • Was neuroscientist Lori Marino not presented as a staunch animal rights activist and advocate, but simply as an objective animal mind researcher? (Yes, and those who were enthralled by her claim about the killer whale's "special emotional brain part" really need to read the second chapter of Are Dolphins Really Smart? by Justin Gregg.)

Was Blackfish a brilliant documentary? (No.)

All biases aside, the movie seemed to me to be of average PBS TV documentary competency. The film mainly consisted of interviews and footage which, if not seen before, might be considered emotionally powerful. Most people who would be inclined to watch this film are likely to have an emotional reaction to some of the footage, but this is absolutely no testament to the filmmaker’s directorial ability. Gabriela Cowperthwaite (the film’s director) picked a hot-button and emotional subject that features universally adored, cute, or magnificent sea animals which (unlike farm animals) we rarely hear about any harm coming towards. Due to this, it’s likely that Blackfish will receive accolades just like The Cove did, despite its banality. I found a lesser-known film that is also anti-captivity, called A Fall From Freedom (2011), to be more interesting and educational. It also deals with the same conflicts, plus others.

Orca Attacks in the Film

For inquiring minds, scroll to the end of this article to see the orca attack footage that was used in the movie. The actual attack and subsequent death of Dawn Brancheau was not shown.

Misleading Claims in Blackfish

So here we finally have it: not only did this film reinforce my previous views that I psychically deducted from only seeing its trailer, but now I have actual evidence from the film itself to add to my adverse reaction. For my first example of Blackfish’s contradictory elements, I would like to present exhibit A:

“What we’ve learned is that they’re amazingly friendly and understanding and intuitively want to be your companion, and to this day there’s no record of any orca doing any harm to a human in the wild.”

The footage where the orca is seen interacting with human children and a dog is deceptively used to justify the above quote that states orcas are amicable and respectful to humans.

In actuality, this juxtaposition is insulting to the true nature of killer whales and even unintentionally puts stock into the idea that trainers have special connections to the animals (a notion that seems to be criticized by the film).

Luna in Nootka Sound


What is not explained at all is that this footage features an abandoned, juvenile orca named Luna that was a local celebrity and was named by an 8-year-old contest winner.

Why is this significant? Orcas, like you and me, require close bonding and directional teaching in their youth. This young orca was a lost, wandering, playful child seeking socialization from anyone who would give it. In other words, this animal does not represent an average, well-adjusted-pod dwelling orca. Attempts were proposed to reintegrate Luna back into its pod, but they were impeded by the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations who considered Luna to be a reincarnation of a lost chief, and Luna was later sucked into the blades of a tugboat (due to its playfulness and lack of wariness of humans) and killed.

This orca was (ironically, despite never having been in captivity) ultimately a victim of people overly romanticizing and spiritualizing its existence.

Footage from Blackfish

The footage is touching and shows how this friendly animal made a bigger impact on people than other killer whales did.

Blackfish also makes a false claim about killer whales: That, as a whole, they are leerier of human presence and generally keep to themselves in natural conditions. The film asserts that these animals have differing lifestyles (termed "cultures"). Most of the resident orcas in the film are mainly piscivores (fish-eaters), some even opting to eat only one species of fish. There are other orcas called transients that have a much larger range and are not very well-studied, and I doubt too many people get the opportunity to get into the water with them, or would want to.

These transient ones are the orcas you see killing dolphins, seals, and baby grey whales (by prying them from their mothers, drowning them, and eating only their tongues).

Considering the fact that whales are said to be as self-aware and intelligent as orcas and dolphins, I wonder if they emit a similar crying sound, such as that we hear in the documentary (said to be one of the most depressing elements of the film) during this unfortunate ‘cultural practice’?

Blackfish criticizes SeaWorld for lying to the public, denying the animals' aggression, and perpetuating the orcas' image as a "cuddly toy” (a term used in the movie while SeaWorld's plush orca gift shop is shown). But Blackfish utilizes the same emotional manipulation to convince the viewer that the animals are normally friendly and inquisitive. The film also enhances the horror of captive orcas killing people by using Luna’s uncommon scenario out of context. It's clear that despite intensive research, the director has little understanding of animals.

These animals are not orca fans.
These animals are not orca fans. | Source

The Myth of the Peaceful Orca

All too often I’ve heard and read that orcas won’t kill people in the wild. More than once I was told that Dr. Ingrid Visser routinely swims with them in New Zealand (so how harmful can they be?).

But how can we make such bloated claims about a largely little-studied species? Not only do humans seldom encounter orcas (as they tend to spend most of their time in cold or open waters), but the animals have demonstrated their ultra-conservatism in their ways of life (an important evolutionary mechanism). Orcas aren’t particularly interested in humans most of the time, nor do they have a palate for our unusual land animal flesh.

People often make an awkward comparison between orcas and sharks. But sharks are solitary and much less intelligent and are responsible for many human attacks and fatalities (given that their populations are far larger than orcas'). Sharks are present in the warm and shallow waters that humans enjoy (often being much closer than people realize), and there are up to 12 shark species that pose a risk to humans. Trainers spend significantly more time around the orcas and orcas must pay attention to them since they have their food, which is a totally different dynamic.

Pilot whale 'attack'

Therefore, I disagree with this idea of friendly orcas and their alleged refusal to attack humans in the wild. An orca attack is possible, but their lifestyles appear to make it less probable. We had no attacks by pilot whales (a species of dolphin, like orcas) until one dragged a curious snorkeler underwater off the coast of Hawaii (in a similar fashion to a featured attack in the film by the captive orca Kasatka), albeit this terrifying attack was likely to be more play-oriented.

I drill this point home because the film is asserting the idea that these normally passive animals are killing out of psychosis caused by captivity. Undoubtedly, captivity changes the behavior of animals, and this is especially true when they are acclimated to constant human presence. While I don’t doubt or deny that captive orca whales would be negatively affected by the capture processes presented in the film, or by a life where social strife cannot be alleviated by retreat, to insist that a "killer whale" kills out of psychosis is dubious. We do not nor will we ever fully understand the psychology of these animals well enough to be certain of what is going on. However, the trainers in the film gave what sounded like a reasonable explanation of why Tilikum was frustrated the day of Dawn’s death.

Blackfish Claims that Tilikum has "Killer Genes"

One of the interviewed trainers says:

“In a reputable breeding program, rule number one is that you certainly would not breed an animal that has shown a history of aggression toward humans. Imagine if you had a pit bull who had killed…that animal would have likely been put down…”

To accompany this statement is an animated graphic accompanied by whimsical carnival music to suggest the bizarre absurdity of what SeaWorld was doing. The real absurd thing is for this ex-trainer to make a comparison between an orca whale and a domesticated dog in the context of genes and behavior. Of course, the reason dogs are massively successful with humans is due to their flexible genome that dramatically shapes their traits and behavior, and this trait is not shared by all animals. For instance, you cannot breed away a spotted genet’s extreme aversion to human handling (and this is why they failed to become a popular pet), and cognitively complex animals such as elephants make even poorer subjects of domestication.

Hey, remember me?

There's been so much hate against SeaWorld these days, it's almost as though people have forgotten about Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium who shared a tiny tank with four other dolphins.
There's been so much hate against SeaWorld these days, it's almost as though people have forgotten about Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium who shared a tiny tank with four other dolphins. | Source

Not only was that statement stupid, but it contradicts the main message of the film—that a killer whale's killing is a surefire indication of so-called psychosis (defined as abnormal behavior) instead of the unpredictability of a wild animal. While I’m no expert in genetics, genes do not code for so-called captivity-induced "madness." If I am onboard with the idea that captivity-stress is the cause of the killing (as it could be), why would this trainer suggest that a more placid male orca’s sperm would be a better way to carry out the breeding program? Would this orca be genetically immune to captivity-stress and pass that on to its offspring?



Blackfish predictably ends with an interview suggesting that the callousness of families who obtain enjoyment from seeing animals up close in captivity is the real crime. While this documentary is about orca whales, discussions about other captive animals are absent, and the overarching message remains ambiguous. Instead, it closes with a romantic shot of a trainer taking a trek to see wild orcas and exclaiming how tears began to well up in his eyes.

I’ve never seen orcas in the wild, but I have been whale-watching to see humpbacks, and I didn't have this reaction. Ironically, this form of tourism, bound to increase when people start seeing animal parks as sinister, is more likely to negatively impact wild orca populations.

What is Blackfish right about?

I’m of course not going to claim that Blackfish is entirely inaccurate or useless. It may surprise some that since I was young and forced to watch them, I’ve always abhorred killer whale and dolphin shows. I've always preferred seeing fish and animal exhibits without performances and cheesy music.


I’ve always felt that SeaWorld would do a better job presenting the animals in a more educational context such as is done in more traditional zoos. Regardless, the park clearly strives to be a leader in entertainment, competing with the Disneyland parks that are within close proximity of the Orlando location. I do not dispute the claims of SeaWorld glossing certain elements over, such as the danger element of working with the animals or the nature of the attacks that took place, nor am I equipped to. I will have to take their word regarding lot of what was said in the movie, such as Tilikum being the main perpetrator of the attack in Sealand of the Pacific and his even more cryptic role in the death of a person who broke into the park.

I also know that SeaWorld did skew some things closer to my understanding, such as the natural lifespan of orcas (in the documentary, it is stated they can live up to 100 years or even more, however the NOAA Fisheries website states that 30 is “typical” for males and 50 for females, with both capable of reaching 60-90, so I’m not sure why it is said that this is similar to a human’s lifespan or why the person being interviewed started with the jarring number of 100).


I understand the type of public relations tactics that are necessary to keep a business afloat. I do believe and have argued in the past that while working with these massive carnivores is clearly potentially life-threatening, this danger is not unique. Any person working with any large carnivorous animal (or even those that aren’t, such as elephants) is also at risk. In my mind, it is up to the public to decide with what and how someone can choose to risk their lives, and I guess that’s what took place. Blackfish introduced me to only one really surprisingly thing, that the trainers did not have to train for very long before getting in the water with the animals. What is a perfectly valid criticism is that in trainers, television personalities and good looks should not be valued over experience, animal behavior awareness, and intelligence.


Animals in Captivity

Some animals do well in captivity, and others don't. This is the most important thing to remember after seeing Blackfish. I would say that some animals may even thrive, others do okay, and some have major conflicts. For killer whales in captivity, I believe that what impacts them even more than space constraints is social imbalance and the breaking up of family groups. It might dawn on some viewers that while killer whales are clearly living in a tiny fraction of space (compared to the thousands of miles that they have in nature), this limitation also applies to every non-sessile animal in captivity.

This has contributed to the spread of anti-zoo and pet criticism. This subject is not so simplistic. Most zoo animals show the signs of having sufficient well-being, given that the enclosure size is adequate ("small" compared to the wild but sufficient anyway), enrichment is effective, and the five freedoms are met. It is a complex subject that I will examine in more depth in other articles.


Can SeaWorld improve?

Recently I've warmed up to SeaWorld. They announced that they have employed a killer whale treadmill, something similar to an endless swimming pool for humans, that may offer a new and enriching way for the animals to feel like they are swimming long distances. This has expectedly met a lot of misguided criticism. This device is certainly not going to simulate life in the wild, but it has the potential to give the animals exercise, a new stimulating way to play, and perhaps even offer a distraction from negative social strife.

My comments may be interpreted as a defense of captive cetaceans, but I simply would like to see captivity improve as much as possible. The release of most of the captive orcas is impractical and SeaWorld can no longer capture healthy dolphins from the ocean (a fact I do not believe is mentioned in the film).


The idea of releasing the animals into sea pens is promoted by most activists as the most humane option for non-resalable animals. We are lectured about this at the film’s conclusion, but it could also prove deadly for animals whose immune systems are not accustomed to ocean water. There is a presumption that captive animals yearn for the open ocean.

I am hopeful about SeaWorld’s attempt to find new ways to enrich their animals' lives and hope it continues. This attitude might also benefit other captive animals. Most of the detractors want to see SeaWorld disappear, and that, of course, would also erase their rehabilitation programs, which include the releases of manatees. It would also render thousands of animals that are not all poorly cared for homeless.

That is a pretty destructive and dumb wish for anyone to have, in my opinion. Many have emphasized the fact that orca breeding won't last in the long run and exists on borrowed time, due to the lack of genetic diversity. I wonder why people invest so much emotion in an issue that concerns about 48 orcas (32 captive-bred) where the problem may eventually resolve itself. The main thing that people should remember is that captivity can always improve, while nature, which is not perfect, cannot.



For those who’ve said that Blackfish succeeds as a “psychological thriller,” did we see the same movie? Perhaps to those completely unfamiliar with reality, the movie will seem shocking, and that's probably where most of the emotional reaction stems from. This film doesn’t leave much room for free thought, and instead assaults the naïve viewer with an incomplete perspective, while also encouraging a flawed view of zoological facilities and animals in general.

Blackfish reinforces no novel arguments in the noisy captive cetacean debate, but rather just re-illustrates them in 2013 HD.

Attack Footage Used in the Movie (1971)



Comments 503 comments

Boycott SeaWorld 6 weeks ago

Blackfish does a fine job of displaying the dangers of keeping a wild mammal in captivity and the constant lies that seaworlds spins.

arhsim 2 months ago

Thanks for the critical view on the blackfish, which, while working up an emotional momentum, erodes the fundamental aspect of unbiased journalism.

But then, how do you highlight a problem (done so well by Blackfish) about orcas within captivity without providing a emotional aspect to cause an impact? Would a more accurate depiction of orcas in captivity have been enough to rile up enough public opinion towards forcing Seaworld to take action (esp. as you have already pointed out, most of the videos were already avaiable and did not cause enough impact)?

Would you not agree, that the heavy emotional (and sometimes inaccurate tone) led to a better outcome for the orcas than was possible with a factual approach to the documentary?

Was it wrong for the documentary to be more of a propaganda tool forcing Seaworld to take action?

Julie Sczesny 3 months ago

Regardless of which side you're on - I'm pleased that Sea World took my idea of the Orca Treadmill seriously! I'd given them the information based upon the Endless Pool Swim Spas, which are stationary - but give you resistance via jets. I'd also given them my designs of how the Orcas & Dolphin could use it on their own, as desired. The human version can go up to 4MPH.

I personally, am concerned about US humans heating up the oceans, more than any captive Orcas. Why? Because warming of the oceans can kill off ALL the Cetaceans within a few decades! Then the only ones left WILL be at Sea World, etc.

In the Grand Scheme of Earth, each & every one of us must play our part in preserving the fisheries, Cetaceans, Elephants, Big Cats, etc. & humans!

So everyone needs to get off their blame game & DO SOMETHING TOGETHER! Obviously there's passion, to save Cetaceans.

Why not funnel that energy together, for the betterment of them all?

This "He said, she said," isn't going to fix anything. YOU, WE, together, can.

Hope what I've said, posted, puts the danger of the Orcas, Cetaceans, US, into perspective. Arguing won't fix things. ACTION is needed!

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 months ago from New York Author

Great Lindy!

Lindy 4 months ago


I realize I'm a little late to the party here, I just read your article after reading about Seaworld's decision to remove orca shows from their parks, and to stop breeding future generations. I was curious; the stance Seaworld took against Blackfish seemed to adamantly refute any claims that the documentary was based in accuracy at all, and yet their policies are changing regardless. I guess I wanted to take a chance to consider the other side of the argument.

I watched Blackfish and it strongly impacted me, but I'm also young and tend to take emotionally loaded videos to heart so it's kind of a given. I hadn't considered the inaccuracies of some statements; the emotionally manipulative ways things might be presented, or the simple fact that parts of the documentaries argument were somewhat contradictory. This article really allowed me to think more deeply on these subjects.

I just wanted to thank you, really, for writing an article that clearly outlined your personal problems with the way the information was presented, while also staying away from topics you might not have as much information on. I feel like you presented your thoughts in a way that didn't come across as too aggressive or pointed but really, simply another take on an issue that has been argued to hell and back.

I'm not sure if I entirely agree with everything you've said, or everything Blackfish presented, but I appreciate that you've given me an opportunity to think and consider other facts.

The rest of the comments here seem to forget that you are in fact an author of an article they chose to read, and they don't seem to want to take the time to learn anything new. You've constructed an interesting alternate viewpoint and encouraged me to think critically of this topic, and maybe not blindly accept that these documentaries must be 100% correct at all times.

I have my own opinions regarding captivity, Seaworld, and so on, but I just wanted to say that your article was a very interesting and insightful read and I hope you aren't letting these other thoughtless comments dishearten you or affect your day too greatly.

Everyone wants to know that animals are being treated fairly in captivity, but it is also ironic how little thought the same people will have towards animals in the wild. The debate regarding this is complex and I'm not nearly educated enough or know enough about the topic to forge my own path, but I thank you for pointing out the area of concern anyways.

All in all, I guess my point is, that whether or not I agree I feel like your argument has shaped my outlook in some way, and that's a sign of a well presented point of view.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 4 months ago from New York Author

It's been a while since I've gotten another stupid comment like yours Wanda.

Wanda 4 months ago

How much did Seaworld pay you to write this?

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 5 months ago from New York Author

Thanks Aldrea.

Aldrea 5 months ago

I just want to say thank you for this article. I cited it in a paper I'm writing about the gross inaccuracy of Blackfish and the harm it's done to the zoological community. No matter how many comments you get from idiots who believe the first thing that CNN force-feeds them, I wanted to let you know that you've helped me to construct a 10-page argument that will hopefully change some minds. Thank you.

kramartini 5 months ago

I wonder how many of the critics of Sea World go there very often. As a season passholder, I attend Sea World San Antonio monthly, and make sure to attend at least one or two orca shows each time, always arriving early and staying late so as to get a view of the orcas' unscripted behaviors, not just their conditioned performances.

My first-hand observation over a period of years has yielded exactly zero reason to believe that the orcas are anything other than content where they are. Certainly nothing to indicate that they are psychotic or that they bear any ill will towards their trainers. Indeed, every observation I have made has led me to believe that they enjoy playing with their trainers and getting free food all day.

I am amazed at how gullible people are to be to believe that a person can force a 4-ton animal to do anything it is unwilling to do. The theory that the orcas are slaves being coerced into performing unnatural or harmful behaviors is pure fantasy. (I mean where are the whips or cattle prods?)

This last point is perhaps Sea World's best defense, and their path to the future. While they have announced the end of theatrical shows, this does not mean the end of all killer whale shows. The shows will still take place but, instead of flashing lights and music, the audience will be given presentations of their natural behaviors. For example, the big screens will show footage of wild orcas jumping out of the water, and then the orcas in the tank will perform a similar behavior. Next, the screen will show orcas beaching themselves, and then the orcas in the tank will do a slide out. And so on. The final result is that the orcas will be doing pretty much the same thing as they do now. The only difference will be in the context presented to the audience.

Yerbad 6 months ago

I went into this article wanting to hate it but it was worded in a much more civil manner than the title would imply, so good job. On a side note I would say that over the past few years you seem to have gotten a bit more defensive when it comes to comments.

Also, to all the people saying that capturing animals is wrong.... Why? Why is capturing animals objectively wrong. We won evolution, if any other species were in our position they would capture us for meat or labor or entertainment or whatever.

TL;DR Good article, you have nothing to prove so stop being so defensive, and capturing animals is okay.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 6 months ago from New York Author

I know why I wrote this article. I wrote it because I think Blackfish is misleading, unoriginal, and stupid. I don't need you to tell me to think about why I write things. That suggests I have no self-awareness.

GoPackGo 6 months ago

I understand your criticism of the film as emotionally manipulative and poorly researched. That's fine. What I have an issue with is that all the solutions and amendments t to the issues that face orcas in their parks are only necessary to remedy a problem that they created. I truly don't care what methods the film maker used to draw attention to this issue, because it needs to be addressed.

These are wild animals who are apex predators that travel 100 miles a day in the wild. It is unethical and stupid to put them in comparatively small tanks, and to use conditioned responses to imply that the animal is happy, or that they love and understand people. What poorly justified rationale do people use to convince themselves otherwise?

Yes, Sea World may rehabilitate some injured animals. What does that mean to me if they are also cruel to them to turn a profit? It tells me that they are doing the rehabilitation programs for P.R. Their response to blackfish misses the point entirely. By attacking the film's credibility and creating controversy, they are diverting attention from the ethical issues that plague their business model.

Probably the most despicable thing in the response is when they claim that the animals they captured were in compliance with law. I don't care what the law says, this is an ethical issue. Pulling wild animals from a happy and healthy existence in the wild is wrong. I don't know if baby orcas were really taken from their mothers, or if they really weighted down orcas that died in the process. I would imagine both are true. Baby whales were likely selected because of logistics involved with transport and training. The more telling part of the capture is the treatment of the dead animals. Why would Sea World sink them for any other reason than hiding a deplorable activity?

I guess my point here is, what are you trying to accomplish by attacking the film? Why would you pick this particular battle? If captive orcas are a problem, then what is wrong with making a documentary that plays on people's emotions to highlight an issue like this? Is Sea World not doing the same exact thing by lying and making animals seem like they are happy in captivity or by presenting them as anything other than wild animals to protect their profits?

I guess I just don't get people. Humans would bottle and train rainbows if they could. Please think about why you wrote this article. Not to be offensive, but to me it looks like click bait.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 8 months ago from New York Author

Zeldaz-- Let's see I started sometime between never and wtf are you talking about?

Zeldaz 9 months ago

You are a terrible, long winded writer. And yes, you should be paying better attention to spelling, syntax, correct use of verbs, and grammar if you want to be taken seriously. Using quotation marks to indicate a quote that does not exist that is sloppy and unprofessional. How long have you been pretending to be a journalist?

Kyle Soler 11 months ago


reading a few of your articles I have started to think differently about dolphin captivity maybe SeaWorld is right and maybe the activists are wrong. more people need to read your articles and is dolphin captivity going to stop and is it worth stopping.

ps what's your thoughts on Richard O' Barry and his mission. 14 months ago

Thanks for the enlightening review. It pretty much summarizes my own beliefs on SeaWorld and "Blackfish." I seem to recall there being some controversy when the film first came out, in that quite a number of folks who were interviewed for the doc were irate because their words were heavily edited and completely misrepresented by the filmmakers in order to spin their argument against SeaWorld.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 15 months ago from New York Author

That was supposed to say 'psychically'. And implored is not perfect but yo get the gist of it. So my grammar isn't infallible? Is that what you came here to say? Phew, I thought you were going to present an argument that would force me to reconsider my views but instead you've dedicated your time to weed through my writing, indicating you have no rebuttal but still wanted to display your anger. Thanks and be gone.

quitbeingajackass 15 months ago

I think you need to brush up on your understanding of not only orcas, but also people, animals in general, and the English language.

For example: '...Bindi is ludicrously being implored that she is "shaming her father's name"...'




beg someone earnestly or desperately to do something.

And "physically deducted."

Last but not least, your mindset is the only problem I see here. You presume much and inquire little.

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 15 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Thanks for sharing your review on Blackfish and never been to Sea World. This was well written. Voted up for interesting!

Sallie 16 months ago

I just watched ut on netfkix because i was really bored. It was okay i suppose, although calling an animal family a culture made me laugh and dismiss thewholethong. Alas, i don't really care much about seaworld, it always seemed expensive for what you get. Ill day this for the documentary, it made me want to go to Seaworld.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 17 months ago from New York Author

Jim--My criticisms are important because of the rampant hypocrisy regarding captive animals in general, that doesn't mean that I believe any of those things are good for orcas, and they aren't. I just want people to think critically, most of us aren't in a position to harshly judge other forms of animal exploitation. I would say that we now know the ramifications that wild captures have for cetaceans (and these are not present at that extent for other animals that I approve of sustainably removing for captivity) but they are no longer a part of SeaWorld's business model. I think, given the past tragedies it's even more important to derive the benefit now that we've partially succeeded at captive breeding.

jim 17 months ago


while i don't disagree with your review, I think your responses fit neatly with other ideas I've read on your site but don't begin to address the elements of Seaworld's model that 'Blackfish' viewers found so distasteful. These are the capturing of wild orcas and other sea mammals (a process that often leads to the deaths of animals and always leads to the breaking of undeniably close-knit families or pods), the separation of juvenile whales from their mothers (to suit management and corporate priorities that have nothing to do with animal welfare or scienc e), artificial breeding of young whales, the conditions in captivity, etc.

I think there is a lot of soft-headed romanticize of 'the wild' and a lot of false anthropocentric biases in the modern animal rights movement and your assertion that determining the preferences and subjective realities of animals isn't as simple as many would have you believe is right on. But can you really doubt that separating a mother from her baby is traumatic and wrong for these animals?

phildazz profile image

phildazz 17 months ago from Toronto

Thanks for the enlightenment. They are very social creatures and I collected quite a few photos on my many crossings from Vancouver to Vancouver Island. There are a few Orca families residing in the Straite of Juan de Fuca.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 18 months ago from New York Author

"Just to clarify, I never at one point insulted your writing or your education, nor did I ever accuse you of animal cruelty."

I know that, those who you've complained I was harsh with have. Now, this is my blog, and if I want to use CAPS and sarcasm, I will. You don't have to talk with me and I don't have to talk with you. I've been dealing with these clone comments for years now. I've left a lot (not all) of trashy comments from your 'side' here, and anyone who expects me to reply to them gracefully after insulting me or this article is a fool. The last thing I do is expect someone to be nice to me when I personally attack them on their blog. I just hope that the accuracy of my statements will set in, over anything else.

Alice 18 months ago

God, rocking out the capitals and sarcastic comments now are we?

Just to clarify, I never at one point insulted your writing or your education, nor did I ever accuse you of animal cruelty.

In fact, in one of my earlier comments, I commended your writing.

But I did ask you a question. Not a loaded one by any means. If anything, I was trying to understand an opinion that I find hard to comprehend. Being firmly anti-captivity, benefits of enclosing whales in tanks are difficult to instantaneously come to mind and I was hoping you would share your view on this matter. Perhaps there were some facts I had missed. This is an opinion I am still waiting to read.

I also never said you were absent of compassion. But perhaps 'animal' compassion escapes you a little judging by a few comments you had made. Just because I am compassionate to the whales in captivity does not mean I interpret myself as a heroic individual. But I do think it is important to try and give animals a voice instead of giving them a life sentence and dubbing it 'education'.

Your response reaffirms my original point: your comments reek of arrogance and superiority. Your incessant need for sarcasm, unnecessary capitals and thoughtless insults are all ridiculous decoys to avoid answering my original question.

Finally, if you are willing to make this statement, "The possibility I might NOT be wrong is absent from your mind", why don't you stop doing yourself a disservice and provide an opinion that will actually make me question my own.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 18 months ago from New York Author

"I said respond with as little arrogance and patronisation as possible."

That is exactly what I did, particularly when you accused me of being "arrogant", that I 'sicken you' with my human superiority advocation, and that I fail to understand animal's emotions capabilities. WITHOUT EVEN PRESENTING AN ARGUMENT, you have decided that you and those who follow your beliefs are inherently correct.

Do you know what a "loaded question" is? A question where an unjustifiable assumption is made. You essentially gave me 'loaded criticism'. You've essentially told me that I need to explain why I'm so wrong and arrogant about everything. The possibility that I might NOT be wrong is absent from your mind.

In addition, you WHINED (yes WHINED) about yourself, and why you're so right and you're sick of my criticism. YOU have compassion (alternatively, I don't, I'm a sociopath I guess), and that's why you're so heroic.

You suggest that I have some crazy need to thank people who compliment me and get angry when people (like you) start insulting me, my writing, my education, and my morals, in addition to accusing me of animal cruelty...YOU DON'T SAY????

Self awareness points: 0

I treated you with so much respect by refraining on getting angry and just deleting your comments.

Alice 18 months ago

Also, I'd like to ask you about your incessant need to applaud supporting comments and condemn those that do not align with your own.

Topics like this should spark healthy debates where facts and opinions are shared respectfully.

Telling individuals to "stop whining" is a disgusting display of arrogance.

People are taking the time to read your article, ask you questions and share their opinion in hopes of some sort of respectful rebuttal. Why not give them that?

You cannot shame a documentary for being one sided when that is all your comments epitomise. Try opening your eyes, consider the comments made, explore the reasons why people are anti-captivity and abolish your assumption that animal compassion equates to stupidity naivety.

Alice 18 months ago

Oh Melissa. I gave you one job.

I said respond with as little arrogance and patronisation as possible.

Here is a question that you might deem fit enough to answer (and kind enough not to delete).

Can you list the benefits that captivity has on orcas? I am not asking this question to stump you or test your knowledge, I am merely interested in your ideas of captivity's beneficial effects on these animals.

Once you have done that, would you be kind enough to analyse whether your idea of benefits significantly outweigh the detrimental cons that captivity has including premature death, hyper aggression between whales, severe boredom etc.

I look forward to your response.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 18 months ago from New York Author

Hi Alice, because your comments add nothing to the discussion they are being removed. Thanks for reading!

Alice Han 18 months ago

Also Melissa,

I find your responses to people expressing an opposite opinion to yourself to be rather offensive, insulting and ridiculously arrogant.

Having read such a well-written article (while I disagree largely with its contents), I expected your responses to be as educated and structured.

How wrong was I. You are a prime example of arrogant. You fail to see anyone else's point of view, you fail to understand the emotional capabilities of these animals which are largely similar to that of humans and you also show a classic case of human-superiority which makes me sick.

I'm sick of people like you using the term 'animal activist' as a dirty word. People do it all the time with 'feminism' too, making me feel silly and uneducated to support such a view. I am proud to say that I am an animal activist, it doesn't mean I'm a hippy, it doesn't mean I'm batshit crazy with a house full of cats. It simply means I have compassion for animals and fail to see our race as being superior to the rest of the majestic creatures on the planet. I think that is something to be proud of.

There is no opinion that you have made so far that I would be proud of making myself.

Try to respond to my comment with as little arrogance and patronisation as you can. I know it will be hard.

Marc 18 months ago

I am not sure if anyone has already said this (which I am sure someone has had to by now) but going to sea world or the zoo creates a connection between people and the animals. This connection, beyond doubt in my mind, help protects them from capitalists that would hunt them from extinction. Your points on how naive the viewers on Blackfish were were spot on, so I can't even imagine how clueless they would be without SeaWorld. Why would any average person know or care about a black fish that swims around in really cold wide open water?

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Melissa A Smith 19 months ago from New York Author

I don't feel like wasting my time explaining everything to you. I thought I was very clear that I was talking about brain anatomy of different species NOT being an entirely accurate way to measure cognition. Did you not read the preceding sentence?

"We can't even figure out what makes human brains so unique as to produce such an enormous difference between other animals."

Try thinking rationally, do you really think I was trying to say that ALL brains don't show complexity? Even insect brains are extremely complex. Our brain features are not as -significantly- different from animal brains as we are behaviorally different from animals, and we only know to sort out unique brain features -because- we know of human capabilities. This is the exact reason animal rights liberationists love to harp on brains, because looking at them alone, humans don't appear to be very 'special'. I got this information from them! I'll leave you to explore some more of my articles if you really need the answers to your pressing questions, but I've tired of this argument.

Erik 19 months ago

You seem to have a hard time staying on topic so let me break it down for you..

You said:

"Looking at our brain anatomy alone, no one would have been able to guess the sophistication of the human mind" That is a statement in and of itself besides any comparison although you used it for that purpose.

I simply pointed out you're completely, horribly wrong:

From the article I linked:

"They found that the brain's complexity is beyond anything they'd imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief, says Stephen Smith, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology and senior author of the paper describing the study."

If you don't understand this distinction in brain anatomy(density of neuron and fiber connectivity) in humans between that in other animals, that is due to your own ignorance, and not an adequate argument. Maybe you should educate yourself some more?

took all of two seconds to google...

But it also brings up a fascinating question i.e. what is your criterion for why an animal and not a human should be held captive? You say "I'm certainly against this attitude people have about animals having a 'right' to be free or zoos/pets being immoral"

For you why do humans have these "rights" yet animals do not?

Seemingly, although I may be wrong in this assessment, for you it comes down to mental function. But here you have a problem, because you've just argued one cannot delineate easily between humans and animals. Clarification would be helpful...

You do suggest you're pro-captivity(by explicitly stating you're not against it, but rather "shows") in your article. And I have yet to see your orca anti captivity article, or am I missing something?

Again I don't really understand your position. You're awfully unclear.

To put it simply, do you think the current conditions for orca captivity are or are not okay? Do you even think it's achievable? It's a simple yes or no answer..

You expressed some half hearted reservations, but nothing near an indictment against the actual practice of captivity...

Now you are changing your tune a bit, albeit in a weird sort of rationalization.

Regarding ethics, of course it's an ethical issue. Crimes are generally based on ethics, not on random whatever!! Or do humans' treatment of animals have no place in ethics? You're certainly welcome to take that position although I would disagree with you vehemently.

And as usual, you put more words in my mouth, I never said there is no point in arguing with you. Of course there is.- to point out the flaws in your position, your cognitive dissonance and self contradictory positioning.

I also never said the scientists I mentioned(Rose wasn't even one btw) should have the only word. My point was that you have chosen the Seaworld tactic as labeling them "activists" in order to detract from their scientific opinions which is wrong.

Consuming animal products has nothing to do with this discussion-simply another red herring.

And what Pseudo-science would you be referring to with regard to the science? As far as I know, P.h.d.s, which the aforementioned scientists hold, are not handed out for pseudo science.

At any rate, it's nice to see you half heartedly admit orca captivity is as you put it a "crime" and I look forward to your in depth analysis of the subject. It's certainly far more important than whether orcas are "cuddly" or "peaceful" or not....

Finally I take exception with your opinion(as well as too many other opinions to address in one post) that nature cannot "improve".

What does "improve" even mean to you in this context?

Is evolution and natural selection not improvement?

It seems to me you have not thought very deeply about what you espouse but instead have built a fort around what you view as your right-animal captivity- and attempted to justify everything in that vein.

A more objective approach would be more satisfying, but I'm not sure that can be expected with someone with such a vested interest..

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 19 months ago from New York Author

"Not impressed...."

I don't care. Did you even read your link? It doesn't say ANYTHING about the human brain in comparison to non-human brains and any anatomy features that show what makes humans so much more complex. I never even suggested to you that I am 'pro-captivity' in its current state but rather I view orca captivity as a non-ethical crime as long as the same humane standards are followed for them as all other animals and improvements are continually being made and I think they should be. I'm certainly against this attitude people have about animals having a 'right' to be free or zoos/pets being immoral, and certainly that SeaWorld should be closed down (the inevitable result of any such boycotts). But there is really no point in arguing with me or anyone else, according to you, who isn't Visser, Marino, or Rose because they have degrees and the biggest mouths. You also better not be consuming any animal products, that is against Marino's orders. In fact, much of this pseudo-science is grounded in the research of the whacky John C. Lilly, also more credentialed than I and undeniably intelligent so who can argue with him? The discussion is over, I lose.

Erik 19 months ago

I have listened to both sides of the debate, done research, and made up my own mind so once again please refrain from trying to label me a parrot. It is a logically weak tactic you employ time and time again and belies any claim to integrity in discussion.


You think captive orcas' behavior is normal? Please elucidate as I have not seen you explain how.. If that is your measuring stick(not a bad one I admit), then you lose that argument handily.

There are plenty of scientists(visser, balcomb, etc.) who are eminently more qualified to speak on the subject than you and disagree with your position. Marino, who you seem extremely attracted to, has a P.H.D. and over 80 scientific publications. Do you have even one?? Your unfair slander of them aside, they are actual scientists, unlike yourself, who have studied these animals the majority of their lives, and are extremely well respected in their fields. To whole handily ignore and dismiss their points as you do shows your lack of objectivity in the whole matter.

It is known that captive orcas do not have anywhere near the same lifespans as wild orcas:

Brain anatomy is certainly an important determining factor when one is speaking of intelligence, self awareness, etc. It is generally accepted cetaceans like orcas and dolphins are self aware- a trait exhibited in less than a handful of animals throughout the animal kingdom.

Additionally, your claim about the human brain couldn't be more wrong:

How easily you whole handily dismiss any evidence contrary to your preconceived and self serving notions of subjugating other living creatures is itself an impressive feat of pseudo intellectualism.

Your last paragraph is again a misrepresentation of my comments. You first attribute to me something I did not say, then when corrected, double down with red herrings and more besides the point tangential arguments. Seaworld can survive without orcas being held captive, don't be ludicrous.

In all of this, it is notable that you fail miserably in presenting a case for keeping orcas captive- it appears you have made no attempt at all. Instead you attack what you deem "activists"(that are actually scientists) and argue around the point, all the while implying all is good in the fishbowl.

Not impressed....

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 19 months ago from New York Author

"You've failed to even qualify what exactly that means."

Here's what it means. Behavior is far more important than looking at brain features. Looking at brain anatomy is a highly misleading way to make your ridiculous, gobbledeegook conclusions such as 'greater sensitivity to emotional well being'. Why don't you explain what that means or show a peer-reviewed source that does? You don't get to speculate how their brain works to further your slanted bias. The real scientists, not your propaganda leader Lori Marino, are smart enough to know we barely know anything about what these structures mean for the animal currently, maybe forever. We can't even figure out what makes human brains so unique as to produce such an enormous difference between other animals. Looking at our brain anatomy alone, no one would have been able to guess the sophistication of the human mind. So no, nothing of real substance is 'indisputable'. Lack of or presence of brain features tells us little without behavior of the animal. But why go with science when Ric O Barry and crew have told you how to think? I'm sure the anti-SeaWorld blogs have told you the evidence is 'indisputable'. I don't think you came up with that nutty conclusion on your own, right?

"I never said "SeaWorld is getting shut down"

And just what the heck do you think is going to happen to a facility that loses money yet needs to house extremely expensive animals? The thousands of animals because of the, yes, 30 something orcas SeaWorld has? I pray the garbage being spewed doesn't affect the killer whale's habitat expansion, and they don't get hauled away to die in someone's feel-good sea pen.

Erik 19 months ago

There is nothing "pseudo scientific" about what I posted. In fact that is scientific literature written by people who have much more schooling and experience than either of us in neuroscience. The findings are indisputable.

If you'd like to ignore and dismiss cetaceans' brain complexity as having no significance than that's certainly your prerogative, but it demonstrates your bias as well as ignorance. Saying that you prefer to look at " the animal within over brain features" makes you look, frankly, stupid. You've failed to even qualify what exactly that means. You do realize the brain is the seat of cognition and consciousness, not the liver, don't you? And if you're talking about enclosures than I could only think you're either blind or callous not to have a problem with orca enclosures

According to your previous comments, there are only 48 orcas suffering in captivity, so it's no big deal, the number is small. What an animal lover you are!

For you, inbreeding orcas, breaking familial bonds, drilling teeth, drugging dolphins and orcas, and keeping them in ridiculously small enclosures where they swim endlessly and listlessly in circles and display abnormal behavior is just peachy so long as people like yourself are entertained(or profit) at the end of the day. Those are the facts and you have done nothing to address them.

It is an ethical issue. Your refusal to fully address it and instead attack advocates is telling of your person and values.

And of course, you repeatedly misrepresent what I say. I never said "SeaWorld is getting shut down", that is more of your bologna being served up. I am happy they are getting the point that the public is not going to support these practices. Their CEO recently stepped down(not before suspiciously selling millions in stock and now facing shareholder lawsuits it should be added). They should stick to rescuing wildlife, I can support that.

It's unfortunate your refutation comes in the form of a five year old, full of typical kiddy insults and language, and void of real substance.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 19 months ago from New York Author

"You need a course in reading comprehension apparently."

No, that wasn't my greatest reply, how can I say this...your comment literally bored me to tears because it's similar to 90% of the comments I've received and have read and it just made me not really care. I'm sorry if that sounds rude.

And please don't get my started with the pseudo-scientific propaganda you've been brainwashed with.

I seriously didn't know about this:

"There is no "another"."

I don't remember talking to you. You people all seem the same, like suckers from the same banana plant. If you're so satisfied about SeaWorld's stock going down then I wonder what the point is of bothering me. I usually don't waste my time arguing with people if they have an extreme minority opinion that no one agrees with. According to you, SeaWorld is getting shut down. Congrats on destroying those animal's homes, awesome job. Now move on. Haha, I should just delete the comment section but I can't bring myself to.

Erik 19 months ago

You need a course in reading comprehension apparently.

And ironically you saying you prefer to look at the animal "within over brain features" is not very illuminating.

What exactly is that supposed to mean? Speaking of not knowing what someone is talking about...

Of course you don't agree with me, you state you're pro orca captivity, that says it all.

Fortunately, those that view these particular animals in the selfish light as you do(to confine and make them subservient for profit and entertainment or whatever self serving personal gratification it brings them) are losing this war in the long run.

Just take a look at Seaworld stock prices and attendance, both down.

Also, when one goes ad hominem accusing someone of "whining" is only a sure fire sign you don't know what you're talking about.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 19 months ago from New York Author

Erik I don't know what you're talking about with the first couple of sentences.

I prefer to look at the animal within over brain features, because they don't tell the whole story. No I don't agree with you, regardless of your whining.

Erik 19 months ago

There is no "another".

That is the first comment I have ever made here or to you...

And it's not useless.

You forget, or ignore, you're just as much an "animal" as the creatures you are happy to assign and justify a subservient role to.

The paralimbic(emotional processing) area of a cetaceans brain is larger than that of a human's, which makes sense given the familial culture and bond(arguably more so than that of humans, at least most of them).

In addition, the frontal lobe, responsible for abstract thinking is in many cetaceans just as large and for others, larger, than humans.

The parietal lobe, the portion of the brain responsible for making sense of emotion is large in cetaceans, and in dolphins larger than a human's..

Cetaceans are one of a small handful of animals known to show self awareness.

I could go on and on, but the point is that these mammals(like you and I) exhibit all the signs of intelligence and an even greater sensitivity to emotional well being than humans..

Instead of spending so much energy justifying and rationalizing orca captivity, why don't you advocate for the animals that suffer under these horrible conditions?

Anybody who thinks keeping cetaceans, especially as large as an orca, in such squalid conditions is definitely off their rocker, would you not agree?

You seriously think what Seaworld does to these animals, violating so many of their natural behaviors and culture, in bathtubs for God's sake!, is okay??

For what, greed and profit....

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 19 months ago from New York Author

Thanks for another useless comment Erik.

Erik 19 months ago

Anyone who rationalizes keeping orcas in what amounts to a fish bowl is off their rocker.

It appears somebody forgot they're an "animal" too..

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 20 months ago from New York Author

If that is so true, why are you wasting your time whining about this blog continuing to exist? I didn't realize that I was supposed to remove my opinion just because it's unpopular or was posted for over a year. I will continue to support my opinions despite the massive amount of bullying attempts your ilk has made. You probably would have gotten mad if I just deleted your comment, which I probably should have. I compare modes of death, animal or otherwise. I can't figure out why anyone other than a simpleton couldn't see why. Especially when it was essentially argued to me that the criteria of which deaths should or should not occur is based on whether or not it 'sounds sane' to someone's ears.

Dennis Hastings profile image

Dennis Hastings 20 months ago from Olympia, Washington

It looks like you are going to lose this fight. Comparing the deaths at SeaWorld to roller coasters and tipped over vending machines is rather silly, since they aren't animals. Regardless, attendance at SeaWorld is down. Keeping huge animals in a fish tank is going to become less and less lucrative over time. What's surprising is how adamantly you are defending this practice. This blog topic has gone on for years now. I'm not totally against keeping animals in captivity as long as they can roam free in a decent space, but the era of Orca captivity is coming to an end.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 20 months ago from New York Author

"A person has died. An amusement park worker died from a whale attack. Does that sound remotely sane to you?

Uh YES IT ACTUALLY DOES. People also die on roller coasters, because they tipped over vending machines at the snack bar, or even because someone's dog escaped from a fenced-in yard and mauled them. Are you trying to argue your point by pointing out its 'weird' that someone died due to an attack by a dangerous animal that they've been hired to work with? That makes no sense whatsoever.

"And Andrew from above was mocking you and your article. FYI"

WOW I DIDN'T KNOW THAT! Thanks for telling me!

tritri 20 months ago

I've never been to sea world. I was never a fan of animal captivity.

I completely disagree with "This film doesn’t leave much room for free-thought". This isn’t north Korean propaganda, the whole point of this documentary was for people to think.

Also, OF COURSE there are animal attacks in the wild. It’s called the wild for a reason. You’re basically leaving civilization of the human world into the animal’s home. I live in Texas where there’s a gun in everyone’s home. With that said what would you do if someone decided one day to go exploring on your property?

There are about a million of other ways to make a multi billion dollar company, just ask the Kardashians. None of those millions of options include trying to capture, train, and domesticate an animal that weighs over 10,000 lbs.

A person has died. An amusement park worker died from a whale attack. Does that sound remotely sane to you? Someone’s daughter, sister, mother, wife died. Do you think she would have died if the orca whale was where it belonged?

Again, people are at risk of dying all the time (as you have pointed out) but a car crash is slightly different from being drowned by a killer whale in a pool of salt water for hundreds of people to see. Or do you feel like it's the same thing?

The movie for me just made me stick to my original gut feeling that animal captivity is wrong.

And Andrew from above was mocking you and your article. FYI

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 20 months ago from New York Author

Katara (is that your real name or Sokka's sister?), the research I cited was about killer whales. You'll have to make your argument with the scientists that did the study.

Katara 20 months ago

All I want to point out in this comment is that by bringing tourism boats into the wild, it is not disturbing the dolphins and orcas any more than regular boats, which we have plenty of. Dolphins use every chance they can get to ride in the wake of the boat, and it's certainly more humane than keeping them in captivity. I'm thirteen at the moment, having gone on a cruise when I was twelve, and our boat was nearly a mile away from the dolphin pod where we waited. The dolphins chose (emphasis) to come up and see us, hundreds and thousands of them, and seemed truly happy. I've read about how dolphin pods include not only close families, but distant relatives, cousins, and grandparents. This makes me wish I was a dolphin; I could be with all of my extended family whenever I wished! No, tourism boats don't disturb them, they simply give them an opportunity for fun, and, most importantly, giving them the choice to have it, not being forced to.

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Melissa A Smith 22 months ago from New York Author

Andrew-- Keep thinking that way and you'll drown in your ignorance.

Andrew 22 months ago

You're right! This documentary is wrong. I think captivity is a great thing now. Let's torture all the orca's... hell, let's torture ALL the animals for some profit.

Yeah, it romanticized orca;s, which means it's totally okay to keep them in captivity.

Dogs attack their masters. Let's keep orca's in captivity!

Oh my god, you are so right. The fact this documentary made me think differently about keeping wild animals in captivity was such a bad thing. Let's try to dispel the good work this doc has done!! In fact, let's just kill EVERYTHING!!!!!

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Melissa A Smith 22 months ago from New York Author

Chris- I don't work with animals professionally. I'm thinking about taking vet tech courses but that's it.

"its wise to derive a conclusion from evidence, not the other way round."

It should be noted that in your responses you've stated no evidence or facts, and you crippled your argument with emotionally subjective phrases such as: " I believe that there are countless animals that are incredibly fascinating and outshine the human race in many aspects."

I've actually looked into the facts regarding the animals I'm sure you're thinking of. Elephants, chimps, corvids, cetaceans, honey badgers, prairie name it. All the animals that are being held in higher regard for possessing 'theory of mind', fancy communicative techniques, or self-awareness. The only reason you find any animal to 'outshine humans' is because you elevate their abilities, ironically, due to a human sense of superiority. Allow me to explain. Many people associate traits such as ethical altruism to humans, so when they view it occurring in an animal, they often make hysterical phrases such as "we humans need to learn from them", failing to see the irony that this rare occurrence in an animal is being commended because it reminds us of ourselves. Humans more often abide by our defined cultural morality, yet we like to only notice when we don't, and when an animal does, we give them all the credit because we are self-hating and feel we are superior at the same time. I've written about this strange phenomenon before.

It is likely that you are harboring some misconceptions about animals and their abilities from scientists that fall victim to the mentality I've described and, not unlike the pseudo-scientists that tout homeopathy and acupuncture, editorialize the results of valid scientific research to push agendas like the 'non-human rights movement'. There are many parallels with animals and humans but no animal possesses the sophisticated mind to have an artificial, limitless meaning language. None. This might sound impossible because the associated movements have enjoyed obscuring or flat out lying about this fact. Therefore, I do not view any cetacean as much different from a dog, that of which are highly complex in their own right.

Since you've spoken about the enlightenment and understanding of the autonomous nature of the individual, let me dispel some of the dogmatic myths about dogs (no pun intended).

-Dogs have not adapted to live in a modern human's household. We like to fantasize that dogs are genetically designed for co-habitation with us, but this concept only goes so far. Dogs simply -tolerate- aspects of modern living like being left home alone for hours, just like any of my exotic pets tolerate the unnatural elements of their lives. When we domesticated dogs for various purposes, we simply modified (removed or enhanced) their traits that were already there. Being alone was never there. In fact, their sociability increased. Dogs are neotenic, meaning we've selected for juvenile traits. They naturally mesh with humans because they are wolf puppies. If you've ever watched anyone playing with a baby of nearly any warm blooded species, you will see that they accept human care quite readily. So again, this illusion of domestication and dogs being 'for us' is actually just us playing around with preexisting traits.

-It doesn't take thousands of years to domesticate animals. As the Russian fox experiment showed us, we can express 'neotenic' traits but that doesn't mean the foxes become human toys. They are actually still foxes, subject to nearly all the elements of care that a non-domesticated fox would receive. This only becomes easier since a domesticated fox is more willing to work with a human (ex. satisfying enrichment needs with leash walking).

- Dogs have been bred in some ways that I find inherently cruel. Domestication is not some infallible process that turns wolves into human toys. We've produced, and failed to question, producing extremely popular pugs and bulldogs that suffer a poorer quality of life physically. The reason for this is the failed idea that domestication causes animals to be "engrained into its nature and the animal is fully adapted". Make no mistake that this element of domestication causes suffering.

"You can't hold the capturing of a naive (used in the zoological sense) orca comparable"

I won't make the argument that bettering the animals' lives applies to orcas, they clearly have problems in captivity right now. On the grounds of an animal being naive, I say every animal we keep, including those which are domesticated, are naive, permanently. If my bird flies away the result will be pretty tragic. My bird certainly does not have the awareness or decision-making ability to choose what he wants. He cannot weight the positives and benefits and realize that leaving my house would cause him to suffer and die, a lot like a very young child. Animals are actually very similar to young children. Human infants also have no language and until 6 months, do not possess self-awareness. Some of the most impressive animal studies have put animal's cognitive traits up there with our toddlers, but toddlers still have language. Even at this extremely early point in human life we have a rich awareness while 20 year old dolphins can't keep up. This is why they're animals. This is why we (should) consider them not 'persons' or 'slaves' in captivity. I reject the idea of comparing their treatment with humans.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 22 months ago from New York Author

@ 'The Truth'

Your old comment fell into a spam filter as did many others, I didn't find out until now.

Chris 22 months ago

Hi Melissa,

I take you are a trainer? or at least work with animals?

Without meaning to sound rude, I think in an ethical debate such as this, its wise to derive a conclusion from evidence, not the other way round.

I think that the concept of disregarding an life form's entitlement to its own free will due to it being not akin to humans is surely narrow minded. A great progression in political philosophy was 'the enlightenment' and the understanding of the autonomous nature of the individual. It's why we have technology and aren't farming barley for a land baron right now. I think that people need to learn to apply this concept to the treatment of animals.

I am Utilitarian in the respect that if animals need to be sacrificed in order to keep humans fed/safe that is something that just happens, and that is the way of the world, be it macabre. But you say that you take an animal to the vet against its will is good (which it is) but then you put that on par with holding an animal in captivity, and you make the claim that many animals have better lives in captivity. I think its important to understand in this instance that government against the interest of something (whether it be a nation, individual or an animal) but for what you think is better, is a dangerous route. In some respects it's dangerous to hold that mindset. It's the 'you don't what's good for you' complex. You can't hold the capturing of a naive (used in the zoological sense) orca comparable to the natural slow process for example that makes a dog domesticated. One is engrained into its nature and the animal is fully adapted over thousands of years of domestication due to a mutually beneficial relationship of give and take (from the hunter gatherer times) and the other is an entirely parasitic nature in which only one party benefits.

John Stuart Mill talking about liberty and the shift of power to the individual 'What was now wanted was, that the rulers should be identified with the people; that their interest and will should be the interest and will of the nation. The nation did not need to be protected against its own will.'

How can you claim to protect something against its own will when its own will, will bring it to no harm? The animal has no necessity to be in captivity, and people claim these animals were born in captivity, but thats not the solution or the answer to the problem, thats the root.

Also, I would like to pick you up on the use of the word akin, meaning of similar character. I believe that there are countless animals that are incredibly fascinating and outshine the human race in many aspects. Many show that they are infact akin to humans, its like saying you can do what you like to whatever isn't human because its basically not as superior as our race. If you think about it that is the same mentality of superiority that has caused many horrible and desolate times for our race, in nearly every culture.

As I said before I take it you work with animals, I am interested to know in what profession. If you don't mind me asking

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Melissa A Smith 22 months ago from New York Author

I can't help but make it sound defensive.

"do you believe its your liberty to hold something against it's will?"

Yes, as long as that 'thing' isn't a human, since there is no extant animal that is akin to humans. I do many things to my animals against their will, including taking them to the vet. We do this knowing that animals do not understand the benefits. That can apply to captivity too.

Chris 22 months ago

Well put!

I see your point entirely. I was just wanting to get a better insight into how you see it. I don't necessarily agree, but I see it.

One other thing, you say that it would be an obstruction of your freedom to remove you from your animals, but you are holding them in captivity (and although you have discussed the economic and survival benefits of doing so) do you believe its your liberty to hold something against it's will?

Can I just really stress, this isn't an attack, I felt your reply was somewhat defensive. Don't feel criticised, it just interests me what people think about this sort of thing.

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Melissa A Smith 22 months ago from New York Author

"Do you think it's wise, or ethically sound to deny a creature of sentience and great intelligence a natural freedom?"

Hi Chris, I don't hold the opinion that cetaceans hold a much higher 'sentience' or 'intelligence' than domesticated dogs and I, and I'm sure you as well, highly approve of denying them their natural freedom. In my view there is no such thing as a 'wild animal' in the sense that people talk about. All animals are equal. Even animals that have been bred to be pets are not 'truly' pets. They all enjoy freedom but they can also enjoy captivity conducted in a sensible manner. In many cases captivity can be superior. This probably isn't the case for all of the orcas but it can be improved. I think this is all wise and ethically sound. SeaWorld is a money-making entity that has saved far more animals than killer whales it has unintentionally caused to die prematurely. We can take that as a learning experience to improve the lives of other captive animals and those needing rehabilitation. The benefits also include employment of people who want to work with animals and encouraging an interest in the natural world overall.

"but I find that 99% of the problems on this earth come down to people obstructive others' freedom with their own freedom."

Nature is rife with death and suffering. That's how it works. Natural selection begins with the mass slaughter of animal babies that are either 'unfit' or unlucky to provide a selective pressure for the healthiest individuals to reproduce. This also applies to wild killer whales, as despite having virtually no predators or recorded infanticide among pod members, infant mortality may be as high as 50%. Humans are the only animals to remove themselves from this system and we can attempt to provide animals with it too. As for liberty, you would be removing mine if you try and separate me from my animals. You wouldn't be doing them much of a favor either.

Chris 22 months ago

Hi Melissa,

It's common for people to see a documentary and flock in their herds to fight and die for a cause they heard about 10 minutes ago. So I'll try not to follow that. I guess its just human nature.

I personally saw the Blackfish documentary and felt very moved by it, however at first it appears to glorify being a trainer. My eyes lit up when I saw the relationships these people had with orcas. I even thought that it could be something I could do. However, later on the documentary revealed all sorts (whether it be lies or truth).

Whether or not any of it is lies or truth is not central to what I want to say, and don't take this as an attack, merely a subject of debate.

Do you think it's wise, or ethically sound to deny a creature of sentience and great intelligence a natural freedom?

The way I see it is that we are flying around a ball of fire, on a giant rock flying through space (To put it simply). Can we not just leave it out? I mean sure there is a business/industry behind it, but I find that 99% of the problems on this earth come down to people obstructive others' freedom with their own freedom. And before the universe can take a blink, all life on earth will be dead, gone and all in vein. So why not just try not to keep our liberty and leave others' liberty alone?

I hope you don't see this as an attack. I'm trying to keep my bias in my pocket because I am interested in hearing the response to the question i asked you in the middle of the comment.

Thank for your time

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Melissa A Smith 23 months ago from New York Author

Thank you Taylor, I'm glad that I could help with your work. If you didn't know, I have a more recent article about these issues here:

Taylor T 23 months ago

Melissa, you have challenged my views on the subject of Orca captivity, and I greatly appreciate that. I'm writing an argumentative research paper for my English course and my point of view was going to argue why they shouldn't be in captivity, however we still have to describe the other side of the argument, and now I have some very intriguing information to use. So, thank you! I definitely see how valid the point of captivity being able to improve and nature not being able to do so. While watching the documentary, I was thinking about the whales who're captive born and how they would most likely, if not indefinitely, die if released in the ocean. Perhaps Sea World and other marine parks should take action to reunite all the family members in one place, so they aren't so socially disturbed. Improving the care for orcas and all the other marine mammals in parks like SW would be a step in the right direction. I also wonder if the orca "treadmill" could possibly prevent dorsal collapse in captive born male orcas. Or even reverse it in elder males such as Tilikum.

jlh88 23 months ago

I have some correction on Luna's story. There's a documentary on him called "The Whale" on Netflix.

The residents of Nootka Sound wanted him reunited with his pod and the documentary portrayed the idea many of them did not like the idea of the government putting him in captivity, which was the proposed plan B. When a capture was organized, apparently at the last minute, officials behaved in a way that suggested they were going to ship the whale immediately off to a park. Pretty much every person interviewed in the documentary were happy the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations kept Luna out of the the netted sea pen he was being coaxed into.

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Melissa A Smith 23 months ago from New York Author

Good for you Nicholas! Most people find it impossible to separate their emotion from critical thinking. I've deleted many comments that were ridiculous and there are still plenty left.

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Nicholas Pollock 23 months ago from Columbus, Ohio

Aside from your title (which has been mentioned already), I think this is a well written and thoughtful piece that attempts to cut through the hysteria present multiple angles. I am still on the fence about captive orcas. I am an emotional person, so I was affected quite a bit my the imagery in the film, but I am self-aware enough to know that these tactics can be used to manipulate viewers. In the end, I go back to a maxim I live by: the truth lies in the middle. I automatically give more credence to any opinion that doesn't claim to have all the answers.

Reading the comments on this piece does bring up a larger question: why have people become so radicalized in this country? Extremism has infected every level of our society, especially politics. Everything has to be right or wrong, black or white. Why is not possible that Sea World does some things right and some things wrong? Attacking anything as all wrong leads to defensiveness and has no hope of effecting positive change. It is why nothing ever gets done in this country.

Dave 2 years ago

You sound like you want to justify going to Seaworld still. Do you feel good?

Breck123 2 years ago

@ Eli- Did you read the article? Most of the orcas in captivity are BRED IN CAPTIVITY! The ones that were collected from the wild where collected in the 70s! They no longer do this!

Eli 2 years ago

Unfortunately a long and boring article that might confuse people who are searching for information on the inadequate and cruel ways animals are kept in parks as Sea World, Discovery Cove or Seaquarium.

I agree with some comments above that mention about the title being "supportive" to keep wild animals in captivity and the fact that you wrote at least twice as much as you needed to say what you wanted...

It's a shame that someone that seems well informed still has such ignorant point.

Do you know that orcas at SeaWorld spend most of their time floating at the surface of water, while in the wild they spend up to 95 percent of their time submerged in the depths of the ocean?

Do you know that lots of the orcas were taken away from their habitat and and confined to a small concrete tank? They say that all animals either were born there or taken away because they were sick or injured, and that's a LIE!

This article supports cruelty & you should be ashamed of it.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Kaleb.

Kaleb 2 years ago

People are so gullible sometimes. It takes one indecent for people to go up in arms about something so stupid... I don't know if it is me being heartless or everyone else being emotional, or both, but the people who bash your article don't see value in keeping animals. The only reason we can treat cancer like we can is because we keep rats. The only reason medical breakthroughs come out like they do is because we experiment on animals. For god sakes, we keep monkeys and put them in some pretty crappy conditions to learn about the brain.

Hollywood really must control the world, because one movie can make people go nuts.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I saw the film MONTHS ago, as I've stated in this review. READ JD.

JD 2 years ago

Why exactly don't you just remove this stupid page? You said you'll only start caring when the incidents become more frequent? What kind of sane person says this? Also, as was mentioned before, you're completely missing the main point of the film. You also can't review a film before seeing it. Basic order of operations.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Dan Lewis-- I have heard of dogs attacking their owners, so case closed.


It's a dumb statement anyway, because no one owns these killer whales. They interact with many trainers and I doubt any one person is perceived as the 'pack leader'. What 'archives' are you checking? An attack doesn't always result in a fatality, so if you were checking those lists you might have failed to realize that people are often attacked but survive. Of course, fatal attacks are more commonly not the dog's owner, which is why I frequently state how stupid it is to attack exotic pet owners when most of the fatalities involving them ARE the owners.

The director did not say it was rare, she said we don't seem to hear about it. Well I seem to hear about such things, whatever that means. She's just ignorant to a lot of things involving animals. Killer whales are not dogs. They do not have that type of hierarchy with humans.

"Sometimes people are wrong about things. Even you."

Not this time, try again.

"Starving animals to train them to do unnatural things is a bad idea, especially if the animal is an orca."

Then you lied about agreeing with me, nice.

Dan Lewis 2 years ago

I essentially agree with you, but it appears that your desire to be absolutely right in ALL things has caught you up, badly.

You mentioned the director of the film talking about how we rarely if ever hear of dogs attacking their owners.

That's the truth, dude. Scan the news archives.

We rarely hear of such events. Deal with it, please.

If you won't recognize the truth, why should we?

Sometimes people are wrong about things. Even you.

Starving animals to train them to do unnatural things is a bad idea, especially if the animal is an orca.

2 years ago

The only reason any wild animal should be held in captivity is for conservation or science. This is clearly not the case with orcas and dolphins. They should not be in such places for a source of our own amusement and it is not surprising incident like this happen - they will always be wild after all.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

belleart-- You are baffled because you don't understand that EXPLOITATION does not always mean an animal is being harmed. When dogs are being owned and walked on leashes they are exploited. A cat having its kittens removed and adopted out is exploitation. Do you care to argue against this? Tigers can and HAVE been successfully kept as pets, period. It's not a politically correct thing to say but it is the truth. There are some people that thing tigers are more 'magnificent' and 'majestic' than a regular cat so they can't be a pet. In the real world a tiger is just a giant cat and the same rules apply: Food, water, shelter, exercise, mental stimulation. Sometimes pet cats don't receive that last one!

belleart profile image

belleart 2 years ago from Ireland

I am absolutely baffled by you. I started reading this and thought you had some great points, albeit portrayed in a somewhat wrong way. after reading some of the comments though I went to check out some of your own hubs, like you suggested in the comments above. All I've seen is hypocrisy. You have hubs on ho to help animals and ones on how to exploit them: How to have a tiger as a pet? Your fighting the wrong battle if your not going to pick a side.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Andrew W. You're the first person to actually COMPLIMENT me on responding to the comments.

Andrew W. 2 years ago

Great article, great responses to responses, and did not leave a response unanswered. Also justified all your opinions. Well done

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Rosana, that's been covered:

Killer whales can't be domesticated, I don't care if it's a 500th generation. Certain traits predispose animals to human use, yet not even they have been shown to never attack humans. Even cats have attacked humans. It's silly for anyone to believe that any large animal is 100% safe.

Rosana 2 years ago

Hi Melissa,

I just wanted to answer your question from the evolutionary biologist perspective.

"Are domesticated animals really that different from exotic (maybe you meant wild?) animals?"

The answer is yes. Dogs have been domesticated for at least 15,000 years now. The first domestications were from wolves that showed to be docile and obedient . They were used to hunt for food and protection. Since then we have been domesticating dogs for all purposes, and especially for recreation. Even though dog breeding was and continues to be "necessary" little we know about linked genetic traits. As you might have heard many fancy dog breeds come along with terrible genetic diseases, this is simply an indication that we don't know enough about dog genetic pathways and evolution of their genes. Now transfer this to killer whales, has the killer whale genome sequenced? No, do we know which traits are linked with "eager to please"? No, are we inbreeding this animals and causing genetic diseases? Very likely, just like we have done with dogs. Therefore, from the genetic stand point breeding animals when we don't know anything about their genetic material is wrong, exactly the same as creating dog breeds that look pretty. And last but not least, would you trust a fourth or fith generation of a domesticated wolf? I certaintly wouldn't, why would you then trust a fourth generation domesticated killer whale?

Greg 2 years ago

It's interesting to me that many pro captivity observers insist on the agenda of Blackfish being to shut Seaworld down, whereas Cowperthwaite herself has clearly stated many times over that this is not the case. What they would like to see is an end to the practises of Seaworld as demonstrated in the film, much of which remain unadressed by Seaworld in it's supposed rebuttals, such as:

- The intensive and frankly incestuous artificial breeding which they persist with, milking animals like Tilikum for sperm to impregnate females often directly related to him.

- Seaworld's general insistence on putting the sacred dollar above all other considerations, including the safety of employees.

- Seaworld's so called 'educational qualities' which include misinformation about the lifespan habits and even physical condition of the animals ('oh yes, dorsal fin collapse is very common', 'oh, they tend to live much longer in captivity')

- Seaworld's refusal to deal honestly with the public about the dangers their trainers regularly face, covering up any incident of violence by the animals against the trainers unless absolutely forced to reveal it, and putting the most positive and transparent spin on it when they so.

Most of all, it would be nice to see Seaworld enter an actual dialogue with the anti-captivity movement, rather than just attempting to smear and discredit them with half-assed attempts at rebuttals and general character assassination and misinformation. For a company which claims to care passionately about the animals in its care and the people who work with them, they seem awfully quick to dismiss former employees - even recent ones - who don't toe the company line.

Warhead77777 2 years ago

I've read that you are considered speaking from bias, but I realize that you speak because you have beliefs. Why would anyone post this much information if they didn't believe in it? Since you believe so strongly, you are of course a bit bias.

It effects what information you show us, but not the form you show it in. Anyone who has a cause or an idea is bias in this way, you just are very clear about it and work around it to make your points clear.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Josh Q, thanks for telling me my link doesn't work. Here is another one:

You are against animals in captivity but I and many others aren't. Capitalizing the word wrong is not an argument.

Joshua Q 2 years ago

People have been studying them for 30+ years? Thats kind of a long time in my opinion.

They said there has been no reported (intentional) attack by an orca, they did not say it is not possible. It sounds like you're saying it can not ever happen ever according to the film. It is a comparison. I would not look so deeply into it. People have swam with orcas in the wild, and from what I have seen they avoid us for the most part. In bathtub, they can't avoid us. They also cannot do much socialization there either.

There are different "cultures" as you stated, and they speak different languages, just like us. Putting multiple orcas together is like putting 2 people in a pin who do not speak the same language.

Luna is not the only orca to be friendly to humans. I have seen other videos of orcas doing exactly as Luna had. At least I am pretty certain the video was taken after Luna died (sadface).

Have a link to the whale pulling the snorkler under? The one here did not work. Was this a captive whale? I thought I read or watched a video on it. It was domesticated, or captive, so I am wondering if it is the same whale.

I don't know why everyone wants to argue about Blackfish or prove something. Regardless of lies and deceit or w.e the claim is, the message is there for the taking. THIS IS WRONG, to use an animal for profit is wrong, to take an animal from something as vast as the ocean and throw them in a swimming pool is wrong. There is no need to dismiss ANYTHING in Blackfish in my opinion. I have read a few articles of people trying to discredit Blackfish and the director/producer, but honestly I don't care. I see images that are disturbing and I see a beautiful animal suffering. I care about the animal, not the movie or the lies or deceit or w.e. Only the animal(s)

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Greg. I was trying to demonstrate my perspective having not been new to his subject, and why it might seem so shocking to a newbie. Yet I'm also far from an expert, and have been following these matters for about 3 years. I will look it over again eventually.

Greg 2 years ago

I saw the trailer for this film last year and hated it - it was too slick, too sensationalist and altogether left a very bitter taste in the mouth. I then read SeaWorld's rebuttal of teh film which on its own seemed to talk a lot of sense, though still had some 'weasel' stuff in it like 'This film uses footage of an Orca capture 40 years ago and implies we were part of it, Seaworld has not engaged in these practices for 35 years'

When it was broadcast here on BBC4 last night, I thought I would watch it in the name of fairness, and I have to say that the film I saw was very different from the one which the trailer advertised. Yes, it was still a little too manufactured in places - the completely unrelated audio and video used in the introduction being one prime example - but overall it was far less sensationalised than I had expected. I was particularly struck by how much respect was shown by the film towards Dawn Brancheau, considering the trailer suggested a film that would basically capitalise on her death as an emotional bludgeon to smack Seaworld with and nothing more.

I need to do more homework for myself, and I do see that it's a film which has flaws (but then what documentary film doesn't since Michael Moore lowered that particular bar so very much) but overall I agreed with the broad message (captivity of killer whales and the way in which it is conducted is bad, the shadier practices of Seaworld directed at keeping profits high and minimising bad publicity even more so).

If I can offer one piece of feedback on your article, as well reasoned and intelligently written as it is, to someone like me who isn't an expert on Orcas or their attacks on humans etc, I find the tone in places a little condescending. Repeatedly reminding the average reader such as myself that 'it isn't shocking to someone like you who has seen hours of this footage and read all the books etc etc. has a certain alienating effect, which I am certain from the rest of the article and the tone of your responses was not intended on your part.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for your objectivity Andrew. At the time that I wrote this I didn't know what happened with that bloodied man, so I wonder why the filmmakers felt such an urge to use that clip, when I'm sure they had many of hours of footage to choose from that they didn't need to mislead with. It think it shows the desperation of the filmmakers to provide shocking content. The captivity message stands pretty well on its on without those attempts.

Andrew H 2 years ago

I just want to say that I really appreciate your efforts at making a nuanced and reasoned post. I watched the movie and found it persuasive and decided to do some research afterwards. My inclination is to be against keeping animals in captivity, so my bias here would be to believe the film.

And so it pains me even more to say that I think this film cares about the truth very little. They show a man with a bloody face, strongly suggesting a whale did that, when a whale had nothing to do with it. They show a select set of trainers who are portrayed very misleadingly in terms of their actual experience working with orcas (one worked at Sea World for just three years from 1990-93; another never with orcas).

The list continues. I'm not saying SeaWorld is all great. I hate the idea of the initial capture and would never dream of going there. But these filmmakers aren't any better. We don't do ourselves any favors as people crusading for action on climate change or gun control or whatever if we distort the truth. We need that credibility.

Breck123 2 years ago

@jjevergreen: if you're going to comment,try not to troll.

jjevergreen 2 years ago

You are a sick individual you should go die in a hole!!!!!!! Haha jk I loved your article and think you are funny when being sarcastic. Read about 50% of this before died from the light of the computer screen.

Amy 2 years ago

No one cared about orcas 4 years ago...... You people run with whatever fad social media tells you too. Marine land this and sea world that. Blackfish is just a new version of PETA... Which I think we should cut down at the knees..... Mob mentality.... Just because they're cute and adorable everyone wants to save them.....find lives people, if you find these places morally wrong don't go.... That simple..... Don't go

Priscilla 2 years ago

I don't give a damn if some think that Black fish is just propaganda and "Unoriginal". In the end the truth and the point is Whales do not belong in tanks. They can not live in that kind of environment, but barely survive. You do not need a movie to tell you that.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Oh yes I can. "Melissa I want to put you in a cage and see how you like it!!!" blah blah, I've deleted loads of them. I should have done the same with yours.

Multee 2 years ago

Oh, please. You cannot judge me due to my comment, I can however judge you due to your opinion on a perfectly supporting film of animal rights. It may be misleading, but that doesn't mean that marine animals don't deserve better than to live in a damn pool for the rest of their existence. Think about the message, not the structure of the film.

Don't lie to yourself and face away from the suffering of others.

Animal abusers are usually the ones to also abuse other humans.

I hope you're not one.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Multee, I think you're only the 20th person to say that to me! Originality is not your forte.

Multee 2 years ago

Melissa I would love to take you away from your family and friends, keep you in a 600 sqft room for the rest of your life, without socialization, exercise, sometimes food. Forcefully bring you out occasionally to dance for people that paid me to see you. Leave you in the darkness while you don't perform, without anything to do for the rest of your existence.

People like you who even have the nerve to question an animal's right to his life, should be treated the same way, should be forced to feel the same way to get it in your heads, you would remember it for the rest of your life and I guarantee it.

All these "educational" answers lead to no better conclusion, you all think you're being smart trying to justify with kindness, but unfortunately people like you Melissa just can't get the point when talked in with kindness.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Andrew, thanks. I've seen that. He should really disable rating...

Andrew 2 years ago

Hey Melissa,

Just wanted to say this article was a pleasure to read and I agree. Also here is an interesting video of a former SeaWorld Trainer in 2013.

Maya 2 years ago

No amimal should be captive and be forced to perform or taken away from their families. Just let them be.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I have toe agree Anon, it shocks me that the doc utilized such fabrications when they didn't even have to. There's plenty of truth to support their position in my opinion, so that is pathetic.

Anon 2 years ago

Sorry Melissa, I posted this on the wrong post, I meant to post it here. Sorry again for that.

Can't agree with a film like Blackfish at all after the information I found out. During the film "ex-trainer" Samantha Berg talks about how "awesome" it felt to train with the animals. While she says this a montage of clips of her playing with seals, doing announcing work shows, along with a clip of a young woman(supposedly Berg) riding a Orca for the first time. During that clip she recalls the first time she got on the whale, saying it was the most "breath-taking" experience she ever felt. In fact it wasn't Berg at all..... She never interacted with the whales before, besides doing announcing work. Then you have several of the people interviewed coming forward saying how parts of their interview was cut and only the negative and critiques was used to add shock value to the film. While I don't agree with Seaworld at all, I don't think the film Blackfish should be getting this much hype and buzz, when there are better documentaries on the same topic out there.

Patrick 2 years ago


I watched the film yesterday. I was quite clear from the beginning how misleading the film was going to be. People educated in the subject should be able to see this. Unfortunately most people don't have a clue about anything let alone marine mammal behavior, or even basic marine biology for that matter. Sure the filmmakers ultimate goal is to end orca captivity, but their deceitful approach is frustrating. You can't ignore all the benefits to marine mammal welfare that Sea World and other institutions, non-profit or not, have paved the way for.

I am glad to see that there are informed objections out there. Your article is well written and it's nice to see people speaking out against the deception of this film. I don't have the time to read through all the responses so if what I have said has been posted already I won't be offended if you delete it. Keep up the good work.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I saw the movie too, thought it was stupid. You apparently have enough time to comment on the article of the unconvinced. Reason for this is unclear. Seems like person thinking they have an original thought, didn't read other comments. Don't understand difference between disagreeing and denial. Reason unclear. Make no sense.

Itsme 2 years ago

Just have seen the movie. Solid documentary, nothing stupid about it. The author has way too much time to make this rant about a documentary. Real motivation remains unclear. Seems like a young person not accepting criticisms at all, needs to grow up. Only a small percentage of bloggers are actually on her side, but she is either trying to pull out the 'let-me-tell-you-you-are-wrong-and-I-am-always-right, blogger' card or she is really not realizing that people fully disagree with her opinions for all the right reasons. The persistent denial against criticism must be also the reason why so many bloggers are upset with her and why so many actually comment here (even me)....but, let's give her credit to express her opinion for an open discussion. This is only fair, but it is unfortunately the only positive argument I can offer. The title is anyway only provocative to lure people in. I know, you are not convincable, Melissa, ;-) so I do not even start arguing. Rather flee this blog and try to promote shutting down SeaWorld and any other sites with animals held in captivity. Period, even every child can be convinced by just sane arguments that this is the right way to do. Happy ending!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

**NOTE** I'm deleting comments way more often than usual because I'm tired of seeing the same thing over and over again.

Marie 2 years ago

After reading your articles and responses, I still seem to be a little confused on where you stand. My question is how is Seaworld helping their captive whales? In any way? After reading an article about how Seaworld responds to Blackfish with lies, the facts Seaworld tries to spread are mostly untrue. Captivity might help certain species, but I don't see how it helps whales when they don't even live their full life span in captivity not to mention the hybrid/inbreeding process that Seaworld apparently calls "ground breaking success," I don't agree or disagree with you I wish to know how they can improve the lives of captive whales when they are already treated so poorly. But I do disagree when you said nature won't improve how come animals adapt and change to new situations or environments all the time. Maybe nature won't improve but the animals sure do, they evolve and change, but I heard whales are more intelligent than humans anyway. People mostly don't need to drive cars yes but however in certain areas with certain jobs we could never make it on time for a lot of things, such as work. Or emergencies, well need such modes or transportation when critical things happen or a lot would die unable to reach hospitals or other medical help

Sarah 2 years ago

I was having a debate with a friend regarding this topic, and wanted to do some research and came across your article, which I found interesting. I have found that a lot of captures of these animals were conducted in the 1960's - 1970's, when people thought smoking while pregnant was ok and just added a stick of butter to anything. Now, the "problem" is that many of these animals are born into captivity to parents that would not survive the open seas. I've learned that they released one Orca into the wild after captivity named Keiko (who was Free Willy, btw), who failed to reintegrate into the wild. So what do you all of you people want SeaWorld and other organizations to do with these animals held captive? If they are released into the wild, they will undoubtably die; sure, some may live, but a majority of them will not. I want to know, what does PETA, or all of you Orca lovers think the solution for this matter is? ALSO, I hope that each and every one of you is environmentally friendly in everything you do in life, as the environment of pollution is killing Orcas, in the wild.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

nk, the 'psychosis' being referred to is general distress that occurs with mammals when their environment is not suitable for their mental well-being, and I don't think any genetics will stop an organism from having forms of 'psychosis' in that situation. In other words, no disposition is required.

nk 2 years ago

"Not only was that statement stupid, but it contradicts the main message of the film that I spent time trying to refute in my original review—that a killer whale killing is a surefire indication of so-called psychosis (defined as abnormal behavior), and isn’t inevitable unpredictability of a wild animal. While I’m no expert in genetics, genes do not code for so-called captivity-induced ‘madness’."

Just going to comment because your science off. Captivity- induced psychosis is entirely plausible genetically (not necessarily the case as Blackfish tries to argue). Psychosis is super heavily genetic-based, and having certain alleles of a gene can give you a predisposition for psychosis. Having the sociocultural factor (an abusive or stressful upbringing - captivity) could easily trigger psychosis in an individual with a disposition. The same stands for any non-human animal, as any biologist could tell you.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"not a very intelligent of evolved lower life form are you Mel?"

Can you write that in English?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Jesse I think it's disrespectful that animal rights activists pretend to care about the trainers' deaths and use it for shock value when their only focus is freeing animals from captivity.

Jesse Lake 2 years ago

I agree that the title of an article is the most important part of an article just like a title of a book along with what's presented on the cover is often far more important than anything else. I found the title of this article offensive but I suppose it does it's job because I stopped to skim through it. I'm not really sure of what the point of view of this article is to be honest. From the bits and peices that I read it seemed to miss the whole idea of what the documentary was about. People have lost their lives and I think calling a documentary that exploits that stupid is quite offensive and slightly disrespectful. And very distasteful if I may add. I admire your ability for taking a different stand and demonstrating a completely differny point of view. I just can't agree with it. Was the documentary one sided? Absolutely. So is most documentaries. But that doesn't make the subject less real and it doesn't make the events less true. My heart breaks for the whales and my heart breaks for the humans that grow to love them. The fact that lives have been lost is enough for me to sympathize with what the documentary is trying to say. And I just don't see any stupidity in that.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Zak, how many 'guys' do you know with the name Melissa? Or are you just trying to insult me because you can't find anything valid to say?

Zak 2 years ago

This review is awfully written. It's basically a guy bragging the whole time about how he knew this way before all of you, and you're all stupid for not knowing it.

The point of a documentary sir is to provide information for the masses, and the documentary stays short because documentaries that run to long tend to get boring an repetitive.

Also I think you're more misleading then the article. The problem with the wild "attacks" on people with whales (only one person has ever been bitten by a killer whale in the wild.

However the difference is ALL these situations are Orca's mistaking humans for food, and like I said only one person has EVER been bit, and no one has been killed in the wild by an Orca.

In Captivity these situations aren't noticeable. That's the problem. Dawn got eaten alive, and she was SeaWorld's best trainer. If Seaworld's bet trainer dies than who can successfully be around them without being hurt?

These attacks are constant. They've happened forever in captivity, and a lot of them involve strange behavior that have never been seen in the wild.

I think people don't like your article because you totally don't understand the point of a documentary. To educate the uneducated. This whole article you're just talking about how much smarter you are, and how you knew this way before.

Fucking hipster.

Anon 2 years ago

Good points.

I can't help but compare what I read about the Orcas being held captive to domesticated dogs. A LOT of people crate their dogs when they aren't home. This is acceptable, apparently. How is putting an animal in a small cage for a few hours, not cruel... yet having a whale in a tank, instead of the wild, IS cruel?

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To Start Again 2 years ago

I happened to see Blackfish when it aired on CNN recently. I'd never really looked into or heard much about the whole Orca/SeaWorld debates. Of course, I'd heard little things here and there over the years about them being in captivity wasn't right and SeaWorld wasn't the greatest place in the world but that kind of stuff is always present when large companies and/or animals are involved.

I had never seen any of the footage that was on the film and I was definitely shocked and appalled when I watched it and, while I held (and still hold) a twinge of disbelief about the 'facts' the film presented, it did make me think twice about supporting a corporation that may be treating these animals inhumanely. The film reminded me of a 'mocumentary' I watched on Animal Planet last year. It was about mermaids and was presented as a documentary with supposed experts from NOAA and film of the creatures. Of course it turned out to be a big fake but Blackfish reminded me too much of that film for me to not be at least a little skeptical.

I honestly am left with confusion-why these people continue to get in the water with these animals is mind boggling. It's like jumping into the tiger pen at the zoo. Sure, some tigers are wonderful in captivity and we see footage all the time of big dangerous cats turning into sweet hundred pound kittens with humans. But that doesn't mean every lion, tiger and puma is going to act like your house cat when you stick it in a cage. Just because you feed it and talk to it and love it, doesn't mean it sees you as anything more than a steak on legs.

As sad as it may be to many, there will always be zoos and aquariums and always be animals kept in captivity when they don't want to be. It's just our nature as humans. God put us over all animals and, boy, do we like to remind them of that sometimes! It is a sad fact. But I also know that there are some amazing people at some of these places doing extrordinary work with and for these animals, as well.

So, final verdict, the film made me sad. Really really sad. :(

Juan Garcia 2 years ago

I never heard of Blackfish until I saw that it was on Netflix. I read the description and could just tell it was going to be stupid and one-sided. Judging from your article I was right Lol. I'm not missing anything important if it is anything like The Elephant in the Living Room documentary.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

VerityEyre- If the last time you visited SeaWorld was in the 90's, it's not surprising that you haven't returned. The parks have greatly improved. While I respect your opinion, it may be a good idea to give SeaWorld another chance so that you can see for yourself whether you think it's a bad place or not.

VerityEyre 2 years ago from Sheffield

Your critique of Blackfish makes some interesting points and is certainly much much more substantial than the vapid pr spin that seaworld put out there. I watched the film but also did a lot of research. The main message I took from the film was that orcas are not suited to captivity. Nothing I have read since then has swayed me from this opinion and I believe it to apply to all cetaceans. I'm not comfortable with wild animals being controlled by humans generally and only really agree with captivity for conservation purposes. The last time I went to seaworld was San Diego in the late 90's and the state of the polar bears who had only a tiny enclosure and were exhibiting repetitive behaviours which I believe to be caused by going mad was actually the reason I never returned. I could list a ton of reasons why cetaceans shouldnt be in captivity and shouldnt be in circus style performances. Their intelligence is a key reason and also their natural wild roaming distances. But also I think that it sets an example which the eastern world is copying. If people didn't see seaworld making billions of dollars the Russians might not be capturing wild orcas and there may not be so many dolphinariums sprouting up in the rest of the world (many of which take their dolphins from the wild eg taiji). This isn't Seaworlds direct fault but they are setting a presedence that its ok. And it's not. I think the best thing about blackfish is that it has got a lot of people engaged in debate and it is contributing to forced change at seaworld as you describe. I hope in my lifetime captive breeding of cetaceans and circus style entertainment of all animals is phased out completely. Some countries such as the uk where I live have made good progress in this area with zero dolphinariums in existence since 1991 when the last one closed and a new law introducing a ban on wild animals in circuses. Hopefully the rest of the world will also move in this area. I Think seaworld has too much power, funding and lobbying politicians, and too much control over regulations/industry standards for marine parks and I hope to see change in this area. They try to discredit their critics rather than actually argue the points that are made against them with intelligent responses and this comes across that they actually don't have any answers. And if you even try and ask them a polite question about orca intelligence or captive breeding via social media they delete it. They don't want to be challenged, they aren't open to debate or change and as a result I feel they are alienating people further against them by labeling any critic as a "radical extremist" with an "agenda" which they imply is sinister. Caring about the welfare of animals is the only motive of opposers of seaworld. We have nothing to gain financially or personally by voicing our opinions and to be disregarded in such a way by seaworld or to be accused of being blindly led by a documentary as the latest pr from seaworld implies is insulting to my human intelligence and just makes me keep learning more and more and strengthening my views further.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

I just noticed that that article didn't say that she was teaming up with SeaWorld for conservation. Well, you can watch the video here: She is working with them on conservation. Here's the website for the new series:

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Sorry...I comment a LOT! :)

I have some thoughts I wanted to share, but first I'll give some background in case anyone hasn't heard this story yet. This is quoted from Australian website ninemsn:

"The 15-year-old Queenslander, sitting alongside mother Terri and brother Robert, announced during an appearance on the top-rating US morning TV program, Good Morning America, on Thursday that she is teaming up with SeaWorld. The controversial Blackfish documentary, which targeted SeaWorld, was not mentioned in the Irwins' GMA appearance. 'The Irwin family has been exploiting animals for years, so it comes as no surprise that Bindi has agreed to become SeaWorld's latest shill,' People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) senior vice president of communications Lisa Lange told AAP. 'But plastering her face on SeaWorld's website won't cover up the fact that orcas, dolphins, and other animals are suffering in SeaWorld's tiny tanks after being ripped from their families.' Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc has been pounded by bad press, protests and boycotts by performers including Willie Nelson and The Beach Boys the past year after the release of the award-winning Blackfish, which probed the treatment of killer whales at the company's theme parks. 'I'm so excited to be carrying on in Dad's footsteps and making sure that everything he worked so hard for continues for the generations to come,' Bindi, speaking of her father Steve 'The Crocodile Hunter' Irwin, who died in 2006 from a stingray barb, said. 'That's why I'm thrilled to be empowering kids.'

The announcement set off an avalanche of angry Twitter posts from fans and Blackfish supporters, including Amanda Holliday who tweeted: 'How much do you think #SeaWorld had to pay Bindi Irwin to try to fix their image?' Another from Pat Fitzgerald read: '@BindiIrwin Have you seen #Blackfish? Please do not bring shame to your fathers name by colluding with #SeaWorld'. The view was echoed by PETA. 'What millions have realised - through PETA's massive campaign and the hit documentary Blackfish -is that SeaWorld is no place for anyone who truly cares about animals,' Lange said. 'Bindi's talk-show appearances are just a flimsy last-ditch effort by an abusement (sic) park hoping to make a buck.' SeaWorld has launched an aggressive online and media campaign against the Blackfish documentary, including placing full page ads in America's biggest-selling newspapers titled: 'Open Letter from SeaWorld's Animal Advocates.' SeaWorld has also spent $US70 million ($A78.14 million) improving its killer-whale habitats the past three years. SeaWorld and the filmmakers behind Blackfish have not responded to requests for AAP for comment on Bindi's announcement. SeaWorld, unrelated to the Queensland, Gold Coast, theme park Sea World, has parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio."

And, of course, Bindi is now being attacked for supporting SeaWorld. I, myself, find it a little ironic, since she starred in the latest Free Willy movie, Free Willy: Escape From Pirate Cove. But to me it's ridiculous that people are getting mad at her, citing Blackfish as their reason. The program will apparently have a conservation focus. It won't even be captivity-related. To me, people who complain about this are so anti-SeaWorld that they're also anti-conservation. No one can deny that the company does important conservation work. And even people who don't agree with the display side of SeaWorld should agree that kids should get excited about animals and conservation. When it comes to research, conservation, and rescue, both viewpoints should put aside their differences and support worthy goals.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Hey Mike, that comment was pretty ridiculous.

As for researchers getting in the water with wild orcas, check out the picture of Dr. Ingrid Visser at the Orca Research Trust here:

Do your research APART from Blackfish and the anti-cap side. Try visiting SeaWorld with an open mind.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks, great comment Avimus Celsec. You're right, the mention of his 'killer genes' was another attempt to paint SeaWorld as a conspirator of evil, driving home the point that they ignore human safety and animal suffering for the sake of a profit. One of my main points was the movie's inability to separate these conflicting arguments. The genes argument just doesn't hold up. No one is trying to domesticate killer whales, nor are they suitable for that process. Captive killer whale breeding is in it's infancy (i.e, they're lucky to produce ANY animals) and will likely remain that way forever.

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Avimus Celsec 2 years ago

It's become a recent thing for me to watch documentaries, and afterwards, scout out the opinions from some of the critical minds who also watched it. And you know, your opinion really sticks out from the rest. I agree with many, if not most, of the points you present.

As you said, the producers of Blackfish did rely on the idea of "whale grief." At the point where the neuroscientist, Lori Marino, spoke about the special part of the whale brain, I was reminded of a scene from the film based on Yann Martel's Life of Pi:

"When you look into an animal's eyes, you are seeing your own emotions reflected back at you, and nothing else."

It is not my belief that animals are completely devoid of emotion, only that if they have emotion, then it is so different from human emotion that the two can't really be compared. Seeing human emotion in animals is therefore rather egocentric.

But I do find it necessary to try to qualify something for Blackfish. You mentioned the irrelevance of the "Killer Gene" in the context of the main message that the producers were trying to communicate. This confused me, too. Why would they attribute Tilly's aggression to a gene when clearly, they are arguing that Tilly's "psychosis" is a result of abuse?

To the credit of the producers of Blackfish, I feel that they were using this tidbit not to explain the psychosis, but merely as further evidence towards SeaWorld's unwillingness to remove the whale in spite of his murderous past.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Mike you misunderstood everything, congrats.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Very true, Frida. Some people wonder why it's so bad that Blackfish shows footage of Holly in the water while Samantha is talking. However, "Sam" has said that she was only at Shamu for one year, so she probably never even got in the water. I sure can't find any pictures. Nothing but belugas and dolphins.

It's also a problem because I'm sure the filmmakers never got permission from Holly to use her special moment. That day must have been so amazing for her, and they just take it. By the way, for proof that it's not Samantha, you can search "believe dvd seaworld behind the scenes" on Google or YouTube and watch the whole behind the scenes bonus feature from SeaWorld's DVD from their old Believe show.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the whole Lara Padgett/OSHA thing that's now going on?

Frida Nyberg 2 years ago

I don't know if this has been brought up earlier in the comments, but you said that one thing you learned from Blackfish is how little training is done before the trainers are let in the water with the animals.

I don't know what "little" is, but the trainer Holly Byrd had to work for two years before she was let in the water with an orca for the first time (the footage shown when Samantha Berg talks about riding an orca for the first time).

Maybe it was less when these ex-trainers started working 20-30 years ago, but the amount of training and work trainers have to do today, was certainly left out.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Denise.

Denise 2 years ago

Thanks for writing this. I was beginning to feel that I was the only one who feels this way. I have not seen this movie, nor do I intend I can't really say whether I agree with your opinions on it. I do however agree with your opinions in general. I find it interesting that many of those who disagree resort to name calling and belittling. It's very unpopular to think that zoos and aquariums have more to offer than what appears on the surface. I know firsthand that they do. Keep up the good work!

Pro Cap 2 years ago

@Shaun-- why?

The Truth 2 years ago

Oh, now I get it... I guess I'm talking too much... it's interesting that the font changes when you are being censored... ;-)

The Truth 2 years ago

Did I get censored because I used the "F" word, or because It's not to Melissa's advantage to embrace free speech?...

The Truth 2 years ago

Corporate America will always go for the profits... They pander to ignorant, greedy people with short attention spans... It's called capitalism...

cap·i·tal·ism ˈkapətlˌizəm/


An economic and political system in which a country's government, trade, industry, and citizens are controlled by private owners for profit, regardless of the cost to society, or the environment...

Shaun 2 years ago

Orcas held in man-made pools is just wrong!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Melissa, teachers like you made me detest school. Public schools are no place for teachers to insert their personal beliefs about zoo establishments. I'm sure you had a very 'balanced' discussion, i.e., your most vocal students all chimed in while the shy students like me sat idly by, afraid to object to the rantings of your popular students while you pushed everyone in the 'right' direction.

Highschoolers already have a bad reputation for low intelligence without their authority figures pushing 'trendy' cute animal controversial topics over more relevant and important world affairs. Stop telling your students what to think.

Melissa 2 years ago

I guess the point of starting this blog and writing is to further stir the pot. However, if you don't know the science then keep it out of your writing but that may make for a boring blog along with keeping the personal insults out of it as well. As a teacher we discuss both Sea World's response and valid points as well as Blackfish's points. It is rewarding that my high school students see both sides and see through all the emotion to come to the conclusion of the focus being on preserving natural habitats and eliminating the dog and pony shows, or whale and dolphin shows in this case. Rehabilitation and sanctuaries well serve animals but Sea World and parks like them need to be something we tell our grandchild that we "used" to have.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"my daughter is 12 and started a blog last year and has 200+ followers"

Actually I don't care at all.

meow 2 years ago

I quite enjoyed this different opinion on things. Going against the grain is not easy to do but some people seem to have an affinity for it. You stirred up a debate about an interesting topic for many. Your view is far from popular and with no real backing as previously stated, it can be hard to swallow but this is your blog!

My two cents (Not that it could possibly change your mind :). From your profile you clearly have an invested interest in having exotic animals in captivity)

Having a Whale in a small tank in captivity may be one of the worst ideas in a long line of bad ideas that humans have had.

Covering up attacks (Fatal or non-fatal) to the people who you, as a business are putting in the water with these animals, is just wrong.

Anyone who thinks this is anywhere in the realm of what could even be considered acceptable Human Behavior needs to give their head a BIG SHAKE!!!

Let these animals live a normal life that was meant for them. Blackfish has a strong and clear message (To me) "Stop the Madness" enough people have died and the exploitation of these animals needs to be put to an end.

Really do we not have enough at our fingertips that I need to be able to get in my car and go watch a Killer Whale jump through hoops? If you really care about these animals and want to interact or see them in the flesh, than go out and get your hands dirty, helping to preserve their Natural Habitats and study them to help understand what is leading to their problems or declining numbers. But do not be "Luke Warm" and go to the local Zoo or Theme Park and go home to your house full of Hamsters and Iguanas and think everything is peachy. These animals do not and never will live for our enjoyment and entertainment.

Get a Clue, Get a Grip (my daughter is 12 and started a blog last year and has 200+ followers)

Pro Cap 2 years ago

@Alexa--interesting question. I searched "What is Gabriela Cowperthwaite doing with the profit from Blackfish?". Pretty much all that came up was the director talking about SeaWorld being for-profit. I wonder if Howard Garrett has any idea?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sorry Alexa I have no idea.

Alexa 2 years ago

Do you have any information on what the filmmaker of blackfish is doing with the money made by the film? Is it personal gain or is this person gonna contribute to society even though the film was controversial.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

@Melissa--Thanks, but I'll wait. I would like to be able to listen to the audio commentary and watch the bonus features.

@Howard Garrett-- I did not mean to ascribe an offense, to me you sounded a little frustrated that I had left one side out of your resume, but if you weren't offended then I'm sorry for assuming that you were. And I am not being sarcastic. Sometimes I tend to jump to (not always correct) conclusions.

I'm looking forward to reading whatever you have to say on my comment.

Howard Garrett 2 years ago

@ Pro Cap right off the mark you ascribe an offense when I had taken none and had complimented you for including my resume and said it was accurate. That total misunderstanding is a poor way to start off a response.

Having said that I can now read the rest of what you said.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Pro Cap, email me if you want to watch the movie online.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

@Howard Garrett

I'm sorry if I offended you by including your resume. As I said, I included it so that anyone who was not familiar with the whole captivity debate would be able to get a little background. I believe that at the time I wrote the comment, I did not know that you were involved with The Orca Network. I agree that the Southern Resident orcas need saving and I commend you for helping them. Although I don't agree with you on some things, I still respect your passion and dedication.

I want everyone to know that I have NOT seen Blackfish. I hope to borrow a copy from my local library soon. Any information that I present concerning the film is from what I've read (mostly from the anti-cap side) and from the trailer. I've read Death at SeaWorld (I have a copy next to me right now) and countless articles, which again are mostly from the anti-cap side. Please remember that I haven't seen the film when you read this.

I find your agreement in your second paragraph that Blackfish only tells the anti-cap side of the story funny, because later on you allege that "Gabriela [Cowperthwaite, director of Blackfish] presented both sides in great abundance." What do you believe?

"SeaWorld has stated their disgust with the Taiji slaughters, and that's all you ask for, while they support the spread of dolphinariums across Asia, the final destination for the Taiji captives." Actually, what I said was "It is unfortunate that SeaWorld has chosen not to interfere with the Japanese drive-hunt fisheries. However, they have clearly stated their disgust with the practice and do not support it." If SeaWorld truly does "support the spread of dolphinariums across Asia", then that also is unfortunate, however, this is not a reason in and of itself to go against the company. I will be looking into the Act for Dolphins soon for myself. Personally, I hate what's happening in Taiji and if SeaWorld really does in some way support the practice, that is something I disagree with them on.

If you would refer me to news articles (not PETA blog posts) about the SeaWorld beluga captures, then I would appreciate it. I do not know a lot on this subject and I would like to learn more from an unbiased POV.

"You do a good job apologizing for mother/calf separations and early breeding but a) when mothers reject their young, what does that tell you about their mental state? b) early breeding is what happens when all traditional cultural guidelines have been obliterated by capture or by life in confinement with unrelated tankmates." about mothers rejecting their young, I'd like to point out this quote from Death at SeaWorld: "Alloparenting is when individuals other than the actual parents look after offspring, be it temporarily or PERMANENTLY" (p.54, emphasis added). This quote leads me to believe that wild orca mothers also occasionally neglect their calves. As for "traditional cultural guidelines" being "obliterated by capture or by life in confinement with unrelated tankmates", female orcas who were captured or who have seen many animals moved around (or have moved around themselves) very well may be confused as to when they should breed. However, some females get first hand (or first flipper?) experience from their mothers or other mature females. In February of 2013, an adult orca named Kasatka had her fourth calf. Her eight year old daughter, Kalia, was kept in the same pool as her mother. As I said, the frequent moves from park to park should be stopped.

"You have no idea how many fine researchers have been maligned over the years by SeaWorld if they ever suggested that the evidence shows captivity is not healthy." SeaWorld has been a bit of a bully in the past, however, in the context of Blackfish, many of the people are animal rights activists. Stating that that's what they are is not bullying. However, I agree that apparently not all the interviewees are of the PETA type.

"You'd like to believe the two eye witnesses to Keltie Byrne's death weren't credible, but you should know how these investigations can be used to cover up uncomfortable truths." Again, I never said that these people were not credible. I simply said that "nineteen witnesses laid the blame on all three whales. I believe that in this case the majority should be trusted." An anti-cap orca expert named Dave Duffus was part of the coroner's inquest into Byrne's death. Under oath he stated that it was not clear whether or not Tilikum was the main killer. However, in the film, apparently, he says just the opposite. Oh, and if you would please stop putting words in my mouth, I would greatly appreciate it.

For wild vs. captive orca agression, I was quoting the statement from the filmmakers that you posted, which claimed that "In the wild, there is not a single report of a person being killed by a killer whale." I went on to say that "Three of the four deaths by captive orcas involved a possibly psychotic whale. Wild killer whales do not spend their whole lives around humans." It is still not surprising to me that there are many less incidents with wild orcas. Death at SeaWorld also lists a few incidents on page three (these incidents are brushed off as mistakes on the part of the intelligent whales, which, of course, SeaWorld dares not try).

"The only improvement SeaWorld can make at this point is to begin relocating their orcas to natural seapens." You must not have read the comment by MakaniCorkyLuvr above, which systematically dismantles the arguments for sea pens. Here's the basic reasons why that plan would not work.

1. Immune systems: After full- or close-to-full-lifetimes in filtered sea water, the immune systems of the whales would not be able to fight the new bacteria in the unfiltered ocean water.

2. Stress: Moving the whales to sea pens would involve another long distance move to a place that would include new sounds and more. These could both cause stress.

3. Profitable for SeaWorld?: As you said, these pens would probably not be profitable for SeaWorld, as some anti-caps claim. The pens would have to be in colder waters, where the public could easily see wild whales.

4. Space: These pens would take up a lot of room that otherwise would be the domain of wild whales.

You claim that SeaWorld should just end the breeding program and let the whales die off. However, if the whales do not have welfare issues in captivity, why would this be necessary? I assume that you do not wish to discuss welfare. However, if you change your mind, I'd be happy to discuss it.

InaAisho 2 years ago

I don't agree with most of what you said. The documentary is showing that they shouldn't be kidnapped and put into those damn tanks first off, and secondly, with humans. And as for the person who posted the wiki pages of documented Orca attackes. NO HUMAN STANDS KILLED BY AN ORCA IN THE WILD. Being "bumped" by one isn't death. So the TRUTH STILL STANDS. They don't want to eat Humans, we're not their choice of food. They might mistake a human in a wetsuit for a seal. So being bumped is a good thing!!! Stay off their land (water) if u don't wanna tango!

Howard Garrett 2 years ago

@ProCap - In response to your response: #1. Thanks for listing my resume. What you list is true but it includes only one aspect of what I do with our non-profit Orca Network, which is to broadly disseminate scientific information, current reports, action alerts and news items about orcas, and especially the So. Resident orcas that inhabit the waters nearby. The anti-cap involvement was an afterthought when we started the Lolita campaign in 1995. In Blackfish my main role was to paint pictures of the natural history of orcas, which contrasts starkly with conditions in a display tank. The anti-cap work actually provides a vehicle for natural history education, and the natural history informs the anti-cap work. So the resume is indeed relevant.

2. You say Blackfish is one-sided. Yes, because it investigates the side of the display industry that was previously not well known. The full weight of the industry has been telling their side for over four decades, and that side is actually represented amply in the film, but the focus is on the stuff people didn't know, or it wouldn't be very interested.

SeaWorld has stated their disgust with the Taiji slaughters, and that's all you ask for, while they support the spread of dolphinariums across Asia, the final destination for the Taiji captives. It's a thin defense of SeaWorld to just take their word for it.

It's relevant that SW wants to by captured belugas because it shows they still don't get it. The problems with having captive orcas and the same for belugas. It's a basic concept that the whole practice of holding large mammals who need to travel hundreds of miles in large permanent families is brutal and deadly to the animals and needs to be stopped and no longer be a part of our social identity.

Sean, above has it right when he says: "The primary mantra of the film is that we don't know what we're doing with these animals." It's imp0ssible to take good care of an orca or a beluga in captivity. Captivity itself is what kills them. Full stop. Our role toward orcas must become that we learn to appreciate them as they are, not trapped in a circus as a commodity to sell. SW's pretense all these years that they are the ultimate authority on all things killer whale is an absolute farce, and I think Blackfish thoroughly blows that cover off.

You do a good job apologizing for mother/calf separations and early breeding but a) when mothers reject their young, what does that tell you about their mental state? b) early breeding is what happens when all traditional cultural guidelines have been obliterated by capture or by life in confinement with unrelated tankmates. In "the wild" orcas live by very strict rules governing all behavior, from diet to language to association patterns. In the tanks it's like Lord of the Flies.

You have no idea how many fine researchers have been maligned over the years by SeaWorld if they ever suggested that the evidence shows captivity is not healthy.

Mark Simmons got very fair treatment and he speaks up for captivity eloquently in the film. He also is caught denying his knowledge of the death at Loro Parque.

You'd like to believe the two eye witnesses to Keltie Byrne's death weren't credible, but you should know how these investigations can be used to cover up uncomfortable truths.

I actually said that no orca has harmed a human in the wild. There's only one possible exception, but even there the animal was not clearly seen so the identification is dubious. It is a revelation that orcas don't hurt people. There are divers and kayakers in the water with orcas all the time and there's been no aggression, unlike with bears or big cats or even elephants. Versus dozens of serious hostile acts in captivity. Why?

Gabriela presented both sides in great abundance. She didn't wallow into the self-serving platitudes dished out by the industry at the first sign of a critic, but that would have been boring.

If you wish to discuss orca welfare, the premise is that captivity per se is inherently stressful and harmful to orcas, and it dramatically shortens their lives. The only improvement SeaWorld can make at this point is to begin relocating their orcas to natural seapens. Biologically that would vastly improve their lives, but you may respond that economically that would be prohibitive. Then I would say that at the very lease SW should cease all captive breeding and collecting by any means, and begin to accept the reality that the experiment with holding large cetaceans captive has failed to keep them healthy or even alive. But that would mean they would have come off their lofty perches as obnoxiously pompous and arrogant know-it-alls that is ingrained in the corporate culture, to admit they really don't know what they're doing with these animals.

Sean 2 years ago

My problem with your review was not the content but the style. People write reviews or news articles and receive hundreds of comments for and against what was said, but much of the time it's just because the journalist was being careless while using their platform to speak for all those people who are not so lucky to show up at the top of Google searches (which is how I found yours). Much of it is simply opinion, which can't be dissected. But these are some simpler points:

The film anthropomorphizes the orcas in spite of what one scientist once wrote about what we don't know about dolphin brains. Orcas are not "mammoth dolphins," and we are not mammoth capuchin monkeys. The point Dr. Gregg makes is the same as the film, that we don't know what we're dealing with and Sea World operates in a mystique of specialization--as if they did know. That's what the trainers are responding to. We don't know how to make human cultures translate values (my field is religious studies), let alone species with radically different evolutionary paths. You know this, but the flashy, controversy and publicity-driving style of writing suggests you don't until we scroll a few more miles down. Anthropomorphizing these creatures is a basic flaw (or useful tool) for how humans think--YOU do it yourself when explaining that the footage of Luna is misused to generalize about the morals of the species when it's actually an orphan who hasn't been properly raised...but you have no knowledge of what that entails, no more than the contractor interviewed in the film who says the two-year-old catch's family lingered long after the nets were dropped and talked the whole time.

Is there such a thing as killer genes? No, but any biologist should be able to tell you that it's how genes interact with eachother and the environment that matters. The point of the one trainer's comments is that there seems to be no underlying logic or justification behind the choice to continue breeding from this animal, why Seaworld uses unique rules with no explanation. The park owners simply do what they can with their resources and make money, not informing trainers or the public of what they do know, and meanwhile making it appear as if they know more than they do. The comment is not followed up, it's simply an amateur observation purveyed from trainer to viewer.

--Which is the whole point. Your review is a demand to be thrilled, but this film may have been a necessary step before the resources can be mustered to make the film you wanted to see. It's about awareness, which you didn't contribute much to. We sentimentalists defend it because it gives a glimmer of some hope that industries like this can be put on display in the same way as the animals and people they use.

In territory like this, negative reviewing is just a way to advertise your blog. Negative reviewing like this belongs in grammar correction or something somewhat closer to established fact (even though language evolves as quickly as anything humans like to talk about). The primary mantra of the film is that we don't know what we're doing with these animals. Similarly, documentaries by investigative reporters in the Middle East get downplayed because of personal foibles in the reporter, which says nothing about any constructive steps to take in the direction away from rampant and unintelligible U.S. military strikes on civilians with full impunity. Apologies if this seems like a sensationalist analogy, but I make it for the sake of communication, not to advertise.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

@Howard Garrett--no comment on my reply to your challenge?

Shaun 2 years ago

Keeping such large animals in captivity is cruel. SeaWorld do it for the $$

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

RP- yes

RP 2 years ago

Has anyone made the point that zoos and marine mammal parks are needed to fund valuable research on these animals, that better their lives in the wild?

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Ellie Shay 2 years ago

I respect your opinion and, honestly, I used to hold the same opinion. After doing some research on top of watching several documentaries (including Blackfish) I have to say I disagree with you. I am in agreement that zoos and other similar animal facilities have done our society a great deal of good. People are much more educated then before. Some people forget that, back in the day, going to a zoo was the only way people could experience some of these animals up close. However, I think now that we have a plethora of information at our fingertips, the need for zoos has somewhat run its course. SeaWorld specifically, however, I just feel has been very shady with their press relations regarding certain events. I have no doubt that their animals are very well taken care of. Like I said I respect your opinion. I have also written a hub about Blackfish, though from a different perspective, I would welcome your comments on it nonetheless.

jeremy 2 years ago

this is not my favorite article to read, at ALL, but I cannot help laughing at the people in the comments saying how "evil" captivity is. they are hypocrites for saying that tey are "ripped from the wild" (when this hasn't happened for years. it's called orcas born in the park), and make so many other claims which hold no ground nowadays. thank you Melissa for at least saying that this movie is mostly BS. yeah I agree with you there are good points, but the current trainers interviewed, 99% of them probably never got their interviews into the movie, because the statements they make wouldn't support the opinion proposed by the yahoos who make that film: that "captivity is evil"

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Kali your post literally made no sense at all.

kali 2 years ago

hmmm a seemingly sentient *apex predator*.... well, humans are just that, aren't we? except we (1st world society humans) don't hunt our food we buy it in grocery stores, so it seems to me we're lacking in comparison to our orca friends on a scale of one to mother nature. yet we still think we're above them, so they are captured from already over-fished oceans, and put in mere swimming pools for observation under the idea it's "protecting marine life" pffffffff. then come these arduous articles about ethics and human sciences - made by humans, for humans. maybe when you learn to speak whale you will have a non-biased platform. at this moment i personally don't speak whale , but my basic reasoning skills lead me to conclude that orcas have been doin just swell in the ocean for a lot longer than us wee humans have collected em up, observed them, and paid money to watch them wag their tongues . it's laughable isn't it. there is NO respect for nature. i want back the minutes of my life i wasted reading this article (and bless my lil heart for i read every *stupid* word of it)

letsbefair 2 years ago

Hi Melissa,

Well I just watched Blackfish and I wanted to look up some interesting conversation/review related to the doc and found your blogs (the pre and post release). After reading over most of the comments, I don't really agree with the way you make generalizations, dismiss valid arguments on the basis of your opinion ect but I've been trying to understand what your core argument is. I don't mean about the film itself, I mean about your stance on the core issues.

From all I've read, your two blogs and all your replies to comments, it seems like your disagreement with Blackfish stems from your belief this documentary is sensationalist and therefore dangerous because it inspires an uneducated public to take up extreme attitudes towards all animal captivity in general. You argue that Blackfish is mere animal rights extremist propaganda, and deny that orcas suffer and that the trainer deaths can't be attributed to agitation and the stress of captivity.

While I agree with the former, I disagree with you on the latter.

I think you'd find this book interesting, "Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth"

It talks about the dangers of sensationalizing and exaggeration in politically charged issues as a strategy for garnering public opinion.

On the latter, even if the film is biased in its portrayal, or misleading even in its commentary, I don't see how a reasonable person couldn't conclude that the orcas shown suffer. You seem to be denying that they do by making distinctions between animal and human suffering in some of your replies to comments, which I'm having a hard time understanding. Do you think that its acceptable to cause non-human animals to suffer because their suffering is not on par with human suffering? Or is it that you think their suffering is justified because humans are superior? I know you've made specific statements in reply to specific comments but that has been the flavor of your responses, so please clarify because I'd like to understand.

I myself am not opposed to aquariums or zoos provided that the animals can be housed and cared for properly and they do not suffer unduly. But its hard to show that that's the case with complex social animals with large ranges unless they are injured.

Clearly, however, the orcas portrayed in Blackfish suffer. The environment provided by seaworld is unfit for these whales; they aren't "domesticated". In the same way a wolf would be totally unfit to be an indoor dog. It would be irresponsible and cruel for me to force a wild animal to live in captivity and perform for my profit at the cost of that animal's life and the lives of people working with that animal. Wouldn't you agree?

Domestication takes time and should happen organically, in the same way symbiotic relationships form.

You argued in one reply that great white sharks cannot and should not be kept in captivity because they are sensitive and die prematurely in captivity. Its an easy argument to accept because the consequences of that captivity are sudden, obvious, and dramatic. No one can deny that great whites die prematurely as a result of their captivity. I would make the same argument for killer whales. They too suffer and die prematurely; just because it takes longer since they are more tolerant to the conditions of their captivity doesn't mean that they don't suffer and die prematurely just as surely as great whites do. Is there a difference?

Just to be clear, I'm mostly interested in generating some productive and useful dialogue for those on the anit and the pro captivity sides to consider, and looking to come to my own conclusions of course.

MakaniCorkyLover 2 years ago

I'm a bit of a late comer, but since the debate is still going on... I thought I'd let you know a couple of things.

First- Mr. Garrett, I will reply to your challenge ASAP (it may take a few days). Saskia and Pro Cap... good work!

I should probably introduce myself. I'm a lifelong SeaWorld supporter and aspiring orca trainer in SoCal. I go to SeaWorld about once a month, which is AWESOME!!

Anyway... I guess I'll just "dive" right in! :D

Sea Pens/Release: it's pretty obvious after the release of Keiko that complete release isn't a good idea. But now sea pens have been suggested, and it seems like a win-win situation for everyone. It is, right? Wrong. Here are a few reasons:

a. Most important, the whales' welfare. These orcas have either been living in filtered sea water pools for 20+ years, or their whole lives. Their bodies just wouldn't be ready for unfiltered sea water, not to mention all the new sounds.

b. Anti-caps say that SW could charge money to let people see the whales in their pens, adding a benefit for SeaWorld. But the sea pens would have to be in orca-populated waters anyway, and most people probably wouldn't pay to see whales in pens when they're in an area where they could see them completely wild.

c. The sea pens would take up entire coves or bays, leaving less room for the wild orcas to hunt.

d. Animal rights activists (I'm thinking PETA... or maybe even some less extremist groups) would probably cut the nets (which is why Tili was in a module at SeaLand in the first place).

I'll comment more later.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

@Howard Garrett

As a matter of fact, I would like to respond to that article. Thanks for the challenge.

But first I have to say two things.

1. For those who don't know: Howard Garrett is an anti-cap orca expert mentioned in the book Death at SeaWorld. He also was featured in Blackfish and joined PETA in suing SeaWorld for a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. (Mr. Garrett, I am including this because if Blackfish tells the truth, you also as a Blackfish interviewee should want the truth to be told. You should want the public to know that you are not the average commenter who watched Blackfish and turned anti-SeaWorld, but instead that you have been involved with this issue for years and apparently support PETA).

2. I do not believe that SeaWorld is perfect, and there certainly are things that can and should change.

That said, I'll return to the topic at hand.

The statement issued by the makers of Blackfish contains many sentences that, in my opinion, contradict everything that has been learned about the documentary. One of these is as follows: "Parents want clear answers about...animal welfare and employee safety." If parents want to learn about these issues, I wholeheartedly support that. However, Blackfish presents only one side of the story and leaves no room for free thought. Blackfish is not the way to learn about these issues.

"It is ironic that SeaWorld launched its latest assault on a time when approximately 250 bottlenose dolphins were trapped, killed, or sold to aquariums...SeaWorld has watched from the sidelines." It is unfortunate that SeaWorld has chosen not to interfere with the Japanese drive-hunt fisheries. However, they have clearly stated their disgust with the practice and do not support it.

"SeaWorld can call Blackfish propaganda. This does not make this assertion true." And Blackfish calls SeaWorld inhumane, greedy, and evil. This does not make the assertion true.

While it is very unfortunate that SeaWorld is seeking to obtain belugas from Russian waters, this is irrelevant to the assertion that SeaWorld does not catch orcas from the wild. Orcas and belugas are obviously two immensely different species. And as for Morgan, she was found off the coast of the Netherlands in an extremely emaciated state (for proof, search "Morgan orca" using Google and click on Images). After she was transported to Loro Parque, researchers discovered that she had a hearing impairment which may have affected her echolocation ( explaining why she was so thin. Releasing her would have been fatal. Now she is being cared for, and her hearing impairment is not affecting her welfare as it would in the ocean.

It does sadden me that SeaWorld occasionally does separate killer whale families, and I believe that, when possible, this is something they should change. However, many separations are due to situations when the mother rejects or mistreats her calf. In these cases, SeaWorld moves the calf for its well-being. SeaWorld also should not breed its whales at younger ages than they would be bred in the wild. However, if an animal chooses to breed at an early age, that is not the company's fault.

"SeaWorld maligns individuals who draw less than favorable conclusions about their practices...SeaWorld continues to brand [them] as radical activists." Many of these people are radical animal rights activists who support organizations such as PETA. Lori Marino is an employee of the Nonhuman Rights Project, a fact not mentioned in the film. Tim Zimmermann, the associate producer of Blackfish, has an article on his Facebook page questioning the validity of human rights being superior to animal rights.

"For Blackfish, we relied on input from diverse individuals...[who came] to a conclusion that is not favorable to SeaWorld." Actually, this is not always true. Mark Simmons is a former SeaWorld trainer who supports the park and regrets his association with Blackfish ( The film deceptively selects the footage it uses from him to make it seem as though he agrees with their propaganda.

"SeaWorld makes misleading statements about the...deaths associated with captive orcas." The 1991 death of Keltie Byrne, which was ruled an accident by the Coroner's Court of British Columbia, is blamed solely on Tilikum in the film. The filmmakers claimed that two witnesses said that Tilikum was the sole attacker. However, nineteen witnesses laid the blame on all three whales. I believe that in this case the majority should be trusted.

I personally believe that Tilikum might be psychotic. The module at SeaLand could not have been good for him. But this is not SeaWorld's fault. In fact, according to Death at SeaWorld (page 126), the park requested an emergency transfer permit from NMFS soon after Kyuquot's birth. Tilikum was going to be kept in the module full-time, yet SeaWorld wanted to keep him from this. This displays their concern with the welfare of killer whales.

"In the wild, there is not a single report of a person being killed by a killer whale." This makes sense. Three of the four deaths by captive orcas involved a possibly psychotic whale. Wild killer whales do not spend their whole lives around humans. The Blackfish filmmakers state this obvious fact as though it's a shocking revelation.

"Let the public hear both sides of the argument (as we have always desired)..." If that is what Gabriela Cowperthwaite has always wanted, then why didn't she present both sides? Why didn't she show more footage of her interview with Mark Simmons? Why didn't she make an effort to contact other marine parks, if she couldn't work with SeaWorld?

I realize that I did not really discuss welfare in this comment, and I also realize that this is a very long comment. I would love to discuss captive orca welfare and some improvements SeaWorld could make in another comment. If you would like to discuss these topics, please let me know and I will reply as soon as possible.

Keep up the good work, Melissa!

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Totally agree with you about the beluga situation Saskia. People keep exclaiming this as to suggest that SW is actively pursuing wild caught cetaceans, and subtlety implying this is happening with orcas. I sensed that was BS.

Saskia 2 years ago

Sounds like a challenge Howard, and I happen to like challenges...

Seaworld business model is antiqued? Since when? Almost all marine mammal parks use it. Why are they still making profits then? And is no longer seen as humane.... opinions of some, Seaworld is still extremely busy in summers. So again, its a overdrawn generalisation (seems to happen more often with her...)

Seaworld somehow has power over Japan now apparently... odd, even the governments of the USA and EU dont seem to have any power over Japan. Did Seaworld buy the dolphins? That of course is not said.

Hahahaha, the informed public and brave whistleblowers? Half of those whistleblowers have either distanced themselves from the film or have been discredited in other ways. And telling people what to think is not informing them, it also doesn't take away any of the critique in this article or subsequent posts. Besides that fact, the list of things we know about Killer Whales in the wild is shorter than the things we dont know. Seaworld is right in saying that we dont have enough information about the lifespans of the whales in the wild. And because humans didn't know anything about Killer Whales and how to take care of them in capitivity, many died in those early years. This heavily influences the average life span but doesnt say anything about the current day situation.

Morgan... Im dutch, and know much about this case. The Dutch law does not require wild animals to be released at all! Only if the circumstances allow it. However, it was determined by one of our ministers and a taskgroup (no Seaworld or Dolfinarium people) that she had grown to attached to people by the time she could be released. It was therefore forbidden to release her by law. American law also provides the possibility of declaring animals unreleasable, which is what happend here. I saw her myself, because after this decision had been made, Morgan could be shown to the public. She looked at her caretaker for everything, was very interested in humans, and would have been a new Luna if released (including the end). So Gabriela didn't do her research (again). As for the Beluga's, why only mention Seaworld and not the applicant of importation, the Georgia aquarium? This again reeks of taking pieces of the truth and not the whole story. Also, the animals had already been taken out of captivity, Gabriela makes it sound as if they wanted to 'order' them and the Beluga's would otherwise still be free. This is not the case. Not desputing though that Seaworld should have better considerd this fact or that NOAA made the right decision by not allowing it.

Furthermore, Seaworld has never denied separating childeren from mothers. Here is where some wordplay comes in. They never remove nursing calves, only completely nursed childeren. Which of course means that both parties are right and both are highlighting their piece of the truth in order to make their point. Seaworlds PR is just stupid, and Gabriela is very comfortable with this strategy in the film.

One last thing, Seaworld was wrong to blame Dawn for her own death. Sure, but then why does Blackfish do the exact same thing? She didn't have enough food, didn't give him enough rewards, kept asking for more and more behaviors, didn't see the warning signs etc. How is that now blaming her. Sure, Seaworld was wrong, but dont be a hypocryt Gabriela, you are doing the same thing. Also, many more people a year die from taking care of big cats and other dangerous animals. But nobody apparently cares about them and the risk they take.

Now, Howard, as I enjoyed your challenge, here is one for you. Why dont you respond to the articles procap posted earlier?

JD 2 years ago

I applaud you for speaking up and I apologize for the negativity from the arm chair activists.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

@GrizzlyMike and Melissa:

I was so excited when I found out that Blackfish wasn't nominated. I agree, Melissa... MU needed a nomination, but at least Blackfish made up for it. :)

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi GrizzlyMike, I applaud the Academy on that one, I blew a huge sigh of relief. The fact of the matter is, this documentary was just average PBS quality, and it wasn't stellar. I would have been beside myself had the Academy voted for a movie simply because they care about its topic the most, or because of virality. I still have plenty of issues with the Oscars, but I respect them a little more now. They didn't snub the more deserving films (but the animation nominees are another story! Monsters University totally deserved at least a nom). BAFTA probably didn't want to be accused of conspiring with SeaWorld, haha.

GrizzlyMike 2 years ago

I read an article today about a supposed 'Oscar snub.'The activists are all screaming 'conspiracy. '

Outside of studio interviews, the vast majority of the film is composed of YouTube clips and archival footage obtained under fair use policy. The director even readily admits this is probably why she didn't receive a nomination. This is self-evident. Oscars are judged--or supposed to be--on technical mastery, originality, creativity, cinematography etc,,..

Unlike a movie like The Cove, this was not someone out in the field creating a story line from actual film taken in the field. This was a story spliced together in a digital workshop from someone else's clips and films. I am actually shocked it got a BAFTA nomination. I suspect it is due to the emotional. factor. I highly doubt that will score a win, however, and is more of a token. If it did win, you are likely to see a lot of raised eyebrows.

Pro Cap 2 years ago


Kalia is my favorite, hands-down-- she's got such a personality! Corky is beautiful and is my sister's fave. Have you had the chance to see baby Makani yet?

Brian 2 years ago

I think much of your article is confused about the film genre. It is presented as an account with collective facts and opinions culminating into a thesis. So, I think you're criticisms are largely with the genre as you seem intent on deconstructing line-item text in order to disprove the large thesis. From an academic standpoint, your arguments are flawed.

I think from a purely contextual view, the message is far more compact. The film poses a question simply about morality. The intent is to present several "accounts" of the truth (each with it's own inherent idiosyncracies) to pose a larger moral question. The film is admittedly bogged down with a lot of opinion, which you contend is somewhat wrong. However, that is the genre.

Saskia 2 years ago


I dont think I'll be there soon though, flights are very expensive. I have to fly across the ocean and then across the USA itself. Total flight time is somewhere around 16 hours which means it takes me a full 24 to even get there. So I can't come as often as I would like, but then go to the park every day when I am there.

I love all the whales, but as Corky was the first one I ever had a 'moment' with, she has a special place for me. She was the first whale I ever saw up close and the first during my dining experience. Who is your favorite?

Saskia 2 years ago


I am not saying that its not true, but have you seen the messages at for example youtube on that particular clip? Its breaking peoples harts because they think that they are hearing and seeing a whale crying out for her child.... and its not! Thats playing into peoples emotions in a despicable way (in my opinion which I have a right to). I have a masters degree myself, and I know if I would present this particular part of the film as scientific evidence I would be accused of fraud.

It is fine that your opinion gives you more leeway with how you present facts in order to make your point. Even if it means taking pieces of the truth (which are nonetheless true) and playing heavily into emotions to make your point. If you dont know what I am talking about, please read the article itself again, the movie is full of contradicting statements which are used to 'support' the point you are trying to make and full of these kinds of misleading images (like the whale of less than a year when it was removed at 4,5....)

In my opinion, you as a scientist yourself, should know better.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Dennis-- it means that captivity has positives and negatives, that a brighter future for both people and animals has the potential to occur.

Dennis Hastings profile image

Dennis Hastings 2 years ago from Olympia, Washington

There's always an axial sentence which defines the nature of someone inner feelings. "...The main thing that people should remember regarding these topics is that captivity can always improve, while nature, which is not perfect, cannot...." That's one odd comment. An exhausive article to be sure, but more exhausting than anything. Why did those people die? A myriad articles are on the net, disparaging this documentary, yet most of them gloss over the deaths and get right to the business of justifying the close captivity of these animals, saying, as you do that 'captivity can always improve'. But you say 'nature cannot'. That's a bizarre statement. It's hard to know what to make of it. Sure, the documentary isn't perfect (just like nature:), but I think it points in the right direction most of the time. How much money Seaworld has spent on this damage control campaign is anyone's guess, but I think it would be several million at this point. The focus should be about how these animals were captured in the first place and, secondly, their mental state NOW, not in the utopian future. And of course, why these people died and why Seaworld lied at first about the situation. We know from rude experience that 'utopia' is taking an awful long time getting here. I give the movie points for raising awareness, and I give you some demerits for the aggressive and biased title to your long, long article. You spend a long time writing it, covering a lot of ground. That raises a lot of questions for me. You might have said it in about a third of the space used.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Hey Saskia, maybe I'll see you there sometime! I was just there yesterday, actually. A great educator (in case you're wondering) is named Katie. She's young and spends time at Shamu Close-Up.

By the way, SWC is my SeaWorld too! The only one I've ever been to! Do you have a fave whale?

Saskia 2 years ago


I always go to the San Diego Seaworld. I have been to the Orlando park briefly, but they where quite rude. So I flew out to San Diego and only go to that park now (all the way from the Netherlands!). And I have always been told the right information about the whales there (how old they get etc). But in summer they have many newbies working at the education centre who dont know their stuff. Btw, thanks for the articles.

@everyone, I have been trying to find a way to let more people know about the crying whales as people keep telling me its breaking their harts. I can easily show it with frames from the film and actual photo's of the two mothers I found two excellent frames which show that whale is not Katina or Kasatka. I was thinking maybe a youtube video or whatever, as you can unable the reactions (I dont like death threaths much). Anybody have any other ideas?

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Howard, not that it was an aggressive attack (in my opinion) but my pilot whale example clearly shows that it is not danger-free to be in the ocean with an animal that has never been known to attack a human before. As I've pointed out, the animals are clearly not inclined to attack humans in the situations where they are near humans. How would we know if this were the case for other situations where humans are rarely present in the water (such as in Antarctica)? Some bottlenose dolphins are aggressive and some never are. I think it would be foolish to state indefinitely that orcas are not dangerous in the wild, based on our knowledge of mainly resident members and those that are likely to come into contact with beach-goers. I think we agree that Blackfish condemns our natural world relationship, that's why I criticize it despite not rejecting all of the facts in the film.

Howard Garrett 2 years ago

This is the first review I've seen to criticize anything I said in the film, about orcas never harming anyone in the wild. "But how can we make such bloated claims about a largely weakly studied species?" That's quite the put-down, but they don't need to be studied to attack humans, and there would be some record if they had done that more than a few times. Even the Wikipedia reports are vague and the single report involving actual harm may not have even been an orca. The attacking animal was never clearly seen. You try pretty hard to think of a way that it could happen, but until it happens, the claim is not bloated.

I think the reason SW doesn't do anything to help So. Residents or any free orcas is that the owners and managers don't know or care anything about orcas except the ones in their collections, unless they can't use some bloated generalization to condemn efforts to free their captives, like "the ocean is too polluted."

The more I think about it the more I'm glad the film didn't get an Oscar nomination. Blackfish is beyond entertainment. Contrary to one famous review, it's not "a mesmerizing psychological thriller." It's more a fundamental examination and condemnation of our relationship to the natural world. If it's framed as merely entertainment that's all people will see in it, and they’ll miss the real Blackfish effect.

Yes, it is a story built around an attempt to find the motivations for a violent act, and that keeps our attention, but the investigation goes far beyond just Tilikum, into the reality of exploitation for profit as revealed by current science and empathy. If the consuming public can make that one leap to feel the pain of circus animals as though they were our own, we’ve taken a long step toward discovering how to live in harmony on this spinning mudball. Blackfish helps take us there.

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David Neiwert 2 years ago

Melissa, as near as I can tell, SeaWorld avoids involvement in orca-recovery efforts simply because it raises all those sticky questions about its origins, like the real story of the original Shamu. Makes for a very complicated narrative requiring an admission of past sins. My recent experience at SeaWorld Orlando underscored for me just how much they prefer simple, clean, and sunny narratives.

I should also mention that there is a real paucity of actual scientific contributions coming from SeaWorld research-wise. In the process of preparing for my book, I collected every bit of published scientific research on Orcinus orca I could get my hands upon. And precious little if any of it came out of SeaWorld or its financial arms. They may be doing research on orcas we don't know about, but if so, it doesn't appear they are sharing much of it.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Everyone who decides to go against this documentary is assumed to be PR for SeaWorld. The new tactic is to try and snuff out the opposition with fabrications.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi David, thanks for your thoughts. SeaWord would have nothing to lose by being involved with the conservation of the Puget Sound orcas, and everything to gain. People love charismatic orcas (I would argue more than the manatees that compose the majority of their mammal rescues), and SeaWorld could profit tremendously with campaigns about saving this species. So I'm just having trouble seeing this as a reason to criticize them. Since I'm not an insider to matters like these or know how they work, I'm sure there's another side to the story. Why do you think they would choose not to help? Ignorance?

I also know that population shifts are a part of a natural process. It sounds like the animals rebounded from the early aquarium captures but then decreased again. I oppose the efforts of activists to 'shut SeaWorld down' as this would insure that the company would have no ability to help. So I will keep your words in my thoughts like I do others.

Linda Hunt 2 years ago

This entire post reads like a PR stunt by SeaWorld. This orca killed three people and the writers here are grousing about the "misleading" documentary???? SeaWorld for months has blamed the trainer's ponytail for her killing, yet surveillance film clearly shows the orca grabbed her arm and dragged her in. So the author and commenters think everything is hunky dory at SeaWorld and things should be left as is??? That is sick. Sick.

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David Neiwert 2 years ago

Melissa, I am an investigative journalist who has spent quite a few years observing killer whales in the wild and gathering information about them for a number of articles and, most recently, a book that will published this fall by The Overlook Press. While some of your criticisms of Blackfish hit the mark, your overall attack misses the film's critical point (captivity is simply not appropriate for these animals) even though I gather you tend to agree with that. Moreover, it's terribly counterproductive when it comes to making any changes toward that end.

Let me address simply one component of the issues raised here: Many of SeaWorld's defenders point to its rescue and conservation work as being worthy of praise and a reason to continue captivity. But the reality is that SeaWorld devotes less than 1 percent of its profits to this work, and NONE of that work is devoted to restoring endangered orca populations. The primary such population -- our Southern Residents here in Puget Sound, the only orca population currently under Endangered Species Act protection -- are in that position for one primary reason: In the '60s and '70s, Sea World and its marine-park cohorts removed well over a third of that population's orcas for display in marine parks (a substantial number were also killed in the process); a previously stable population of about 150 whales was reduced to a mere 70 whales. Simultaneously, this population has been hamstrung by declining salmon runs and other threats, including pollution. In the mid-'90s we began seeing a population increase near 100 whales, but since then, declining salmon runs have contributed to a decline in orcas, and now we are back down to 81 orcas.

So while the captive-orca industry founded on the depredations of this population (which ended in 1976) has been raking in millions of dollars annually, the orca population they left behind has been struggling. A responsible, conservation-minded company sincere about its efforts to assist wild animals, as SeaWorld claims to be, would be in the forefront of doing work to help these orcas -- particularly the long hard slog involved in restoring salmon runs. But SeaWorld has done literally NOTHING here in Puget Sound to help the whales they harmed so much forty years ago. They have literally no presence here -- not in funding research on the whales, nor in helping to provide a counterweight to the development interests who are the main roadblock in restoring salmon runs. But SeaWorld is more beholden to Blackstone stockholders than it is to the animals it claims to defend.

I realize that Blackfish does not address these issues much either, but it at least has its heart and mind in the right place, and it does an excellent job of exposing the corporation's duplicity and faux environmentalism. I wish you could see fit to do the same.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Please view the comment written by me above. It sickens me that people can be so misled by an emotionally-powered film. Also I reccommend reading this article:

Kilo Papa 2 years ago

The only reason Sea World exists is to make money and entertain humans. It does nothing to help the animals. There is no benefit for an animal to be kidnapped from its natural home and put in a fish bowl for our viewing pleasure.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Great comments Saskia, I've spent a lot of time at SeaWorld too! What SeaWorld do you visit?

By the way, I found a great article on MiceChat. Check it out here:

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Ok thanks Saskia, you should probably tell other people about this.

Saskia 2 years ago

By the way, I just double checked it, the footage of the crying whale... is not Katina either. Katina has a bend dorsal fin, while the fin of the whale is straight. So I dont know who is crying yet, but its not either of the females who had their child removed.... This makes me incredibly angry! This is misleading people!

Saskia 2 years ago

Kasatka has an spot in her left eyepatch (which should have been on the right in the footage) and its not there. Also the eyepatch seems the be smooth, while hers is ragged. So I am fairly certain its not her. Besides that I believe I recognized the footage. I believe it is from a study into the killer whales intelligence. The original documentary also included footage of a mirror test. I have been searching myself silly, but can't find the original footage. (the word mirror is often used in combination with killer whale "how can they look themselves in the mirror" kind of thing) But I will keep searching. By the way, they do it all the time. Mixing up the whales, you hear about Tilikum, yet see the close up area in San Diego with Ulises etc. And of course play further into the emotion of removing a baby while showing the whale at a few months old instead of how the whale looked at 4,5 years old (which is huge and looks nothing like the cute baby of less then a year).

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Saskia. Can you confirm this? "like the crying sound of Kasatka for example, its a commanded whistle and not even Kasatka"

Saskia 2 years ago

Hi Melissa,

I know you have been responding to these posts for months now. But I want to thank you for you article. Thank you would be an understatement actually. I am not anti-captivity, and been to Seaworld recently where I sat in front of the glass wall for hours and hours on end for 2 weeks straight. I received criticism on that after people saw the movie, so I decided to see it just now. I saw the same flaws you mentioned and a few more (like the crying sound of Kasatka for example, its a commanded whistle and not even Kasatka!, images of the quietly floating whale isnt always Kasatka, and clearly some of the images are sleeping whales...). But the movie made me feel bad for having been there and supporting Seaworld none the less. I actually feel much better now, knowing I am not the foolish person here, but the people who didn't know anything about Killer Whales or wild animals in captivity that still decided to critise me. While I am the one, that like you, has been following these subjects and have been researching it for years. So thank you so incredibly much, and sorry for the long post.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

I know a lot of people are saying that SeaWorld holds orcas in captivity because of greed. However, I would encourage them to check out the 2005 Harris Interactive poll. The participants were asked the following question: "Which one of the following exhibits would be your favorite to view if you were to visit an aquarium?" The available answers were as follows: dolphins, sharks, tropical fish, killer whales, sea turtles, seals, sea lions, coral exhibits, and other. Only 8% said that their favorite exhibit would be the killer whale exhibit- the answer with the most votes was dolphins at 40%. I believe this disproves the above statement that SeaWorld keeps orcas simply for financial gain. I believe they do it mainly to increase appreciation of these animals. They are a corporation, though, so they probably do realize that the whales bring in money. But so do all the animals- apparently the dolphins especially.

And as for captive orca lifespans, I'd like to share this little piece of information- some captive orcas are matching up to the wild orca lifespan. Buried deep in Death at SeaWorld (page 195) I found these facts... that 8.5% of wild females don't make it to age 50, and that 99% don't make it to 80. So is it really fair for anti-caps to boast that wild females can live to 90? Nope. In fact, two females in human care are close to 50- Corky II and Lolita. The average for wild males is 30, and three captive males are older than this. So SeaWorld's orcas live just as long as the wild average.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Yeah Nemo, I posted that interview at the top of this article. I will take that claim with a grain of salt, but I can't say that I was surprised...

Nemo 2 years ago

I just recently watched Blackfish and was immediately turned off by the 911 recordings used for shock value before the first credit even rolled. I was also turned off to hear that the director reportedly told one of the trainers that participated in the film (who felt she had been mislead about the nature of the film by the director) was told to hold her comments till "after award season." I was expecting a well informed doc based on facts that explored the subject of potentially dangerous wild animals held in captivity, and the pros and cons of such practices. What I got felt more like a exploitation of a trainer's tragic death to support an agenda and get the director an Oscar.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Well thank you Dex that was a nice comment.

DEX 2 years ago

Melissa, After much thought and consideration I decided to watch the documentary again, in an effort to see if I could better understand your point of view. I have to say, along with watching that and reading/comparing more articles. I can see the other side of the coin a little bit better now. I definitely was NOT one of the general public who became anti-captivity overnight, after viewing it originally. I have had deep rooted feelings about Orcas in captivity ever since I was a kid. I remember going on a school trip to SeaWorld as early as second grade, and my mother told me she was called by the class monitor, because I wanted to leave and go home. I did not like the feeling I got from seeing how massive they were, in comparison to the small tank. I never found the "Shamu" show entertaining, it was always more disturbing to me. Additionally, after reading David Kirbys book, I came to discover SW's lack of being able to provide incident reports right away, when asked for them in court. I found that to be problematic. I am currently studying in the field of business and believe in the power of the ethics that go along with. It usually is only a matter of time before inconsistencies surface within a business.

I believe your article can truly aid people in opening their minds up to both sides. You are quite accurate in the research you display and present a side to this documentary, that not many would be open to or willing enough to consider. With that being said, nothing has changed about the way I feel about captivity. However, I do think the public should open their minds and books to learning all aspects of the debate as well as further their research. Viewers definitely need to dig a bit deeper. On the other hand, maybe the director was trying to keep the documentary as simple as possible, just enough to get viewers to start researching on their own, and to be presently aware of captivity in our society. She may have wanted to break it down in a different way to capture a bigger audience, perhaps. I cannot say that for truth, but she obviously believed in her work enough to get it out there. She also has self admitted to not being an Orca whale expert, in the beginning of her quest. Either way you are a thought provoking writer. The comments speak for themselves. You had quite an audience and some interesting debates stacked up, take care!

MushuK 2 years ago

I think that to me blackfish does come across in the trailor as sensational and one sided. But I appreciate blackfish for getting an audience who are neither documentary watchers or animal activists, to get inteested in this issue of the cost of animal captivity.

And if you watch the interviews of the director on YouTube , you'll find you both present the same personal views on the complexities of animal captivity. She isn't saying just dump the whales back in the ocean- she acknowledges they don't know how to hunt, they may not survive infection risks as they're used to antibiotics, they're used to human interaction for better or for worse. But she has suggested an end to using the whales for entertainment tricks. She has suggested the artificial breeding program stop of whales will be in captivity for years to come.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi no name, to say biology contributed to the attack would be to insinuate that we should expect no aggression from an intelligent carnivore. I just think that makes no sense. I think we should expect occasional aggression from ALL killer whales, especially when they are kept in an unnatural environment. They were better off blaming the environment. There is no rule on how individual killer whales should behave. I think, like humans, even a normally passive animal can have bouts of aggression. I'm betting these bouts are not a huge percentage of the animal's behavioral repertoire.

No Name 2 years ago

I'm behind and just watched the documentary. Naturally, I wanted to hear the other side after viewing. I particularly enjoyed your point about Luna and giving context as well as your emphasis on the dangers of whale watching, which was news to me.

The logic of the killer genes is complex--which you noted. However, it didn't seem like too far of a stretch for the film to argue that both biology and the environment could have contributed to an unusually aggressive or unpredictable orca.

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spiritwood 2 years ago from Wales, UK

I cannot support the captivity of any wild animal for entertainment. If this film stops people from going to hideous places like seaworld then that can only be a good thing imo.

DEX 2 years ago

Okay, no problem. Thank you Melissa.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Dex, you aren't spamming but please try to condense your posts. Remember that I've been responding to these for months and it does get rather repetitive.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Jen

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Dave, you're probably right, but this section is already jam packed with comments... I don't know if it's fair. I don't feel like responding to all this stuff though so I'm just gonna, I dunno.

DEX 2 years ago

How contradictory of you. Regardless of whether you are quoting or using another individuals material at all, it is not yours. You do realize you are in a public forum where you should give credit to a reference. ALWAYS give an author credit. And, this is not considered spamming at all, Melissa has replied to every single one of my posts in a healthy debate.

Dave 2 years ago

DEX, no one needs to give credit to Shakespeare, who's so ingrained into English literature that many of our phrases originated with him. And I'd hesitate to quote Gandhi considering his attitude towards other races, women, and children.

"Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized - the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live almost like animals." - Gandhi

DEX 2 years ago

Brevity is the soul of wit...

-by the way it's always nice to give an author credit....

Dave 2 years ago

DEX, brevity is the soul of wit. You're accusing Melissa of not supporting bigger tanks (false), and going on to talk about a lot of meaningless nothings. Rick o'Barry, really? You mean the ex-trainer who said he became anti-captivity when a dolphin swam to him, allowed him to hold her in his arms, looked him in the eye, and then promptly killed herself by voluntarily ceasing to breathe? Really?

Melissa, please do us a favor and just delete his/her comments. She's spamming your page with accusations you've already answered, information that isn't relevant, and comments that aren't conducive to discussion. I love free speech, but you have every right to remove comments on your own blog. I know you haven't done this before, but for the sake of maintaining a coherent comment section, I suggest you just do it.

Jen 2 years ago

"I'm certain neither of us, or anyone on this page for that matter will ever know the truth about SeaWorld and what really takes place."....actually I can after spending 7 days a week there for three years. I would continue this discussion, but with the amount of vile language in your comments you seem to have a bit too much anger (typical of Peta-supporting actiivists who don't actually rescue any animals, just insult those who do) Again, good, fair review Melissa. Thanks for your support of protecting our marine life. :)

DEX 2 years ago

Are you a scientist? Additionally, how do you know these people were fired? Are they in close relation to you? You don't know the circumstance. Just as I apparently do not know why they are telling these so called lies about SeaWorld to the general public (or what they would have to gain from that). Full blown medical doctors who are now making six figures a year, as opposed to the pennies I'm sure they made at SeaWorld are really trying to seek revenge?? I don't know I think I could be wrong......but you tell me, because that doesn't really make much sense. Really they are only presenting facts, once again. I'm certain neither of us, or anyone on this page for that matter will ever know the truth about SeaWorld and what really takes place. I can say at the end of the day for truth SW is a business. 'SeaWorld Theme Parks and Entertainment' That pretty much is indicative of what it represents. I never denied they have done some good things. However, why not go for non-profit?? Or maybe lengthen their poor excuse for a pool for these big guys. It's like they're making billions off ticket purchasers like you (81.99 a person). So you just cannot tell me they cannot do more for a much bigger wide-range space for Tillikum?! And the others but come on 12,ooo fucking pounds!! It's ridiculous!! Okay we get it pro caps, it isn't a good idea to release them back into the wild and conservation conservation public display efforts.... (because SW screwed them up to the point they cant be re-introduced) Good to go but for f's sake, give that giant a real ocean-like tank!!! He should have that whole thing to himself!!! All gates open. Furthermore, Lori is not the first or only PHD to have made the claims she's making or providing facts based on research. The documentary was not designed to do an hour segment on her research, but rather her small related study and a brief animation to show us. You can say what you would like about science. You are free to have an opinion. You seem to have many which is healthy. The focus though is that PHD's in the field of Marine bio are even anti cap. How could you know what they know about these animals and then feel right about the environments they are forced to dwell in. There are well respected and highly efficient zoos/ aquariums doing not for profit work for the animals or donations given by millionaire/billionaire, people who believe in the cause to help. I just think if society cannot see the money behind the madness...mmm....I don't know. It's like there is a lot more going on there then a so called education to the public about the Orca whale. It is hard to convince some of the opposite. Also, one more comment is that I feel both sides need to exist for specific reasons anti and pro. No one ever condemned conservation efforts or decisions to keep the animals in captivity. (so they won't die in the wild because they are ill equipped) (still a sad fact) But, what we are saying is now that all the research has been done. Phase out the Orcas you have left. I'm sure most of them will not last too long anyway and then stick to your conservation modes and other attractions to the park. I honestly think and feel that if this was not a serious problem and didn't need fixing in America there wouldn't be debate!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Of course they went 'outside the establishment'. It is my understanding that not all did so by choice. I guess that means that by virtue of not leaving SeaWorld, a person's opinion automatically is suspect to you, meaning of course that you are only willing to listen to people who share your opinion by default. Why would someone who was fired by SeaWorld have something positive to say about it? I bet there are ex-workers who have negative things to say about every zoo.

Yes I talk about L.Marino frequently. Her assertions regarding her experiments are not substantiated. She abuses her respected position to spout some very unscientific conclusions to support animal liberation leanings. She gets way more exposure than scientists with uninteresting positions on dolphin minds (i.e, ones that do not make sensationalistic claims about their intelligence). Her activism leanings are non-existent on Blackfish, all you see is a white coat holding a bloody brain and you assume this is what the community believes. It is not uncommon at all for ethologists or scientists studying animals to include their favoritism in their studies. If it is true that people have little regard for scientists, this is a good thing--they've been manipulating us for years. People need to be able to discern bad science from good.

Jen 2 years ago

Dex,I did not say anything negative about any ex-trainers. I am simply showing how the movie is making the public try to believe something that is not true by scrounging up the few people who left the company on bad terms looking for some revenge. How do I consider myself an expert? I spent years studying these creatures, not on the couch in my PJ's like most, but in person, holding them, feeding them, RESCUING them from injuries and sticking by their side through the rehabilitation process. I no longer work for SeaWorld as I left the industry to pursue another passion, but looking back I have never had a more rewarding job and feel so proud at the 400 animals I have a personal hand in rescuing. They are alive today because of the amazing work of my team. As I also stated, the movie is an eye opener and everyone should see it to truly put thought into how they feel about captivity. I just think they should be doing their research as well to dig a little deeper. I challenge those who are torn to volunteer at their local zoo or aquarium to personally experience the care of these animals and learn about them by shadowing the true experts who devote their lives to them. I guess I can handle another point of view though.

DEX 2 years ago

This is quite simple to answer. Because, those particular people went outside of the establishment, (two of them became MD's) and learned, not only by seeing the facade in the park and how fd up everything really was, but they sought after educations and now with even more credibility are able to speak on the topic, and can better educate the public on FACTS. It is interesting to me that all people commenting who are pro cap seem to only have ammunition based on SWs conservation programs and so forth and by bad mouthing ex trainers. Why get so defensive, if nothing seems out of order? If people are confident in what they know, they do not need to talk ill of anyone in particular, such as the "educator" who posted about Samantha B. She doesnt know her personally and it isnt right to talk about people in a gossip type manner, it takes away from any information you provide, it makes you look bad. For another example, you are you so eager to bad mouth Lori. She doesn't hide her activism at all, her title is Neuroscientist (this is what she practices) the activism speaks for itself. It is interesting to me how little the public takes years of a college education and research to be taken so lightly. That woman has been studying this, not just reading about it and exploring an area of interest based off of TV. The truth is people are finally speaking out about an issue America has been needing to discuss for a very long time. Blackfish was not the spark of this, nor is it a Bible for absolute truth. However, it is a story that this woman wanted to tell. The main concern is the animals in captivity and if the conditions serve them well or not. And it doesn't take much to see it doesn't. I don't even think the general public should be judged for agreeing. Whether someone has an MBA degree, BA in marine bio, a culinary degree or no degree at all, just looking at the whales speaks volumes about the concern on captivity.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Dex, if you don't want to listen to the SeaWorld workers or question their education, why do you listen to them when they appear on Blackfish?

DEX 2 years ago

By "former Educator" does that mean the people that were being recorded to show us the wonderful knowledge Seaworld instills into its workers and the public by making claims about the collapse dorsal fin that were utterly false, and statistics regarding age range in the wild these awesome educators presented that were shot down by PHDs in the field? Just curious....

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks a lot Jen!

Jen 2 years ago

As a former Educator at SeaWorld Orlando, I will give a bit of insight into the things I have witnessed at the park....wonderful habitats and excellent 24-hour care for the animals. (I recommend that anyone who gets a chance to take the little known behind the scenes tour to see first hand the excellent care of animals currently being rehabilitated.) That team truly devotes their lives to the well-being of animals rather than strolling a red carpet at premiers looking for fame. Sadly in today's world, lazily sitting in front of a television while watching a "documentary" on Netflix in pajamas seems to qualify someone as an animal expert. While tthe documentary is certainly an eye opener and I would recommend it to everyone, I found it to be mainly a biased attempt to smear one company in particular rather that addressing the real issue. The problem I had with the documentary is that the facts were quite misconstrued and the interviews seemed sloppy at best. I will give one example. Samantha Berg is a former SeaWorld trainer interviewed in the movie, expressing how SeaWorld tried to hide from her the incident in 1987 in which during a show an orca fell on top of a trainer and another orca, severely injuring the trainer. The film made it seem as though this happened as while she was working there. In reality, Samantha was not hired until 1990, over three years after the incident. What is also completely left out of the movie and more surprising is the fact that Samantha was actually never even a whale trainer at all! She had never been approved to train past the sea lions, got frustrated, and ultimately left the company. (Now that's a little embarrassing.) Honestly, who wouldn't trash the company that didn't allow them to be a trainer when they did not show the prper skills?! The team at "Blackfish" knew this and decided she would be great to contribute to their bias. As part of the SeaWorld team, I spent countless weekends participating in beach clean-ups and assising in middle of the night rescues of manatees which have been rehabilitated...23,000 to date. (Animal activists don't like to talk about that part.) Do animals belong in captivity? There are great arguments both ways, and I respect each side. I will, however, give this example. Conservation funds and rescue missions have been set up for decades for killer whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, etc. because people have a genuine connection to them through up-close experience they have had this these creatures. Now look at the sad existence of the Vaquita, a rare species of porpoise that is nearly extinct. Why is it near extinction? While it is presented in textbooks, it has no representation in aquariums or marine parks. Therefore, the majority of the public has no idea what it is and therefore has no concern for it. Because of this there are no conservations funds or donations for missions to save this species, it will most likely be gone forever within the next few years due to poaching. As of now, it is estimated that there are 300 left in the world. Imagine if we were able to see this beautiful species up close...might change this statistic. Melissa, I thought your review was informative and even showed how the movie does provide a useful argument toward opening the public's eyes to the argument of captivity. Great job.

DEX 2 years ago

It might not be 'cruel' however, it certainly is unethical. Humans can do it to themselves and/or may possibly have someone they are attracted to, do it for them. I could really expand, but I will not. I guess it is considered husbandry for the whales, but they are not doing it for health concerns or safety reasons. It is just a constant means of reproducing. Is that ethical?

DEX 2 years ago

My main point to make was, they really do not need to continue practicing it when they have done all of the research that they will ever need to do.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

DEX, you don't need to leave multiple posts. Don't you see that I've addressed these questions repeatedly for the last several months? I don't find forced masturbation 'cruel'. I do not think that is harmful to the animals.

DEX 2 years ago

You don't find it disturbing because this kind of news is no longer appalling, meaning humanity has surpassed animal cruelty and is now upon the brink of something entirely indefinably wrong ?

Or because you are a heartless robot?

Im really confused with what is happening here...

DEX 2 years ago

Additionally, since you seem to understand how all breeding programs operate. I wonder if you know the answer as to why these whales are not doing so hot at SeaWorld. Meaning, why are there significant research statistics being presented in the courts proving decline in the lifespan of the captive orchas in combination with the evidence proving many early fatalities in the tanks? Enlighten me, no wait, educate me please.

DEX 2 years ago

I would be curious to see you get in a tank or open water with one at SeaWorld. Would you?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

No I do not find that disturbing at all. It amazes me how people are blind to our relationship with animals and view killer whales as some form of sub human (or even without the sub). We do similar things to other highly 'intelligent' animals, and no one bats an eye. By the way, I'm not really paying attention to what you write other than what I reply to. The comment section is filled with similar comments.

DEX 2 years ago

Yes, exactly and that was my MAIN point. You just said it yourself. Why is an Orca a main attraction? Percentages, facts, OSHA hearings available to the public, PHD's in this field of study, psychology majors in how advertisement and the way they do it plays a huge role in what they do is relevant to why society gets sucked into this kind of stuff. Anyone who studies the true ocean and transient vs.'s residential killer whales and so forth will tell you or better yet, you can read their PUBLISHED articles and books. Facts have never lied. These individuals have an education and they choose to share it with the public so the public can be informed. SW may have been to our advantage when they first began all this captive nonsense and were able to study them up close. However, at this point the research has come to and end and I think the public understands that. They have done it all, they have studied their respiration rates, birthing dynamics, human interactions (and look at how well that turned out) I feel it has run its course. They would not continue to inbreed if they didn't need to be worried about the discontinue of their MAIN attraction. Whale hunting days are a thing of the past, so if theirs die out, they need more. Additionally, how is it ethical to masturbate a whale for reproduction continuously? I find it disturbing, you might not. Everyone is different, but something about that just seems to turn peoples stomachs a bit. Why do they practice that? I think we all know the answer. Many people who do not even care about ocean life period or CAPTIVE vs. WILD (the whole thing) even find it a massively grotesque and disturbing.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

The killer whale is their logo, and that's because they've chosen to highlight the orcas as their main attraction.

DEX 2 years ago

When you think of SeaWorld, or anyone thinks of them for that matter...please do not tell me a Killer whale is not the first thing to pop up into your head. You can't tell me it doesn't. You would be telling me a lie. Look at the entrance to SeaWorld, what do you see? Better yet, watch "One Ocean" on youtube....tell me what you see and hear....I have never heard a single scientific fact blared over their loud speakers. The whole message is to little children saying "grow up to be like us" and they run around in wet suits and clap and sing and chant "Shamu, Shamu" it just looks odd. I would not pay 81.99 to watch that for thirty minutes is all I am saying. I don't get the feeling it does justice for these beautiful OCEAN mammals. While, I'm sure SeaWorld is not trying to harm them, I don't "believe" they are helping them either. Why are whales receiving antibiotic treatment?? That doesn't make much sense. Where would they receive that in the wild and umm... why? Additionally, years of SCIENTIFIC research, not SW's (so called credible research) indicates inbreeding within the Orca population is unnatural. They simply do not exhibit that behavior. The rake marks and aggression within the tanks is also very disturbing. An occasional aggressive act would be understandable. But their is a hierarchy here, crammed into such close quarters and they are definitely trying to mark their territory. I just do not think it is normal for what we view as an outcome when we see what the aggression is doing to them daily. Why would anyone allow that? They have nowhere to get away from it, they will bump into glass, we have hands, we can help them. You did agree on the separations being cruel in your blog, and so you have to ask any of this ethical? One more comment I have to make is SW would not receive "Keiko" the Killer whale into their park because he had lesions on his skin. He was not "pretty" enough for the talent show....and...they LOAN the whales out....LOAN and why would anybody use the word or practice loan in reference to a Killer whale? The bottom line is....SW will never risk their BOTTOM LINE. It is no secret anymore, facts are piled sky high and ethical citizens are becoming a voice for these animals/mammals. Small steps in the right direction make massive change-I believe Martin Luther King Jr. would agree.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I don't think they are making 'massive' profit gains, but it is making them more relevant than if they sit there and say nothing.

DEX 2 years ago

Additionally, on my comment about ex-trainers. I was stating that they are far from making massive profit gain for coming out about their accounts, of what they witnessed over the years. They have probably lost friendships and so forth was the second part to it, when I spoke of "losses"

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

If SW is nothing without its orca attraction, maybe you should be more understanding as to why they continue it. I've heard activists insist that SW does not need orcas or dolphins to attract visitors (to try and make a case for them ending their breeding program), then they state the opposite (to make a case for SW's greed), based on whatever mood they're in. I wonder which one is true. As for inbreeding, why do people ignore so many cases of inbreeding in other animal species?

DEX 2 years ago

Let us also not forget inbreeding is unnatural and many of the complications the animals/mammals suffer at these parks are questionable. A corporation recognizes its staple....what is SW without its Killer whale atraction? Big business is always out for the profit and maintenance of what it has founded along with its main attraction and or specialty. Is in breeding ethical to maintain the main attraction? You tell me... activists are not about public display and revenue, they make zero of it. However, they will spread the word and stand up for the rights of a cetacean that cannot. if we arent the voice who will be? we might as well allow all injustice in America continue in that case. Never bothers people or raises questions happens to their wife or husband or child and then....all of a sudden there is light shed upon the situation. (Ric O Barry, we all know him right, he knows both sides if the story VERY WELL and look at the man today). The masses never want to hear the truth and big business never wants to look bad or lose their selling point. Business ethics plays a huge role in SWs practices and with that being said the public is able to view public record of SW hearings. If nothing is wrong and everything is right...why do places like this end up in court? Because something is wrong. at where he stands today. someone has, and these are our oceans....think about it.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I doubt they have nothing to gain Dex, now that they are not working for SeaWorld.

DEX 2 years ago

main point to remember is all cetaceans belong in the Ocean, where they were born. sea pens have been a huge option for rehab of ill or harmed cetaceans. Let us not forget trainers with almost 20 years of experience in SW have no gain but only losses for speaking out. Additionally, I am more willing to listen to someone with 20 years of experience and those who have acquired PHDs, because what that says to me is the information they present is not based on biased viewpoints or other feelings, but FACTS.

Sarah 2 years ago

I agree. Another issue is that this documentary, like most, is biased and shows no opposing side of any of the arguments. The general public accepts that all of it is true because moral perspective has become an anomaly in this society. The film beats down the notion that everything presented is negative without any recrimination. Blackfish has also become a trending social object, and, as it is with any moral issue, it is unfashionable to disagree with the topic. It bothers me that the general public is ignorantly ebullient to hate something without justifying an opposing point of view.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sarah--Many people have not been exposed to this subject before, so it is an eye-opening and shocking experience for them. Many people also believe animals are 'getting revenge' when they attack trainers and other concepts like that.

Sarah 2 years ago

The only reason Blackfish is mindlessly accepted as "insightful" and "truthful" is because the general public is too stupid and incapable of questioning folly when moral subjectivity is at hand. It is socially agreeable to not only follow whatever is trending, but also to readily jump on the bandwagon of whatever the majority says is "right", bo questions asked. Melissa, thank you for standing up for what you believe in and voicing opinion against those who ignorantly antagonize you.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Great post daphne, that's pretty much how I see things.

daphne 2 years ago

Hey Melissa,

Thank you so much for writing this post. I admit that I was pulled emotionally into the "Blackfish" film; it definitely had some heartwrenching footage and testimony from the trainers. Honestly, I was so surprised when I was watching the documentary when all the trainers got their jobs because of mere interest in the occupation rather than concrete knowledge about animal care, or even a background in psychology to understand the behaviors of these complex and highly intelligent predators. I guess those standards were from 20 years ago when they just needed people to work in Seaworld. I know that the aquarium in Baltimore does not hold dolphin performances anymore but instead holds educational information sessions that open up an informative Q&A session for visitors that I think actually helps the cause for large marine mammals in captivity.

To address the animal rights activists, I am totally with you about the fact that animals need to stop being ill-treated while in captivity. However, I tend to disagree with completely shutting down zoos and establishments like Seaworld. As someone who loves animals and does a lot of research on my own, including papers that I have written during my college career (I'm 21 and getting a bachelor's in biology), I have to emphasize that animals that are born in captivity will not be able to assimilate completely back into their wild environments because they are simply not equipped with the survival skills that wild animals have developed from birth. Yes, they definitely have the instincts hard-wired in their genes that would make rehabilitation possible, but the thing is that humans don't know enough to be able to successfully rehabilitate them completely if the animals are born in captivity.

I do agree that these killer whales do not have suitable living environments and that Seaworld needs to look into new methods that will make their living conditions better suited for them. I also agree that Seaworld separating the calves from their mothers is wrong. I feel that people should be arguing for these changes to be made within Seaworld and not advocating for its complete shutdown because not everything that they do is so bad, and the conservation and rescue that they promote definitely helps to improve the lives of animals that have been stranded or hurt/beached. That being said, I do wish that more of their funds went toward the research because I am sure they can definitely afford to allocate more money.

I found this article that a UCF grad and former SeaWorld intern wrote, and I found it extremely helpful when balancing the Blackfish documentary with a more objective standpoint.

Again Melissa, thanks for providing this opposing viewpoint that will hopefully encourage viewers of Blackfish to really question what they watch and to do the research needed to form a more well-rounded point of view.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Sorry about my long-windedness (if that's a word) more thing!

@ IP Mac, strngwys, and anyone else with similar comments who I missed

Why are you telling Melissa that she shouldn't look into this? Again, you don't want to be wrong (I assume, although I could be wrong). As for you, strngwys, I am amazed that you told Melissa that "You are reading far too deep into this Melissa." You don't want her doing a little research- and free thinking- to untwist the manipulated truth or straight out lies in Blackfish. It's ridiculous. Get over it and realize that just because Blackfish is a popular film doesn't mean that it's perfect.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Bob, Rich, Gregory44, Hanna Strauss, Billie Jo, and anyone else I missed,

Why are you telling Melissa that she's not qualified? She's been following the cetacean captivity debate "for over three years", as she says in her article (which you would've seen if you'd read it calmly and with an open mind), which is longer than many journalists and normal commenters have been following it. And to the many people that say that Melissa's points are backed up with her own opinion, I think that sometimes "opinion" and "logic" can be used interchangeably by people who don't understand the difference.

Bob- are you an orca expert or SeaWorld expert? And just because Melissa's not a journalist, does that mean she isn't allowed free speech? Get real. Just because you don't like someone's opinion doesn't mean you need to tell them that they can't have it. And you sound very arrogant in telling Melissa that though she isn't a journalist, YOU are, which means that you're allowed to express your opinion while she isn't. Just because you're a journalist doesn't mean you're superior to everyone else. "Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance." At least not according to SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists). And, Bob, the fact that you tell Melissa that her opinion is not "important in any way" just shows that you do not care for other people. Anti-caps call us "selfish" but you are just demonstrating this yourself. Your opinion (that Melissa's opinion isn't important) is apparently not important at all either. Who gave you the power to decide who's important and who's not? "I am a solid journalist who would write a piece laced with facts, sources and quotes from the experts on this matter." Then why don't you? Oh, and make sure you post the link here. I'd love to know what your opinion is.

Rich- "What is clear here is that you are not a biologist, and more importantly not a whale biologist. As such you are not qualified to comment on the animals state of mind or behaviour. Check any unbiased scientific assessment of of this subject and the consensus is strong. It is not ethical to keep such animals in captivity." I would like to know if you are a biologist...or, more importantly, a whale biologist. Guess what? I learned from an ANTI-CAP book, Death at SeaWorld, that one of the world's "foremost experts" on cetaceans (Ken Norris) was one of the founders of SeaWorld (pages 52-53). Just because someone's a biologist doesn't mean they're anti-cap. Oh, and by the way, I would like to point out to you that SeaWorld is a member of the Association of ZOOS and AQUARIUMS and that they have a rescue program and the SeaWorld-Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. SeaWorld is a highly accredited marine park with efforts to help wild animals. Now please tell me what Gabriela Cowperthwaite is doing to contribute to conservation.

Gregory54- what about you? Do you have a background in ecology?

Hanna Strauss- "It is easy to sit in front of a computer in an armchair and read articles online. The only accurate way you can effectively assess the behaviors and social structures of animals such as orcas is to OBSERVE them for countless hours in situ which qualified marine biologists and cetaceanologists have committed themselves to do in order find the truth about these magnificent animals." You are not going to be educated about the captivity debate by going and staring at orcas in the wild. That is when you have to "sit in front of a computer in an armchair and read articles online", or watch a movie, or read a book. Have you observed killer whales "for countless hours" in the wild? I doubt it.

Billie Jo- "I guess my question would have to be, what qualifications, education do you have to judge the fitness of these or any animals to be kept in captivity? I don't know your educational history. Do you have a degree in animal husbandry, marine biology, or the like?" Again, do you have any of these things? If you don't, and you need them to be able to express your opinions/observations, than can you "judge the fitness of these or any animals to be kept in captivity"?

I want you to know that I have been a SeaWorld pass member for five years and have visited dozens of times- about once a month. I have been able to see the different personalities of the SWC whales. I have been at the park on two ALMOST significant dates- February 25, 2010 (the day after Dawn Brancheau died) and the day before Sumar died. I've seen a one week old calf. I have seen the whales come to the acrylic to interact with guests. I've seen siblings playing and unexpected relationship sessions with trainers. I do not believe anyone who says that the whales only like the trainers because of fish.


You claim that "For $21 I can go off the Southern California coast and see 1000's of common dolphins, Blue Whales, Grey Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Fin Whales, Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Fur Seals, Harbor Seals, Risso's Dolphins, ETC!" However, this does NOT compare to SeaWorld. When you go whale watching you are not guaranteed to see "1000's of common dolphins, Blue Whales, Grey Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Fin Whales, Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Fur Seals, Harbor Seals, Risso's Dolphins, ETC!" When I went whale watching a few years ago- off the coast of Southern California- I saw a few sea lions and some common dolphins. None of your thousands of seals and whales. Granted, that doesn't mean it can't happen (although I highly doubt that you'd see ALL those species in one trip, and certainly not thousands). But at SeaWorld, you WILL see orcas, dolphins, pilot whales, beluga whales, seals, sea lions, turtles, rays, polar bears, fish, and many more. And you can have amazing experiences with these animals. What little kid won't remember when four black and white tons of Shamu came up to play with them? And, as Mark Simmons said, why do kids in Indiana even know what a killer whale is (I saw this in Death at SeaWorld [page 378]. It was a comment posted on Tim Zimmerman's blog...and it made a good point...and it was deleted)?

And as for affordability, a California resident can get a Fun Card for less than the price of a day. If that person goes once a month, that adds up to about $7 a visit (plus parking and food, but there are ways to not have to pay for those either).

"They spend their whole life eating dead fish with the animals we choose for them and confined to a concrete pool. AND We force them to get up and do shows on OUR schedule." Well, for one thing, the whales don't seem to mind their dead fish. They're always eager for more. And SeaWorld does not force the animals to perform. You cannot force any animal to do anything. Unfortunately, this isn't clear to the makers of Blackfish, who encourage us to "never capture what you can't control".

You claim that "Yes, I am aware of the good rescue work that Sea World does and that has NOTHING to do with Blackfish." Actually, it has everything to do with Blackfish. Blackfish tells us that SeaWorld is evil, basically. And if SeaWorld closed down, so would their rescue program. Then there would be two choices. Either thousands of animals would not be rescued, or the remaining facilities would become overcrowded, which would result in poor health for the animals.


Why are you mad at Melissa? Because she showed you that Blackfish- and you- might possibly be wrong? That's a serious pride issue, and yet you call Melissa an "arrogant idiot". Why not submit some constructive comments instead of insulting the author... because that will not get you anywhere. And she is not "black hearted" just because she doesn't agree with you.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

So then Phil, you acknowledge that this movie has been erroneously promoted as a examination of the danger SeaWorld put employees in, and that the Dawn Brancheau focus was irrelevant. As I state in this article, I'm certain most supporters of this film care little (if at all) about the fact that this person was killed and are exploiting it for the free-the-whales message. As for examining the captivity issue, I have done that in another article. This movie need not create or perpetuate any myths about orcas to prove a point about captivity, but they've done so for additional emotional impact. It was just a coincidence that I happened to know about that Luna footage, my ignorance to other things may have led me to not observe more nonsense in the movie.

Alex 2 years ago

All these people saying that it is 'wrong' and 'inhumane' to keep orca in captivity and to release them all are actually doing a good job of proving why these places need to exist. Humans are very good at ignoring things when they're not in front of them. There are many species going extinct all around the world. But because they aren't big and charismatic, they are ignored. If people are this upset about them being captive, then maybe they should start doing something about the deteriorating conditions which are threatening wild orca? The point is, while the conditions are abysmal, and I agree they need larger tanks, and a strict policy of not breaking up families, these animals are playing a role in their own species conservation. The money sea world makes is used to fund research and perform tasks which are necessary for preserving not just orca, but a range of sea animals. Without that funding, this research wouldn't happen. And if they didn't have killer whales at sea world, there would probably be a lot more people caring a lot less about them, if they knew about them at all. The system needs to change. But shutting down all wild life parks would deny the public a chance to connect with wildlife, and this personal connection, real or imagined, is what inspires future conservationists and encourages empathy towards other species in our society.

Phil 2 years ago

You spend way too much time caring about a tiny insignificant part of the movie. Yes it was stated that no orca in the wild has killed a person but I for one don't think that was a main point of the film. Nor do I believe they're trying to suggest it couldn't easily happen if someone were in the wrong place at the wrong time. To spend so much of your article on such a trivial statement just shows that you're unwilling to actually look at the captivity and suffering the whales endure.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

That's why I put the link there.

S. Laq 2 years ago

True. But when people search up Black Fish, this comes up. Not your first article. That's how I stumbled upon it.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Yes well...this isn't a major publication, that's the beauty of it.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sorry I'm not sure I understand why that's necessary. This article is a companion piece to my initial observations in the other article.

S. Laq 2 years ago

I'm not trying to put you down at all! There is just a difference between this article (which presents an important point of view) and one that would appear in a major publication.

S. Laq 2 years ago

Ok, people are searching Black Fish. Your review comes up. Ditch the whole intro about your attachment to the trailer. Readers aren't looking for that. They are looking for response to the film.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

S. Laq, that was pretty unhelpful. Please expand.

S. Laq 2 years ago

Just watched this documentary and I think you have some really good points. But the article needs some revision. Don't be so loyal to your words. Keep on writing. Don't be defensive!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Haha, thanks Denise

Denise d 2 years ago

Melissa A. Smith you rock!

Pro Cap 2 years ago

I'm now going to post a few corrections to prior comments... please bear with me!

@Melissa M.

"Haha you couldn't even say anything to my 2 comments because everything I said was right."

I find this to be a comment that you might hear an eleven year old voicing. Gloating and being arrogant will not help you. And even if Melissa S. didn't answer your comment right away, she was probably sleeping. Some people don't stare at their computer screens their whole lives and actually sleep so they can make sound arguments. Are you one of them?

Oh and I'm also confused by these sentences: "I went to SeaWorld when I was young, I had an instant connection with a dolphin who only came up to me out of everyone and let me touch it. No one else out of the entire crowd at Discovery Cove, just me. And when I found the picture of me touching this dolphin from years ago just recently well this made me realize why I need to do something."

So you had an amazing experience with an amazing animal at SeaWorld, and that turned you against them? Don't you think that maybe some OTHER little kids who would have experiences like yours would be inspired by these connections to protect and conserve the ocean? Your comment just contradicts itself.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Pro Cap, maybe.

Pro Cap 2 years ago

Happy new year everyone, and especially you Melissa!

Did anyone else notice that the SeaWorld float in the Rose Parade was accompanied by a large police escort? Probably to protect them from PETA members... :/

josh 2 years ago

Amazing and truthful article!!! keep up the good work!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thank you for your thoughts Jinsing129

Dave Griffin1 profile image

Dave Griffin1 2 years ago

My pleasure!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for the nice words Dave Griffin

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Dave Griffin1 2 years ago

Melissa, I am new to hubpages and a new author. I completely agree with your views here and I think you have a brilliantly written hub that is chock full of information and I see your passion in your writing! I can only hope to become a great author such as yourself! I will be following you and taking notes on your pages. Excellent work!

Jinsing129 2 years ago

I haven't had the chance to watch Blackfish, but I do believe the people who argue against captivity, always try to negate the positives that come from it, as a freak occurrence. I live in the heartland, where hunting is a HUGE deal. I have never hunted, but support my fellow Americans right to do it, legally, and safely. Much like the captivity issue, there are people who say hunting should be abolished, because it isn't necessary to modern life. However, what they fail to realize is how much good hunting, when done legally, does for the environment. SAY WHAT?!?!? You see, to legally hunt an animal, one must buy a permit, the funds received from said permit are funneled into conservation projects to save and conserve different environments. So while some people like to believe we live in a Black and White world, it's a world of grays, nothing is usually Purely good or Purely Evil. People pay to hunt, People pay to visit zoos and SeaWorld, which in turn helps wild life. Just remember, this is America, Money talks, so until someone can find a way to finance all the goodwill and conservation that everyone wants to get done, a little "evil", will be necessary. Great article BTW

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I do feel that the animals would be worse off without some form of job while in captivity.

anonymous 2 years ago

Just a thought, maybe those "tricks" people are criticizing Sea World for training are part of the way they are enriching the animals' lives. Teaching behaviors provide mental and physical stimulation and bonding with the trainers. These behaviors and relationships are also helpful in drawing in audiences to be educated and inspired to conserve the natural environment.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I wouldn't know Amwrider, I won't comment on any of that until it's verified.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

@ Ernest, it's both. Obviously I'm not going to talk about the quality of the doc as a movie too much, it was just average. Docs I guess are judged by the chosen subject matter these days over the art of direction.

Ernest 2 years ago

This post seems to be less about film criticism and more about defending the right to hold animals for captivity.

Amwrider 2 years ago

Just want to comment on something you said in the article about how short the employment is before they let trainers in the tank. I don't think any of those "trainers" in the film were eve in the tank. One was a tainer that worked with otters and was fired from the park for not reporting an injury. The lady trainer was a junior assistant for the orcas and was responsible for filling and cleaning food buckets. That was the extent of her "work" and on-stage appearances producing fresh buckets for the trainers.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Lol, thank you S.R.

S.R. 2 years ago

I think this is just great. I just watched "Blackfish" and by the end of the movie I was more annoyed than anything. I was expecting to be informed and maybe hear a good argument against seaworld but I didn't; it was the complete opposite. I'm glad you wrote this, it hits almost every point I found important. Great work. Also, there are plenty of activists with an opposing viewpoint that have made much more grandiose remarks that are not "whale biologists" either and I don't see anyone harassing them. Thank you so much for this piece.

TSO 2 years ago

I agree with many of the people who say the author seems to support captivity.

Yes, Blackfish does focus on the deaths of trainers, but the whole point is to support negativity towards SeaWorld. SeaWorld is.....? A business..... Businesses! Of course they want to sugarcoat/hide what has been going on. The accounts from the former trainers seem sincere. To me, this movie is more about SeaWorld hiding the fact that these distressed Whales are causing harm and obviously hate the lives they are in. Would you want your employer to misinform you of the risks that COULD happen in a high risk job? I would say not. It's the fact that SeaWorld wants to maintain their IMAGE, regardless of how they treat these highly social whales given the research, and the negligence towards their employees. It's all about the money.

Alex 2 years ago

The interesting thing is that they lead you to assume that it's somehow SeaWorld's fault that Tillikum was unstable and dangerous. What you have to remember is that Tillikum (the whale that they focused on almost exclusively as being dangerous) was taken from the wild and placed in a janky little exhibit where he was abused by other whales and not given enough space. When SeaWorld bought him, it wasn't because they thought "Oh we can make so much money off of this" it was because if they didn't buy him, he'd be put down or released back into the wild (where he'd likely die anyway.) Tillikum had been raised in captivity, he likely would never be able to be released into the wild. The problem I see is that the shows put humans in the pool with the whales just fucking insane. I agree with the author that the shows should be used to educate people on the orcas and not just show them that they can do stupid tricks.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Well Billie Jo I don't see where in this article I campaign for these animals to be kept in captivity, it is about the misleading claims in the documentary regarding the nature of the animals. Also, a degree in marine biology will teach you nothing about captive marine animal welfare. There are plenty of bloggers speculating negative things about Seaworld and the welfare of their animals that do not have their credentials questioned. You can point out what you are taking issue with in this article and I will explain it.

Pro cap 2 years ago

Great article Melissa! I haven't seen Blackfish but I hope to so I can see for myself the lies it spreads. This article was an eye opener. The fact that the film portrays Luna as normal is pretty rdiculous. I also find it funny that anticaps are complaining about you looking too far into this movie. Believe me, you're not. Thanks again and please continue posting these great pro cap articles!!

Billie Jo 2 years ago

I guess my question would have to be, what qualifications, education do you have to judge the fitness of these or any animals to be kept in captivity? I don't know your educational history. Do you have a degree in animal husbandry, marine biology, or the like? I am genuinely wondering; I am not being disingenuous. I don't totally agree with your stance but you did make me question certain things I saw in the film. I also think you are correct about the educational validity of some captivity programs. I personally believe that we have learned all we are ever going to from the Orcas being held in marine parks. Sea World falls back on having discovered the true facts about Orca gestational periods and other animal husbandry aspects of their care, but my question to them has to be what have you done for me lately? Do you know what amount of Orca research truly goes on at SeaWorld currently? I am truly curious to know; I fear it is very little. I watched an interview with former trainer John Hargrove, a 20 year park veteran, in which he talked about the killer whale shows actually devolving during his time at the park. He talked about the educational elements actually being phased out in favor of the more entertaining fare. The management's reasoning for the change, because that is what the ticket buyers want to see. Sad. Do I feel that killer whale captivity has outlived its validity? Yes. Do I feel that there is any true educational benefits in SeaWorld's Orca shows. No. Do I think SeaWorld should be erased? No. This issue, like many, is neither black or white but many shades of gray.

Carlos 2 years ago

You sound as if you love going to Sea World clapping your hands worse than a Sea Lion when the orcas splash you. I found your writing naive either way. Have you not seen the small tanks theyre kept in when these large mammals are known for swimming hundres/thousands of miles a day? If you d be kept as a prisoner in your own bathtub and taken off from it to walk around in your own bathroom for the amusement of others, wouldnt that drive you insane? Who are we to kidnap an animal from its natural habitat to use as an entertainment act? Sorry I still firmly believe that Sea World is acting upon greed and not for the well being of their "Collection" (Words used by them in other documentaries).

John 2 years ago

I can't even begin to praise how brilliant this is. Since I'm weird, I was taking notes about the various failures of this documentary while I was watching it, and reading this article looks like I'm reading through my notes again. I actually did find some interesting tidbits scattered through time of accounts where orcas actually did have harmful (or they intended to have harmful interactions) with humans, most recently (and perhaps most famously) in the filming of the BBC Series Frozen Planet, where orcas were filmed trying to wave wash human crew members off a small boat as they would seals on an ice chunk. Keep fighting the good fight against ignorance!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Malcolm.

Malcolm 2 years ago

I from England and have been visiting SeaWorld every year for 17 years

I've seen thousands of shows seen tilikum perform 100s of times and adore the killer whale species

I'm disappointed to see a park which has done so much for conservation and education be attacked in such a cruel vial manner

I really enjoyed your article because at present the mainstream journalist just report the sensationiasm headlines and have done no research and educated themselves in any way

The story if blackfish is a glorified you tube video preying on the tragedy of dawn in 2010

An opportunity from lunatic fringe animal activists to obtain cheap publicity at the expense of dawns family friends and work colleague who still have excruciating pain from her loss

You wrote entertainingly educational,points and used fact not fiction for precise points

I applaud this and say to everyone do the research behind the drama headlines it's not as clear as this appalling piece of you tube tripe tries to portray

Thanks Melissa great article

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torrilynn 2 years ago

Nice viewpoints ypu have here. Ive never seen Blackfish but Ive heard of it before. Thanks for this article. It was eye opening indeed.

HelenAvrilB 2 years ago

I certainly can point out the erroneous statements you are making but unfortunately it will have to wait until the weekend as I am extremely busy during the day with my full-time job and at night I am working on my research and writing of my paper. But I will certainly make time this weekend to formally put something to paper for you.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

HelenAvrilB, this is obviously not a scholarly article nor was it intended to be. Your comments may hold more weight if you would point out the shockingly erroneous statements I'm making, if they exist.

HelenAvrilB 2 years ago

How about writing a piece that is actually based on facts and scientific evidence with regards to marine mammal captivity issues? Your piece is biased and seriously flawed! As a professional, currently writing a paper on captivity issues that will be published next year , this is an example of how not to write! You say you researched, but I dispute that statement. What you did, is formed opinions and then 'glammed' them up under the guise of research. You have disgraced professionals who actually do research and write on this particular issue. Don't be patting yourself on the back and thinking you did a good job. As far as writing a piece based on truths and evidence, this is not it! Go back to your computer and do the general public a favour and do some actual research!

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pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

@Melissa A Smith-Very interesting article. I just watched Blackfish last night, so I am not sure where I stand on the emotional well-being of captive killer whales. I do; however, think it isn't right to keep a whale performing that has already killed trainers in the past.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Good points Fawn, Thanks.

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Fawn Mackie 2 years ago from Greeley, Colorado

Ms. Simth, I agree whole heartedly with you and feel bad for you about how people have treated you who oppose you. It is amazing how some people believe they are the only ones allowed the freedom of speech and that they can attack you.

Whether you have a degree from a university or are self taught means nothing. You made valid points about a documentary that relied solely on interviews from previous trainers and that left a lot of research out. When working with animals in aquariums or zoos there is always going to be danger. As a dog groomer and reptile owner I know even owning dogs or captive bred snakes can be dangerous. Just because they are domesticated doesn't mean they won't hesitate to bite. And to think others on this blog care so little about all that SeaWorld does for wild populations and the rehabilitation they do is sad. Without a source of income from the theme section they can't fund nearly as many of their programs. And for some to claim positive reinforcement training is brainwashing is strange. I practice positive reinforcement with food on my dogs. It is the one reason my border collie/springer can be groomed now.

Also if those who are against zoos and aquariums want to see these animals in the wild they should look at statistics and the harmful effects of things like whale watching. In that case it is an entire ecosystem that is affected. Also if habitat destruction both in the ocean and on land continues as it is then where else will we find wild animals than in captivity?

When it comes to emotional reaction versus reactions based off of knowledge and research, unfortunately a lot of people take documentaries as the god given truth. Even though documentaries themselves are made to get the director's beliefs across. So a lot of times only information pertinent to their argument is shown and if no one bothers to do research they get angry at those who point out the fallacies.

Saying that, keep up the good work!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hunts will persist even if every aquarium shut down tomorrow M Fox.

M Fox 2 years ago

The BOTTOM LINE ….. as long as there is a demand to see cetaceans in captivity or "swim" with them, there will be drives, hunts, killings and slaughterings to get them (case and point: Taiji, Japan - aka: ground zero). Blackfish has done it's job IMO. They have raised awareness and started a dialogue. For that, they get 5 stars and an Amen!!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Dolly, I don't think I alluded to anyone being stupid for disagreeing with me, but I was directly called stupid, among other things, by many commenters.

dolly 2 years ago

Hey Melissa!

I stumbled on your article while looking for some info on a completely unrelated documentary (undocumented workers in Iowa, anyone?) but I read through it because I watched Blackfish at our local indie theater and participated in quite an interesting discussion about it afterward which left me wanting more! I don't have much to say on your content because it was mostly things I'd heard before, but I just wanted to let you know that you're really alienating your audience by coming off as pretty arrogant. There are ways to state your opinions without implying that people who disagree with you are stupid, and being condescendingly courteous doesn't help. I think that if you addressed your audience a little bit more like equals and less like the inferior and uneducated masses you might actually change people's opinions; likewise, when people critique your argument, being open to what they have to say goes a long way to establish you as a creditable source, as opposed to someone who will stick to her argument no matter what logic is thrown her way.

Like I said, you have some good points, and the ones I disagree with I don't particularly care to debate again. I just want you to be able to actually get this information across to people who need to hear it but might be too off-put to actually make it through the entire article!

Cheers and happy holidays!

John Laity 2 years ago

Nice piece, The stupidity in this whole film is that we, as humans, think that we are having a "bonding moment" when we swim with Cetaceans or visit them at an exhibit. The fact is we are encountering a highly developed predator wild species. No mater how controlled or tame Orca may seem, they are 2 tonne apex predators. In the sea nothing messes with an Orca, nothing, that is what "Apex" means. It means you are safer with a Great White Shark. If you swim with an Orca treat him with the respect he deserves...Don't give him your daughter as a play toy!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Nice comment thank you JJ.

JJ 2 years ago

Thank you so much for saying something against this documentary. I typically don't like arguing, so I've had to sit quiet while my friends go on and on about how terrible Sea World is and how they'll never support them again. Although parts of this documentary did make me cringe, such as the initial removal of the calves from their mothers in the wild, and the separation of the calves from the mothers in captivity, I thought the documentary was an extremely biased piece that made the general public feel like whale experts, which is clearly far from the truth.

First of all, Sea World has a large rescue and rehabilitation center that is not promoted or viewable to guests. I was not aware of this myself until I visited and received a behind the scenes tour. There are quite a large number of employees who specialize in rescues and spend their time nursing manatees, sea turtles, and dolphins back to health before releasing them back into the wild. Everyone saying Sea World is just a "theme park" should do some research before making this statement.

Second, orcas are literally at the top of the food chain in the wild. They have been known to kill great white sharks. Clearly they aren't the romanticized whales the documentary portrays them as in the wild.

One thing that really bothers me is that people think the only food the orcas receive is from doing tricks. This is not true. The animals will get the same amount of food each day, regardless of how they perform in shows. All that food for rewards is extra. There is no "food withholding" anymore. Also, it angers me how they emphasized the "punishment" that went on at Sea Land in the beginning. Dolphins and whales are now trained using only positive reinforcement, meaning they are not punished for doing any wrong behaviors, they are simply just not rewarded. This is remedial psychology.

The most bothersome topic that has come up throughout the recent accidents involving whales and this documentary is the fact that people want them "freed." I can't tell you how many times I've seen or heard "FREE THE WHALES!" while knowing the person has no idea what would actually happen. As stated above, putting a whale in a sea-pen after a life in captivity would mean certain death, because their immune systems do not know how to handle ocean water. Trying to return a whale to the wild would also end up in death, because they have no idea how to hunt or socialize in a true pod.

Another point I would like to mention is the fact that animal trainers can no longer interact with the whales. This decision was made by a group of people who do not understand whales even in the slightest. The animal trainers are the whales' family. As corny as it sounds, it's the closest thing they have to a pod. To the trainer in the documentary saying that the only connection they had was because they provided fish, you should never have been a trainer. Having a family member who works with these mammals, I can tell you it is much, much more than that. Now, these trainers can't even interact with the animals because of the new law in place, and the whales think they're being punished. Imagine having a dog (I'm not trying to compare an orca to a dog here) and interacting with it every day for years, then suddenly having to feed it though a barrier because there was a dog attack- no play time, no one on one interactions. Imagine the effect this has on the dog and the person. It's ridiculous and confusing to the animals. But Sea World can't do anything about it.

I'm not sure why the documentary would use animal trainers who "didn't really have a background in animal behavior" as eyewitnesses. I dare anyone to try to get a job as an animal trainer now at Sea World. They are highly sought after positions and require lots of previous schooling and education.

I feel like this documentary focuses a lot on past issues but makes them seem relevant now, such as the extraction of wild whales. If this doesn't occur anymore, why make it an emotional point in the documentary? I understand it's part of the history, but it isn't clear to the public that it doesn't take place anymore. Also, as mentioned above, the documentary makes the animal trainers out to be unknowledgeable individuals, which is certainly not the case. Also, I've read in other articles that some of the trainers interviewed for Blackfish have been fired from Sea World for mistreating animals. That might be something to look in to, as it would make them clearly biased against Sea World, and perfect material for the documentary.

In a perfect world, orcas would never have been put in captivity in the first place. Would I go back and stop the first orca from ever being taken from its pod? Of course. But orcas are in captivity, and they can't be released. I think its ridiculous that outcry from this documentary has caused multiple singers and bands to withdraw from Sea World Orlando's upcoming concert. Do people not realize that by boycotting Sea World, you're killing the whales? I do believe there are some improvements that could be made to how the whales are kept, but they are learning and making progress, just like any other zoo around the country. By the way, Sea World is an AZA accredited institution- meaning it is recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which is basically the highest distinction you can have as a zoo in America. I do believe that Sea World sparks interest in anyone who visits. Without some marine mammals in captivity, I don't believe there would be as much passion to conserve our ocean. How can you not be driven to protect wild orcas once you've been face to face with one in captivity?

I know there are lots of points I didn't cover from this documentary, but I've held these opinions in for so long, I had to put them somewhere. I am in no way working for or affiliated with Sea World or any of those other things people accused the author of this article of working for. I'm very passionate about the ocean and marine mammals and their well-being and I thought the documentary did an excellent job of giving a powerful, important, and inspirational institution a terrible name. Shame on them. Everyone should do more research before forming an opinion on this biased, one-sided documentary.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"Go back to whatever you weren't doing before you decided to have an opinion on this subject."

That...doesn't even make sense.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

carryonn51--I've deleted many comments, and thought I'd accept this one as an example of the stupidity I face.

carryonn51 profile image

carryonn51 2 years ago

You, are an arrogant idiot, my dear. And prey tell, where are you from sweetheart? Oh yes, well bless your black hearted bitchiness and please do stay put, honey!!

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Yes Kelly B, selling this movie as a conspiracy against SeaWorld workers was highly effective. On Youtube, all videos with the title 'Seaworld whale attacks its trainers!' or anything similar always get tons of views. People have a lust for captive animal attacks because they may perceive it as some kind of 'comeuppance' towards a slave owner, or are perhaps intrigued by the striking contrast between the innocent nature of SW presentations and something 'ugly' lurking behind the scenes.

Kelly B 2 years ago

I saw right through the trailer, as well, the first time I saw it. The 911 call, the random water splashing scene spliced in. I also took it a step further, right away, and assumed that they were making this into a "people are getting hurt" instead of just "whales are getting hurt" because that might be the only way to get any legal agency's attention and get these places shut down. Maybe taking that angle shouldn't have been the crux of the film, since so many of us see through it. But something does need to be done, and if you yell "whales are getting hurt!" you won't get quite as much attention as "people are getting killed!"

Dave 2 years ago


If you read Freeing Keiko, you would know that the experiment was ultimately a failure because Keiko continued to seek out human company wherever he was. This caused legal and political complications in Norway where they had to prevent the press and people from interacting the whale and preventing him from becoming 'wild' again.

skibee11 2 years ago

"You continue to argue unnatural environment = bad, trying to use one really bad one to discredit non-bad ones."

WRONG. Yes, I am saying that the unnatural tiny tank for an orca is wrong, correct. But what I'm ARGUING is against what YOU SAID, which was that animals born in an environment that is not natural for them can become used to the environment to the point that their biological instincts are overridden. If that applies to orcas, why would it not apply to humans? I used the example of humans being born in an environment that is not natural for them, say, a broom closet, and that, like orcas being born in a tank, the humans would not become used to the broom closet to the point that their biological instincts are overridden. You can change broom closet to some equally unnatural human environment.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"Orcas are dangerous, they are not cute and cuddly playthings."

"The movie was not saying that Tilikum would have been fine and friendly if only his treatment in captivity was better..."

The movie is making the point that -captivity- is the result of his psychosis. I'm sorry, my quote proves that. They show the little kid petting the animal (Luna) in the wild and it's not supposed to be negative. Most people believe they are not dangerous at all in the wild, which is one of the things I'm contesting here. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

"If you want to put forth some arguments against Lori Marino's ideas, particularly as expressed in the movie, go right ahead." (she commented on this one)

" If you want to show any reason beyond baseless speculation that he was unhappy, go right ahead."

I believe animals get sick and die prematurely for a reason. I believe that an orca that successfully forms bonds with wild orcas will stay with them, not chase boats and beg for (non-live) fish. Call it speculation all you want, it's rational.

CynicalSam 2 years ago

Certainly, there are many reasons why Tilikum may have attacked. Some of those interviewed expressed the opinion that Tilikum may have been emotionally or mentally damaged by his experiences. The movie was not saying that Tilikum would have been fine and friendly if only his treatment in captivity was better and that the reason he attacked was due to the stressors of his time in Sealand. What the movie is saying is that there were allot of reasons why Dawn should not have been in the water with Tilikum. Orcas are dangerous, they are not cute and cuddly playthings. No trainer belongs in the water with them. To single out one small thread in the tapestry of the entire movie... seems you are missing the forest for the trees.


If you want to put forth some arguments against Lori Marino's ideas, particularly as expressed in the movie, go right ahead. So far you haven't done anything but ad hom her. From what I can see, the legal rights for animals is a tactic to try to keep some animals, like great apes and dolphins, out of captivity. Who knows, maybe in a hundred years we'll all be vegetarians and go to nature preserves to see real animals.


WOW. You read a whole lotta stuff into what I wrote. Keep in mind I'm not the one using the words "happy", "pining to join wild whales and leave humans", "confusion and loneliness", "desperation"; I simply wrote a rather dry description of Keiko's life after Mexico. You seem to be the one projecting the human emotions and anthropomorphizing. You are only making guesses at his mental state to determine that he may not have been happy. I am not the one who is guessing "what was going on in the mind of that animal", you are the only one making that attempt.

Adventure seemed to be a good word to describe what Keiko went thru. Adventures can be good or bad; I had a wonderful adventure traveling in Paris a few years ago, I had a horrible adventure when I young and got lost in the woods. Bottom line is that what we know of keiko's time in Iceland and Norway doesn't show any real indication that he was "confused and lonely" or "desperate". He had his caretakers, (which is as much as many captive Orcas can claim), he had a chance to swim with wild Orcas, he learned to hunt. If you want to show any reason beyond baseless speculation that he was unhappy, go right ahead.

His death at 27, while tragic, is more than most male Orcas in captivity can expect. And if Keiko's death at 27 is indicative of "everything (NOT) going well for him" in Norway, then what does that say about the male Orca's in captivity who die much younger? The argument that his dying of pneumonia after almost two years in Norway was because "everything (was NOT) going well for him" is nothing but speculation out of deep roving right field.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

You continue to argue unnatural environment = bad, trying to use one really bad one to discredit non-bad ones. This is why I write the majority of my articles. Not true. The equivalent of a closet is a module. I did just state that both are bad didn't I?

MJ 2 years ago

I can't wait to visit Sea World! I'll grab some Captain D's on the way... And wear my sharkskin boots...

skibee11 2 years ago

If you remember, my initial question regarding this thread was: "Are you saying that animals born in an environment that is not natural for them can become used to it to the point that their biological instincts are overridden?"

Your response was: "Yes (raised from childhood)."

So, humans are exempt from this b/c the unnatural environment of a broom closet is one you deem to be tortuous, but orcas are not exempt b/c the unnatural environment of a tiny tank is one you deem to be "not ideal, but also not flat out torture."

Get it?

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Skibee11--the modules? That no longer takes place, and that was not Seaworld's doing, I think. Either way, it was wrong, and done to try and combat a perceived threat that animal rights activists would set them free. You are trying to use the analogy that a broom closet for a human is just as bad as a tank with swimming room for an orca. It's just not true. I've already explained why. I don't think the SW tanks are ideal for orcas but they are not flat out torture like a broom closet would be (or a module). Just as keeping a hamster in a 3 inch box is torture but keeping them in a cage 3 feet long (extremely different from their natural environment) with the proper care is likely fine. Both are boxes. One is torture, one is reasonable. Get it now?

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Well I disagree. Did you forget about the screaming "if you were kept in a bathtub you're whole life, wouldn't you go a little crazy?!?!?" and I don't have the movie memorized verbatim but I'm sure there's more, you have to read between the lines. The movie is obviously also about Tilikum's mental state and why he might have attacked.

" It almost sounds as if you discovered something you find distasteful about her and so now any thing she says is wrong."

Distasteful? This is her life's work. It is entirely relevant. I didn't say everything she says is 'wrong', it's her conclusions or implications about the data she discusses. She is obviously motivated to argue through her data that the animals have equality or superiority to humans with things related to her goal of person-hood for animals. The organ in their brain discussed in the movie, we have no idea what it is really capable of. It can be entirely plausible that it is NOT some special super power of emotion that they have, but just something much less impressive. She'll see and report what she wants it to be.

" keiko's adventures in Iceland and Norway certainly didn't hurt his health as measured by longevity."

You are glamorizing the heck out of it when you have no idea what happened. I am not anthropomorphizing-- I understand that orcas are inherently social and will stick with their groups for their lives under normal conditions. I think it's safe to say that considering Keiko didn't remain with the wild orcas, something wasn't working out, either he didn't connect with them or was rejected by them. He returned to humans out of preference or desperation. You are determined to see the situation as positive, you declare that he was having an 'adventure' because you are seeing it through how you would feel in the body of an orca. But it is common for animals to be stressed in such drastic changes to their lives. Pneumonia is a disease that kills in a stressed or unhealthy animal, either mentally or physically (just as in his original captivity, his ailments had to do with poor conditions). You do not know what was going on in the mind of that animal, and I am using logic. You are using: 'he was free and eating good food, he HAD to be happy'. He was rather old by captivity standards before released, and his health rebounding in the rehabilitation period is an indication of good health (well-being with most animals, especially cetaceans, is synonymous with good health), so why did good health turn to bad health (respiratory infection)? I don't see why he died at a relatively young age if everything was going well for him.

skibee11 2 years ago

So, did you not watch Blackfish, which highlighted the fact that some of the orcas have been kept in the dark 2/3 of the day, by themselves, in a tiny little tank? Did you miss that part of the documentary?

Also, "broom closets do not meet the needs of a human, so if that situation were real, we'd have a very sick, neurotic, malnourished person that would likely be terrified/in pain from sunlight and permanently mentally impaired depending on time spent there." - So...not at all how some orcas deal w/ being in a similar situation? TINY TANKS DO NOT MEET THE NEEDS OF AN ORCA anymore than broom closets meet the need of a human. Are you seriously incapable of seeing the analogy??

CynicalSam 2 years ago

Melissa - There was no psychosis argument. That line by Ken Balcomb "if thats true"... referring to the conditions of Tilikum's captivity at Sealand... "than it probably led to a psychosis"... if you take that bit out of the movie, the movie remains fundamentally unchanged. The movie shows specifically, that Dawn had no business being in the water with Tilikum and generally, that trainers have no business being in the water with Orcas. Beyond that, the movie shows Seaworld seems to have been duplicitous in both how it presented the Orcas to the trainers and to the public. If Seaworld is suppose to educate people on the nature of these animal than they do a terrible job. And take a look at their website on Orcas; information-wise it contains content that you might expect from a middle schooler. And the bibliography and reference section contains no sources more recent than the year 2000.

So you disagree with Lori Marino and so everything she says must suspect? It almost sounds as if you discovered something you find distasteful about her and so now any thing she says is wrong. If you have an issue with her arguments than you should counter those arguments, not point fingers and say how much you don't like the person. As far as I'm concerned, certain limited legal rights for the more intelligent critters out there might be a good thing.

"Keiko's story is so frustrating because the success of it is highly interpretable." is what you said. What is so interpretable about it. It certainly didn't affect his life expectancy. At 27 he is the forth oldest male to have lived in captivity. At the time of his death he would have been number 2. keiko's adventures in Iceland and Norway certainly didn't hurt his health as measured by longevity. 27 is a "great old age" for a captive male Orca, for a wild male Orca, not so much. And he was eating fresh live fish, he had a large sea pen and later the whole ocean to explore, he was in the best shape in his life, and he had several occasions where he was swimming with wild Orcas for days at a time. Odd, ironic even, that you of all people try to play the "confusion and loneliness" card here (careful, sounds like you're anthropomorphizing there! :-)).

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I never said that they are ideal, but they would certainly beat solitary confinement in a space where they can't move and are in the dark. Longevity and well-being would be about 99% better. Not my standard, you brought it up.

skibee11 2 years ago

If broom closets don't meet the needs of a human, how do small tanks meet the needs of an orca?!?!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Broom closets do not meet the needs of a human, so if that situation were real, we'd have a very sick, neurotic, malnourished person that would likely be terrified/ in pain from sunlight and permanently mentally impaired depending on time spent there.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

CynicalSam-- nope, you're wrong. The psychosis argument was there. There documentary was about more than one thing. The animals were misrepresented, if not briefly. I provided the quote and footage used. This is not about what Seaworld has done. I agree they have done that, it's why I never enjoyed the shows.

" Do you have a specific beef with her"

YES! Everything I state about her is true. She is working with lawyers to try and get 'human' rights for chimpanzees. It was in the news recently. Just look her up:

I've been anticipating this move of theirs for about a year. I think people deserve to know this. The Blackfish director is smart enough to know that some of the smarter viewers might raise an eyebrow to the efforts this person is involved with. The director just wants us to see a smart-looking lady in a lab. Unfortunately, scientists can have agendas too.

I have no misconceptions about Keiko, I have read all of that before. I have not stated my opinion about it here. He was way better off out of his original captivity, that's for sure, but his release also highlighted the complexity of releasing a long-term captive animal, and that they are not necessarily pining to join wild whales and leave humans. When animals die of pneumonia in captivity, people decry: captivity-related stress! Is it possible that the stress of confusion and loneliness affected Keiko? Or is 27 a great old age for an orca now that it's convenient for the 'anti-cap' side (after having the age of '100' being thrown at me again and again)?

skibee11 2 years ago

My question was: "Are you saying that animals born in an environment that is not natural for them can become used to it to the point that their biological instincts are overridden?"

Your response was: "Yes (raised from childhood)."

So, you believe that if you were put into a broom closet the second you were brought home from the hospital after being born, and was raised SOLELY in the broom closet, never stepping so much as a toe outside, that you wouldn't think it was a horrible, UNNATURAL existence for yourself, a human being, based purely on your innate biology (as obviously you wouldn't be able to base it on experience, having never left the closet). Broom closets are certainly not a natural environment for an animal who has roamed the entire globe for thousands of years. Am I to believe that if you spent a few years or more in a broom closet, put there at birth, the second the door was opened your natural, biological instincts wouldn't take over, and you'd be perfectly fine and content to remain in that broom closet and not venture even a foot outside?

Collin237 2 years ago

This is not merely a problem of animals in captivity. SeaWorld is training the orcas using "operant conditioning" -- in other words, Dianetics. The orcas are literally being brainwashed. And Blackfish is using the injustice as an excuse to promote a Methodist agenda.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Skibee11---the answer to your question is yes (raised from childhood). Think of cats, and how they immediately turn 'wild' when raised by other cats outdoors, vs. raised by a human in a home.

skibee11 2 years ago

I wrote what I meant. You decry those humans who assert that animals are superior to humans. You don't like people who say animals are smarter than people.

And re: the rest, just to clarify, are you saying that animals born in an environment that is not natural for them can become used to it to the point that their biological instincts are overridden? Or, another way of phrasing it, a few years of living one lifestyle can override millenniums of biologic, innate instincts?

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

" would stand to reason that you think all animals aside from humans live purely based on their innate, natural, biological instincts."

Skibee11, hmm, no I don't think I said that, especially with dolphin species (I think you meant to write humans are superior to animals as my statement). Regardless, I think it is very obvious that many animals born in one environment well become used to that environment. This is also the case with humans.

skibee11 2 years ago

"We also automatically presume that animals not used to the ocean ‘want’ to go there."

In some of your other articles (I haven't read them all b/c I can handle only so many), you decry those humans who assert that animals, especially dolphins, are superior to humans or are smarter on the basis that animals aside from humans don't have reflective, rational thoughts and don't make choices. Based on this belief, it would stand to reason that you think all animals aside from humans live purely based on their innate, natural, biological instincts. That being the case, how can you not assume that an orca would want to be in its most natural, biological, innate environment, and then thrive once its there, acting purely on instinct?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Keiko's story is so frustrating because the success of it is highly interpretable.

Sigh... 2 years ago

Blackfish was incredibly underwhelming. I wasn't really sure that there was a point that they made. Most of their content was hear-say from ex-trainers, most of whom hadn't been employed by Sea World in about 20 years or so... in animal terms, that's a LONG time and there have been so many changes to the animal field since then.

For those who think these animals never should have been there in the first place, like n... I have my own moral dilemmas about that. The fact, now, though, is that they are under human care now, so let's make the best of it. I personally have no issue with animals under human care so long as they are well cared for, and I honestly believe that these animals don't have any issue being there, either (It's human desire to project our emotions that I think causes people to believe these animals are 'sad').

The wild is not a great, pristine place that activists like to romanticize it as. It's not easy being a wild animal.

And I think the notion of releasing these animals that have been under human care for so long, especially the majority who have been born there, is ridiculous... it's basically a death sentence. I think people like to forget what happened with Keiko. He died "free", but sick and lonely. I think Sea Pens are barely a better idea. The time and costs of trying to teach those animals how to be wild could be used for helping the animals that are already out there. I think people miss the point of why animals are under human care.... we want people to start caring about the animals that live out in the wild, to make the wild a better place for them. Instead, people just want to take the well-cared for animals in respectable facilities and throw them out into the wild where they no longer know how to thrive.

That being said, I would like to see facilities pushing for more educational content... to make their shows less of a performance, and more of a presentation (the whales could still do their high energy behavior because I'm sure they have fun doing it) but people would leave understanding why these animals have the speed and agility that they do, and so on. I think it could make it a much more impressive experience... especially if you could push a great conservation message at the end that calls to action the audience to help keep the oceans a clean, as-safe-as-it-can-be place.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Michael Conn, I. DO. NOT. WORK. FOR. SEAWORLD. You activists really do love gloating about how you are crusaders like Rosa Parks fighting some future sad moment in human history. As long as it is acceptable to own and work animals, any animals, any such success would be an exercise of hypocrisy with arbitrary rules. This is not the case with human rights.

"would they not swim back towards the boats that released them, making known their intent to be brought back into the wonderful captivity found at Seaworld?"

It's likely that they would. And this can be seen as positive or negative depending on which side you're on.

Michael Conn 2 years ago

I suspect you are part of the Seaworld on going damage control campaign.More and more people realize through documentaries like Blackfish and the Cove that these magnificent animals are not put on earth to live in concrete enclosures as circus acts in the name of continuing profits and merchandising. I suspect over the next decade revenues will decline for these capture and perform parks and like the Jim Crow laws in the US one day these "enterprises will close. In the end they will just be a sad footnote in history.I am not an activist or what you call arrogantly label the anti zoo crowd.I attended these shows over the years but like many other people will not going forward.

As people do research and dismiss your PR damage control campaigns, they will inevitably come to this decision Your animal conservation spin is a glorified sales/PR pitch. I spent time on your investor relations page so I have no doubt about true motivation; and it has nothing to do with animal conservation or any other humane spin that Seawolrds ad agency and PR folks conjure up to dupe the public.

Like Imperial Rome when Lions, Bears,Elephants fought each other or humans-you are in the bread and circus business, I understand.- However your animals die dismally, way before their time as opposed to their wild brethren, all in the name of greed and continued profits.

Maybe these theme parks will re-assess and do some good and release some of the animals that have served their tour of duty for twenty years or more; so they can know a free existence before they die. However based on SeaWorld's track record, I am skeptical that will come to pass. It would be the right thing to do . I don't want to paint with too broad a brush, its too simplistic .I am not inferring everyone affiliated with SeaWorld is evil or just consumed with greed. It may be that SeaWorld management is blinded by having to perform,much like your animals for demanding investors .I spent time on their investor page-so that is not an outrageous statement.I would like to think that most people do have a moral conscience and maybe this email and others like it will initiate changes for the better. Aside from continuing profits and merchandising can you honestly say that the animals captured and held captive to perform ;would be better off living in small unnatural confined spaces.,performing for food like circus acts as opposed to a free existence in the wild as intended ?

I anticipate either no reply or an antiseptic party line response, we are saving these animals etc...

My response to that is; why not let your whale and dolphins out in free water so they can decide? They are very intelligent. if their captivity is such a blessed thing; would they not swim back towards the boats that released them, making known their intent to be brought back into the wonderful captivity found at Seaworld?

We know the answer to that don't we.

As Lincoln once said regarding slavery in the 1850s there are many who say its a blessing; but not one of them who says that, volunteers to be a slave.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Gary King-- regardless of the reason it is always best to not involve yourself with 'anti' documentaries for obvious reasons. They have creative control over ever aspect of presentation and editing. Seaworld's position may be indefensible to the anti-zoo crowd, and in order to defend any aspect of what they're doing some wrongdoings would have to be acknowledged. So I'm guessing that both reasons are the reason they declined to say anything. That's why I have my article here, saying things I know they can't say, and acknowledging where they've screwed up (even though no one sees it). I would probably say more negative things about them if their screw ups were not known to the public. I think complexity has little to do with the danger involved. Plenty of 'non-complex' animals are dangerous.

Gary King 2 years ago

With regard to bias, the documentarian stated at the end of the film that repeated attempts were made to SeaWorld to be interviewed for the film but they declined - a tactic often employed by politicians et al when they're aware their position is weak or indefensible, at least in terms of public perception. SeaWorld,, it seems were offered the right of reply but chose to waive or ignore it in this instance which, given their dubious account of the ponytail 'mistake', may have been a calculated decision to draw accusations of bias on the part of their detractors.

Whilst the majority of Orcas remaining in captivity today were seemingly born into it they are clearly too complex to ever be tamed and as such remain an unpredictable force of nature. It came as no surprise therefore when a Judge ruled that working with Orcas to be inherently dangerous and subsequently banned the practice without adequate protection between the trainer and animal. Although I am no expert in the field of Law, generally Judges are required to listen to a lot of expert testimony and argument (from both sides) before reaching their verdict and one would assume that the 'but they're really friendly' argument did not carry much weight in this case.

I was disappointed with the way the 'mystery death' of the transient (drifter) was handled since the trainers who were interviewed practically screamed 'cover up'' insinuating that there must have been security footage/eye witness accounts etc. but could or would not offer any further insight. Finally, the 'all men are rapists' defence employed by SeaWorld was ridiculous.

Unfortunately for SeaWorld times are changing and there is something distinctly unedifying watching nature's apex predator reduced to the status of a performing clown.

GrizzlyMike 2 years ago

Well, I don't really see anyone trying to get people to shut up about anything--at least not here. What I see in the response to this article are those who are trying to employ an objective and cool-headed approach to the subject and those who are so emotionally embroiled with the issue that they are incapable of having an objective discussion. A lot of people are blowing a gasket because someone holds an opinion that differs from their own.

The problem with such hot-button issues is that they usually turn into a shouting match. Nobody really listens. People will see they want to see and disregard the rest. This applies to all parties holding extreme views on either side of any issue.

There are those who are convinced that Seaworld is pure evil and they will only consider lines of thought that will support this conclusion. There are also those who will deny that there are any valid criticisms of Orca captivity and Seaworld in particular. Truth is usually found somewhere in the middle, but rarely at the extremes. Since many people are so reactive and fail to consider the middle ground, any type of understanding is rarely achieved. A point is eventually reached where discussion of the issue becomes unproductive. My claim is only that this point has been reached in the public debate, and there is not much left but finger pointing. There are very few examples of discussions containing real substance.

Hanna Strauss profile image

Hanna Strauss 2 years ago

You think I am not aware that Sea World is part of a corporate conglomerate? Your preaching to the choir here and this information is public. The reason that some whaling commissions are concerned about whale watching's affect on wild cetaceans is unfortunately some fleetowners violate the Sea Mammal Protection Act and try to get closer than is indicated as a safe unobtrusive distance from the whales so the customers can get better photos or video. If they would operate their businesses within the regs of the SMPA then this wouldn't be an issue. But again because of money (and this topic always seems to originate to this as is the reason for "Blackfish" in the first place), a few feel they can bend or fudge the rules and regs for profit. Change is possible and I don't know why you think I am one of these confrontational protestors (I certainly am not and not a member of any animal rights organization) since you repetitively refer to this. As history shows in the case of the tobacco industry, through research and enough lawsuits, corporations will have to adapt and make changes. So you would say such efforts are pointless because now the tobacco industry sells more of its product to third world countries to compensate for the drop in sales in North America. I firmly believe that your motivation here is just to try to shut people up with logical fallacy so whatever personal investments you may have in the captive keeping of exotic animals is not threatened. Do you see a vehicle such as "Blackfish" as a direct threat to your rights as an American to keep exotic animals? You think I am not aware of this movement of individual petowners and collectors? I certainly am and something smells definitely fishy (no pun intended) for someone to try and rationalize publicly to get people to just shut up and forget about this..

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"I think anyone would agree that the environment at Seaworld is not the optimal environment for an Orca. But then again, a house is not the optimal environment for a dog or a 10 gallon aquarium an optimal environment for a snake. But there is a difference between a sufficient environment and an optimal environment."

Agreed, I would just like to add that there are many situations where I think an animal would be better off in captivity, *depending on the captivity*, over the wild. Not all animals are 'meant' to live that long. Prey animals rarely die of old age, and sometimes this goes for carnivores as well. I'm comfortable saying that some animals may thrive in captivity which further baffles me as to how people can find all of it 'cruel'.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I don't really care when or how dog intelligence arose, that doesn't invalidate it. I'm not just referring to domestication, dogs are a completely unique case. What I speak of does not apply to domesticated ducks, cows, cats, horses, rabbits, sheep, goats, ect. Dogs have abilities that may suggest higher 'awareness', and many of what dogs do are are similar qualities that dolphins exhibit in which people argue for their higher 'intelligence'. I'm not saying either are 'intelligent', that word is suspect anyway, and the brain works in different ways for these animals, but my genet fails basically most of the tests that would qualify him for complex cognition outside of basic operational conditioning that all mammals seem to posses. He does not respond well at all to novel situations. I have 'target trained' him pretty easily and that is simple associative learning. I have a video of the entire session using a target he hasn't seen before and learning it. But that is simplistic. He doesn't seem to have much control over his behaviors. He's wired to do everything one way, even picking up food, he can't modify himself to stop trying to 'snatch' it with his teeth which works very well with living animals but not inanimate food sources contained in an object.

What is intelligence to you and what kind of intelligence do you think my genet possess? I focus more on adaptation to novel situations, and when humans are concerned, levels of awareness, such as awareness of other entities and their own thoughts, as well as one's own thoughts. All mammals and many others have 'moods'/emotions, what does that have to do with anything? When did I say that Seaworld is offering a suitable environment for the ocras? You can go and quote anything here to show me how you've made that conclusion. You are so busy trying to tear me down that you are not comprehending anything that I'm saying.

GrizzlyMike 2 years ago


If you do a Google search on whale watching, you will find that many whaling commisions have concluded that it has too many negative effects on the whales themselves and many are firmly against it. They claim it disrupts the natural activity of whales, causes stress, and in some cases whales have been injured by propellers, etc..In fact, there is activism now directed towards stopping the whale watching industry, or at least curtailing it. There are already calls to enact legislation to prohibit the activity. I just bring that up as a side story. I often hear whale watching offered as an alternative for those who want to see Orcas. But there are already protests over the activity and I am sure PETA will be jumping on the bandwagon soon.

I am not saying it is pointless to discuss the issues. I just see such discussions as empty when they offer no practical solutions to problems that have been debated and discussed for decades. The captive cetacean debate is not new. This is just a new twist on the same debate. The debate is always fiery and emotional and people get worked up. But it never goes anywhere because at no time has anyone really offered practical resolutions that have any chance at success.

As I stated, a lot of people have stakes in the issues and are profiting from it. Seaworld profits by displaying the whales. As a lobby, PETA profits by attracting publicity, new members, donations, etc..Film makers benefit by making films they know will touch the heart strings of the public and this generates revenue, prestige, etc..Am I saying parties involved do not sincerely believe some of the things they promote? Not at all. It's just that in the end, money talks--all around. Everyone is profiting off of the Orcas and really are not providing solutions.

Also, people out there have a skewed idea about what a corporation is. There is no owner of Seaworld. No one person or individual owns the business. It is incorporated. There are thousands of shareholders who have an interest in the financial success of the company. The CEO just can't decide to let the whales free. It isn't his call. That would take the approval of the board and shareholders as to the direction of the company. Those types of decisions are not made by an individual person. If people want to influence the direction of Seaworld, it would behoove them to not be as fiery in their rhetoric and approach major shareholders in a non-confrontational way.

Hanna Strauss profile image

Hanna Strauss 2 years ago


I am in total agreement with you that long term captive or orcas born in captivity would never survive in the wild. I never suggested the releasing of captive orcas in my prior comments. Some years back an attempt was made to repatriate a single orca to its original Icelandic habitat where it was caught as a youngster. This project was instigated by the protests and support of special interest groups who understand nothing regarding the natural history of this species. It was an epic fail. The orca did not know how to hunt for food and could not communicate with nearby orca pods that visited the cove it was languishing in. The orca eventually expired weeks after its controlled release. If anything, regardless of whether you agree/disagree with the basic premise and motivation of "Blackfish" it is good that the public be able to review both sides of a story and decide for themselves whether this is beneficial for the species or not. Quite frankly, it is my opinion that$30.00 spent on a 3 hour whale watching trip would be far more educational and awe inspiring rather than using it to feed the turnstile at Sea World's gate. I don't believe this is a total waste of time to discuss this topic. Anything that can motivate intelligent and thought provoking constructive discourse is never pointless. What would be less productive would be to ignore it and pretend the situation is insignificant and pointless because some of us may feel powerless to instigate change.

GrizzlyMike 2 years ago

Hanna, I agree the Orca's are cash cows. They are the main draw and what most people associate with Seaworld. But that really is irrelevant to the question of whether or not they should be held in captivity. In this argument, everyone keeps making statements like, 'Seaworld is greedy'. They are a corporation. Their goal is to make a profit. They are not a charity. This obvious fact has absolutely no bearing on the larger question of an environment being suitable for a captive animal.

I think anyone would agree that the environment at Seaworld is not the optimal environment for an Orca. But then again, a house is not the optimal environment for a dog or a 10 gallon aquarium an optimal environment for a snake. But there is a difference between a sufficient environment and an optimal environment. The optimal environment will always be the 'natural' habitat of the animal. The argument here is that the facilities where the Orcas are housed at Seaworld is not a sufficient environment for the animals to live.

From an emotional standpoint, we don't like seeing these animals penned up because we associate them with the wild, freedom, open ranges, etc--- all these romantic ideals we hold about the cute and cuddly sea mammals. So I think this emotional tug can represent a bias when forming opinions on the subject, even with the scientists who study the subjects.

Based on all of the information, it does appear that captive Orcas live less, on average, than those observed in the wild. They also seem to suffer from odd things such as dental issues as a result of chewing on gates, etc and are on antibiotic regimens.

Considering only the health of the animal, and leaving all the emotional stuff out of it, I think once could reasonably conclude that from this perspective, the existing environment is not sufficient to support a captive Orca. Is it possible for Seaworld to change the environment to address some of the shortcomings? I do not know enough to offer any opinion.

But the fact is, these animals are not going to just be released by Seaworld and even if they did, they would likely meet a quick death in the wild. They are not used to the natural environment and they live in a filtered pool. This is in addition to being on antibiotic regimens. There is mention of Sea Pens to house them. Who is going to pay for this when Seaworld is run out of town?

Why not call for Gabrielle Coperthwaite to donate the proceeds of the film towards creating a Sea Pen? After all, she claims she was driven to make the film out of care for the animals.

Something tells me that isn't going to happen.

This whole affair is largely just hot air. Nobody has a plan or an idea and nobody is seriously presenting any practical and viable alternatives that are realistic.

The Orcas remain and are going nowhere. Seaworld will continue to profit. Meanwhile, PETA is benefiting from all of the press and PR and Gabrielle Coperthwaite is benefiting from the receipts and the likely Academy Award. IMO, everyone is using the the Orcas for their own gain.

In the end, this whole affair represents nothing more than a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Everyone gains, except the Orcas.

Hanna Strauss profile image

Hanna Strauss 2 years ago

Your reply suggests you are confusing 'intelligence' with 'domestication'. If you were aware of any of the recent studies on dog behavior and their evolutionary adaptation to become reliant on human interaction for survival, this has NOTHING to do with nascent intelligence.Your interpretation is based on anthropological bias. What you are basically stating is that because the genet does not respond to you in the same way as your dog indicates a lack of intelligence. This is a grossly over simplified evaluation due to lack of educated insight. Because the animal does not give you the reaction that you assume or expect due to a human/domesticated animal response skew you automatically assume it is unintelligent. It would behoove you to read some papers on behavioral ecology and evolution instead of gleaning bits and bytes from articles presented on popular sites such as Youtube. BTW, I am originally from New York City (born and bred) and have exotic pets, so your personal offense is unwarranted. Once you get out in the field and study some of these species with as little human interference and interaction as possible, believe me it will add a scope of appreciation to your currently limited spectrum. You also indicate in your response that your genet expresses moods, so you are agreeing with me on this observation. I am far from any type of animal rights activist. I can guarantee that ANY marine biologist who has spent countless hours observing orcas in situ would not agree that an environment offered by an institution such as Sea World for housing orcas is suitable for them.The orcas are basically cash cows. If Sea World were sincere in its research efforts, they would stick to cetacean, pinniped, seabird rescue and advancing veterinary care for them and reconsider the public misrepresentation of sea mammals via a dog and pony show. There are other ways of generating revenue.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hanna Strauss, cetaceanologists and marine biologists are welcome to chime in here at any point. Some have. Many people have taken the approach you have by instead of addressing what I'm actually saying, harping on my lack of qualifications to say anything. Objections to a person's qualifications are mysteriously absent when a person is expressing animal rights ideology or high speculations about an animal's mental state in captivity negatively. I've also been bizarrely insulted for living in an apartment in NYC (I don't, NY is a state). I do live in the 'natural world', just not one where ocras can be routinely observed. I did indeed gather my statements from people who 'study' or observe these animals in the wild (most of them from the Pacific Northwest), so why you felt the need to remind me that orcas are social predators makes no sense, I've made no claims to the contrary of anything that you're telling me. A lot of the information being fed to us is also not always 'unbiased', hence why I bring up Lori Marino constantly.

Sorry Hanna, my poor genet convinces me daily how different animals are from humans. His mood changes at the drop of a hat, and I can override them easily. He may not be aware that my hand is not a separate entity from my face, and he can forget who I am when he feels threatened. I don't like to say it, but he seems to be rather unintelligent, unable to figure out simple tasks that are novel to his predispositional innate hunting ability, and constantly overridden by instinct. This is to be expected by an animal that is naturally solitary, the males only being social during breeding and in their youth. To him I am (or my hand is) a potential mate, predator, parent, competitor, all in one, because he's in an unnatural situation. His brain does not firmly hold me as a companion when the conditions of his environment change. This is not true of my dog. I think I've learned a ton about my animals despite them not being in the wild. Both observations are needed, the wild can only provide so much and certainly with aquatic mammals which spend a good portion of their time underwater.

Only a few animals can possibly compete for being in the same league of awareness as humans, and the evidence is flimsy yet guarded by professionals who also have 'no doubts' like you because of their wishful thinking.

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Hanna Strauss 2 years ago

Ms Smith: after reading your replies to your blog regarding the validity of the "Blackfish" documentary I decided to view your personal description of yourself which you believe qualifies you to make accurate assessments regarding the behavioral ecology of orcas or any other cetaceans for that matter. It is easy to sit in front of a computer in an armchair and read articles online. The only accurate way you can effectively assess the behaviors and social structures of animals such as orcas is to OBSERVE them for countless hours in situ which qualified marine biologists and cetaceanologists have committed themselves to do in order find the truth about these magnificent animals . This is not the same as being critical in an apartment in the middle of New York City. Although zoos and aquariums do have their place and value for educating the public (and not through frivolous entertainment )and captive propagation, they are not the ideal environments to gather impartial data regarding the natural behaviors of animals such as orcas. An orca in captivity will not be able to behave in a manner that would be a good representative that describes without bias what comprises their natural history. These are open water, migratory animals that live in tightly knit social groups which are matriarchal. If anything, the trainers and keepers must rely on data gathered from observing wild killer whales in their natural surroundings in order to adapt their husbandry and training. This holds true with any wild animal kept in captivity. I hope one day you will consider the opportunity to observe them in the wild. The problem with most people living within the artificial confines of industrial culture is that we have become isolated from the natural world and unfortunately very often the information that is available regarding the natural history of other species has become distorted and infected by fallacy. That is why there are wildlife biologists out there gleaning unbiased data so we learn the truth about them and appreciate them without any preconceived notions. I have no doubts orcas are social predators. They have adapted strategies for hunting suited to the regions of the oceans of the world according to the prey items available; whether it be fish, sealions, smaller cetaceans or juvenile baleen whales. They pass their knowledge and teach their progeny to do the same. But they are also intelligent mammals with moods and egos. I am sure you have witnessed this even with your pet genet. There are more studies being done recently that have data to prove that other species besides us are just about as psychologically complex as humans brag to be. I have no doubts regarding this either.

ana rivas 2 years ago

Sorry about my english writing, is not my usual language.

I read your article and, as many people, agree and disagree in parts of its content. But I always respect author´s opinion. I consider that despite its content and excess of drama, this film highlights one important issue: that humans cannot continue taking what they want from nature. It doesnt matter the species (humans suffer a lot as a result of greedy people, a problem not even close to solve).

If this kind of films can make a reaction on people, no matter how small, is good. One thing at a time. Is good for people to know the truth (or part of it).

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Murat, I doubt you've truly read anything I've written. If you're determined to see my stuff with such a narrow mind, I will never win you over.

Murat 2 years ago

Having skimmed through this article and others you have written on this site, I can conclude that you are nothing more than a disgrace to humanity, and the world we live in. Your arguments are poorly constructed, and constitute merely of your personal (and shameful) opinions. From comparing the ethics of foraging animals to humans seeking personal entertainment, to defending horrific conditions in zoos with the justification that "they provide jobs", almost everything you have written I have come across is repugnant. I believe a civilized society would have locked you up in a jail or mental institution a long time ago.

As for this piece, one has to be outright delusional to even entertain the possibility that an orca kept in captivity can have an equally good quality of life compared to a wild one. As explained in the documentary, these animals are profoundly social, living in very diverse and different cultures, swim over a hundred miles a day, and live around four times longer in the wild. No matter how much you "improve the conditions", it will not even come close to their original habitats.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

@ Julie Thanks , most of the useless comments have been removed.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks, I've done no background checks on the trainers and know little about them GrizzlyMike. I'm sure someone else can dig up more interesting info on some of the presenters, as that's not my specialty. Common sense would lead me to agree with you, their side deserves to be told but we know little of the circumstances surrounding their presence there. I try to shy away from speculation (unlike many commenters here who are sure I work for SeaWorld) but I have my own hypothesis about many of the people featured.

GrizzlyMike 2 years ago

I don't know why, but I have found myself a bit fascinated by this whole subject. I am not a hardcore animal aficionado but I have always appreciated wildlife. I tend to look at Seaworld like I would any other facility, such as a public zoo or aquarium, with the exception that you have to pay a whole lot more to get into Seaworld. It is good to discuss this issue here, as on a forum I joined to discuss the movie, I had my post deleted because it wasn't falling in line with the concencus that Seaworld is evil.

I saw the film again last night at my sister's house. as she paid to view it on Amazon Instant Video. I was paying attention to the one trainer whom I thought had somewhat of an axe to grind. Her name is Samantha Berg. I did some checking online today and there is a bio that indicates she was employed with Seaworld from 1990-93. Apparently, she was working with Beluga Whales and dolphins. As these jobs apparently are well sought-after and popular, it seems like she had quite a short tenure there. I found no indication anywhere as to why she left or the circumstances surrounding her departure. If you Google her, she is now on the lecture circuit and appears in a lot of videos and such. She indicates that after she left Seaworld, she became an acupuncturist in Alaska and owns a studio.

It just seems odd that after twenty years removed from working with animals at Seaworld, you would be used by the director as an expert wittness to comment on the recent Dawn Brancheau affair and the current condition of the captive Orca's.

This kind of leads me to the conclusion that the Director and Producer were seeking out any former or current Seaworld trainers who would be willing to talk on camera and present things in a specific way that the director wanted to portray. I would think there are many former trainers out there. The director indicated that she had tracked down anyone she could get hold of. She even told of one story of a guy who agreed then backed out right before they turned the camera on. I am sure she pre-interviewed the possible subjects and filtered out any that would not tow the line of the film. But I have nothing to base this on other than my impressions and what I have read. Some of the trainers just seem to be ticked off at Seaworld in general, outside of the animal issues.

I also watched a youtube video of one of the trainers who appeared on the film --John Hargrove. He was doing an interview for a Blog. He kept referring to how he once blew out his knee in the course of his work. He had to have reconstructive surgery and was complaining that he is in a lot of pain frequently. He reffered to this a few times and seems to be a bit ticked off about his knee and how Seaworld didn't do enough to help him--sounded like he might have wanted some money perhaps. He seems sincere about his views on the Orca situation but seems a bit disgruntled as well.

Julie 2 years ago

Wow lots of hate toward Melissa Smith. I may not agree with everything but I can appreciate an article such as hers without trying to make snide comments or anything lucrative.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

That's basically how I see this GrizzlyMike. Animal attacks are a bad publicity nightmare for any zoo. The people making the big money that everyone is after probably have little animal awareness and it just trickles down.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Tharika, that was rather difficult to read. Try using commas and other punctuations to avoid run on sentences and please consider condensing your post so that it's not so redundant. I can also do without the name-calling and being called 'terrifying', that just sounds stupid and I almost deleted your post.

I can't really figure out the point that you're making. What made you conclude that I don't know about elephants being used by humans? Elephants are not by any means 'domesticated' or 'predictable'. Male elephants used by loggers are tied up when they go into musth and starved. This cannot be 'bred' out of them, nor can their unpredictability or lack of natural docility. Elephants do attack people and animals in the wild as well. Elephants are like orcas in that they cannot be domesticated, and they provide a good example of an animal that has been bred in captivity for centuries and still do not have their nature altered. Humans are absolutely unable to be domesticated. Conditioning (through coercion and brutal force) is not domestication by any means. The FILM makes the hypothesis for most of its running time that Tilikum's psychosis and subsequent aggression is a result of captivity, not genes. It is up to the director to splice in the interviews she wants presented the most (further validating it with the graphic) and seems to be unable to make up her mind on what she believes. I believe she has a short-sighted view on this situation just like many average people. Chance are I've had more exposure to gene theory over any of the trainers in the film considering that the film made a big deal about the lack of common sense qualifications required for the training job.

GrizzlyMike 2 years ago

"Are the people running SeaWorld just stupid? Or misanthropes? Who knows, we have to accept the only evidence given,. "

Well, since we have little information to work with, we can only rely on common sense and argument. Like any corporation, Seaworld is going to have layers of management. As far as the operational side, I would assume they have the animal 'experts' who are in charge of managing the training and handling of the animals at the facilities, as well as making policies on what can and can't be done. Top levels of management up to the CEO will likely receive reports and updates, but will not be involved directly. That isn't their job. They likely know as much about Orca behavior as the average visitor and have to rely on the experts.

If the corporation itself is guilty of anything in the Dawn Brancheau affair, it is most probably in oversight or audit, whereby someone outside of animal management is tasked with looking at the big picture and asking questions like, "What if...?" The OSHA hearings seem to indicate they might have become a bit lax in how the trainers routinely interact with the whales. Who knows. I don't work there and know as much about Orca's as any other visitor. I just find it absurd that animal management or upper management would knowingly and willingly allow trainers to face unnecessary risk, given the ramifications of incidents. IMO, that is by far the weakest argument in the film. When it comes to issues like this, the audience is easily swayed by the imagery and too often people don't stop and think and judge for themselves the merit of what they are being told.

Tharika 2 years ago

Your assessment of the film being unoriginal and manipulative I find to be accurate that I'll give you but you lost me when you tried to argue against the Killer gene theory mostly because you are being ridiculously manipulative yourself almost as manipulative as the film when it comes to twisting the truth to suit your argument. I can’t understand how you came to the conclusion that what the trainer who made the pit bull reference meant when she said “aggression towards humans” was implied to mean the same as in your words “captivity induced madness” although mental disorders such as in the case of humans can be genetically inherited that is something you either completely got wrong or you are intentionally trying to propagate in the case of what that trainer said. My frustrations on your are as you put it “a weakly studied species” how do you as someone who (very unnecessarily) indicated themselves to not be an expert in genetics know that Orcas do not fall into the category of animals like dogs that possess the SLIPPERY Genome? That sounds as hypocritical as the film when they indicated Orcas as being friendly in the wild but dangerous in captivity and yes darling not the flexible genome the slippery genome (My God you are terrifying) all that means is the increased viability to perform certain tasks due to rapid mutations of the genes producing a greater probability to have higher aptitudes in certain things. You are right when you indicated that not all animals have it but you are a fool and have absolutely no understanding of animal behavior if you don’t realize that only cognitive complex animals have the capacity to be trained in this manner at all.You don’t agree? Then let me ask you another question what animal do you think has been the most useful for us humans to domesticate? The answer is other humans. History has shown us through slavery that even an animal reputed to have the largest capacity for thought and self awareness can be made to be exploited through the correct conditioning. Now more things you got terrifyingly wrong. Elephants have been used by the people of South Asia in a domesticated capacity for centuries they are used to carry lumber and clear forests and centuries earlier to this they were used in warfare and to this day they are sadly being used in circuses to perform mindless tricks in similar fashion to Orcas and guess what? They too have killed trainers and have gone through “Psychosis” and emotional breakdowns brought on through the intense emotional abuse they have suffered at the hands of their captivity and are bred selectively for the same reason as Orcas. I mean come on now? How can you claim to be an expert on exotic animals and not even know of the elephant’s immense capacity to learn? I thought at first perhaps you were a little ignorant and had no understanding of cultures outside your own but then I thought has this girl never been to a circus or even seen Dumbo? My god that above all else made me so annoyed for something such as what the Orcas are made to do during their performances there needs to be an increased capacity to both remember and work out the commands through learning and logic that is why elephants have and are so useful because they have this exact capacity.Orcas have roughly five pound heavier brains than elephants on average so it would make sense that they too have this capacity as is obviously seen. Would you like to know what the trainer actually meant they wanted to selective breed out of the orcas? Agression and willfullness not captivity induced madness. Animals of that size and intelligence you want to have as docile and even tempered as possible so they will show little to no signs of unpredictability that is what the trainer was inferring by her comparison to the dog.They could care less what emotional suffering or psychosis the animal experiences just so long as it doesn’t do so by violently involving a human and finally you do realize she's an ex trainer who even stated that she knew a lot about training Orcas but knew next to nothing about their natural history that was all provided by sea world to her she didn't make that assumption of Tillikum's killer genes that was sea world who did that the organization whom you believe to be the be all and end all of Orca conservation they took the risk of taking Tilikum because they wanted more Orcas after the Marine Mammal Act was passed and no more Orcas were allowed to be captured in American Waters that didn't mean they didn't know the risks involved they just didn't care and finally before you so arrogantly try and dismiss the trainer's point I suggest you actually take the time and watch the film not just the parts on Youtube because you've clearly made arguments that were answered in great depth in the actual documentary. I think its sort of laughable that you find yourself worthy of critiquing something first simply on it's trailer and then after obviously not having seen many major parts in the documentary. Do you not realize how bias that makes you seem that you don't even have the respect to actually properly analyze the thing you are debating? Finally the trainer's comments regarding the selective breeding of Orcas. I would take her word (and inevitably sea worlds as well) over yours any day and do you know why? It's because if there is anyone on this planet who has been given the opportunity to study these creature in close approximation it would be people like her the trainers people who have been around these animals since they were born who understand their behavior and see their capacity for interactions. They are the one's who actually know what they are talking about and unfortunately you do not seem to at all. You attack this problem as one would a high school debate simply arguing on surface discrepancies without bothering to go any deeper how sad that you call yourself an animal enthusiast.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"I would think that a marine park would do everything in their power to keep the animals and trainers safe, the government off their back, and the media out of their face."

Very very true. Are the people running SeaWorld just stupid? Or misanthropes? Who knows, we have to accept the only evidence given, unfortunately. There are likely some unfavorable truths stitched with more rationale that are PR-unfriendly.

It is amazing how this documentary seemed to deflect the responsibility of the fool that jumped in the tank, great point. I disagree though on your point about the walruses. Animal rights activists are going after -everyone-, and they want to close down zoos. They would like to see all animals except dogs and cats removed from the captivity of humans, and this mentality is spreading. Orcas and dolphins are an excellent gateway drug for the belief that animals are 'slaves', and this is why I focus on writing about them. While yes, people do favor them over many other animals, but they will start to view keeping a 'wild animal' as a moral crime because of the romanticizing of 'the wild'. We're rapidly approaching the point where people won't want to see a jellyfish in an aquarium unless it's 'being rehabbed'. I actually consider seals and walruses to be rather charismatic, they just aren't the top dogs in the animal kingdom of human adoration (wolves, horses, dolphins, panda bears).

GrizzlyMike 2 years ago

Very balanced review. Too often people are receptive to only those things that they want to hear, especially when it comes to emotionally charged subjects.

As far as the film itself, it was well-done but I found it too emotionally manipulative and it lacked any depth. It is hard to watch the capture footage shown at the beginning of the film and not feel empathy and revulsion at the scene. However, as time progressed, I started to feel manipulated by the imagery, as if the goal was to browbeat the viewer into coming away with the idea that Seaworld is evil in its purest form. There are two sides to every story. Unfortunately, I only saw one.

I was a bit startled at one of the premises of the documentary -- Seaworld intentionally misleads trainers on matters of safety.

Logic suggests that it would not be in the interest of a marine park to have a trainer killed. It is bad press and leads to legal issues, lawsuits, and lost revenue. I would think that a marine park would do everything in their power to keep the animals and trainers safe, the government off their back, and the media out of their face. The claim that Seaworld willfully and intentionally withheld information from trainers and knowingly put them in danger flies in the face of reason and I find it a bit hard to accept. I just can't accept the claim that Seaworld knowingly put trainers in danger. As a for-profit corporation, they would have nothing to gain from this and a lot of money to lose by knowingly endangering the trainers.

I also wasn't sure where they were going with the incident regarding the park visitor who snuck into the exhibit and got chewed up. They were making a big deal about this incident and seemed to point blame at Seaworld. The trainer stated that the Orca stripped him to his shorts and ate his genitals. But I am not sure how that is the fault of anyone but the drunken fool who thought it would be a good idea to jump into the tank. Captive Orca -1 Seaworld Drunk - 0

As far as the issue of captivity, why don't people ever get worked up over the Pinnipeds being locked up? Why is it just the Dolphins and Orcas? The last time I was at Seaworld, I was at the Acrtic Trek and the Walrus' were lurking in the underwater part of the enclosure, regurgitating their food and chewing on it. All of the viewers simply passed by, with comments like 'Ewwwww', 'Gross', 'Disgusting.' Over at the Shamu and Dolphin underwater viewing area, there are smiles and giggles aplenty. Any time the animals blew bubbles or gracefully slid past the viewing window, there was a communal, 'Awwwwwww' .

Obviously a Walrus is not as cute and cuddly as an Orca or Bottlenose Dolphin. But they are still relatively intelligent social marine mammals, just as the Seals and Sea Lions. Where is the cry about them being forced to live in 'jails'?. Why no cries and protests to empty the Walrus stalls? The answer is obvious--They don't appear to be smiling and have a face only a mother could love. They also have an unpleasant smell about them and do things such as regurgitate their food and chew it. Unfortunately for Walrus', homely and odoriferous animals are not easy to romanticize or anthropomorphize so they get virtually no air time. Nobody makes romanticized movies or documentaries about them living at 'one with the sea' .

I know a lot of people might reply, "I care about them all." That may be true. However, I suspect that if Shamu was Homely and smelled like two-week old Herring, we wouldn't be discussing this issue and most people would think of Orcas as they do the Walrus. If the face of an Orca looked like a pepperoni pizza, they wouldn't even be mentioned amongst the PETA crowd.

Am I saying that most people are shallow and fickle in regards to their views of captivity? Yes. But I think we all can be fickle and shallow at times. But as humans, we also have the ability to reason and draw conclusions. Perhaps there is something in our genes that acts as a secondary cooperative survival strategy whereby we feel an innate desire to save and rescue the cute and cuddly species. The selective advantage is being cute and cuddly.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Dan J, got confused and thought you were Gina Judd. Either way, I don't see how my post wasn't a response to you, I was just expanding a little.

dan j 2 years ago

Well I suppose it had something to do with what I said, in that you used a couple of words I also used in mine? The point of my post was that the harm that we cause these individual animals must be offset by the help we give in return to their species. Not what we learn about them cognition-wise, but measurable positive impacts we create on THEIR lives.

That's fine if you want to be sarcastic and patronizing, does me no harm, but I was just unsure why you would respond in the first place, since you clearly didn't read much of my post. I guess it was just to use as a platform to spout more of your opinions on the topic in general?

Justin 2 years ago

Despite what credibility the film May poster, or lack there of, we as a civilized and presumably evolving Species have no right to capture and train these animals for our entertainment. I hope to look back on these years as we now look back on the atrocities of the roman coliseum.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

Being in captivity is a new environment for the orcas. Therefore, they have to adapt to their new surroundings just like any animal would have to in a new climate/area. It doesn't matter if it's their natural habitat

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Melissa M, I think that the title "Behavioral Ecology of Captive Species: Using Behavioral Adaptations to Assess and Enhance Welfare of Nonhuman Zoo Animals" is suggesting the use of the behavioral ecology to enhance welfare of captive species but ecology is not a science that is about captivity as the environment. Behavioral ecology is defined as " the study of the evolutionary basis for animal behavior due to ecological pressures", and captivity is not that pressure (they have not evolved in captivity), so it has a basis in their natural environment, which is relevant to their well being. If you want to say I was wrong in saying that ecology isn't relevant to captivity then go ahead, captivity studies do aid our understanding of organisms and can be applied in the wild toward population biology and other ecological studies. That just shows more contributions that zoos make.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Really Dan? It has NOTHING to do what you've said? Golly, I'd better go make sure Rod Sterling isn't narrating my life right now. Brb.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Melissa, I don't agree with you, and in order to prove me wrong you can go find a link that includes captive animal environments within the field of ecology.

Melissa, I'm not doing this. If you have nothing productive to say I'll start unaccepting your comments.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

Just trying to prove a point that's all, least mine are facts not opinions

dan j 2 years ago

Please don't thank me. You also come off as a know-it-all,

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

Thank you Dan !

dan j 2 years ago

I'm not sure how that was a response to anything I said Melissa Smith? Perhaps if you are going to respond, you should first read my comment? You can really come off as a know-it-all, which I'm sure is intentional, but this whole smug tone you're taking would be much better served if you understood those who actually make valid points.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

And using other animals for our own entertainment is the same concept as slavery.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

You're still missing the fact that us humans are a type of animal species. And therefore everything you have said is wrong. Even tho we built those tanks, it may be unnatural but it's still a type of environment. It doesn't say natural environments only.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Melissa M- I believe that ecology is about animals in natural environments, and not human-controlled, unnatural environments. Captive studies can aid our understanding of animals in the wild but captivity is not the environment being studied. You are welcome to provide a link that proves otherwise.

Animals are not slaves. If any animal were to best fit this definition it would be horses.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Gina Judd:

- 100 is not the lifespan any orca would expect to live, so the existence of a documented 100-year old orca does not mean that it is normal. So basically all I was saying is that it should have been stated what the AVERAGE lifespan is and not the extreme, which is definitely different from humans, especially with the gender gap.

- Orcas migrate worldwide but rarely show up where humans tend to be swimming in warm water. Hence why there is a massive tourism industry for places where they are often seen in the Pacific North West, and why I wouldn't expect to see one in Long Island, New York or Miami. Honestly I couldn't find too much information about why we rarely see the animals in these locations despite their large range but common sense tells me they either must not spend too much time in these places because I don't often hear of their sightings or perhaps they are more often in the open ocean and avoiding humans. I do know that they prefer colder waters overall. I also know that sharks are around way more often, perhaps all the time, and are highly inconspicuous as well as solitary. This would give sharks a wider area to cover increasing the chances of encountering a swimming human. An orca pod would be hard to miss.

- "The numbers of Orcas in California waters are actually higher than that of Great White Sharks."

And why are you only focusing on Great White Sharks? I said that there are at least three species that are responsible for most of the human attacks, so there is no reason to exclude the others, unless you are trying to say that great whites are more aggressive/dangerous to humans than other (more populous) sharks that are fully capable of killing humans as well...making my exact point that just because an animal has the capability to kill or attack (like orcas) but rarely or never attacks, is not evidence of their lack of aggressiveness or proof of their peacefulness...because as you pointed out, the less populous great whites attack more than the more populous bull and tiger sharks.

Attacks from ALL of these sharks relative to their populations are extremely rare, and refer to my earlier points, they are way more likely to live in places where humans swim, while orcas are free-ranging long distance swimmers that are passing through, avoiding humans.

Consider the relative densities that the average beach-goer could expect of both organisms on a typical shallow coast. Which are they most likely to encounter, whether knowingly or not? Furthermore, it is interesting that an 'unintelligent' animal like a shark would have a clear aversion to consuming human flesh when meat is simply meat. Why don't they attack more often given that they clearly have no morals against eating us? As I pointed out, killer whales also possess a conservative perspective with what they eat, and they clearly don't like to eat humans. Whatever intelligence they possess regarding dislike of eating humans seems to be replicated by 'dumb' sharks.

" I can find much more scientific data and testimony based on hands on experience in Blackfish than I can find to support your claims. That’s for sure."

Go right ahead.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

Zoo animals are still organisms. And I don't care if everything I said isn't off your article even tho it is. And your pets may love you and all but they aren't meant to be a pet. Do you have humans as pets? No. Cuz that's called slavery. Humans are a type of species as are Orcas and all the other animals. It's the same concept.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

Seriously? You as a human are an organism. You are a type of species. Tank or ocean, are both types of environments. Whether it's they're natural habitat or not. Clearly you do not understand Ecology

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Dan J, yes a lot of what we know about these animals, particularly cognition-wise, comes from captive animal studies. It would be disingenuous not to suggest that the societal attitude toward them hasn't been affected 'positively' by their presence in aquariums, allowing people to see them out of a natural context and more in a 'human friendly' way, just like with Luna, shown in the documentary, behaving abnormally but having a profound impact on people. Unfortunately this sentiment is a double-edged sword.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"Haha you couldn't even say anything to my 2 comments because everything I said was right."

Actually Melissa I was asleep or reading when you posted this, not on the computer. Although I can't say that I will address the majority of your rant as it's nothing that I've heard tirelessly before from reading comments right here on this page to discussions about the subject elsewhere.

And most of it does not directly address this article. Frankly, ecology is not the study of zoo animals and captive pets dwelling in human-controlled environments because they are not in their natural environment nor one that is subject to natural conditions. If your perspective were correct then ecology would apply to the relationship of me and my dog. That seems maybe to be more relevant to environmental sociology. Ecology would be relevant if the aquarium trade had significant impacts on their wild populations, but orcas are no longer caught for American aquariums. Refer to the wildlife tourism industry that the movie glorifies.

The position I maintain on captivity of wild animals for human benefit is that it is OK as long as the welfare of the animal is prioritized to a certain point and I do not suggest that this is the case with the origins of captive killer whales. I do suggest that many myths and lies are being masqueraded as fact in this documentary as well as with popular sentiment prior to this film's release that I addressed in my 'review' of the trailer. All these things contribute to a wave of ignorance regarding animals and zoos but also what we should do to resolve these 'problems' with SeaWorld.

These elements include: killer whales are peaceful, and made aggressive due to captivity, that they are smarter than us due to the claims of animal rights activists like Lori Marino, that an unnatural environment is inherently bad for animals, ect. You reveal your ignorance (and arrogance) about animals when you claim that I should set my pets free. This is not what they would want even if they could ponder the decision. Why would dolphins be 'long gone' if they had legs? It almost sounds as though you're referring to the novel 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' which actually makes me feel like everything I've typed to get through to you is a massive waste of time.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

Haha you couldn't even say anything to my 2 comments because everything I said was right.

Gina Judd 2 years ago

I reread your article and parts that stand out where you are as misleading and tend to generalize as much as you claim Blackfish does is:

On life span:

“ the documentary, it is stated they can live up to 100 or even more, however the NOAA Fisheries website states that 30 is “typical” for males and 50 for females, with both capable of reaching 60-90, so I’m not sure why it is said that this is similar to a human’s lifespan or why the person being interviewed started with the jarring number of ‘100’”.

They can live up to 100 because J2 “Granny” one of the Southern Residents is estimated to be a little over 100 years old.

The myth of the peaceful orca

“Not only do humans not often encounter orcas, as they tend to spend most of their time in cold or open waters, but the animals have demonstrated their ultra-conservatism in their way of lives an important evolutionary mechanism. They aren’t necessarily interested in humans most of the time, nor do they have a palate for our unusual land animal flesh.

A comparison people have used is that of shark attacks, and not even these animals, which are solitary and obviously much less intelligent, have high rates of human attacks and fatalities given that their populations are far larger than orcas, they are present in all warm and shallow waters that humans enjoy often being much closer than people realize, and that there are up to 12 shark species which pose a risk to humans.”

Orcas are not just found in the colder waters. Orcas are found world wide. Different species patrol the deep waters, the coastal waters and some even feed in very shallow waters depending on where they feed and live. Transient orcas feed on the same prey as great white sharks which common sense tells us this means they live in the same waters. Orcas have even been observed feeding on great white sharks off of the California coast.

Your math is way off when it comes to comparing shark encounters to orca encounters and attacks on human beings in the ocean’s waters. Great white sharks have been responsible for the most attacks off of California waters are on the protected species list due to their dwindling numbers since Jaws came out in the 1970s. The petition to put them on the endangered species list estimated the number at 339 sub-adult and adult white sharks in the Northern Pacific. As for the numbers of orcas in California waters here are the findings from scientists who have been photo identifying them for over 30 years up in Monterey, CA:

Through our California Killer Whale Project on-going for nearly 30 years, we photo-identify killer whales and keep records of sightings and behaviors; we are also currently in the process of updating our 1997 photo-id catalog – Killer Whales of California and Western Mexico: A Catalog of Photo-Identified Individuals. At least three different ecotypes of killer whales occur in California: 1 “transient” killer whales – mammal hunting, travel in small groups of ten, less vocal, very large body size, pointed dorsal fin often with trailing notches and a large, closed saddle; 2 “resident” killer whales – fish-eating, travel in large groups of twenty or more, highly vocal, large body size, dorsal fin with rounded tip and few notches on trailing edge, and a variably-shaped saddle – often with black intrusions (“open” saddle), and 3 “offshore” killer whales – feed on sharks and fish, travel in very large groups of twenty to hundred, highly vocal, smaller body size, dorsal fin with rounded tip and often with many trailing notches, and usually a closed saddle. All of these groups have been documented in California waters.

The numbers of Orcas in California waters are actually higher than that of Great White Sharks. During that 30 years that Orcas have been recorded in California waters there have been 7 fatal great white attacks, and 21 attacks which resulted in major injuries, 11 encounters which resulted in minor injuries. If there were any orca attacks on humans in the pacific ocean, namely California’s waters, I can’t find any documented in my brief internet search. So for you to say that sharks which are known to attack humans far out number orcas is a sign of your ignorance on the subject You are correct that sharks are much less “intelligent”, I prefer to say they are much more instinctual which is why they often mistake humans as their prey and attack them. Few actually eat humans. Considering that wild orca coexist with kayakers and boaters during the summer months in the waters off o f San Juan islands without attacking them or their Kayaks shows that not only are they more intelligent as you say but that in the wild, they use that intelligence to choose not to attack or eat human beings sharing their waters with them. Speaking of kayaks there were two fatal attacks and one near attack perpetrated by Great White Sharks during that time span.

In summary, your article is not based on scientific data, experience, or facts, but is based on your opinion. I can find much more scientific data and testimony based on hands on experience in Blackfish than I can find to support your claims. That’s for sure.


California Fish and Game Regulations 2012 whiteshark CESA petition of August 20, 2012

Orcas of the World Killer Whales of


by Alisa Schulman-Janiger, Nancy Black,

and Richard Ternullo

dan j 2 years ago

I read the article, and a lot of the comments, but haven't seen anybody really discussing the big picture when it comes to the subject of animal captivity. First off, this movie is completely emotionally driven, and the filmmakers do have an agenda that causes them to skew the way they present the subject. That being said, I do think SeaWorld is pretty callous with the way they deal with animals, and I think without public backlash and/or sanctions, they would still be out taking animals from the wild just like they used to. But, in my opinion, the most important thing to look at is whether the benefits to the Orca species outweigh the disadvantages to the animals in captivity. I think the main questions that should be asked are how much time and money do SeaWorld etc. spend on improving our understanding of the species? And not research that benefits us, but measureable research that shows beneficial results for orca's as a whole. Also, what percentage of SeaWorld's profits are put back into animal conservation, and how have these actions helped the animals as a whole? SeaWorld says how they help marine animals through their contributions, and I think it is important to look closely at the evidence of whether these contributions to the species as a whole outweigh the disadvantages to those animals in captivity. Either way, is is obvious that SeaWorld is not anywhere close to altruistic, and they constantly put a PR spin on all the less than honorable things they do, but if they are forced either through sanctions or public backlash, or their own moral decisions to make sure they do much more to help the environment than to harm it, then I'm not convinced that they do not benefit Orca's in the long run.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

And by the way, ecology has everything to do with the behaviors of Orcas in captivity. If you studied it, then you'd know that it is the study of interactions among organisms and their environments. Meaning you should know Orcas are organisms just like us humans. And since they're in captivity their environment would be the tank. And in order to learn tricks and socialize they have to interact with the trainers and other orcas in their small tanks. So maybe you should go back to school, and retake that class because obviously you failed miserably. Also, since it's not their normal environment, that affects their behaviors and interactions with others. Hence why ecology is a huge part of it. Go back to school. Oh and by the way I'm 19 and a true animal lover. And I'm proud of it. If you loved animals you'd let your exotic pets free. Instead of keeping them for your amusement as well as others. Fact is you may know how to take care of animals, but you do not know the slightest thing about them. That's why you clearly couldn't realize the concept that ecology has everything to do with these animals in captivity and how wrong it is.

MelissaMattsson 2 years ago

First off, you're a disgrace to my name. Secondly, what makes you think it's ok to take animals from the wild? Not only to make millions if not billions off of them. Unless there's an actual reason due to an injury or illness, then ok get them back to good health, but then release them back into the wild. Why put them in a tank just to perform for us? The owners of SeaWorld do not care at all for the animals, they care about the money they're getting for them. Hence why trainers are being manipulated into doing everything they're told so they don't get a lawsuit on their ass. And I know you HATE when people compare these animals in tanks with humans, so I'm not going to. However, us humans are animals too. We are no different. Yea sure it's fun to go and see these animals, but their true beauty is in the wild where they belong. I have seen it. They came right up to the boat. It was something I'm never going to forget. In captivity orcas don't live as long, and that's due to being in a tank. Their bodies are built to always be on the move, but they can't even reach their top speeds in capitivy, so instead it's almost like being in a tank makes them lazy. Which leads to all sorts of health problems, not to mention they are away from their pod, so they aren't able to socialize except with the other orcas they put with it. Leading to even more disaster. They don't know these other orcas, they're complete strangers. Not all animals get along with one another, they can't be forced to. Each of them have their own personalities. Not to mention taking away a child from it's mother is the most cruel thing anyone could ever do. And only because they want to make millions off it at another park? So they're going to put two orcas in complete distress and depression just for money? That these bastards are already rich, why do they need more? So they can keep controlling people like you and other people who are completely unaware that this is wrong. The only people who work for seaworld who care about the animals are the trainers. The owners could not care less what happens to the Orcas. They care about themselves, kinda just like you. And it's pathetic. If it was created to teach people about these wild animals, then why teach them things they made up and not facts? I went to SeaWorld when I was young, I had an instant connection with a dolphin who only came up to me out of everyone and let me touch it. No one else out of the entire crowd at Discovery Cove, just me. And when I found the picture of me touching this dolphin from years ago just recently well this made me realize why I need to do something. And people like you need to realize why it is so wrong. They're not made to live in tanks, they need to be able to swim long distances. And what really bothers me is you go to judge Blackfish before you even saw it. Which makes all of your opinions a joke. And yes I realize maybe not all of it is the exact fact, however true or not keeping these huge animals in a tank where they swim around in circles all day for their entire life, is the most cruel thing someone could possibly do. Especially since they are more intelligent than us. If they had legs they would be long gone by now. The trainers that died, died to let us know that these Orcas need to be free. And all the money made off them could be used to do so.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Gina, 80%, not bad!

Gina Judd 2 years ago

You are all over the place with this. I'd love to argue with you about captivity issues but your article is so schizophrenic, I'm not even sure where you stand on the issue. Personally I think you just enjoy reading what YOU write, so you write a lot, too much. I could only finish about 80 percent before I got bored.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Gregory54, I have enough 'background' in ecology to know that ecology has nothing to do with killer whales in captivity. And to answer your second inquiry, given that I don't take hypocritical stances like many who've reacted to Blackfish, I do engage in activities that are not harmless to animals and I acknowledge it. Although truth be told, I just recently learned of this and I went whale watching not as my own decision when I was younger, but I still don't mind. Yes I am the type of person who has no issue with keeping pretty animals.

Gregory54 2 years ago

Tell me Melissa… Do you have a background in ecology that qualifies your theories on keeping large, wild and exotic animals as pets… And this is just a mess: "I’ve never seen orcas in the wild, but I have been whale watching to see humpbacks, and I don’t really get such reactions. Ironically, this form of tourism, bound to increase when people start seeing animal parks as sinister, is more likely to directly impact wild orca populations:"… Ah okay, but yet you have been whale watching, even though you are aware of the potential consequences of it. You're clearly one of those selfish types who wants to capture all the pretty animals and keep them as pets.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Alright, thanks for stopping by Evan.

Evan 2 years ago

I stopped reading your article because I started making assumptions on how it would turn out. So fair is fair in this awesome new form of journalism you've created. What I assumed about you is that you don't understand how filmmaking works, especially documentaries.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Feel free to point out anything from this article that is "uninformed" James. That would be far more productive than criticizing my ability to write my opinion and then fleeing. I think everything I've written is 100% valid and informed. Not one single comment has shown otherwise. It's also surprising to me that the director could do so much research and still have the massive misconceptions she had about animals when she started. Maybe the issue was her interviewing people who were naïve enough to think that killer whale training was a completely safe job.

James 2 years ago

The problem with blogging is that any uninformed person can write whatever they want from a percieved position of authority. At least the directors of blackfish spent time to thoroughly research the topic. They interviewed trainers with years of DIRECT experience and even reached out to Seaworld trying to get their side of the story to make it fair and balanced. I would submit that your review is the biased portion....

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and you certainly have made yours clear. As for me, I choose to believe that there is little if any True benefit to keeping these intelligent animals captive for entertainment.

No need to respond to my comment as I will not be revisitng your blog.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I am ebolaoutkast there.

Brian OO 2 years ago

Melissa, I couldn't find your comments in that thread. Care to re-share your response to her?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I read that Brian and I also had a small conversation with her on that thread.

Brian OO 2 years ago

From Naomi A. Rose, Ph.D., marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute:

There are some species of wildlife that do well in captivity. There are others that do not. We should be selective in which species we consign to a lifetime of living in artificial circumstances, that's all. This is not a one-size fits all situation - it is a shade of gray, not black and white (pun intended here). Orcas are at the top of the list of species that do not do well in captivity - they are too large, too social, too intelligent, and too wide-ranging to adjust (they cope, but they suffer for it). If their display was phased out, SeaWorld does not need to lose out - they can be part of the solution. As mothers, if you know that the show you and your children enjoy is founded on a system that has separated (often brutally and always traumatically) young orcas from their mothers, mothers they would in nature live with their entire lives, would your opinion change? Orcas in the wild live in tight families - setting aside the many juveniles captured from the wild, even when born in captivity these families are torn apart, for husbandry reasons. Orcas do not belong in captivity and none of the good things SeaWorld does need to end if they end the show.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Captivity of animals has undeniably contributed a lot of our knowledge towards animals as a whole, despite your hard-headed wishful thinking. Not that I need that as an 'excuse' to keep an animal, domesticated or not, it matters not. Domestication is not some magic pill that makes animals enjoy confinement anymore than a wild a animal does.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Pretty simple message to put across Sandra, and it does so with the aid of lies.

Sandra Abuor 2 years ago

Movies tell stories,some can be told better than others.

Blackfish may not have been of your preference but it does try.

Simple facts this movies show are

1. Killer wales are ripped from their families when they are young.

2. They live as long as humans do.

3. They are kept not just for research but also for entertainment.

4. Their environment changes from a whole ocean to a pool.

5. They are very intelligent.

6. They may attack humans they have strong bonds with.

7. They deserve much better than what Sea World has to offer especially considering the amount of money they bring in.

These are simple facts that this movie is trying to put across and for you to call it stupid is beyond my forgiving.Misleading...maybe...inaccurate possibly...contradictory....quite evident but stupid just turns your whole review to trash.

james 2 years ago

Any study of animals in captivity is dodgy at best. You are studying a creature that is NOT in it's environment, therefore all behaviour will be affected by this, no matter how small.

There really is no justification in this day in age to keep animals in captivity for the purpose of entertainment. We are not talking about domesticated animals here, we are talking about wild animals.

I really don't care if SeaWorld goes out of business, and to be honest the lively hoods of those that work there should be of LEAST concern, I'm sure they could find another job. Earning your paycheck through the exploitation of animals for entertainment and profits, covered by a thin smokescreen of education and conservation is morally repulsive and indefensible.

We deplore circuses that use bears, tigers and elephants for entertaining it's crowds, and that is what SeaWorld is, an aquatic circus.

If we can discover exoplanets from thousands of light years away by judging the slight dimming of light from it sun as it passes before it, surely we can gain as much information as we need about the cetaceans through observations of them in the wild.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but from my point of view trying to justify captivity of animals is wrong!!

I cannot believe in 2013 "the great chain of being" mentality still permeates our societies, how utterly depressing.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Glad you appreciate them Xaltiel.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi MindtheGap, I appreciate your open-mindedness, but this movie has been blown up all over CNN and its supporters clobber Youtube videos with their beliefs. I don't think think that it is unfair for me to try and get people to read my article or to call the documentary 'stupid' which in many ways I think it is, even if orcas have obvious issues in captivity. I've recently discovered just how clueless about animals the director was/is and now feel more inclined to leave my title as is. After all the bragging about Seaworld's decreasing stock and broadcasting success of Blackfish, I don't think you have much to worry about. The animals under Seaworld's care, as well as anyone who works in a zoo however, do.

Xaltiel 2 years ago

Please don't stop posting your articles. Truly you are one of the few people I have seen whose made an honest and scientific case for animals in captivity. I read all of your articles over the padt couple of days and they are all incredibly well written.

As someone aspiring to be a part of conservation efforts one day, it pains and infuriates me to see First Worlders be so parochial and destructive in their bid to remain ideologically pure. The wilds of Africa and India no longer exist and the bits that do are prime hunting grounds for poachers.

There is so much private citizens who have the knowledge, drive, money and space for exotic animal care can do for conservation efforts. It bothers me greatly that people would rather tie my hands than let me help.

Please keep fighting the good fight.

As for this ridiculous documentary, MindtheGap, you are attempting to shame and silence the author through the frivolous tone argument. It is not her responsibility that someone read the TITLE and decided not to see it. Frankly, the less people that the better.

And it's a testament to this cultures inane fawning over cetaceans that out of all the articles written on this hub this one has the most comments.

MindtheGap 2 years ago

Controversial title good for you; bad for the Orcas

Melissa, thank you for your article. I always appreciate a critical and analytical review. However I strongly agree with previous posts; your title is inappropriately negative. Whether or not I agree with your article as a whole is irrelevant. I appreciate your research and critic, you have obviously struck a cord from the numerous posts, but feel there is much more harm being done than good.

**I post this because when I searched for Blackfish online (I was hoping it would be everywhere to reach a broader audience) this is one of the first things that came article saying the documentary is stupid. Your words - your title - will stop people from watching it, which would be a shame.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Well first of all Tatyana you've posted multiple times and I've determined that the conversation is going nowhere. I almost didn't accept this one, it's clear that you are just posting insults and nothing with substance because you do not like my article. Why not just part ways?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for this information Kristen, I will take it into consideration. You're also right about the priorities people have, it's much easier to boycott and hate Seaworld than to address more long-term issues like plastic pollution. Hopefully zoos can inspire people to care about these issues in the wild.

LisaTrublu 2 years ago from Boca Raton, Fl

Hi Melissa; remember me? We kind of had different interpretations on this subject. I just can't believe you still have such an audience that keeps you going; however, it is a subject that causes controversy; and with all these people commenting on your post, I am sure Hubpages is paying you a percentage that you deserve; good job; even though you and I disagreed in a cordial way. Have a great week!

Tatyana 2 years ago

If it's so silly, how come you didn't post it? I've seen you allow a lot silliest comments here. And sorry, but to this point I still don't understand your point of view on orcas in captivity. It pretty much sounds like: "Yes, conditions are horrible, but they should suck it up because we are humans, superior to orcas and we can do whatever we want, even if it's inhumane as long as we can make money of of it."

Oh, and another thing.... You are living in New York doesn' mean you can't work for SW. Although in this case it's definitely true, as you are hurting them more with your articles then you help (judging by all the comments)

Kristen 2 years ago

I have some experience on this subject matter. In response to the experience issue for the trainers, back when animal care and training was an infant occupation, there was a lack of experience because there was no way to have gotten experience. Today however, I know that for one training position at SeaWorld that opened last year, there were over 100 applicants, all of which had to pass an incredibly difficult physical swim test before even interviewing. Also, they needed AT LEAST 6 months of hands on verifiable animal training and care experience to get that interview (If you were competitive you had more). I know some of SeaWorlds zoological staff, these are some of the most dedicated, passionate people I could ever hope to meet. They are not represented by the people in the film, most of whom worked there decades ago or left on bad terms.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

No, that post contributed nothing to the discussion. I wasn't going to have an extended conversation on people's need to drive cars, because it's silly. People do not 'need' to drive cars period, but that's just one example. I'm sure you can come up with plenty other non-essential things we do that are dangerous such as working as a trapeze artist, race car driver, professional snow boarder and other daredevil work. It was just an irrelevant point to harp on and felt like a waste of time. I've already pretty much stated what I think about the orcas in captivity. That's why my posts are so long, it's not a simplistic subject.

Tatyana 2 years ago

Yes, it was. It was going to show you that you are not always right. So it's Ok for you to call other's people work "stupid", but as soon as someone suggests you don't get out much (based on your own comments no less), you get offended and delete posts? That's a little hypocritical don't you think?

Now, do you agree or not that people are not ready to keep killer whales in captivity? And any existing aquarium is not larch enough to accommodate orcas, unless the reason they are placed in it is torture, in which case, it's perfect.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I wasn't planning on it Tatyana. I think "You don't get out much, do you?" is 'offensive' and that conversation was going nowhere honestly.

Tatyana 2 years ago

Are you going to answer my last two posts?

I am sorry if you found them offensive again - there were not meant to be.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for re-stating what I previously said Sam857

"Endangered? Not really, except for one population, and they almost got taken off."

That one population would be the Puget sound orcas that your link described. The others, not so. Threatened (which they are not considered because of insufficient data) is not the same as endangered. So as you can see, I'm doing just fine with my research and yours needs some shaping up. It's not fun being proven wrong after trying to condescend towards my knowledge so insult my writing if that makes you feel better.

Sam857 2 years ago

You jumped on the word "endangered." To be absolutely specific, these Orcas are endangered:

Not really the point, which was sanctuaries to transition from captivity (the pros and cons of which you know apparently know nothing.) And no, I didn't read your post very carefully because it was so poorly written with so many unsubstantiated "facts", inaccuracies, grammatical and syntax errors that I finally said fuck it. This is even more draining, so take the last word which seems desperately important to you in every comment you get. I won't be reading these uneducated and inhumane rants again. Sorry.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sam, you said ENDANGERED and that is not the same as 'threatened'.

"The Killer Whale has declined in overall numbers due to the environment and human actions. Right now they aren’t considered to be an endangered species, but that doesn’t mean effective conservation efforts aren’t necessary."


Your link doesn't even work. The IUCN states their status as 'data deficient', not threatened.

"I have no idea what that has to do with pretending to care about public safety."

Then you didn't read my article, along with your own links. Amazing how I, being such a poor reader, know more about these animals than you.

Sam857 2 years ago

Orcas are threatened. Read something. I am a pet owner, I have no idea what that has to do with pretending to care about public safety. The panicked ones always grasp at irrelevant, emotional arguments. My concern for your mental health is not insincere, it's just directed more at any animals you may own or the unfortunate people in your orbit. I sincerely hope you get the help you need, and that you start reading something more substantial than your own diary.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Endangered? Not really, except for one population, and they almost got taken off. I never said that I'm against the coastal sanctuaries, I stated that it could potentially be deadly, but if that's what SeaWorld decides to do it would be a learning experience, and maybe it would work. In my view, it's worth the risk with Tilikum because he's not getting along with the other animals. These 'sanctuaries' (assuming they would be controlled by the anti-zoo side) would likely not be open to the public, which in my view is completely unnecessary. Thanks for your insincere concern of my mental health. It is not unlike those people who pretend to care about public safety to force zoos and pet owners to abide by their beliefs.

Sam857 2 years ago

If you are pro-captivity and anti-entertainment, why not advocate the option of sanctuaries and reserves? One of the former trainers in the film suggested a free-water sanctuary. Is this against your unsubstantiated, hyper-defensive arguments also? Or will you argue that to the death to solicit attention? More importantly, whatever rage you're working through is better inflicted on a braced mental health professional than on a defenseless endangered species, no?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Tatyana, no, you don't need to go to the movies, whether you live in New York or Minnesota. You don't have to go to birthday parties or after-school activities. How do you think our species got along without this stuff before it was invented? I can't believe you dedicated so much writing to an erroneous point.

Tatyana 2 years ago

Melissa A Smith 9 days ago from New York Hub Author :

99% of people do not drive out of necessity. A few days ago I rode in a car to see the movie "Gravity". I could have lived without that. I even have Netflix.

Where from do you get your facts? Do you truly believe that the whole world is thinking and operating the way you do? You do realize there is life outside of New York? I live in Minnesota’s suburb, and if I didn’t drive, I’d be stuck at home all day. If people don’t drive, they probably ride in the bus or some other form of public transportation, which is practically the same as the bus driver has to drive the bus. And those get into accidents all the time. If you have children, you have to drive even more: Doctors, B-Day parties, after school activities, to and from school (even if it’s on the bus).

I guess it’s off the topic, but it’s kind of diminishing your credibility by the way you just put it out there like that.

99% of people do not drive out of necessity. Yes, people, let’s not go to the movies, museums, theaters, etc… Let’s not see the shows and meet other people. Let’s sit at home, watch Netflix, and write reviews on the titles for the movies we haven’t seen (you know, because it’s not on Netflix yet).


People do not have the means yet to accommodate orcas, no matter how many treadmills they put in their tanks (I wonder if they are also designing dentures for them yet).

The whole See World institution is just a simple Concentration Camp (by definition) for killer whales.

1. No freedom (obvious)

2. Medical experiments (breeding program and teeth drilling, may be more)

3. Labor (shows)

4. Insufficient diet (Restaurant quality food)

5. Live and die in the confined space (I am pretty sure you’ve seen pictures from the concentration camps-they were crowded).

I am not even going to go into how they are taken from their families; most of those in aquariums were bred there. So, they don’t know any better. Naturally born invalids. Can’t swim long distances, definitely can’t hunt (eating dead fish all their lives), would probably die in the sea shortly if ever released. Dead end.

You are probably right that most or some animals thrive in captivity. Not orcas. And that’s a fact.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Teodoro Armenteros--No, I live in New York.

Teodoro Armenteros 2 years ago

Do you work for Seaworld?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Paula Lawrence-- Because nature is what it is. Animals exist only on the principal that they can produce viable offspring. Nature is a cold, moral-less entity, ensuring no break from the cycle of suffering.

Paula Lawrence 2 years ago

I read that you wrote nature cannot improve. How do you know that? And are you really sure about that?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Lol JdBalance, that Grand Canyon thing was very bizarre. But anyway, the Blackfish title is reference to what some natives referred to the animals as. I'm also going to take a guess that the director probably thought it sounded pretty clever as it incorporates the word 'black' such as what many perceive the SeaWorld situation to be.

JdBalance 2 years ago

I have long been anti-sea world because I hate supporting the majestic-beasts-in-captivity industry.

That said, after watching this film and researching the issues a bit, I'm (ironically) more on the fence than I once was. The fact is, sea world does a lot of good things for marine animals. Perhaps having a few animals perform - sad though it may be - is worth it, for the thousands of animals it helps with the money it raises. (And no, I'm not saying they are altruistic, or even particularly good - but like it or not, they still DO a lot of good.)

Good opinion piece, but you can't really be surprised at the idiotic responses you've received (like the calls for the end of all animals in captivity, or the nonsensical comparison of whale shows to hauling the Grand Canyon around). After all, how dare you suggest that a documentary about how horrible we are to "fish" (and wtf is with that title?) is anything short of scripture.

Tim 2 years ago

Hannah 7 days ago

As someone who works in the animal care industry, I was also most blown away by the fact these trainers giving interviews had no real background in animal training or experience with animals at all. They just thought it would be a cool thing to do, so they went for it and got the job, and that is absolutely not how things are today.


Oh really? Here is a link to a trainer vacancy at Seaworld:


Must have a high school diploma or equivalent

Must be SCUBA certified and be able to complete annual swim competency exam

Must be able to complete provided CPR and lifeguard training/certification

Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills

Must be in excellent health and physical condition

Must be able to swim and work in/around water

Must be able to stand for long periods of time

Must be able to lift, push and pull 50 pounds

Doesn't specify any specific educational background or experience.. just need a SCUBA license!

Oskark 2 years ago

quite! glad you agree. 'fume'

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Oskark, Grizzly Man is one of my favorite documentaries and is an example of above average, artistic film making. I would have been foaming at the mouth to see such a review.

Oskark 2 years ago

excellent article. a shallow, sentimental, sensationalist and unintelligent film, disrespectful of its audience and killer whales and unashamedly political and self seeking. have worked with seaworld, have mixed views on killer whales in captivity but know their animal husbandry to be excellent. Disgusted to see that even some normally intelligent critics have compared to the excellent Grissly Man doco.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Yes Krista Medland, if we ever do that we will likely be the biggest flaming hypocrites in our history.

Krista Medland 2 years ago

No animal should be held in captivity…especially ones as intelligent as orca's and elephants. It is absolutely embarrassing and disgraceful that humankind treats other living beings the way we do. Instead of offering these creatures a dignified life we tailor them for our own entertainment. Our future generations are going to look back one day and be truly ashamed of us.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I agree, very traditional documentary filmmaking which is why I'm baffled by its praise (from a cinematic standpoint, I also have a background in film criticism). I still think any suggestion of Tilikum's killing being a result of psychosis is high speculation. What is 'normal' for a captive killer whale? They kill in the wild, and, while they don't seem to have much desire in attacking humans, they are perfectly capable of doing so in captivity if a bad 'mood' sets in. I would admit to leaning toward believing that the constant social strife can contribute to such. Tilikum's involvement in at least one of the three cases is cryptic.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Thomas, I think so. When the film juxtaposes their statements with footage and graphics I feel that is communicating validity to what is being said. There is not a 'detached' point of view being presented here.

Cris 2 years ago

Sorry, I also wanted to add that from a purely cinematic standpoint this is a fairly basic by-the-numbers-cut-and-paste assembled documentary. Although it's simplistic structure could be meant to emphasis the emotional content of the documentary,

Cris 2 years ago

I definitely agree with a lot of the things you say. But on other points...

I do have to say that I believe there is some validity to the claim that Tilikum is a little psychotic due to his history in captivity. He has killed three people during his time in captivity and attacked several others. I don't think (but also don't know) any other captive whale has killed that many people before. The Outdoor Magazine article, "the Killer in the Pool" does a good job of detailing this history.

I mean I can't believe that a whale being torn from its pod at a young age, and the ensuing trauma from that experience, wouldn't affect them. For the record I do not believe that places like SeaWorld should exist. If anything we've learned that after years of capturing, torturing and exploiting whales SeaWorld really hasn't contributed that much to the understanding of whales. I really wouldn't trust any place to educate my on whales whose grooming process for trainers includes "charismatic personality and television good looks".

In the end I actually feel a bit more mixed up on this issue after having watched Blackfish. What are they really trying to say about whales?

Thomas Cochran 2 years ago

Really well written and researched article. I think that you asign a strong agenda to the film that isn't there. Maybe they hide it well and I missed it, but are the things you say they left out on purpose really that egregious? Most points in the movie are trainer/interviewee opinions anyway, not stated fact.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

TOPTENKIDS, please read the article fully

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sondra, plenty of zoo animals 'perform', and in most cases it is good for the animals. Here is an example: Try not to reject people's views based on how many people agree with them.

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TOPTENKIDS 2 years ago from USA

I watched this movie and I really liked it. I can't believe it was pretty much all a lie.

sondra 2 years ago

hi Melissa,

you don't see ANY Zoo's animals to performing for food; Zoo animals are just fed. but for Sea World? no tricks, no food! to me that's slavery and abuse. If that's not abuse to you, then you're not very smart.

I'm not sorry to say it. I don't understand how you can STILL support SeaWorld and look blindly away. Everyone in there right minds are against it, except you...why? what's the real truth about you? are you getting paid to write a article full of uneducated lies to protect the legacy of SeaWorld? Have you noticed everyone is against you because you're wrong? maybe its not everyone else who has the wrong opinion , its your opinion that is false and MISLEADING? look at all the people who voted to release these creatures and stop the entertainment Pool Circus. they shouldn't have names it SeaWorld, because there is no SEA involved. instead call it POOL WORLD. BC that's what it really is.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

@ Quintas I have zero association with SeaWorld or any zoo, or 42 West. You won't find a person who is less supported by any such entities than I. Are alternative opinions really that shocking?

Quintas 2 years ago


I would like you to publicly state that your not being paid or have no association with SeaWorld or the media company 42West that has been employed by SW to spread lies, disention and propaganda about the film Blackfish.

In my experience with trolls, paid provacateurs and lobbyists often times their rhetoric seems so one sided and so unbelievably out of touch with convention that it leads one to believe that they are nothing more than paid shills.

It's a fair question. Sea World is trying to protect a 1 Billion dollar investment. Why else would they lie to the public about the animals well being ie...telling the public that they only live 1/2 as a long as they actually do, saying that dorsal fins naturally and regularly collapse in the wild and trying to convince the public that the orca that got a trainers ponytail caught in his mouth not the trainers' arm.

If Sea World was generally concerned about the health and well being of these animals why would they lie repeatedly to the public and their staff. Why would they hire a NYC media company to spread dissent about the directors motives?

"Scratch a lie, catch a thief."

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Adam one points of this article is to suggest that abnormal doesn't automatically equate with 'wrong'. This article brings up points about the logic being used to condemn not just Seaworld but other zoos. I stated understanding of the faceless cooperate bodies that have unfortunately overlooked animal welfare. That does not mean that: A. Having wild animals in captivity is wrong or B. That Seaworld should be boycotted with the objective of shutting it down.

adam 2 years ago

I just think that the statements used by seaworld to justify this is ridiculous. They can claim that they're doing research, and generally trying to make the world a better place for these animals, (and maybe they are... to a point), but there is no way anyone can say with a straight face that this is why they hold these animals in captivity when it's clear that they shouldn't be. Money is what drives this, like it drives everything in a capitalistic society. bottom line is you can trash the film all you want and poke holes, but its an undeniable fact that a killer whale swimming in a small pool with a human being, doing tricks for the amusement of other people, isn't natural, it isn't normal, and it isn't right. Which could be said for any zoo or aquarium in my opinion, the whole concept just bothers me, makes me feel dirty.

I won't call you any names or insult you of course, that doesn't really accomplish anything, your article was well written and your entitled to your opinion, although i'm not 100% sure what your point is at times while reading it

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi strngwys, considering that this article is about the film Blackfish, I find that it makes sense to read into it. The MAIN premise of this film is about the attacks on trainers and alleged public safety violations, which is why I wrote about the trailer in the first place (in another article). Of course we know that this was just a lure for an audience less interested in the welfare aspects (another point I made) that a Fall From Freedom addressed. Just because my opinion doesn't match yours doesn't mean I'm a mindless follower. You can observe here that most commenters don't agree with me and are writing ineffective insults towards my alternative beliefs. It may have made you feel better to call me that but it makes little sense. I don't understand your criticism of your teacher's claims. Cetacean training was brought up in my psychology class as well.

strngwys 2 years ago

You are reading far too deep into this Melissa. Even if no one had died, Orcas shouldn't remain in captivity. Like a young Democrat, you too have jumped on a bandwagon of your own by trying to stand up for animal captivity. For the past few months I've been taking a Psychology of Learning course at my University, it also happens to be taught by a SeaWorld trainer who 'validates' her work every class by telling us of the benefits that work with classical and operant conditioning can bring to human understanding. However, the greatest bond between Orca and human she can describe is an unrestrained blood sample given by free will from an Orca. Submissive, allowance of pain, with the hope of food as a reward. These animals are cash crops and nothing more. We don't need to learn from them in this manner. Your piece disgusts me.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thank you Ravn. I agree, this movie is about more than killer whales languishing in captivity.

Shane 2 years ago

You're amazingly awesome! It's a shame there are so many misinformed ignorant people commenting on topics they know nothing about.

Raven 2 years ago

I wanted to thank you, Melissa, for this piece. I thought it was very thoughtful, and if nothing else, I hope it can inspire more to actually think critically about such sensitive topics instead of just jumping on the sensationalized bandwagon presented in a movie. I have worked in this industry, and so I feel the burn of this anti-captivity campaign. I also am angered at the blatant ignorance that is thrown around, often vehemently. Myself, I am often told to get "educated" on the subject. I find this laughable, because I am quite educated, have worked in similar fields (never a SW company), and am generally interested in animal welfare. In response to any arguments or suggestions of people to examine the issue with more research, I am often told to "watch the film", a response to which I cannot even begin to fully express my frustration. I am glad you have done some research. We may not agree on all things, but I appreciate the critical eye you have given this, and I hope many people are inspired by you to also think about a larger picture, and maybe even embrace how captive environments themselves are not by definition evil, but with the correct management and attention to animal welfare, can provide education and valuable contribution to the conservation of habitats and entire species.

Carlos Lopez 2 years ago

Melissa you are talking way too much, we are no better than animals, we are equal, why should we take them hostages for fun and business?, it's stupid, see if an orca took hostage a human as a pet, see how that ends up.

pamela120 2 years ago

wtf I don't care if this movie is bad or is getting money, I just care they are trying to say those animals should not be there. Using the Orcas like entertainment and getting money by this. Humans should help animals not Fxxk them and use them like toys. I hate your post. You are just focusing on movie and not about those beautiful animals that should be in the sea.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks a lot smartin2013

Quintas 2 years ago

I hate to say this but your post reminds me of the Tea Party. A lot of denial and delusion. "BlackFish" out performed Fox and Msnbc combined on the night it was shown. It really resonated with a majority of the people in America.

You're free to have your opinion. It just seems to run contrary to what most empathetic human beings feel about orcas being captured, taken from the wild and being forced to perform in a circus.

smartin2013 2 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Fantastic Hub. Appreciate your effort for sharing the details with us.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Minor they are not. This movie encourages the use of this logic when we examine the ethics of captive animals. Emotional projection and misjudgement of animals is a big reason why there are many irrational animal rights movements thriving. I view orca whale captivity as not very different from that of other animals, and I can tell you that there is a 'dark side' to nearly of them.

Sharp Voice 2 years ago

You missed the main point of the movie and are trying to argue minor issues, such as whether killer whales are friendly to human in the wild. The main point is this: locking such giant whales in tiny pools for people's entertainment purpose and for profit is not humane.

Your post is utterly irrelevant.

tailswagg 2 years ago

it's probably a very good thing that people that actually do have something to do with whales in captivity won't have anything to do with this stupid babble. You are entitled to your opinion, but you are just as, if not more so, uninformed about this subject; the one you are accusing others of not knowing enough about. But they at least have shined a light on what is really going on in the ocean theme parks of America. What really have you done to help anything???

Hannah 2 years ago

To quote quintas: "Indeed they do spend time on this, it makes sense since Sea World seemed to cover up the history of aggressive acts of Orcas from staff and pressure their young employees to soldier on. By misleading the care givers, trainers and medical staff about these animals, people died. It seems reasonable to explore that."

This is infuriating for many reasons. If the film had included one single opinion of someone who was FOR captivity or another trainer who worked there at the time they would have given their account of how they WERE told about Tilikum and his background. It is SeaWorld's fault for employing trainers were either not paying attention to this information or cared enough to look into the background of killer whales in captivity and see Tilikum had documented instances of interactions with people that turned out badly. No one ever tried to cover this up. Sealand of the Pacific (where he spent the first years of his life captive) who was never associated with SeaWorld, did not care for him properly, did not keep their whales in rightly sized pools (aka modules from the movie), and did not do enriching or stimulating things with their collection. Yet no one cares about this, only that SeaWorld took him even knowing that he had issues at his previous facility.

and " As well didn't they needlessly kill 3 killer whales in the process, slit their stomachs, fill them with rocks and sink their carcasses"

And it didn't need to happen the hundreds upon hundreds of other times it did when this happened thirty years ago when everyone was doing it. This is irrelevant to today and to SeaWorld.

and Bob: "Which is, in fact, an opinion piece"

Funny, the entire Blackfish movie is just that. With no opposing viewpoints, and information presented in a specific style to illicit emotions and thoughts from viewers, its an opinion piece. There was no actual science or information from anyone who wasn't saying that captivity and SeaWorld is terrible. Just SeaWorld did these things and they're terrible for it. They did not focus on Tilikum and reasons why he acted in the way he did. They did not focus on his life, and the way he came to be long before SeaWorld's care or even after he did arrive. An assumption was made from a few specific instances about an entire species. There needs to be more research for BOTH sides for and against captivity.

and Rich: "Check any unbiased scientific assessment of of this subject and the consensus is strong. It is not ethical to keep such animals in captivity."

Science has nothing to do with ethics. You're saying that people who are against the matter are in consensus? Clearly they think its unethical. Please show me the peer reviewed scientific papers of the unethical consensus of killer whales in captivity if this is what you're getting at. I would love to read them because I have never come across these papers.

I'm getting sick of seeing comments everywhere to tell people to "go watch blackfish" and inform yourself. No one is informed from just watching the movie. This is a huge matter with tons of background and definitely has more to do with just SeaWorld. Inform YOURSELF and do not use entertainment "psychological thrillers" to inform your thoughts. Ridiculous.

liam 2 years ago

Ohhhh my god I could not be bothered reading your entire rant.

Documentaries aren't even meant to be original.

LisaTrublu 2 years ago from Boca Raton, Fl

Melissa, I strongly believe your opinions may have swayed me to look at all the sides of this subject, but I know it was your title that lost me. I cringe at the word "stupid". Nobody's interpretation is ever stupid. When one puts down another's perception, I lose all respect. Please consider me, the reader when using such words. Well, it's Monday.. I wish you well; have a productive week.

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Organised Kaos 2 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

I was disappointed as could have seen it all on youtube. Hopefully the movie makes the orca attract more funding however it brings it in.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Yes James, I don't see this ending the way people are hoping.

James 2 years ago

I don't understand the heat with some of these comments. I clicked onto this knowing it was an opinion piece not a scholarly journal. As a person who doesn't agree that Orcas should be in captivity, I still find your review on the movie close to mine. Blackfish did nothing for me. I don't see how outing Seaworld solves any problems. They go bankrupt, those same animals they are trying to save still get a death sentence. I don't see a win for these animals, just for the activists who planted themselves behind them. -but yes that's just my opinion too.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Yes Acc86, that too. Animals expend as much energy as they need to, so they should be fed through some kind of job.

Acc86 2 years ago

"They also enhance the human-animal relationships so animals are calm for things like vet checkups."

... For things like Vet check ups ......... and forced masturbation for sperm collection.

"Intelligent animals need jobs to preoccupy themselves"

SeaWorld is lacking in this department considering the fact that when the orcas aren't being hunger driven into circus shows they float motionless in a pool.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Yes Kara, the film committed the same offense as Seaworld by highlighting the statement that they are 'friendly'.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Rich, SeaWorld is both a zoo/aquarium and a theme park. You are the second person today who tried to discredit my opposing voice. It is untrue that only 'whale biologists' can speak intelligently on the subject; I'm not discussing synaptic signals or the TOR pathway. Plenty of marine biologists actually do not possess doom and gloom perspectives on marine mammal captivity.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I pretty much agree WicacnSage, that's how I see it. Except I think the tricks can sometimes be enriching, if they vary it up a little. They also enhance the human-animal relationships so animals are calm for things like vet checkups. I think intelligent animals need jobs to preoccupy themselves.

Rich 3 years ago

Melissa, SeaWorld is not a zoo, it is a theme park. This is an important distinction, because Zoos (though not all admittedly) work to protect endangered species, through breeding programs or simple security. Exhibition zoos are another issue.

What is clear here is that you are not a biologist, and more importantly not a whale biologist. As such you are not qualified to comment on the animals state of mind or behaviour. Check any unbiased scientific assessment of of this subject and the consensus is strong. It is not ethical to keep such animals in captivity.

You are posting this nonsense to drive your traffic, worked on me I guess.

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WiccanSage 3 years ago

Well, I have to say I agree with your points, and have long held the same stance. For some species captivity is far from ideal; but sometimes can be useful. Luna is a perfect example of an animal that would have been better off being moved to captivity, even if in an enclosed sea pen if not in an aquarium equipped for it like Sea World. I don't have an issue with captivity in itself, but whether it's carried out responsibly-- and trying to 'train' giant predators to do tricks like letting people ride on their backs, in my opinion, is just not responsible. I agree with you, that animals in captivity should be cared for and stimulated, but not trained to be clowns on parade to make money. Movies that make all captivity environments look bad are not doing us, or the animals, any favors. The problem is not captivity in itself, the problem is trying to turn animals into entertainers and make them do tricks on command.

Quintas 3 years ago

Of course she can defend her positions. I just happen to vehemently disagree with her. I certainly wouldn't call the moving documentry "banal." That kind of comment seems obnoxious at best.

The writer seems to like derisive words when writing her articles. Also her opinions seem to border on contempt.

I may have, in fact I did over step my boundaries by implying that humans rarely help other humans. This is obviously not true. However, it seems that rather than address the points I brought up about the orcas you homed in on my comments about humans, fair enough. I suppose, but not addressing the meat of my consternation with your response seems 1/2 hearted.

As for Louis, if you have an opinion about the author or the movie this seems an appropriate time and place to share it.

Louis 3 years ago

Quintas: I guess, people can't defend their articles from your comments.

Bob: Don't be a jerk! :D

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

" I could care less if you agree with the documentary or not."

This I doubt. I see no rants like yours on the hundreds of opinion pieces that back up the claims in Blackfish. Nope, in order to write my perspective of the documentary I need to get the go ahead from orca experts on all of my sentences. I think the general public should be able to think for themselves and not be manipulated by agenda-driven 'scientists' like one that was shown in this film; an expert for sure, but still human and heavily prone to bias. And without a degree in neuroscience, I am powerless to have a valid opinion? I don't think so.

I think you are just more interested in trying to discredit the opposing voices to this film "Journalist Bob", but your attempt has been made in vain. I see many people telling me my works are 'stupid' or 'unconvincing' but not a lot of explanations as to WHY, like I've done here for this movie. So I put little stock into such comments.

Bob 3 years ago

You are not an Orca expert, SeaWorld expert or true journalist. You cite no sources and use no interviews on for this "article." Which is, in fact, an opinion piece - a lousy one at that. In real life, I am a journalist. What you perpetuate with this blog is exactly what is wrong with society as a whole. Your opinion is not fact, nor is it important in any way. You have a number of people following this blog. You have a responsibility to your readership to present fact-based work. A good piece uses quotes and facts from recognized experts and sources. A lot of what you present is a good argument, if you had someone who was an expert back it up. Your problem is no expert will back it up. Your arguments can be dismantled quite easily and soundly. Just because you have "gone to SeaWorld" you feel you know the truth and the facts? Are you an expert because you wrote opinion pieces with no real research? Hell, no, on both accounts. I went to SeaWorld Ohio dozens of times as a kid before it was closed down. Am I, too, an expert? Hell, no. But I am a solid journalist who would write a piece laced with facts, sources and quotes from the experts on this matter. Be responsible with the power you have with the number of readers on your site. I couldn't care less if you agree with the documentary or not. What I care about is presenting a solid argument based upon more than your calling yourself someone who knows about this subject and pushing your opinions off as fact. And you severely failed on that account. Come back with sources, expert opinions and quotes to back your opinion, and I will give your blog respect it deserves, whether I agree or not. You could have had a very good voice here to refute what you don't like or agree with in the film. You blew that chance with less than full effort here.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Why do you think I'm not allowed to defend myself Quintas? I disagreed with some of what you were saying and if you don't want a reply, you should just say that. Maybe I'm just "obsessed". No one is making you read my replies. I thought that when you said this: " certain times have saved the lives of sailors, drowning victims and animals. We rarely see this in nature. We rarely see it in humans so when we see it in a species..." you were saying that we rarely see those described qualities in humans. I'm not putting words in your mouth, you wrote it. I think my position is rather obvious. Click around my other stuff. I don't appreciate black and white captivity slandering.

Quintas 3 years ago

The fact that you can go through all of these perfectly valid disagreements with your thesis and step by step invalidate them over and over, brings me to the conclusion that either you are obsessed, paid or have some strange alterior motive.

"I'm sure I would have succumbed to believing everything in the film as well." I have noticed in your responses that you take great liberty in coming to conclusions and make sweeping generalizations. And put words in my mouth, I never mentioned anything about humans not being inquisitive or dolphins being more inquisitive.

Also you do use the word "evil" just because you qualify it, after the fact does not make it any less valid as a personification of mammals.

"Exploits" the danger aspects of the job. It's dangerous, I assume you watched the trainer get pulled under over and over to a depth of 35 feet, correct.

Also, was I mistaken. Were not the animals herded into shallow water and then their babies taken. As well didn't they needlessly kill 3 killer whales in the process, slit their stomachs, fill them with rocks and sink their carcasses.

I mean couldn't you spend your time and energy defending something admirable. Some of your points are well taken, while others seem disjointed. It's as if your so heavily vested in these discussions, it just makes me a little suspicious.

What it is it that you hope to gain by dismissing the documentry "Blackfish" as fear mongerering. Do you feel the movies director, producer or viewing audience has an alterior motive other than to point out the blatant cruelty of taking wild animals out of the wild and making them into circus performers.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

@ Quintas

1. On captivity and psychosis. It's not as simplistic as you seem to think it is. There are different qualities of 'captivity' and different animal species that vary in how they adapt to it. Some animals, like great white sharks, fair poorly in captivity at this time with our best efforts. Other animals 'seem' to thrive in captivity with long lifespans, reproductive success, and 'reasonable' behavioral observations...but this is where it gets complicated. As I've stated here, it is undeniable that animals will have altered behavior when they don't live in the wild, and this also applies to us. Something that is abnormal for a 'wild' animal should not be considered to be automatically negative or an indicator of poor well-being. I've even gotten into a heated debate with a group of people who swear that a house cat is miserable and psychotic if it is responsibly kept indoors/confined in any way. And yes, they DO have altered behavior in homes but I contend that they are 'suffering' however on the flip-side, I do think some cat owners can improve their animal's well being via enrichment just as I feel this way with many zoos. So going back to orcas, I do NOT think that an orca attacking a human in captivity is outrageously incongruent with their wild behavior which also includes violence to fellow sentient mammals, even if humans are typically ignored. And I do not think they are 'evil' (that title was not what I wanted, but it fared better with Google searching) because I do not think they possess 'conscious' morality.

2. I don't know if what SeaWorld did is unique to many other industries. I do still feel as though this movie and other anti-captivity media exploits the 'danger' elements while they are never placed in the context of other acceptable dangerous jobs and hobbies. And also, I remain disappointed that people working with 'killer' whales were not perceptive enough to assess the obvious inherent danger.

4. Being moved to tears doesn't make you an activist. Lori Marino is actively trying to get 'human' rights for animals. You can be against captivity but not be a true animal rights follower. I am very thankful for my knowledge of her off-duty hobbies because had I not known, I would have seen her as an objective scientist. I don't think any amount of research would change her beliefs if they happened to prove the opposite of what she says.

5. My "flippant point" was to not blindly judge all situations. I do think there is sufficient evidence to believe that the orca was 'sad'. And it's not the reaction that I say this, but because of the animal's nature. This is why I get bent out of shape over their (transients) killing of whale babies in the wild.

I don't think the movie left any room for free-thought. Had I not been involved with the subject of animals in captivity, I'm sure I would have succumbed to buying everything in this film as well. I have nothing but respect for the newbies to the controversy who reserve their opinion waiting to hear from the other side. It may make you rest easier to know that healthy animals are not being 'herded into coves' for any American aquarium.

"We rarely see it in humans"

Ugh. Humans are not benevolent? Humans are not inquisitive? Humans invented these concepts. Humans are the most inquisitive animals on the planet. We've saved the lives of other animals compared to the amount of times they've saved our lives in a ratio of about 1:10000000000. Most dolphins want nothing to do with humans. You are referring to a specific species, and even more importantly, specific individuals. The members of the 'human-friendly' species have been observed brutally attacking harmless little porpoises. Killer whales too. I know you read that other article of mine so I'm not sure why you continue to spread this misinformation. Humans also do a lot of BAD, I know this. But what separates us from all other animals is that we can see it as that.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Matt, hopefully this will clear things up for you. As an omnivore and pet keeper I am hesitant to jump on any bandwagons that put down industries because it does not 100% benefit the animal. I maintain that captivity is not an inherently unethical premise, while the movie does not really delve into the concept, suggesting further animosity for all zoos. More than defend what's going on, I am criticizing the approach being taken here, things such an anthropomorphism, lies about the nature of these animals, and the idea that an animal not able to roam as far as it would in the wild will suffer from it. It's hard to 'defend' SeaWorld while I still agree that there are some not-so-great things that have happened with them in the past but I am against these misguided attempts to bankrupt the company and drive people away from zoos. Those people who feel that SW 'closing its doors' would somehow benefit animals as a whole or the orcas in their care are living in a fantasy.

Quintas 3 years ago

Dear Melissa,

I've read a couple of your pieces and I can't say I understand where your angst comes from. I guess I'll address the article in five parts, the way you addressed the film.

1./3.Your questioning of whether or not captivity promotes psychosis seems strange. Animals that live in the wild are wild and therefore find captivity highly stressful. Other examples of this; quetzal: national bird of Guatemala, it's called the national bird for not only it's beauty but also because it dies in captivity and to Guatemalans it represents freedom. Elephants stolen from their mothers (similar to Orcas) and raised in captivity will often "rock" or "sway" back in forth, something they don't do in the wild. It seems perfectly plausible that Orca's would "act out" in such closed environments. You bring up the point about "We" humans personify these animals, I believe you use the term anthropomorphism. Ironically, you do the same thing in another hatchet job on the species when you call them "evil."

2. You accuse the film of spending a disproportionate amount of time on "exploiting" the death of trainers for "shock value". I disagree. Indeed they do spend time on this, it makes sense since Sea World seemed to cover up the history of aggressive acts of Orcas from staff and pressure their young employees to soldier on. By misleading the care givers, trainers and medical staff about these animals, people died. It seems reasonable to explore that.

4. You bring up the point about the trainer not being exposed as an animal rights activist as she gives her opinion. Yes, she is an activist, but then again most of the people being interviewed seemed to be generally "moved" to tears (which seemed sincere, call me naïve) about the exploitation of these animals. I don't think the viewing public feels lied to in the way that you imply. Juxtapose a for instance the president of Ratheon giving an opinion about bombing Syria (unbeknownst to TV viewers he has a vested interest, since he makes all the Tomahawk missles at a million a piece). He recently gave his analysis on all the major networks about bombing Syria and none of the networks primed us that he owned large chunks of stock in Raytheon. I guess I'm making a point about proportion.

5. You make a flippant point about "sad animals in zoos". What was your reaction when the baby (4 month old) Orca was taken from her mother. Did the mother not seem sad? I suppose we could revisit ascribing human emotion and characteristics to animals, but I believe I addressed that.

Additionally, you say the film "doesn't leave much room for free thought." What an odd thing to say. It's a documentry, although dramatized still a documentry. People are allowed to draw their own conclusions. I think the film makes a very good case for "free thought." You also point out people calling it a "psychological thriller", funny I didn't hear or see that reference although I haven't done the ferverent research you have done. As well you reference the film as being "banal." This word seems a little to strong for me personally.

What Sea World is doing is exploiting these animals for profit. Herding these animals into shallow coves to steal their children to make them circus performers. I think many people ascribe human emotions to these animals; dolphins, orcas and whales because in human open water contact they seem generally inquisitive, benevolent and in certain times have saved the lives of sailors, drowning victims and animals. We rarely see this in nature. We rarely see it in humans so when we see it in a species that communicate through sonar, work together to capture pray and show incredible nurturing skills with their offspring. I think we humans are generally impressed and may misuse human words to describe them. Not to mention our penchant for driving animal species to the brink of extinction ie whales, buffalo, elephants etc. Many people and many cultures see animals as part of an intrical balance of life on this planet to be honored and revered not to be exploited for profit.

Just a thought....

Matt 3 years ago

I know you didn't state anywhere that there were any benefits for the whales that's why I was so confused as to why you would try to defend their captivity. The whole point of "Blackfish" was to show the reasons that captivity is bad for the whales as well as the trainers. If you really think things should be changed a good start is not defending the way things being done currently. You sound like a young person so hopefully your views will mature and you will be able to help change things for the better.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Speaking of unoriginal and stupid comments...

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Sure thing Lisa!

lisatrublu 3 years ago

My brain can't spit out good stuff right now;I need a break here; thank God Matt took over from here. Just to lighten the conversation a little. Let's all have a stress free weekend; I feel the Fall coming finally down here in Fl.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I did not state anywhere that I think Tilikum benefits, that's why I would like to see things improve.

Matt 3 years ago

You spent a lot of time criticizing the documentary for being "stupid" but can you give any example of how it would benefit the orcas to be held in a tank all it's life??? Sea world and it's share holders are the only true beneficiaries. If like tilikum you were taken from your family as a baby put in a jail cell with two other adults who beat you, force you to have children then take them away to be a circus attraction you'd think of that as a benefit? Try to look at things from the whales point of view not a seaworld exec.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Dean-O, I'm fine with the captivity of animals as long as their well-being is taken into consideration, and anyone else that does not object to horse riding or cat-keeping should as well. You can see in this article that I acknowledge SeaWorld is overly conducted by detached cooperate figures that should really promote animal enrichment research for PR along with their rescue and rehabilitation efforts. On another note, I wonder if the increased interest in seeing these animals in the wild will have an impact on tourism boats disturbing them.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

No problem, I don't think cetaceans are very similar to humans. I think what is being called 'lack of social engagement' makes us human. Humans are 'flawed', while animals are pretty much 'perfect' because they all basically follow nature's plan for them. I'm sorry that I cannot explain this better at this time. Our human flaws are what makes us the powerful beings we've become. We develop and improve and shape our way of life.

Dean-O 3 years ago

So it's OK for animals to be enslaved for your entertainment? So should we put the Grand Canyon on a big truck and drive it all over just so people can see it?? It's not a whale "expedition". For $21 I can go off the Southern California coast and see thousands of common dolphins, Blue Whales, Grey Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Fin Whales, Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Fur Seals, Harbor Seals, Risso's Dolphins, ETC! The animals that you just have to see at these parks have no freedom. When you leave the park you can eat what you want, see who you want and do what you want. They spend their whole life eating dead fish with the animals we choose for them and confined to a concrete pool. AND We force them to get up and do shows on OUR schedule. Enjoy your next trip to Sea Jail! Yes, I am aware of the good rescue work that Sea World does and that has NOTHING to do with Blackfish.

Lisatrublu 3 years ago

I am no expert in animal behavior, but, indeed my pets and any whales have human-like mannerisms and feelings of pain and loss. If you can't even consider, or even worse, think that an animal's feelings can't even be compared to us; after all, the whales are mammals. The one creature in that trailer you speak of. By you stating it may have been a ridiculous observation is very narrow thinking; at least consider we are just comparing certain human-like reactions; not literally human in every way. I completely understood his observation. The whales communicate and really engage in such a beautiful, engaged way; more so than some humans that do not know how to have healthy relationships with others.

I hope this time I clarified myself and you understand me. Thank you for giving me the courtesy.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I think I was courteous to that person Lisa because I didn't fully express how ridiculous I found that statement to be. I have much writing pending regarding this mentality of animal superiority due to some ill-conceived notion of how humans 'should' behave when we never once did so throughout our existence. No animal can be 'more human' than us, seriously. The word 'human' has nothing to do with positive relations. But you are welcome to expand on that thought if I misinterpreted it.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Exactly Hannah. I've always felt that in many places the people with the biggest smiles and social skills excel when it comes to certain animal work, and I've always hated that. And what's worse, these people, now aware of their mistakes, get to ruin things for the rest of us and criticize animal work now that they've floated away from it. A double whammy.

Lisatrublu 3 years ago

"The difference between us and them is that we are disconnected from the social engagement system that makes killer whales and all other mammals so much more human that us."

**I was startled when you clearly downplayed the above statement. Can you now agree that some of us humans lack people skills and disconnect all together when communicating with one another. I now must say I respect your interpretation, but I respectfully disagree. It would have been more refreshing if you did not come across so flippant and arrogant. Again, that is my perception; I am not right or wrong. I would hope being humble would make it easier next time you want to express yourself to us. I will now read your other articles, which seem to be interesting. I am so passionate about all animals. I found the documentary, unlike you, to be haunting. A documentary can have that psychological thriller effect; it depends upon the individual.

Hannah 3 years ago

As someone who works in the animal care industry, I was also most blown away by the fact these trainers giving interviews had no real background in animal training or experience with animals at all. They just thought it would be a cool thing to do, so they went for it and got the job, and that is absolutely not how things are today.

Also, I still don't understand how people expect important research to be done on wild animals to help them survive if there are no animals in captivity to do it on. People are going to keep overfishing, polluting, doing whatever they want to the ocean and without some animals in captivity helping us answer certain questions about how far we can push the ocean, there may not be any wild populations at all.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi C Mialon, glad to see we can agree on a few things. I will definitely admit I'm not very knowledgeable on legal matters, it seems as though recently SW and other aquariums applied and were denied even for some captured beluga whales. I don't think we'll see healthy orcas captured for any U.S. aquarium again.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

99% of people do not drive out of necessity. A few days ago I rode in a car to see the movie "Gravity". I could have lived without that. I even have Netflix.

C Mialon 3 years ago

Ahhh...Melissa. Im writing this comment on an IPad so I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and autocorrect misspelled words...

I read your article on the trailer of Blackfish back in August and was one of the many who commented negatively and called you ignorant. After reading this article, I am happy to see you've done some homework. I read Death at SeaWorld a few months back so watching Blackfish for the first time, was also disappointed in the lack of what I think would be better arguments of why these animals shouldn't be in captivity (goes for all dolphin species/cetaceans). In my opinion, you have some very valid points and criticisms of the documentary. I would have hoped to see more of the scientific research on Orca emotions and social dynamics. There is no need to anthromorphisize these facts. It's common knowledge to researchers that these animals stay with their families for life. SeaWorld separates them and ships them off to other parks. Same goes for their physical demands...they obviously don't have the adequate space to flourish. The fact that they have different dialects and that these are artificial pods. The key to getting people informed and to act is to have them empathize. Will people empathisize with a bunch of kids who knowingly put themselves in danger as Orca trainers? probably not. Would people empathisize with the idea of plucking these animals from the wild...putting them in a concrete tank...among other completely foreign orcas...speaking different languages...breeding them with these foreigners...and then stripping them of their offspring? That's the story that I would have liked to see for the documentary to have any impact on the general public. You're absolutely right, that eventually, the breeding with naturally end and that should be the end of captivity(for Orca)...BUT double check your sources on that...there are MANY loopholes in the system when it comes to taking marine mammals from the wild. The MMA in 1986 forbid any US establishment to take marine mammals from the wild UNLESS they are granted a permit. There hasn't been a permit issued since 1986 but that doesn't mean they haven't been applied for. There hasn't been much need for bottlenose dolphin permits since there has been an incline of strandings and although, SeaWorld and many others claim to rehabilitate these animals, only a portion of them are actually released back into the wild. I DO support this film, though I have my own opinions of better ways to getting the point across. The public needs to be aware that these animals don't belong in captivity. I hope that this film will move people to become more aware of these brilliantly beautiful creatures. Anyone who knows the facts wouldn't ever want to see them in a small enclosed tank performing silly tricks to rock music and fireworks.

Sondra Erb profile image

Sondra Erb 3 years ago

your wrong; im far from blind, i understand the risks of daily commutes. so therefor i drive very defensively. but driving is something we need to do, swimming in a pool with an Orca is not. Orca capitivity can not be compared to anything we do in our daily lives. i want to leave the beasts alone and let them enjoy life free from bars and tanks, like nature imposed them to do.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Jen, this article has opinions in it, just like the film. What was in the trailer turned out to be rather accurate of what was in the film. Your criticisms are rather vague.

Jen 3 years ago

You lost me with this article. I really wanted to stay with you throughout each of your bullet points but you really just used your own opinions to back up your statements. Your references were flimsy and I think you would've gained more credibility if you hadn't offered a review of the trailer first. Better luck next time. With some editing and fine tuning, I think you could have a piece that actually sways public opinion. This fell short.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Sorry you found it boring Brandon.

brandon 3 years ago

I read your review for the trailer and about half of this article because you're extremely repetitive and boring. I gathered though that your big opinion of this film is that it's emotionally biased. Well yeah... these are people who spent years working with these animals and they love them. Some of the stories they had to share were also upsetting. It's also no secret that's what draws viewers. It doesn't change the fact though that what is happening to these animals aren't humane.

Lance Bates 3 years ago

I had a very long, drawn out response explaining how the title of an article is possibly even more important than the article itself, specifically due to judgemental tendencies and our "140 characters or less" society. Then I realized if you've been on the internet this long and haven't figured it out, then my argument would have likely fallen on blind eyes. The general public doesn't operate like a teacher or professor, their job isn't to read your article and see if it justifies the title. If the subject of the article is something they enjoyed, or if they are wanting to find constructive information, your title immediately raises a red flag and signals them to move on. However, if this was a TMZ article, I'm sure it would have been the #1 viewed page of the day.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Anyone judging my article from the title alone would prove their shortcomings. Thanks but no thanks Lance. I think my article sums up every aspect of the words that I've used, although admittedly I did state that the 'stupid' part was a reference to my first review hence why I put the ' ' around it, and for a little attention-grabbing value.

Lance Bates 3 years ago

While your article was well written for those of us who know the shortcomings of "Blackfish", the title you chose makes it seem as if you're an unabashed SeaWorld supporter, especially to those previously uneducated on this issue and have just watched the film. If your true intention was to inform the public about the issues of the film, you probably should have chosen a title that makes you seem less, as you put it, "stupid."

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

No one is trying to 'control' nature Sondra. We can't even 'control' ourselves. Guess what, accidents happen, and I'll only be concerned if they stop being 'freak' incidences. Are you guaranteed to come back alive when you get into a car? Of course not, yet it fails to bother you. Captive animals have made grand contributions to our society as a whole, but if you're only determined to see the bad, you will be blind to that.

Sondra Erb profile image

Sondra Erb 3 years ago

i don't care if the Documentary was on a $5 budget. they have a good story.

Sondra Erb profile image

Sondra Erb 3 years ago

animals shouldn't be held in captivity AT ALL. mankind needs to stop pretending like they can control nature.

people make little money sticking their heads in lions mouths. one of these days they're gonna bite it off and on many occasions, its happened . and you know what? no one is going to move a god damn finger. you know why? because profit.and some other schmuck will stick their head in that same lions mouth. that also goes for elephants too! these animals aren't mindless beings, they think on instinct. they aren't called KILLER whales because they're cuddly. treat nature with a lot more respect.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

You should care n. Their livelihood depends on it.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks john q

john q 3 years ago

You make some good points, I don't agree with it all. I didn't see it as attacking too much, I mean it is about seaworlds whale so seaworld was at the other end naturally. Some people don't have any idea about parks or marine life or care to know for the care. I do agree that captivity for the whales as well as dolphins should be done with, but a lotof sea life does benefit and fflourish at seaworld. They are still a business, out to make money and look good. It is what it is

3 years ago

You are missing the whole point of the film...the message is THEY SHOULD NOT BE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. i don't care what new devices they make to stimulate them.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

For some reason orca whales don't seem to prefer humans as prey Anna. The attacks in captivity are not due to prey drive. I think they tend to stick to preying on animals in their natural environment. However, they have attacked animals for non-food purposes in the wild. Therefore them attacking in captivity is not surprising to me. No animal is fully predictable.

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