The Stupidity of the Blackfish Trailer | Anti-Seaworld Documentary

This article is not merely only about the trailer of the new documentary Blackfish, which focuses on criticizing the captivity of killer whales, but about the bigger picture regarding the critical tactics used by detractors of zoological facilities. I have not seen the film—that unfortunate task will be saved for when the movie makes its debut on Netflix or some other free streaming service. It is likely that the Blackfish makers have little to do with what was presented in the coming attraction, but still promote the same approaches and invalid logic used.

View the trailer below.

To clarify...

The reason that this 'trailer review' exists is because of the following:

  • The invalid idea that unnatural/abnormal behavior in captive animals equals poor welfare
  • I disagree that a killer whale killing has to be a result of neurosis or poor psychological welfare.
  • The use of animal rights activists with degrees appearing as neutral scientists.
  • Sensationalism regarding animal attacks, and the intolerance towards them in contrast to the occupational hazards of many other frivolous hobbies, activities, and lifestyles.


Blackfish is another entry in a growing line of anti-cetacean captivity fare such as 2009’s The Cove, and David Kirby’s book “Death at Seaworld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity”, released in 2012.

The efforts are strategically placed to capture the attention of the mainstream media and the general public, with sensationalistic approaches that emphasize the danger of the animals more so than animal welfare (except The Cove).

The trailer for Blackfish is no exception. Before the release of Kirby’s book, a Youtube video was released that immediately racked up views. It was called, “Near Death at Seaworld” in all CAPS, and Kirby’s book, which the video appears to be an advertisement for, is the icon of the uploader.

Those who are anti-captivity—and I will refrain from using the word “animal rights activist” because it is too much of a mundane generalization—are utilizing a new approach to worm their way into the minds of the uninvolved public. Danger, fear, and the ‘what ifs’. It titillates and grabs people.

Owners of 'exotic animals' (everything from tigers to ball pythons) are under similarly specialized attacks from many animal rights groups who utilize the tactics to scare the uneducated public and legislators into implementing pet bans.

Horror stories are now the name of the game. The movie is being billed as a ‘psychological thriller’, and I am very intrigued as to why this is so. While, of course, there are many people who are emotional over the idea of keeping ‘magnificent animals' in captivity and identify with their plight, I still don’t see how this can be considered a horror movie.


A wild orca whale. Blackfish is a name used by some Native Americans to describe the animals.
A wild orca whale. Blackfish is a name used by some Native Americans to describe the animals. | Source

The trailer begins with an off-screen person saying “when you look into their eyes, you know somebody is home”, and another saying “they’re an animal that possess great spiritual power, not to be meddled with”.

Then comes the—in my opinion—silly parts. The horror movie-like editing. I am a fan of the genre so I am highly familiar with them, and it also exists in the anti-exotic pet Animal Planet series Fatal Attractions. We hear an off-screen dispatcher actually say “a whale has eaten one of the trainers” and then we see...a whole lot of nothing...edited with strobe light flashing.

This is very strange because I have never heard of an orca whale ‘eating’ a human, ever, and if this has occurred I have yet to find what they are talking about. Regardless, we are then shown a lot of clips of Dawn Brancheau who, in 2011, was killed by the massive captive orca whale called Tillikum. We see very silly footage of the mammoth dolphin performing its usual routines but with such editing and scary music to make it appear to be menacing.

Deaths Tillikum was involved in

  1. February 21, 1991--A trainer slipped into the pool with Tillikum and 2 other pregnant orca whales. Waterwork was never done with them before.
  2. July 6, 1999-- A male who snuck into the tank after closing was found dead on Tillikum's back.
  3. February 24, 2010-- Tillikum drowned his trainer

Animals Attack

A female speaker informs us “what happened to her (Dawn) could have happened to anyone” (and I’m assuming by anyone, she is referring to people who are in close proximity to the pool). I am in agreement that it is very unfortunate that there are people who aren’t aware of such obvious facts about working with large, predatory animals.

My response to that is this: These are wild—no—these are animals, not toys, not robots, not computers (although in all honesty, these fail on us in an undesirable manner as well).

Whenever one works with a large animal, be it an elephant, dog, tiger, ostrich, or horse…there exists a risk. Animals are subject to hormonal outbursts, bad moods, or even accidents. Mothers have strong maternal instincts, and this can also lead to conflict. The aforementioned “NEAR DEATH AT SEAWORLD” youtube video is an example of such an incident.

Perhaps with most domesticated dogs severe attacks against humans are fairly uncommon, but even this one thousand year old artificially-selected species kills around 20-30 people a year in the United States. This is also likely due to hormones as it occurs mainly with non-neutered animals.

There are no large animals that can be infallibly guaranteed to not cause harm. Obviously a person’s chances increase (a lot) when dealing with a carnivorous, thinking, social animal that lives in a substance of which we cannot breath. Trainers were intelligently ordered not to get in the water with Tillikum, as he was not only extremely large, but a *tremendously large male.


Serial Killer Whales

The angle of the Blackfish documentary appears to be that Tillikum was driven into ‘psychosis’ from his ‘traumatic’ early childhood capture. I’m not going to say whether or not I believe this is true to remain as scientific and open-minded as possible. Plus, I would need extensive definitions of psychosis and how it applies to non-humans.

All captive animals are unlike their wild counterparts when they live under human influence, with few exceptions.

One such example are tigers who see humans as ‘friends’ and not potential prey/competitors. Many people have viewed and adored videos like this one of lions befriending dachshund hounds and writing positive, supportive comments about how lions are so much more kind than humans could ever be.

Why is no one calling this psychosis, when it is totally unnatural? Oh yeah, because we like it and it's cute.

Oldest orca in captivity (43)

Lolita resides in a controversially small tank at Miami Seaquarium (40 years). She has killed no one. *Some users have notified me that Corky is believed to be 48 years old.
Lolita resides in a controversially small tank at Miami Seaquarium (40 years). She has killed no one. *Some users have notified me that Corky is believed to be 48 years old.

When intelligent animals are in captivity, essentially being cared for by humans and incorporating humans into their social structure, this is a dramatically different dynamic than what exists in the wild, where an orca pod basically ignores the presence of on-looking humans who are most of the time, contained within the safety of a sea vessel.

So, I can’t figure out for the life of me why it comes as a shock to people that “there’s no record of an orca doing any harm in the wild” (harm to humans and dogs, that is. Grey whales and bottle nose dolphins disagree).

Even mathematically it makes sense, as trainers spend far more time in direct contact with these animals than people do with wild orca whales that, when irritated, could leave at any moment’s notice.

The Seaworld trainers are present during it all; if the animal is having a bad day, they are there. If the animal is amidst an altercation of social strife with a conspecific, they are there. People need to quit stating obvious facts and presenting them as some newly revealed horror.

“All whales in captivity are psychologically traumatized”

Says Lori Marino, who will tell you she is a highly experienced neuroscientist at Emory University who has worked with dolphins before. What she may not be so apt to mention is that she is a prominent animal rights activist. Not animal welfare, but animal rights in the purest sense of the word, as she is campaigning for an end to all zoos, for human rights of cetaceans, elephants, and great apes, and she advocates other strong stances such as veganism for everyone, which I’m sure more than half of anti-captivity followers do not abide by. Her reports should never be presented as that of a neutral scientist.

Marino and her followers are likely aware of the power that her title and occupation brings. Good scientists however, do not make such enormous blanket statements such as "all whales in captivity..." because it lacks definitive proof, and rides more on emotion and intuition. It is not better than saying "all whales in captivity are fine".

Lori Marino on Zoos

There is another person screaming (annoyingly) “if you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d get a little psychotic?!” and we are shown an orca whale jumping on another whale with a trainer on its back. This is popular footage that I’ve seen before. Psychosis? Or how about a mistake, which non-humans are also not infallible toward. The term 'bathtub' to describe SeaWorld's tanks are also wholly erroneous, as the bathtubs I'm familiar with inhibit movement. A captivity detractor can say 'room', but 'bathtub' is absurd.

The other interesting thought about the claims of any negative incident involving the killer whales being related to psychosis is that according to activists, this severe mental damage is apparently resulting in the animals carrying out a severe attack every couple of years, and for most of the individuals, it never happens.

As the above describes, Tillikum was involved in the death of a trainer...nine more years went by and then an actual psychotic (or stupid) Seaworld visitor jumped in the the tank and was possibly killed by Tillikum. The infamous and obviously serious killing of Dawn occurred 10 years later.

If the animals were truly the loose cannon that they are being portrayed as, the shows wouldn’t have lasted so long. I’m often amazed that, given their brutal natural history and obvious advantages to harm people, that the whales are so accommodating to humans both in the wild and captivity. The animals do not need to abide by our morals or see Dawn's death as something as big as we do.

I look forward to seeing this film to see exactly if the claims being made in it are verified or just more misrepresentations. I urge all viewers planning on seeing it to remain open-minded, regardless of your stance, especially if you are someone who is on the fence or new to this subject. Do not allow yourself to be swindled by any specious approaches. Most situations in life, unlike orca whales, are not so black and white.


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Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 3 years ago from Washington state

Good Hub. I am excited to see this documentary. I am of the opinion that some animals can indeed come out of horrific situations with lifelong traumas which can affect them. I don't know if that's what happened in Tillikum's case, but I am interested to hear about his life and the people surrounding him. No doubt the documentary will be ripe with anti-captive sentiment and will leave me with a sick feeling in my stomach, But, nonetheless... It should be interesting.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I agree Shaddie, but I can't say that an objective point of view is likely in all of this, given the film's nature as described by one viewer as a "psychological thriller".

Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 3 years ago from Washington state

Yes... Haha. I don't see how any documentary could be a psychological thriller in the first place...

David A 3 years ago

Yes, this article will only be about the trailer. Well, your entire premise is resting on the foundation of a piece of marketing.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I will be very happy if the premise of the film is not what is described in the trailer (whale psychosis because it attacked), unless it's worse.

Autumn 3 years ago

So much respect that you're simply speaking your mind, but my goodness you seem upset about... marketing? This really upsets you that much?

The creators of this documentary are stating their opinion and expressing themselves in their own way, just as you did with your article. And please do more research before you go on and on as you just did. Did you just google for a couple hours before you wrote this? So much for you being open-minded.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi autumn, this article does not contend the filmmaker's right to an opinion, anywhere. Do more research...on what? What is your problem with this article other than your disagreement with my opinion?

Mark 3 years ago

So the author is Pro-Captivity ?? Disgusting and sad.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

We can't always have the same opinion on everything I guess, Mark. My views on that are complex.

Autumn 3 years ago

Then write your opinion in more detail so that you don't sound so naïve.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

This article is not about my stance on captivity. Please see my other articles if you're truly interested.

Erzsi 3 years ago

I agree with some of what you said regarding the approach of the trailer, it dose quite sensationalize the point. For me though the bottom line remains the same. These creatures do not belong in little pools, it's a miserable existence and they deserve more.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for commenting Erzsi.

ELDTR 3 years ago

This article sounds very uneducated. It may be due to the fact that your writing needs a lot of work - it's very choppy and difficult to read with so many usage mistakes.

JPatton444 3 years ago

If anyone feels strongly about the rescue/aid work that SeaWorld does they might like to give a donation directly to The SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund---bypassing the amusement park/circus aspect of the business altogether.

Put your money where it can do the most good---and the least harm.

The world’s largest captive orca, Tilikum, literally lives backstage at an entertainment venue.

Permanently. Night and day. For life.

For 30 years, everything that was ever important to Tilikum has been taken from him. His freedom has been taken. His family and his home have been taken. His health and vitality have been taken.

Even the ocean has been taken from Tilikum.

In the process, three young adults---Keltie, Daniel, and Dawn---had everything taken from them, too.

And for what?

Every time Tilikum circles the pool splashing water on people he makes a rich corporation a few dollars richer.

Orcas don’t thrive in captivity. They don’t belong in captivity.

I look forward to seeing Gabriela Cowperthwaite's film.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Good idea JPatton444. Seaworld does good work regardless of one's opinions of their other practices. The orca whales at Seaworld reside in a zoo, and yes, they perform, however I wonder if not performing and doing nothing would be a more worse fate. I bet they miss interacting with their trainers in the water. It's unfortunate that orca whales do not do as well as other species of dolphins in captivity currently. At least they are no longer taken from the wild anymore. Daniel had no business jumping into the orca whale's tank if he didn't want his life taken from him, in my opinion.

JPatton444 3 years ago

Melissa wrote: "The orca whales at Seaworld reside in a zoo, and yes, they perform, however I wonder if not performing and doing nothing would be a more worse fate. I bet they miss interacting with their trainers in the water."

Yes. Former SeaWorld trainer, John Hargrove, has said that if the park takes something away from them (water work) then they should give something to them in exchange---such as an improved, more natural habitat. Hargrove says that the company has spent money “renovating the BBQ restaurant” while the Shamu Stadiums at all three U.S. SeaWorld parks haven’t changed since the 1980’s.

Melissa wrote: "It's unfortunate that orca whales do not do as well as other species of dolphins in captivity currently. At least they are no longer taken from the wild anymore."

In June, 2010 a lone female orca calf was captured off the northwest coast of the Netherlands, under a rehabilitation and release permit. She was emaciated and dehydrated. The Dolfinarium Harderwijk took the orca, whom they named Morgan, to their facilities in order to administer medical health care.

They weren’t allowed to display her to the public and she was to be prepared for reintroduction back into her natural habitat. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Despite a viable release plan put forward by over 30 experts, a judge in the Netherlands ruled that Morgan should go to Loro Parque, a theme park in Tenerife.

Morgan was put ‘on show’ to the public within weeks of her ‘rescue’. It became clear that she was worth money to the park. Furthermore, given that she is the first wild-caught orca to come into captivity in 25 years, they knew that she was vital to their breeding program.

Dr. Ingrid Visser visited Loro Parque and discovered that the other orcas were being aggressive with Morgan and found that Morgan had repeatedly bashed her head against the side of a gate closing mechanism.

Blue paint on her teeth indicated that Morgan had been biting concrete below the water surface. Trainers have been photographed ignoring Morgan while she vies for their attention.

More information about Morgan at

I would ask anyone reading this to please consider not supporting parks and aquariums that display captive orcas.

Ingrid 3 years ago

It is a very depressing though to think of all the freedoms the wonderful citations have in their true God given homes is stripped out of them for some human's pure intrtanment. I will not stand for it and my desison of not buying a ticket will as well! Captivity is sucking the very heartbeat out of our oceans, and something must be done while we have the chance. My heart goes out to them, as I know I as an individual can do little to help them, to save all of the seas.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

It took me a while, then I realized you were trying to write "cetaceans". Killer whales are no longer taken from the wild for Seaworld. There are about 54 killer whales in captivity in the world. The ocean will press on.

Ingrid 3 years ago

My bad. My dad is German, so spent my time as a child in both Germany and the U.S. I'm well off in both English and German, but I was taught German first so I am better spelling in German than English. My apologies.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

That's OK.

Ingrid 3 years ago


Beth Moore 3 years ago

I think you have completely mis-interpreted the whole idea of the trailer, either this or you are incredibly shortsighted to the deeper message of it. As the film isn't out yet none of us can comment on the general 'moral'. However a few of your comments are incredibly incorrect. The trailer is a trailer for a film not for the book you mention. The book is not mentioned nor publicised. Yes when working with animals of a larger size there are risks however the animals you mention do not have the same level of social awareness or intelligence as Orcas. You can see why this concerns people surely? Seaworld is just the beginning, a small step in trying to preserve our oceans and a big step for the animals.

You seen highly concerned about marketing, which is why i think you are missing the point. You have gone on to criticise several different areas which have little or nothing to do with the trailer.

Please watch the film then put on some scuba gear and go and see the ocean i can guarente you will see the whole thing in a completely different perspective

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi JPatton444, your comment went directly to the spam filter and I wasn't notified. Although your comment isn't really related to my article, which is about Seaworld and this trailer. I don't think renovating a killer whale aquarium would be as easy as doing so with a BBQ restaurant. The changes I would like to see that I think may make the big difference would probably be very expensive, but I'm just guessing.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Beth, sorry your comment went to the spam filter and I wasn't notified. Your main criticism seems to be that I spoke about the book. I never claimed it was associated with the trailer. Regardless of intelligence the risk of working with orcas appears not to exceed that of any other large carnivore. Yes, some of what I said here is a general criticism of what many 'anti-captivity' people use that the trailer has also used.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

ELDTR (Mark?), your comment is useless without some examples. I doubt you are attempting to help and are just being insulting because you don't like what I have to say.

Ingrid 3 years ago

Good point Beth. I agree with you.

As for Melissa. Im guessing you are pro-captivity, but animals are smarter than you would assume. Let me ask you this, how would you, Melissa A Smith, like it if someone locked you in a "bowl" 24/7/365 for the rest of your life? How would you like it then to never get to experience what it's like to be free or see other things than a cement wall holding the world from you?

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Ingrid, I thought it would be apparent that this question is something that I've been 'asked' before and of course I've thought about this since I write a lot about the ethics involved with animal captivity. Most animals do not think like humans, and I think this is a moot point. Humans have philosophical reasons to be 'free' and modernized humans like us have unprecedented standards for their existence. Humans are the most complex thinkers of all.

As for the wild-caught orcas, I'm sure they don't prefer it. The new babies however know no other life. You can see my hub "dolphins are not too smart for captivity" to view a video of a facility that allows their dolphins to swim in the ocean weekly and they always promptly return to their enclosures.

Alex 3 years ago

For anybody interested in trying to understand the fundamental philosophical questions that underpin all issues of animal rights, I first and foremost recommend an incredibly enlightening book by historian Prof. Joanna Bourke - What It Means To Be Human. With regards to the issue of captivity, an animal's intelligence (as perceived by a human) is frankly irrelevant in any decision made about certain types of animal captivity. As for your statement above Melissa, (*Most animals do not think like humans, and I think this is a moot point. Humans have philosophical reasons to be 'free' and modernized humans like us have unprecedented standards for their existence. Humans are the most complex thinkers of all... etc.) I would highly recommend the above mentioned book as well. I think our ever religiously tainted self-importance on earth as the prime authority on all matters is at best naïve and at worst destructively arrogant. Additionally, our claim to this authority is based on a very flawed (and historically ever changing) definition of "intelligence", "animal intelligence" and "human intelligence". So while scientists of various persuasions would like to believe such definitions to be "objective" and untainted by political and cultural influence, they are not. We should try to avoid approaching the world (and animals) from a self-appointed assumption of an omniscient guardian.

Ultimately, the issue being highlighted by most animal rights documentaries transcends the very convenient and often semantic arguments about definitions, sizes, the reasons for their captivity and the nature of their enclosures, etc. which cloud the more important relevant point that most animals deserve to be born and remain in the wild, however one tries justify their captivity.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Frankly you are diverging from the topic of this article 'Alex'. The animal rights people I describe certainly find intelligence to be relevant, such as the claims by scientists like Lori Marino, who misleads people into thinking she is simply being objective about this topic and isn't extremist in her opinions.

Arrogance? We are simply animals that happen to have the most influence with our brilliance and creativity. Wishing to care for and view wildlife is hardly our worst crime. If there is nothing special about us, then you actually need to stop trying to control and alter our culture due to your ideological belief. The book you recommend is not some 'omnipotent' force of truth, and I'm obviously not paying for it, putting money directly into the hands of those who want to ban my pets and zoos just so I can argue with you...nice try. I'm entitled to my views and way of living.

Alex 3 years ago

I believe that you in your title claim to review the trailer - and then make numerous comments about the problems with some activists.

Well, I really wish you wouldn't make this into an argument so stereotypically American about people's entitled view and rights etc. As you are entitled to your views and also are given the opportunity to espouse them on here, we also have the equal right to question and criticize with equal measure. THe book I recommend is in fact not written about animal rights, animal welfare, nor is the historian involved an animal rights activist. I suggest you do at least a minimal amount of research into the book and author before assuming and claiming that you will be putting money into the wrong hands, plus public and university libraries exit for the sole purpose of providing knowledge without having to buy it. I needn't mention that the book like any other is of course not an omnipotent force of truth, however it does help one get a unique perspective about how we have developed our view of ourselves throughout history. You claim to want to be 100% objective, in your writings here, and for that reason I will leave you with two points, firstly, find a more scientifically and intellectually valid means of criticism than using a trailer - rather than the documentary itself, and second of all, your views and way of living (if you are trying to be objective and scientific) are not entitlements, but have to be justified as everything else does in the scientific community, they have to be justified by a wide range and in depth research, and with that note, I suggest you don't avoid books that might challenge your preconceived notions.

And please stop making claims like "those who want to ban my pets and zoos", nobody - me, nor the book I suggested even mention banning anything, again please at least read a review of the book before making claims about it and the writer.

In terms of arguing, if you choose to post regularly about a topic and by that influence people on the internet, you have a responsibility to argue, and you have a responsibility to justify when asked why and how and from where you get your information on any claim you make. Avoiding harder topics for convenience is not productive for any side of an argument.

Debating is healthy, my post/posts are not meant to be final decisive arguments but debate points.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Without having seen the movie, I can undoubtedly tell you that it will be about the points I make in this article. The reason I criticize the trailer so vehemently is because this is the type of sentiment that is excessively common amongst animal activism which is simply embodied by a quick trailer and being peddled to ignorant people.

These points are: Orca whales are getting 'revenge' when they attack their trainers. Orca whales are 'psychotic' from captivity. And that the Seaworld trainers were put in some inflated, unacceptable amount of danger and weren't just doing a dangerous job like many other occupations/hobbyists.

If your comments aren't about this than find a forum suitable for your diatribe. What you're spouting on about is not 'science' but philosophy and ideology. The only science I'm interested in is proof of animal suffering in captivity. I have no interest in delving into your radical philosophy nor does anyone else including most of the activists I describe here. This section of my site is about fighting bans and sweeping, unsubstantiated claims about captive animals and their caretakers. And also it is about our right to live our lives we want. Don't like that or agree? Tough, I don't. I doubt you'd be willing to read a book I'd recommend (I'm not) so I'm certain you're full of it.

If you believe that the people associated with this movement are not trying ban zoos and other captive animals you are astoundingly naïve. This is the reason most of my articles (and this one) have been written. I don't really care if you or the book's author do not. That's wonderful if you don't but the people you are hoping to empower do/will. You are free to provide RELEVANT excerpts but truthfully I don't want too many long-winded debates here so if you must, you can take this up at the Blackfish's imdb page which I frequent.

Alex 3 years ago

This is the last thing I will say, about your quote - "I doubt you'd be willing to read a book I'd recommend (I'm not) so I'm certain you're full of it."

Please, in the future, don't assume that others are as unwilling as you are to read something that is suggested to them, not everyone is frightened of the things that oppose their worldview. Plus, it was a friendly recommendation/invitation, not a gun to the head to read it! Perhaps you could ask some questions about it rather sweep in under the rug simply as radical philosophical mumbo jumbo, "sweeping, unsubstantiated claims" about something that was suggested to you, by an interested party in the topic.

Best of luck with your future discussions and posts

Steve Weinstein profile image

Steve Weinstein 3 years ago from New York, New York

You spend a lot of time responding to these comments that you're not discussing the ethos of taking a gigantic mammal that roams the ocean and putting it into a tiny space in captivity as entertainment. Which is pretty disingenuous, since that's the whole point of this very long blog post. You should at least have the courage of your (very, very, profoundly) wrong convictions.

You further write "As for the wild-caught orcas, I'm sure they don't prefer it. The new babies however know no other life."

So if you take a child and raise him as a slave and that's the only life he knows, that's OK with you.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I really should delete all your posts. You know what I hate? When people pretend that they are 'making friendly conversation' when they are really there to antagonize because they don't like my views. Just be honest about that deep-seated anger as I am. I can't stand dishonesty.

"not everyone is frightened of the things that oppose their worldview."

Nice passive aggressive jab! I already explained to you my position. Thanks for stopping by.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Steve, I have other posts that address this:

Frankly I'm not saying that the captivity of orca whales has been successful, but I do support attempts to make it so. I'd say the majority of animals in captivity can live very reasonable to very great lives in captivity, while simultaneously being a benefit to us. There will always be some misfires.

I don't think people originally knew the road that lay ahead for the large dolphins. If they did, it really wouldn't be financially worth it to lose such expensive animals and have all this bad PR. But now they're here, and it can't just stop all at once. Very few people are true animal rights extremists who would liberate all animals from human use, so as long as people are OK with other animal 'abuses' of human use, I'd say that keeping animals in human care is not the worst of our nature.

Would you like to be crated and walked on a leash to use the bathroom? If not, than stop comparing animals to humans. I don't know how to tell you this; animals will never be entitled to our same standards, nor should they be.

The "point" of this post are the three things I pointed out to 'Alex'.

Ryan M. 3 years ago

Great topic.

Fletcher P. Demill 3 years ago

Hi Melissa A. Smith,

I read your entire uneducated drool and all of the comments, which seemed like mostly 90% of the people who commented would agree that the world would be a better place if Melissa A. Smith lost her keyboard and never wrote another miserable piece of crap ever again. I happen to agree.

I saw Blackfish yesterday and enjoyed it. Yes you saw the "Trailer" which is used as a marketing tool first of all, so you'll have to excuse the trailer for trying to fill movie theaters by selling lots of tickets. Don't forget that Blackfish was made to make money, entertain and educate.

I already know your reply will say something deflective like, "Fletcher you just don't share my opinion" or something like that. Honestly Melissa, are you seriously as ignorant as your drool makes you appear?

My reply here isn't a "Jab" at you either, as you wrote to someone else who thinks your a moron. My reply is not "deep-seated anger" from my childhood.

I am not some crazy radical that would stand in front of Sea World with a sign reading something about my views, but I do DISAGREE with the capture and captivity of these wild animals for any reason, not just to put them in shows for our children's enjoyment. The trainers don't belong in the small pools with Blackfish or any other wild animal, and ALL of the Ex-trainers interviewed in this movie now agree that they never should of taken part in the captivity or training of these wild animals.

I do respect your opinion, everyone has one. Even ignorant people have opinions but nobody wants to hear them. Delete my post if you want, but please stop writing garbage.

Rod Gosnya 3 years ago

You should of wrote this on toilet paper. Are you kidding me? Retarded at best. Ignorance hiding behind spell-check.

Brian B. Cumming 3 years ago

I googled (Blog's written by dummies) and this story was listed first. After reading Melissa's ramblings about a topic she obviously spent 5 minutes learning about I was banging my head against the wall in disbelief that Stupid people also have the right to post nonsense. Thanks Melissa, you made my day. Don't quit your day job!!!

Birdman 3 years ago

"Due to Hormones" LMFAO. Oh Melissa, go back to school dear. It is clear you dropped out of school way to early.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi "Rod"/"Brian"/"Birdman". Stop making fake names to attempt to make it look like you are three different people. Nice try, but I can see your IP address :) I'll accept your comment for amusement purposes.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Oh, and I missed one. "Fletcher P. Demill" is another sock puppet. You have severely discredited yourself, I'm afraid. It's obvious that you do not respect my opinion and have zero integrity. I'm not going to be as short-sighted to say that most activists like yourself would stoop to such behavior, but really, get a clue. I wasn't born yesterday.

Becky 3 years ago

The last guy Fletcher didn't discredit him or herself, but he did clown you using a few different names. I think his point was just to tell you to get a clue and at the same time show he has too much free time. But at least you can do is answer him Melissa. He had very valid points. You did make yourself look foolish.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

What part of "I can see your IP address" do you not comprehend? No more posts from you 'Fletcher' or whoever you are. Write as many as you like but they will no longer see the light of day.

John Schloemor 3 years ago

I find it very disrespectful for someone to repeatedly attack an author, attacking an author's idea is acceptable in my book, but not the author.

On that note I would like to say that I generally agree with this article. :)

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks John, refreshing to see a non-sock puppet name comment. People may try to bring me down for my unpopular opinions, but it wont work (especially that way).

Natalie Parra 3 years ago

You're joking right? You actually are attacking a trailer for a film trying to pull back the veil on the abuse these animals are receiving at SeaWorld? They're trying to help the world see that SeaWorld doesn't care for their animals but instead

-drills their teeth

-allows them to be raked by other orcas- because you can't just throw together a bunch of different orcas that have different cultures, genes, communication- until their whole bodies are covered in scars (or worse slowly dying while having their blood pour out after having another orca bite their genitals off or an artery open)

-continues to use education as their biggest argument for keeping this place in business while telling visitors things like a quarter of wild orcas dorsal fins are flopped over (because god forbid they know it's from repeatedly being ill, dehydration, or gravity after floating lifelessly bored at the surface for hours on end every day)

-that Tilikum was rescued from a fisherman's net not taken away from his mother like he actually was at the age of two because he weighed less and cost less to ship then the others- even though male orcas in the wild stay with their mothers for their entire life- and that orcas only live 20-30 years in the wild when they can live just as long as we can

- jacks up mothers on valium so they'll stop howling and crying out for their calves after they're moved to different parks

-makes a pregnant whale spend hours on the slide out because she's the best for pictures with visitors even though gravity is pushing the mother's thousands of pounds of weight down on the baby, causing it to later be still born and the mother to die

-publicly promotes the slaughter of beluga whales to receive the sperm from their Dexter-style sliced up carcasses (

-makes trainers masturbate Tilikum for his sperm for inbreeding

-blames a trainer for her own death- from an orca none of the trainers were even informed had a serial track record- before her body is even buried in the ground.

The list goes on and on. If you don't think any of these things are horrific or frightening than I truly wonder what you think qualifies.

Realize that you are really taking the time out of your day to write an article insulting a cause trying to help change this. You must have a sad life and truly believe people enjoy the sound of your unknowledgeable freedom of speech. And also have a LOT of free time. So I vote you use some of that free time to go for a nice swim instead of blabbering on and on about something you clearly know nothing about because you know there's never been a recorded orca attack on a human but maybe karma will make an exception for you

Gen 3 years ago

I didn't know people wrote reviews about movie trailers. I'm not an activist or a PETA follower, but I enjoted the Cove and I'm excited to see this film in a few days! Dolphins and orcas do so poorly in captivity and it's a shame all of the antacids these animals receive due to their stomach ulcers, amongst other stress related ailments. You're right about orcas not being known to eat humans because they don't. And I'm not an expert on this, but I did just google the 2010 killing of that Dawn lady and she was drowned, not eaten. Maybe the caller you heard on 9/11 dispatch was just displaced and used whatever words were at the forefront of his mind? People often become frantic and word things incorrectly when they make a 9/11 call. As for false marketing, all I can say is "ah well". If I had a dollar for every crap movie with a superb trailer, I'd be a rich woman. I have my media degree in tv-film-radio and sadly commercialism and hype sell big time. In its defense though, it is a serious art form and I think it takes a lot of talent to take a shit film and piece together a beautiful trailer to make it look good. Hope this film doesn't end up being as horrible as your predictions!

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

You're right about that last thought! I've seen absolutely awful movies with intriguing trailers that made me want to see the movie so badly. I don't know if people write reviews about trailers but I chose to, because I think displaying that 911 call—that is likely to be a mistake as you've explained—is deceptive and makes the film look like it has something more interesting to offer other than what we've been beaten over the head with. I'm judging the movie more as a piece of propaganda, not a film, since this will affect the zoo industry. No one got 'eaten' (at best only partially), that edit was just exploiting people's ignorance.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Natalie Parra, I am serious. I found the trailer (and likely what will be in the movie) to be silly. It would be nice if the commentators would stick to the subject, and not focus on empty insults. Having free time--is that supposed to be offensive? You are taking the time to comment lengthily on my article, so I don't see how you missed that irony. I would like to see an orca whale try to kill me on dry land, that would be amazingly interesting. Also, your link doesn't work.

Issara 3 years ago

I feel nothing but sadness that there are still folks like you who insist on defending what is clearly an exploitative and horrifying business practice. When I was younger, I used to believe that the power of compelling evidence coupled with compassion for other living beings would result in a change of heart. Now I am more inclined to believe that there will always be a small minority of folks who are so utterly and emotionally invested in focusing on the myopic finer points of an argument that they lose sight of the larger picture: animals are cruelly exploited for the purposes of human entertainment, and the perpetuation of an ancient and grotesque business model. Regardless of whatever small details you choose to cherry pick to support your argument, the big picture is that these animals are innocent, capable of complex emotions, have family relationships, and suffer in captivity. What are we teaching our children? That the only value these animals have is as entertainment for humans so that other humans can sustain their business model? I couldn't disagree more with your article, and I am resigned to accept the reality that ultimately you and others who share your views will lose this conversation, and be forced by me and others like me to live in a world where these beautiful creatures are no longer exploited for profit, and are treated with dignity and respect. I'm sorry you can't look forward to this reality, because it seems utterly self evident to me that seeing these animals in captivity is pointless and soul crushing, while witnessing these creatures in their natural environment, living with their true families, is a gift to be cherished. At the end of the day, I would invite you to question what it means to be entertained, who defines your entertainment, and what is the true value of entertainment when it comes at such a cost. Thank you for initiating and mediating this important conversation.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Issara, I'm not "cherry picking" anything, this article is long enough without including the broader ethical discussions and you are welcome to view my other articles on the subject of cetaceans and animal rights. I mainly criticize the aspects of Seaworld criticism that can be applied to other zoos and animals.

Whether you want to believe it or not, seeing and interacting with animals has led to awareness and connection for many people. You should be "resigned to accept the reality" that even if the captivity of these 50 animals ends worldwide, that will be an insignificant dent to the amount of real suffering endured by animals (and humans) at the hands of humans.

The captive cetacean trade has had less than admirable origins, but it has now leveled out to be a useful ambassador program with people doing the best they can with what they have for them. It's not ideal, but relative to -real suffering- it is nothing. Not all animals will do well in captivity and I encourage educated approaches from heron-in. I have many beliefs on how this situation could be made more positive that won't likely take place but, this is life.

'Entertainment' is a real, visceral means of introducing modernized people to the natural world. I hope you realize I'm not just referring to killer whales.

Gregory Riley 3 years ago

As an Anthrozoologist studying human-nonhuman animal interaction I find it disheartening that you would base your (shallow) opinion on a trailer - could you find nothing else to spew about? In any event, from whence the information comes is less an issue than the accuracy of it and the actual movie is rife with facts, should you find yourself on some occasion interested in those. Anyway, reading your post was a waste of my time as it has zero substance. Maybe you could make a living doing book reviews based on the cover art. Or you could attempt to raise your level of discourse by educating yourself on the subjects you have opinions on; at least that way, maybe, someone educated beyond the third grade could reference you or, god forbid, take you seriously.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Gregory. The movie is now out. You are welcome to point out anything written here that is incorrectly stated as existing in the film. I want the next commenter to do this, not constantly lambaste me for sharing me feelings about the trailer. I know this is a heated subject. I have a strong feeling I am right about the direction this movie will go in--call it a strong intuition. Many people have falsely stated that I'm not educated about this subject...wrong. I've been following the arguments and reading about animal intelligence for quite some time. Ironically, your criticism holds no substance. Please show what is incorrect (or what you disagree with and why) in this article, I'm a bit bored of people complaining about my reasons for writing it.

Shamu who 3 years ago

In all your posturing and self-indulgent vomit, you've neglected to conduct any actual research on the utter torture of these majestic creatures. Instead, you use this topic as a platform to display your narcissistic ramblings, just to create further fury amongst anti captivity persons. No one cares about how long you can type on a computer and turn a completely heated debate into a nonsensical vapid piece of garbage. Read the facts and become curious about the uproar. You called the man who jumped into the tank psychotic. He bought into captivity, and the glossy image portrayed by sea world. He wanted to hang with shamu. You see what sea world does to the psyche? They've managed to turn highly evolved mammals into teddy bears.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

"Shamu who", anyone who sneaks into a zoo and jumps into frigid water after closing time to 'hang with shamu' has mental issues, that is certain. I don't know why you think I'm 'showing off that I can write on the computer'. What a strange thing to criticize. Your ranty post sounds similar to another troll who was harassing me and I hope they didn't just hop on another computer.

Ingrid 3 years ago

Have you even wached Black Fish yet?

Against animal abuse 3 years ago

You are pro-captivity and that is very disgusting. Lets put you in a cage and see what you think about this topic afterwards.

The title of your page "The Stupidity of the BlackFish"

Not sure that was very fitting. I see animal abuse as stupidity and this documentary more important that anything you will ever write.



See Blackfish 3 years ago

Right off of Melissa A Smith's Hub page.

"I'm trying to raise awareness on one of my most favorite and rewarding aspects of living; caring for unqiue and exotic animals responsibly. Pet care of any kind and plant rearing are my main interests. I believe that some of my more atypical pet choices enhance my understanding on the care of every organism."

Can you say HYPOCRITE

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

No, not until it's available in a place other than theaters.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I'm not sure if you are making two pretend accounts or not since they have different names. Anyway, to answer your other nice comment, I don't see how that sentence is hypocritical. I state that I like to care for animals and plants, and that's true. It would be hypocritical if it stated "I will never defend Seaworld". I'm not getting your thought process.

Ruth 3 years ago


You're one of the biggest hypocrites I've stumbled upon on the Internet. Yes, that's my opinion and I'm sharing my feelings about you. You have no idea how to care for animals, if you did you would show a little more respect for other living beings, regardless of YOUR definition of "intelligence". According to some definitions, mine included, you're one of the biggest idiots.

Stop thinking you're so special as a human - you're not.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Ruth, no more comments from you unless you have something substantial to say. I'm not in charge of the killer whales at Seaworld, so I have no idea what you're talking about.

John 3 years ago

I went into "Blackfish" completely open to the idea that it might be an overwrought, left-leaning, anti-corporate, anti-captivity film and walked out horrified, committed to never going to SeaWorld or any marine life park again. If you accept that whales have some semblance of intelligence, ANY amount of intelligence or emotion, then the simple question is: What happens when you put a marginally (?) intelligent creature into a small space not just for a year or two but for decades. Put another way: How would YOU feel if you could stay in a beautiful, 20,000-square-foot house and have all your needs provided ... except that you could never, ever, ever leave or even see your natural surroundings? EVER? If that small space became the only place you could ever exist? But, wait, comparing whales to humans isn't right because whales are not humans -- that's undoubtedly the argument. Forget about that one minute; just think of this as a living, breathing creature who cannot EVER see anything except his small confines. Yes, that animal is likely to go a little crazy sometimes ... we all go a little crazy sometimes.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi John, you may want to stick around as I will be creating many more hubs that describe just what you're discussing. Frankly I'm shocked that you would come into the movie thinking it might be 'left leaning' (implying that you are libertarian or conservative) only to come out speaking extreme animal rights rhetoric. That is why I wrote this article. You criticize not just Seaworld, but zoos and all pet owners when you say 'imagine you could never leave'. All animals have some intelligence...where do you draw the line? What if someone owns a horse that will never leave its pasture? Or are horses 'dumb enough' for this existence? Should I question every animal under human care? Can you now see how your position is extreme? Animals are not like us, we are the most demanding creatures on this planet and we would probably 'go crazy' if told we could not leave the state of Delaware. We are the last animals that should be judging concepts like 'space' and going to other places. The way you're raised formulates all of your expectations. Not even all ocra whales travel extensively, based on their 'cultural group'. If we could do for them what we are now doing with captive elephants space-wise, I'd bet they'd thrive.

John 3 years ago

My question is not extreme. A great, great many animals are not migratory and spend all or most of their lives in a relatively small environment, much like humans did before the advent of the automobile. Others, like domesticated animals, are unable to fend for themselves in the wild. A whale whose nature is to travel a hundred or more miles in a day is not made for keeping in a small enclosure for decades. Zoos, preserves, sanctuaries and the like can serve an important purpose for animals that need rehabilitation; a killer whale who is taken from his family when just a baby -- that's a different story. The movie also exposed me to information I never knew, such as the unique "languages" pods of whales speak. But on the subject of speaking -- is mine "extreme animal rights rhetoric," or are you simply unable to recognize the nuances of debate and argument? Of course, I went into an independent documentary assuming a left-leaning stance; that is the nature of most, though not all, independent documentaries, and even of independent film in general. Whether I am conservative, liberal, libertarian or a Tea Partier is irrelevant. That I learned things I did not know, and that the opposing voice chose, repeatedly, not to participate in the discussion is, in many ways, revelatory. This is an important film to see not simply to learn the story of Tilikum, but to appreciate the importance of questioning the "party line," of seeing past what is presented, and of the ability of large, deep-pocketed corporations to craft and control a story. I do not by any stretch think "Blackfish" told the ONLY version of this story, though SeaWorld's expensive, ill-advised PR efforts are only making it look worse at this point. The movie did a great job of telling a cohesive story while seeming neither overly accusatory or (as in the case of SeaWorld) desperately defensive. You can "bet" whatever you'd like -- but doing so flies in the face of the evidence presented. There are ample opportunities to tell a different story, but so far no one has been successful at doing that. (The book "The Life of Pi" came the closest I've seen to giving a cogent defense of zoos.) Even orca whales that don't travel extensively do not -- I'm making an educated guess -- stay in small enclosures intentionally and subject themselves to hostility and isolation; the smallest inlet in which an orca might spend its life (if such a thing happens) is likely just a tad larger than the small pools provided by SeaWorld. Still, let's put it this way: SeaWorld Orlando has been, for many years, high on my list of places I'd like to see. After watching "Blackfish" it dropped off that list permanently. It's disappointing, really, because they've shown great creativity in their presentation recently ... but until they present a compassionate, well-reasoned argument that is not based on protecting its monetary interests, I certainly have changed my mind about patronizing that business.

John 3 years ago

If I may add one more comment, then I'm happy to listen to you some more ...

Focusing back in on your original article, you are criticizing only the trailer -- which is not the movie. Trailers are not made by the filmmakers, they are made by marketers. They are intentionally created to drive the greatest possible interest in a film and highlight the elements that will resonate emotionally with viewers.

Given how quick you are to criticize two edited minutes of a 90-minute documentary, I urge you to see the film in a theater. Not only is it a compelling dramatic experience, a fantastically well-crafted film that is one of the most captivating I've seen this summer, it is a much more thoughtful discussion than you seem to realize.

The 911 call that is excerpted in the trailer is, indeed, a call by someone in great distress. "A whale has eaten one of the trailers" is an urgent cry for help. It was likely the only thing this poor guy could think of to say.

This film is filled with the voices of people who devoted their lives to working at SeaWorld, who believed they were doing great things, only to feel betrayed and deceived. There is also an expert, seen in the trailer, who as you say may be an "animal-rights activist," but is never identified as such, only as a neurologist. Does it matter that she is an "activist"? No more than it would matter, if someone from SeaWorld HAD participated, that they are, say, a member of the NRA. It is irrelevant. What is important is what they say and how it is presented.

SeaWorld chose not to participate in this film. They could have had some really compelling arguments to make. Their absence is probably the most damning commentary on SeaWorld the film contains.

See the film before you continue criticizing its content based on a short, marketing-driven trailer -- that's all I ask.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Then you should see my point. Even humans stayed in 'relatively small environments', yet we would never have been satisfied with any form of an enclosure. Does domesticating the animal justify our forced imprisonment? You should see my hub "why it's cruel to keep dogs as pets'. I just can't see a discussion of the logic you're using without speaking of all other animals in captivity. The orcas have extremely large ranges, but this does not mean that the smaller ranges of horses and other animals are close to meeting the sizes of the captivity in which they are traditionally kept in. This does not mean that other animals are not subjected to 'never being able to leave', which you told me before. So I'm very interested in hearing which animals, in your opinion, are OK for captivity given what you've said. With your new standard of 'compassion', it's likely that you will not want to visit any form of a zoo or use animals again.

John 3 years ago

This is what, in rhetoric, is called the straw-man argument. You are attacking me for a position I do not hold and is unrelated to the central concept. We're talking about Tilikum and orcas here -- not my dog, your horse, a pot-bellied pig or any animal that, over thousands of years, has been domesticated and can no longer survive in the wild. An orca ripped from its environment is different.

But, I am curious why you can call the trailer "dumb" and "stupid," but you don't like the same language used toward you?

The most important point is that you are criticizing an entire work without seeing it and based only on a carefully edited trailer designed, intentionally, to underscore the inherent drama. (A completely separate entity, a film reviewer, used the term "psychological thriller" -- not the filmmakers.)

If you really believe it is cruel to keep dogs as pets, and that a 12,000-pound killer whale in a concrete-lined pond at SeaWorld faces similar issues to a dog kept in a home, then it seems you really do want to ignore thousands of years of evolution *and* direct evidence (dogs who are well-adjusted and happy; whales that exhibit violent, abnormal behavior) and choose your own arguments as you see fit.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

John, if you tell me that it is wrong to eat meat, but are OK with eating fish, I will ask you, why? Do you not care about their lives? This is what I'm discussing with you. The criteria for your criticism is easily applied to all of these other situations. It is not a "strawman", you told me yourself that this movie brings up thinking points about what is presented as acceptable when it really isn't. I don't know what your position is, that's what I'm trying to find out and that's what I asked you.

To answer your direct question, why can I call a trailer stupid but not want to be called stupid? That is a really strange question because -everyone- who calls someone or something stupid does not want to be called stupid themselves. Have you never done that? Is there something wrong with it? Even if I did think I was stupid I certainly wouldn't tolerate someone else calling me that. I feel like I'm stating the obvious.

I previously explained that this is not merely a critique of the trailer. The quality of the documentary as a film is not what interests me. It could be a great, well-made movie but I'm not film-reviewing here, I'm talking about the criticism of Seaworld and zoos, a much broader topic that I've discussed prior to the release of this trailer. The trailer is not atypical of the arguments that I am contending. Your responses anyway indicate that I've pegged this movie correctly and that it will encourage people to hate ALL zoos, not just Seaworld and ocra captivity, which is an extremist position, not one that I agree with, and one that is a direct attack on me and other people's lives. My arguments still stand, and they are: All large animals have the capacity to harm or kill. We allow other dangerous jobs that have the same percentage or higher of employee deaths. And also, silliness of thinking that captive orca whales are 'crazy' because a small number of them have hurt or killed people, (but I am not insisting that they aren't!) which anthropomorphizes them heavily among other things. There is no comparison with wild orcas and those raised in human society.

"Does it matter that she is an "activist"?"

Absolutely. I am highly interested in the opinions of -non-biased parties- in the scientific field. Those that do not hold emotional, ideological-driven beliefs. I support science and real evidence for animal suffering in captivity. Dr. Marino is an advocate of animal liberation, plain and simple. She has said things that breached scientific validity, in my opinion. I find her untrustworthy. I have equal skepticism for positions held by places like Seaworld.

Seaworld probably made the right decision staying away from this film. Are you unfamiliar with how documentaries of this nature sometimes do editing jobs and take things out of context? Amongst the exotic animal community it is well-known to stay away from the media.

Jordan 3 years ago

Are you mad cause it's called Blackfish and you thought they were talking about you?! Aaaaahahaha I just saw your picture! You're so ugly.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Comment approved "Jordan" just to show the integrity of your side.

Nrock 3 years ago

This article is amazing. Thank you for not falling for this sensationalized garbage. I agree with your opinion on the trailer. Keep being awesome

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks nrock

Tatyana 3 years ago

Have you ever seen orca's brain? "What on earth does a killer whale do with a brain like that?" It has to be more than just for catching fish or seals. Makes one wonder...

Kathy 3 years ago

"Blackfish is another entry in a growing line of anti-cetacean captivity fare such as 2009’s The Cove, and David Kirby’s book “Death at Seaworld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity”, released in 2012. The efforts are strategically placed to capture the attention of the mainstream media and the general public, with sensationalistic approaches that emphasize the danger of the animals more so than animal welfare."

"The Cove" did Not emphasize the danger of the emphasized a danger To the animals who were being forced into a cove and then slaughtered! The animals who were not "chosen" to be placed in captivity were speared to death and then sold as food under a label that was false! I can't speak about Blackfish because I have not seen it, but The Cove was completely different than how it was portrayed in this short sentence within this article.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

You're right Cathy, I didn't mean to include 'The Cove' in that part of the statement. It is mainly about dolphin drives and is an anti-captivity documentary.

Brandon 3 years ago

I didn't read all of your article, but I disagree with how you presented your first paragraph and thus hate this post!

See how ridiculous that sounds? Posting a review of a trailer is an utterly useless contribution to the broader discussion at hand. Watch the film and formulate your opinions more fully.

I did read your whole article, and you would be wise to watch the film as you would see many of your points are irrelevant.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

It would be great if they're irrelevant Brandon because they certainly aren't irrelevant to what many people are constantly saying about Seaworld and the killer whale attacks. As I've said before, I'm obviously not paying to see this movie and will see it when it comes out on Netflix. If I'm wrong about this movie and it contains some unheard of information and logic this article still serves an important purpose because the trailer represents the line of thinking that is extremely common.

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Peter Dickinson 3 years ago from Southeast Asia

Thanks Melissa....I found your article to be both informative and interesting. You have certainly brought the anti's out of the woodwork and make fair and valid comment to their comment. I really cannot see why some have to be so rude and vulgar....or rather I can see. Blinkered, unable to comprehend another point of view, uneducated or perhaps badly brought up. I will link to this on my Zoo News Digest Facebook site. I have a big mix of opinions there amongst my readers. I have linked to both points of view there recently on the Blackfish doc.

John Dineley 3 years ago

This is an excellent blog and wider in scope than most. The author is also right to point out the difference between 'animal-rights' and 'animal-welfare'. They are very different.

Some comments under the article come as no surprise and fall into line with the normal animal-rights bullying I see on blogs that disagree with part or whole of their thinking. Efforts to change most of these peoples mind and views are mainly useless but I doubt why this blog was written.

Many criticisms have derided the author criticism of the trailer. This is unfair as this is the selling point for the film. It sets the tone. In any event, and as the authors mentions, the basis of most of the these claims comes from books such as David Kirby's 'Death at Seaworld' which has been in the public domain for some time. Further, the author readily admits that they have yet to see the film which is honest. I further blog after viewing the film would be of interest.

On a wider point, there has been mention about The Cove and Morgan the rescued killer whale. Some background here:

Samyogita 3 years ago

Thanks Melissa. I was one of the people immediately swept into sentimentalist remorse after watching the trailer, even though my views on animal 'rights' and the anti-captivity debate are nowhere near that clear and straightforward. So it was nice to read this leveller.

I too was annoyed by the creepy, spooky, tainted with unnecessary religious overtones, loud-people -yelling -supposedly-profound-things-IN-YOUR-FACE nature of the it. On the other hand, that is hardly a problem limited to animal/ wildlife films. If some of these people were to make a film about bookshops or traffic signals, it would probably be just as dramatic.

But I can't bring myself to dismiss the whole psychosis thing as ridiculous. We don't not call certain things psychotic just because they are cute, it's because -at least in humans- apart from physiological reasons, psychosis in often triggered by stress and presents itself as anxiety, paranoia and agitation. In some cases it can lead to extreme violence- but even that is rarer than you might think. So the claim that 'such severe mental damage (it doesn't have to be severe in every individual) would only yield the animals attacking every couple of years, and most never' is not really that strange. You're right that the definition of psychosis we have is a bit fuzzy around the edges, but as it stands, I would say that saying that 'if these were psychosis, it would be much more intense' is too extreme in the same way that saying 'all animals in captivity are traumatized and will turn violent' is extreme.

I agree that sensationalism does more harm than good, but I too will reserve my final comment until I've seen the film.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Peter, unfortunately there are people like this on both sides. I was surprised however with the amount of bullying that occurred in this particular article.

New York Times Talent Scout 3 years ago

Please send us your resume... LOL

Michael 3 years ago

It's sad to call an author or anyone that believes in zoos or aquariums directly disgusting. I enjoyed the article Melissa. I am not as brave as you as I stopped debating with right activist years ago. There's no winning.

Mike 3 years ago

This is the first I've heard of this film, I just watched the trailer and think it looks interesting. I just don't understand why you are spending so much time with writing the article then 'debating' people who comment. On a film that you wont see (or pay for right away). You would seem more creditable to write about the full film then just the 2:24 minute trailer. If someone were to read 5% of this article in bits and pieces then write a 5 paragraph rebuttal, you would most likely tell them to "read the whole thing." So, perhaps you should watch the film then write an article about that. Just a thought.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Samyogita. It's possible the animals can be suffering from forms of neurosis, but I think that the fatality associated with Tillikum is not a good example. A better one would be their constant territorial displays that wear down their teeth. It is obviously more relevant and sensationalistic to presume that the orca 'murdering' its trainer is crazed behavior, but these animals are not angels in the wild, they are carnivores which have been witnessed killing some intelligent animals for non-food purposes as well. Humans haven't evolved to be a part of the sea environment but the dynamic changes when the animals become part of our society, in my opinion. The orca attacks are extremely rare, and the first two that Tillikum was 'involved in' he may not have even been responsible for. There have been unusual, isolated cases of aggression from wild cetaceans as well. I don't find these captive dolphin attacks to be unexpected, bizarre behavior.

Doug 3 years ago

I will come out and say it, i am 100% pro captivity. Reason being is because us as human has destroy the natural environment. its nots safe in the wild for these animals any more. That's what we as humans do, destroy everything around us. So the small population of people who actually care to try to save a species in captivity or in the wild i say good on you. in financial terms its cheaper to have captive animals than create a preservation for them. Most captive animals are treated like gold. getting the best care and food around.

As for trying to argue with activists, its pointless. its like a religion to them. backed with lies and misunderstood information. these people tend to anthropomorphize these animals,, meaning giving them human traits and emotions, which they do not have. and from what i have noticed a good percentage of these people are weak minded and need a leader to follow, and those leading them are the type of people who love to control others and will do it by making up information, or interpreting what has been said for their own good. For instance the "walrus whisperer" a disgruntled ex-employee who didn't get what he wanted so he went to the press with made up accusations that in the end hurt his fight but also the animals he was fighting for.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks John Dineley.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

New York Times, what a strange way to describe yourself here. I wonder what you were hoping to achieve.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Michael, I'm just happy to have a voice,

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Mike, if you read my 'debate' points you'll see that they are not about the film. I am not debating what I have not seen, I am discussing points about orca whale captivity that include but are not limited to: claims of orca whale psychosis, the ethics of orca whale captivity, the ethics of captivity for any animal, and the danger posed to the trainers (which I believe activists feign an interest in).

Bella 3 years ago

The stupidity your post start on the title. Who the hell review a movie by its trailer? You're a genious.

Sue 3 years ago

Thank you for writing this article. I am also pro-captivity. A world with no zoos or parks would leave many species today extinct. Do people really think that we would have 'dolphin free' tuna if they hadn't seen dolphins up close in parks?

I still don't understand the logic that people will put forth all their time and energy into releasing an Orca back into the wild - yet countries like Japan go out every year and try and kill hundreds of whales. Wouldn't that time and energy be better served trying to stop the killings rather than attacking zoos and parks?

Kathy 3 years ago

Thank you Melissa for clarifying your statement about the cove. It was a documentary that is anti-captivity, but had many other concerns. I appreciate your article for one reason...regardless of position, this thread has served to educate many people. Being able to communicate and grow in understanding on both sides will advance humans to develop ways to interact with our environment and the species within it. People who find the need to bash, name call and "fight" their cause with hatred have lost the effective communication it takes to grow our society.

Advancements can only be made through observation, time and research. Captive programs aid in that regard! There are ugly sides to it and wonderful aspects of it!

Mistakes will be made while growing (a child will fall when learning to walk, do we "protect" them from falling or allow natural consequences for purposes like strengthen muscles and awareness)! I wish it were okay for entities like zoos and aquariums to "fall" and "fail" and make their weaknesses known instead of having to say "no comment" or hide from interviews. But they can't admit to short comings out of fear of being sued!

The deaths of animals and humans alike can serve a positive purpose if we take the time to communicate and evaluate instead of placing blame!

So again, thank you for opening this discussion!

Margherita 3 years ago

Dear Melissa,

I opened this page with skepticism, thinking it might be another pro-captivity rant. As I went through it I realised that it was actually a very interesting article condemning gullibility and stimulating solid scientific research on the topic before being brainwashed by a propagandistic movie. I do not agree with keeping whales, dolphins, apes or any other social, "intelligent" animal in captivity. However I did greatly appreciate your article, your patience in dealing with fanatics (or, should I say, maniac extremists) and your general strength of character. As I said I probably do not agree with these animals being kept in captivity but your article is evidently not about that topic. As a footnote I would like to add that yes, I do believe that animals such as "Winter" (the tail-less dolphin) should be euthanised and that whales and dolphins in captivity now should be kept until their deaths, not allowed to reproduce and then not be replaced. Please keep up the good work!

Regards, Margherita

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

That's very open-minded of you Margherita, thanks.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Exactly Kathy, great comment. I'm not really 'anti' or 'pro' when it comes to cetacean captivity. I view captive animal care as experimental with inevitable failures, but we should do the best we can so we can have great results (zoos where animals and humans can benefit). It is not evil or wrong for people to desire to see animals they normally can't see without extensive traveling, and captivity is not inherently evil for animals that will have a good quality of life if their needs can be provided. Perhaps Seaworld needs economical motivation for pumping more funds into animal care (just as they do rescues for PR), but many people here just want to see zoos go extinct.

Tatyana 3 years ago

Please forgive my immature writing – I am neither writer or of English speaking origin. Also it’s probably important to state in this discussion that I am not an activist of any kind and zoos do not repel me.

Orca’s fascinate me, so when I came across this article on the web, I read it.

Personally, I think the trailer is doing its job (so by default is not stupid), which was to capture potential viewers’ attention and get as many people as possible to see the movie(we have tickets for Friday’s show – I’ll let you know how full the theater was). So, more and more people are getting educated on killer whales situation in captivity.

Another point: Humans are not quite ready to sustain cetaceans in captivity (only in my opinion of course) for very obvious reasons. I don’t think it’s wise to compare lions and zebras in the zoos to cetaceans in the amusement parks. Lions and elephants in zoos live in the same “substance” as in the wild, where Orcas are taken from semi-clean ocean and put into a small sized pool with questionable quality water and filters (I beg you not to compare ocean water to their pool water). But I guess - “Captive born babies don’t know any different”. They also die a lot in captivity, but who cares – they are just animals. Take the baby from the mother, and you’d hear a cry, that would be very hard to interpret as anything but grief and agony. I wonder if those cries are emotions or may be even feelings. Who knows? And as per you – who cares?

Humans/not humans. Classification is important. You can classify anything and anyone to fit your beliefs. I think someone tried that even with humans before. “Not so humans” were also studied for science and research purposes. I think, I heard, that’s how they’ve come up with the contraceptive pill and some other very important medicinal innovations.

So, to sum up:

1. Trailer is not stupid.

2. Zebra would prefer to live in African plains and would try to run away from you if you were to try and explain to her that she/he would be much safer in a zoo. Why (run away)? Don’t know. Guess zebra is stupid.

3. Artificial inbreed insemination of calves is not a rape. (Oh wait, we did not discuss it here. Yeah, better not go there)

3 Orca’s cries are very similar to humans if their babies are in danger and/or are being taken away from them.

4. Humans rule oceans and dry land, where orca’s only rule oceans and only when humans are not around. So we win. And we can do whatever we want as long as we have enough money to buy the necessary equipment.

jim 3 years ago

Thanks for your comments, but this is about common sense.

They are way too big to be in captivity. They are too social to be put alone.

It's selfish, and it's just about money. Spare me the education argument.

We have the ability to educate ourselves with paying something to stand on it's head for our entertainment.

Tatyana 3 years ago

What kind of an exotic animal do you have that activists are trying to take away? You wouldn't happen to have a baby dolphin in your bathtub, would you? Because, you know, it's totally OK. Just have to make sure you put enough salt in the water, or may be even use real sea water. That should help.

FLBiologist 3 years ago

"Trainers were intelligently ordered not to get in the water with Tillikum, as he was not only extremely large, but a dominant male."

Completely not interested in getting into this debate, but for the sake of presenting correct information, I had to contribute. I just wanted to mention that Tilikum (spelt with one L) is not dangerous because he is a dominant male, but purely due to his sheer size. Killer whale's are matrilineal, meaning the females are dominant within their society. Depending on which Sea World you go to, there will be a dominant female, but males rank low on the dominance hierarchy. They actually also attribute Tilikum's "mental state" to the fact that he was terrorized by two dominant females, Nootka and Haida, for the first few years of his captivity.

NicoSadie 3 years ago

I am not particularly interested in getting into a huge debate either, but Melissa you just sound so incredibly uneducated in this area and I find it interesting and almost enraging you found so much to write about for your article after only seeing a trailer. I mean, if all you are going for here is trailer criticism, then you should probably start a specific website or something regarding that. But considering you have not even seen the movie and do not seem to know anything really about cetaceans, zoos, or more specifically, orcas, I do not see how you believe your article holds any validity what-so-ever.

And Margherita, shame on you for saying Winter should be euthanized; talk about being completely heartless.

And Jim, I think you summed it up very good!

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

OK, thanks Tatyana. I think the water is the least of problems of captive orca whales. How do you feel about fish in captivity? They actually breath in the stuff. A zebra will run away from you if you try to put it in captivity, and it will also run away from you if you try to put it in the wild. I don't see your point. The trailer is silly, because there is no footage in it that matches the tone it presents. It plays 'thriller' music and edits footage that could have been taken from my Florida vacation.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Tatyana, I understand yor joke, but activists trying to take my pets is a very real reality that I face daily.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for the info FLBiologist. You're right, it was pointless to write "dominant male" since the orcas are equally dangerous when they are 'moody'. I don't think size matters much if an orca has an intention to harm or kill a trainer. I'm sure that humans are probably lower on the heierchy, but I'm not sure how that works. Again, the dynamic changes with captive animals and espeically those forced into unnatural social structures. Regardless, hormonal fluxuations in all animals may result in agression or altered behavior. It sounds to me that bullying from other females may be more signifigant than other elements of orca captivity. I do think social conflicts are the number one issue. You're probably correct that it was mainly due to this size.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

NicoSadie, if you don't want to get into the "debate", then don't comment. Your comment is useless. Why not point out to me what incorrect information is in the article instead of just insubstantially insulting it? I don't know how many times I have to explain why I chose to dicsuss the trailer, I'm just going to give up.

Megan simms 3 years ago

Wow what a nasty gross person Melissa is. Why don't you actually watch the movie before you write all this garbage? Watch the whales have their children stolen from them, both in the ocean and inside their tiny prisons in Sea World. What kind of freak is pro captivity? You make me SICK. Seriously, I don't hate anyone, but I hate you. And the people running Sea World lol. Go jump off a damn bridge.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for the delightful comment Megan.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I should really stop accepting these bullying comments. Just thought I'd let inquiring minds know that so far zero comments have been unapproved, but that really ought to change.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 3 years ago from South East Asia

I have had similar attacks upon the zoo articles I have written. I have always tried to be fair and allow both negative and positive criticism but there does come a point when you feel you should draw a line. The likes of Meagan simms have probably not even read your article, the comments of others or your very fair replies. Sadly our world is made up of shit and sugar. Megan is one of the shits. I think it is fair enough if you deny comment which does not contribute anything useful or intelligent.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thank you Peter, your comments are reassuring as I have less of a strong foundation for my minority perspective. I think at this point the comments represent a broad range of views varying from civil to trollish and as you've said, some are just reading the title. I think I'll accept no more 'Megan' comments since I've made my point. I just don't want anyone (or myself) to think I'm suppressing the criticism to superficially empower this article.

marzy dotes 3 years ago

I read the book "Death of Shamu" and look forward to the film and plan to withhold any judgement on it until I see it since I know trailers (and trailer editors themselves) enough to know not to necessarily to judge particularly documentaries on trailers. I'm not particularly gullible. I find that the more you educate yourself and research issues before you write about them in any forum at all expressing any opinion, the less gullible you look and the less gullible people tend to be. Fortunately for me, I enjoy educating myself and taking the time to research an issue before formulating an opinion. So it's no burden or obstacle to me.

I took the use of "psychosis" as trying to put to words what is still a mystery to most people in a way that's relatable (though obviously it doesn't make it so) and that's why Tilicum killed someone who'd worked with him for years so savagely (according to the post-mortum report, no other way to describe it). There's no way to know why he did it but it's similar to other fatal and nonfatal attacks by Orcas against trainers (and in one case a media employee)over the years. This is just one look at his background from what can be discovered about it, given that he's almost 40 years old now. From what I understand he's back in shows but as a performer I guess he'd be called "mediocre".

He hadn't been in the wild or seen his podmates (where normally, being "residential" he'd remain with them for life), spent most of his life being beaten up and "raked" by dominant females, has no teeth in his bottom jaw (breaking them on metal separation gates due to likely stress and/or boredom), is riddled with ulcers (from being artificially "hydrated" for years by gelatin to supplement his carrion fish diet) and spends much of his time in solitude as a member of a species whose social structure is second in complexity to humankind, according to many scientists who study Orcas in the wild. Still he's a rarity in captivity, one of the very few Orcas who along with Corky II actually made it to 40 in captivity.

I was looking at a still photo taken of when Dawn Brancheau was first grabbed by Tilicum from behind. Her so-called villainous ponytail was dry, she'd been grabbed by her upper arm (as reported by numerous eye witnesses) and she looked absolutely calm and not afraid at all. Of course if what five ex-trainers in the book said, she never was told that when it came to humans who fell or were pulled into tanks with him, he was two for two in terms of them winding up dead and bearing teeth marks on their bodies including pre-mortum (in the case of the part-time trainer at Sealand and the "drifter" who was found dead on Tilicum's back) wounds which were detailed in both autopsy reports. Yeah I'm sure he had "issues" but maybe he simply subscribed to all of SW's hype and PR that Orcas are such gentle creatures and if you just swim with them, anything's possible (aka "Believe") as the corporation seriously downplays the more dangerous behaviors of its Orcas and when questioned about the deaths of trainers and whales, the PR department gives the employees including trainers misleading, inaccurate and watered down drivel to tell people.

One of the things that horrified me about it in my own research is the whole PR side of SW. This after having heard stories of trainers nearly getting killed that don't appear on any known written record and apparently are relegated to brief innocuous mentions internally as well.

Tilicum's dorsal fin collapse implicated him in eyewitness accounts as the main participant in the death at Sealand though two other pregnant females were labeled a the key aggressors.

Dominant males? in the Orca hierarchy, they don't really exist certainly not in "residential" populations where 99% of all SW's acquisitions came from. Tilicum was NOT dominant at all but very subordinate and very picked on by other females that he was constantly exposed to especially in his earlier life in Iceland and B.C.

Having family members who have known SW Orca trainers including those with "incidents" but then most do (and I recognized almost all of the video footage in the trailer from incidents). Read the list of known incidents and was mystified (before I read the book)as to why several ones I'd heard of including two involving probably the most famous Orca trainer in the corporation weren't on the list at all. But then during the recent OSHA investigation that's what happened, more incidents came to light that weren't in the "logs" or reports.

I'm still catching up on the whole OSHA deal which is on its way to the Federal Appellate court (with SCOTUS justice Scalia's son representing SW) on the whole "water work" deal. The current ban went beyond Tilicum who'd always was under prohibition for water work yet that didn't help Brancheau did it?

marzy dotes 3 years ago

In addition on Tilicum and the Brancheau fatality, I did read somewhere that he had an elevated white count that day. So maybe he was ill though with all the antibiotics they're fed (which were called "vitamins"), you'd think he'd be healthier wouldn't you? I think the former trainers Jeff Ventre and John Jett talked about that including in the trailer including the misinformation. I know from what I've heard from other SW trainers that was part of the SW corporate culture. So it was interesting hearing and also reading interviews or listening to them where they relate that.

One most fascinating part of "Death of Shamu" was watching the evolving attitudes of these "hot dog" (highest level including the so-called "rocket hops" shown from a couple perspectives in the trailer) trainers over time, along with the four or so other former trainers that followed them including three after Brancheau's death. My favorite part was when Ventre was taken out by a friend of his, the so-called "crazy Dutch lady" (who in actuality probably knew more about Orcas than SW did and had met up with Grundun when she'd been in the Netherlands as a calf) to go look at wild Orcas for the first time and was blown away. I think that's in the film as well.

Tilicum never was involved in what's called "water work" only "dry work" and well, the three times humans were in water with him, all three died with his teeth marks on them pre-mortum. Do they "miss" their human trainers? We don't know, maybe they do, maybe they don't. In the wild, they don't give humans much thought which is why rather than the largeness of their habitat is why humans don't tend to get killed out in the wild by them. In captivity they're dependent on them to live. They're fed at least partially on how well they do their "behaviors" (circus tricks) and on the day of Brancheau's death, Tilicum was getting only about half of his "reward" fish and dwindling to none b/c he wasn't performing well in the "dine with Shamu" show going on which took place after the "Believe" show next door which was abruptly suspended because the whales were more interesting in fighting with each other than doing their tricks on cue. Sea World claimed nothing was abnormal that day but there's plenty of video footage of the Orcas that day fighting and not performing their circus tricks including Tilicum before he attacked Brancheau.

If it's wrong for a movie to make assumptions about Orca "feelings" and even their sanity, it's probably just as wrong for all of us. I couldn't guess how Orcas think and feel except following the parameters that most species prefer not only their own kind over others but their pick of their own kind. That's also true in great ape species as well and certainly with humans.

I would hazard a guess that given a choice, Orcas might prefer not only Orcas over humans but their choice of Orcas meaning most likely their original pod, versus Orcas thrust in the same tank with them who might be from a pod thousands of miles away. That's how most wild species are across the animal kingdom, they relate to their own kind first just like humans do. They're born into a pod and barring capture, they stay in that pod all their life. They might meet up with other Orcas, i.e. "residential" versus "transients" (and I hope I don't have to explain which is which to you since you're informed on this issue) but they keep as far apart from each other as their respective ranges allow while they pass and they certainly don't interbreed whereas SW bred residential and transient whales together and got Taima a "hybrid" who later died while calving. That's quite a bit better than the first inbred Orca which was an offspring of a female Orca who mated with one of her own male offspring.

Taima's mother Gundrun tried to drown one of her earlier calves and died after they had to physically wrench a stillborn out of her uterus. Taima's daddy Kanduke died of St. Louis Encephalitis a disease never seen in wild Orcas b/c it's transmitted by mosquitoes. I think those deaths especially Gundrun's death and that of the calf she tried to drown, Nyar who died at two was what proved to be the last straw that made Jett walk away. Though he'd allegedly been demoted out of Shamu work for refusing to jack off Tilicum so to speak in order to use his sperm for artificially inseminating female Orcas.

They are removed from their calves quite frequently because 1) female Orcas breed much earlier in captivity to churn those future show Orcas out often beginning at 5-6 as opposed to 14 in the wild and 2) they learn all their baby rearing skills from their mamas, babysitters (males, females), the matriarch (who might be grandma) and their podmates while growing up. Earlier calves died from too-small tanks which literally left them unable to nurse from the mother's mammary glands while swimming.

I'm guessing the film will address a lot of these incidents as I see hints of them fleeting in the trailer as they will the "incidents" (as SW calls them even deaths) including the one shown where John Sillick has an Orca land on top of him, breaking his pelvis, back and shattering his femur. I believe Orky II was the one who landed on him and that Orca had numerous "incidents" on his known record. SW called it "bad timing" in a stunt but some Orcas were known to deliberately "land" or strike trainers in that fashion and it's not clear whether Orky II had learned that trick or not.

Orca attacks on trainers rare? No, sorry but they're not. There are probably many more that we don't know there. That came out in the OSHA testimony when they sued SW. And I knew that already b/c my brother would tell me how his two trainer friends both had "incidents" of being dragged down to the bottom of the tank which weren't on these lists. One of these trainers did testify after being subpoened by OSHA so maybe he related them there.

"Angels" in the wild? No they're not. They're predators who hunt for sport, who are capable of using fish to lure sea birds to attack for food or sport. But they don't attack humans. I know people who've been up close to them and they just stay away. Dolphins are more "curious" and probably more of a "hazard" than Orcas are. Dolphins bite and ram people in the wild and more so in those god-awful "meet and greet" swim parks. Whereas Orcas just swim in the other direction. There's no reason for them to approach humans. We're not in their food chain.

But them not being "angels" is something that SW deliberately doesn't inform their own trainers according to manuals used as discovery in the OSHA hearings. Apparently SW is working under the impression that these animals are "angels" based on their PR spin too. They can't even be honest in explaining dorsal fin collapse syndrome which only happens rarely in the wild due to pathogenic causes. Let alone why they have trainers including former trainers who are dead or crippled like Sallick who I'm not sure was interviewed in the film.

I've always been jaded after meeting someone who worked in SW San Diego when Kandu V (a terror in her own right in captivity) who bled to death after ramming Corky II (a Marineland transplant when SW bought it out and then shut it down despite promising not to relocate its Orcas) in 1989. She broke her jaw spilling blood into her respiratory passages suffocating her over a 45 minute period where it seemed that the ongoing performance was more important to SW employees than the fact that the holding pool right next to it was turning bright red with Kandu V's blood. The two whales were put in the same tank together despite the fact that they were hostile to each other. My friend quit right after that and never looked back.

I guess what I can say is that information is power and the more I get including from first hand accounts is that I'll leave the defense of SW and its practices to other folks. I just personally can't do it, because information is so powerful and it clearly indicts the corporation on its practices. It's a shame, they do excellent rescue, rehab and release but that's where they should focus.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I think you'll enjoy the movie as it will just reaffirm what you're saying here. I will eventually watch it so I beg people to keep these comments relatively short. For male orcas 40 is a decent age. Some things that struck me about your post: where is this photo of Dawn getting pulled in? I can't find it anywhere. The book btw is called "Death at Seaworld". Can you go into more detail about Tilikum's dorsal fin implicated him in that person's death? And yes, I addressed the 'dominant male' thing, I worded that wrong. The males do get enormous and therefore seemingly more dangerous (does he get picked on now?). I don't know what the hierarchical order (appears to be) with the trainers. Any info on that? I'm going to guess it's unique in each situation.

marzy dotes 3 years ago

I hope to enjoy it. Won't know until I see it. But I'm interested in seeing how the "psychosis" (a human ailment) fits in with the thesis of why Tilikum kills people in his tank or they wind up dead in cases where there's no witnesses but pre-mortum injuries which on the transient were scrapes, bruises and bite marks. Mercifully for him, the castration that he received from Tilikum likely was after death.

In the death of Keltie Byrne, there were reports cited in articles and also online (and I'm trying to research the OSHA stuff which SW of course petitioned to have closed on more info) that although Tilikum didn't initiate the attack, he was the first to take her to the bottom of the tank. He was about 11 and his dorsal fin had prolapsed (and you can see it in photos and on the trailer) which happens to 1000% of all captive males and also some females. He did participate equally after that in the attack but SW acts like like he was almost just there not doing much. Byrne was a competitive swimmer but not experienced as a trainer and just slipped part way which initiated the incident.

Also male dorsal fins are taller and straighter than female's which are smaller and curved. The two females were pregnant and they were dominating him which according to accounts had been an issue which wasn't aided by his large size at all. Apparently according to interviews and I think this is explored more in the film he's been dominated by females those two.

What was strange and has appeared in numerous reports, interviews with ex-SW trainers including Samantha Berg was that when Tilikum arrived in SW after they picked him up from Sealand in B.C. was all the list of precautions that came with him even beyond the original ban on water work. They were never explained why he had many more restrictions including no water work than the other whales. That indicates that SW somehow figured out he was much more than a bystander in that incident as well.

This is one photo taken I believe possibly before or at the point where she was grabbed:

Though I'd seen one that was further than that similar where she's more in the center of the tank. It seemed like almost all the attacks, an arm grab (the other being the foot) and she wasn't panicking which makes sense. She was trained to go limp in hopes of the whale opening his mouth and releasing her. he's on her left side, pony tails on the right and she actually lost part of her left arm inside his mouth. fractures to the proximal left humerus and dislocated left elbow.

But this was an Orca that never had a person go in a tank with him and survive which SW appears to have downplayed based on interviews with six or seven former trainers. Those who claimed the infamous ponytail story (which was brought public after SW had to confer when numerous witnesses went to the press refuting the "fell in and drowned" story which the autopsy didn't support anyway, 4 ml of water in a sinus cavity but none in the lungs doesn't support anything but submersion in the tank some time that day) admitted under oath including in cross in the OSHA hearings that they didn't actually or couldn't have seen it. One trainer who originally said he did, later said he didn't see the attack. That fits with a EW account by a visitor who said she yelled at I believe a male trainer who's attention wasn't on the tank at the time that someone had been pulled under.

More witnesses said she was grabbed by her arm. That makes more sense b/c a pony tail grab would have very likely snapped her neck during the first submersion and yet she was able to get away and swim to the surface for help so the broken 7th cervical vertebrae and subsequent spinal cord damage hadn't occurred yet. She never was seen conscious after the second submersion and her pre-mortum injuries were quite extensive. You can see some of that on the Italian media video of it that's apparently not in the film which depicts no fatal incidents in their entirety.

She was one of their best trainers, experienced, got great ratings and worked her way up. They sent her to another park in the Canary Islands to work with trainers there including a female trainer who was badly injured and a male trainer Alexis Martinez who was killed about two months before her own death by Keto. Another "accident" with a detailed and graphic list of pre-mortum injuries by the whale. Originally they claimed he died of drowning without visible injuries. The autopsy report stated otherwise and here's a link discussing his injuries. one side of the rib cage, sternum, lacerated liver and other injuries indicated what was called a "violent" death. Keto was one of four SW whales on loan for a Christmas show, his father Kotar died from getting his skull crushed in a barrier gate. His mother was Kalina and Keto was apparently an unusually dominant male Orca with a history of aggressive behavior. All the whales sent to the CI park had that problem and exhibited it there according to daily logs taken by Martinez while working with them.

That "incident" intrigues me a lot and am trying to find more material on it but back to Brancheau...

They kept saying how great she was and then said, oops she messed up with the pony tail thing. SW claimed in its rebuttal against the film that no SW spokesperson "blamed" her for the incident but they conveniently forgot Thad Lacinak who was their head trainer and de facto spokes person for training at the time who was on GMA and elsewhere and in the film putting words in a dead person's mouth to exonerate his corporation sans a thorough and unbiased investigation of the incident. He's not there anymore, I believe he's a consultant in the industry though still. But he spoke out on behalf of SW in other cases as well including a publicized attack against Ken Peters that's on YouTube in its entirety (and a snip of it is seen in the trailer right after the "psychosis" remark as he's dragged by his foot, only his massive experience and a lot of luck saved his life that day).

SW was supposed to desensitize whales to various objects to ignore them and you think if they were so concerned about errant pony tails they would have included human hair as an object.

The trainers go through different phases when they get to Shamu work. It's about six months or so before they are in the water. And they supposedly go through different levels until they're senior trainers like some of the ones who quit. As to how the whales view them that's anyone's guess. Tilikum is shown in video footage as being quite affectionate with Brancheau. Only senior trainers were really allowed near him and she was allegedly one of the ones closest to him.

She still wound up dead partially eaten by him and I don't think it'll ever be determined exactly why.

Sorry about the book title, didn't have my morning coffee. I found it pretty informative. A bit uneven in style particularly at the end but I've gone back to research its source material and have a list of questions for it author to send to him.

The matrilineal aspect of their social structure is interesting but maybe hard to grasp considering that most of human Western society is both patrilineal and patriarchal and we have a tendency to infuse our belief systems and practices into other species. I do remember how the society structure of Bonoboes a species of great ape was rehauled from the beliefs that it was patriarchal to something more matriarchal which seems to be in practice. I wonder if that plays any role in how they're viewed in certain captive situations as well.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Marzy Dotes, your responses are pretty lengthy so I hope you don't mind that I'm not posting all of them. I'll try to write a condensed reply the best I can.

Well there you have it, you've confirmed that something was going on with the animals. It was not appropriate for the trainers to continue working with them if there was aggression going on. Animals do indeed have their own lives and will therefore be 'unpredictable'. But this is exactly why I don't agree with labeling this unexpected behavior 'psychosis'. Animals are inevitably different in unique environments outside their wild habitats, and we don't know what 'normal' is, given this arrangement that exists in SeaWorld. I don't even believe we know too much about orcas considering most of the data we've gathered about them comes from surface observation, and most of it is of the residents in Puget Sound. There clearly is a lot more going on than we're capable of observing. It seems that every year a new discovery is made with cetacean species or previously unobserved phenomena.

Perhaps humans living in a more natural state would consider our activities 'psychotic'. In the wild, orcas swim away from us as you say (with some isolated exceptions), but obviously the situation is different in a tank.

I agree that orcas are not angels and have said that (especially in other articles). Why did you compare wild orcas to the 'meet and greet' dolphinariums? They don't have those for killer whales. That was the exact point I was making for why killer whale attacks would occur in captivity and not the wild. However, if the attacks are as common as you suggest, clearly the animals had no intent to kill those other times. If this was an issue, I have no clue why trainers would continue to do this work or why SeaWorld would shoot themselves in the foot knowing a fatality is inevitable and thus terrible PR. I would assume that the trainers who are actually doing this work know more about the animals and their behavior in captivity than those pulling the strings upstairs. Bad moves for SeaWorld's own sake. Perhaps animal savy people should be in control of this zoo's operations.

Thanks for the photo, I've seen that before but I think I was told it was of an unrelated incident that was incriminating because no waterwork was supposed to be allowed with Tilikum. I need a source to verify what you're saying. Yes it truly is impossible to determine why Tilikum did what he did, we'd have to ask him. Certainly humans do project their beliefs on animals, hence why an attack on them may be viewed as 'psychosis' or even 'revenge'. The question should be, is the mind of the animal operating abnormally? Is the animal 'depressed', anxious, or suffering from some form of poor mental well-being? It could be possible, but I find the human attacks to be poor evidence of this given their natural history.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for your comments though, I will keep them in mind for future articles.

C Scott Taylor 3 years ago

Hi Melissa:

I want to commend you for taking a nuanced position on these issues. The questions surrounding the confinement of animals by humans are numerous, and the answers are as well, that is, when 'answers' can be found.

For me, as someone who has studied the human-dolphin relationship for over 30 years, and now nearing completion of my PhD thesis in animal geographies, the central factor, often overlooked, is that both humans and non-human animals (and all living things) are embedded in relationships. Relationships lie at the heart of our lives, and cetaceans are, like other minded creatures, always participating in their world via relationships that hold conscious meaning to them.

I am opposed to the capture of cetaceans, I abhor the slaughter of them, and actively work to protect them from harm, to make the oceans cleaner, and to make them less sonically polluted. However, I also acknowledge that we have arrived at a time in history when our past actions have created an important challenge. We have thousands of cetaceans in built environments, and the great majority of them are not reasonable candidates for 'release'. This includes both those who have been under human care for many years after being captured, those rescued, rehabilitated and unreleasable, and those born among humans. This is a fact now, and is what must be contended with.

I do not support the idea that all cetaceans in human care should be force-fed contraceptives so that they will all die out, as Thomas White, Ric O'Barry, Lori Marino and others insist. As I see it, they deserve our compassionate care, now and into the foreseeable future. They have nowhere else to go, and they deserve to have their social needs met, just as their biological needs must be met. They deserve to have social grouping of mixed sexes, and to be able to reproduce. This is not 'breeding', but is an act of allowing, by humans, of a normal behavior, one that fosters the wellbeing of the dolphins living among us.

On that basis, we already have a slowly expanding population of cetaceans among us, especially dolphins.

The challenge, then, is to provide ever better environments for them, better and better care, and above all...better relationships. Interview a lot of people who work closely with dolphins and you will hear over and over how much they want better environments for the dolphins, and how challenging it is to stimulate, enrich, and interact with them to the degree they desire. A hidden fact: a large problem for dolphin facilities is providing enough interaction with the dolphins, enough careful, sensitive and appropriate interaction.

My area of research currently is Dolphin-Assisted Therapy. My interest in it is due to the extraordinary confluence of interests that happen in DAT. I refer to the use of standard therapeutic methodologies in water with dolphins present, as colleagues of the therapists. There are many varieties of DAT, some of which are fanciful and lacking in credibility, but there are also programs that have excellent standards, do fine work, and have positively affected the lives of tens of thousands of patients and their families. Families and their communities are benefited by children with disabilities (and adults) whose lives are made more fulfilling; dolphins are benefited by having a series of different humans brought to them to examine, to play with, and to have brief relationships with. Dolphin facilities who operate DAT programs gain from the heightened appreciation for the service they provide to dolphins 'who have nowhere else to go', and DAT serves as an example of the new challenges that humans face as we try to sustain good, healthy, and appropriate relationships with other animals.

Dolphins live among us. We have created this situation, and there is no going back without ending our compassion for them. We might as well get on with the task, the real challenge of how to care for them better and better.

The questions surrounding Orca have some unique factors. Most importantly, it was a serious mistake to take them into human environments in the first place, one that we are really not yet capable of managing in a fully compassionate way. Altho some Orca do seem to be able to adapt to human care, many do not. They, especially, should be given much better environments to live in than they are in now. The progeny of those captured long ago, which is the majority now, cannot be 'released', nor can they, most likely, survive in seaside enclosures, due to having been raised in very clean water, without the immunities they would need. And, of course, there is the issue of relationships...they, like us, have actual friendships. These must be taken into consideration.

A looming question over all this is how to pay for the improved enclosures. This poses a huge problem. Profit making businesses have been the primary model until now, and I think a non-profit model should be given real consideration for the financing of bigger and better environments, where Orca can be cared for, interacted with, and enabled to continue to live side by side with humans.

It is an exciting, challenging, and enlightening future we face in all this. We have 'stumbled' into this situation, and now we need to get on with it. We can do it, we can rise to the challenges.

I commend you for publicly discussing your ideas about all this, and offer my willingness to further the conversation. I too cringe at the marketing ploys that depend on exaggeration, and understand your reaction to the Blackfish trailer.

Good on ya, Melissa!

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Great post, I agree with a lot of that. I've never heard that ocean water would be bad for them, that's unfortunate. I was hoping certain animals in poor social situations (like Tilikum) could be moved to sea pens. I honestly believe that oracs could thrive in captivity...if shirking rays existed. There's just not enough room for them to resolve conflict and that leads to a variety of issues. Alternatives need to be explored. Like elephants, reproducing is important, I think. For the females, raising young can increase welfare and possibly stabilize social relationships over time. I'm not surprised that Marino and O'Barry want them to stop reproducing. You've pretty much outlined how I see things. Captivity is not inherently wrong as long as you set out to keep animals in conditions that are presumed to be sufficient, but they probably did make a mistake with the captivity of this specific species. But now that they're here, relinquishing them to the wild is not an option, and it still is astonishing to the public to see them up close. If we could go back in time, I'm sure even SeaWorld wouldn't build its empire on performing killer whales. It doesn't seem to be sustainable in the long term, even without this negative backlash. Thanks.

C Scott Taylor 3 years ago

In many cases, cetacean enclosures are filled with artificial seawater. These are totally constructed environments, the product of laboratory analysis of the minimum necessary chemical components to provide adequate skin health. They do not contain the micronutrients and total array of all minerals and elements that real ocean water contains. This artificial seawater is created and endlessly filtered and cleansed so as to keep it 'gin clear', for a number of reasons. First is for assuring stable health conditions, and a close second reason is for visibility: enabling 'the tourist gaze'. Nowhere among the recipes for artificial sea water is made mention of the microorganisms that populate the seas. Most of these are benign for cetaceans, but some are beneficial and some are dangerous. Just as human children gain immunities by crawling in the dirt and ingesting bacteria and by simply being exposed to natural environments, so it is for cetaceans in the seas. Artificial sea water is kept sterile to reduce the need for tank cleaning, which is time consuming and expensive. What has been developed is a system of filtering, computer monitoring so as to use a minimum of chlorine, the use of UV light, and other 'least cost' techniques, to produce sterility that is dependable. Living in sterile water, lacking in many normal components, for an entire life, then suddenly being exposed to natural sea water could easily cause problems.

Some Orca could, possibly, survive this, if they are old enough, tough enough and have perhaps some onboard immunities left from their life in the wild.

SeaWorld, and most oceanariums/dolphinariums, do not publish the daily analysis they do of their water environments. One does not easily find information about, for instance, whether San Diego SeaWorld uses actual sea water, and San Antonio uses totally artificial sea water. However, it is reasonable to assume they all use artificial sea water, which would allow them to transfer Orca between facilities for various reasons, into near-identical conditions.

This, of course, is only a single consideration. There are so many others.

Cheers, Scott

marzy dotes 3 years ago

Regarding the photo I heard that too a couple times and that they were saying, see this just proves Dawn Brancheau was not obeying the ban on water work! That's why I researched it further back to where I found the shaky footage (that was linked at a couple sites) that it came from which was from that day. It's a few seconds and it's clear that even in that photo, the arm was in Tilikum's mouth and when he was moving, so was she in front of him.

There's some evidence in the videos even from Dine with Shamu that she did things that were prohibited. I believe they weren't supposed to lie close or next to Tilikum either. But I believe that the trainers who worked with Tilikum were woefully uninformed or underinformed about his tragic background at Sealand and his history back in Iceland and the conditions he lived in there. Both his prior fatal incidents were downplayed even though there's evidence (including coroner reports) to the contrary. Having done some further research on Nooka IV, it wouldn't surprise me that even though the whale that submerged Keltie Byrne was allegedly one with collapsed dorsal fin, if Nooka IV was the one that pulled her into the water based on three published incidents where she grabbed people and items out of people's hands.

Though I found an article a while back where in 2010 SW claimed the directive NOT to swim with Tilikum was solely based on his immense size and weight. I'm like whatever, at this point. Maybe a six ton Orca can crush someone more efficiently than a three ton but a three ton can still crush someone. In my investigative reporting career, I've dealt with more PR machines and corporate politics and culture than I care to remember. SW for sure needs outside pressure from hopefully multiple fronts, media, federal agencies, lawsuits. I became even more leery when it got bought out and then went public.

I was however delighted to read that the case of Morgan captured in 2010 as a rescue is getting more attention. This Orca was deemed unable to be rehabbed for release by a team that included a SW consultant (it'd be interesting to get a name on which one).

I'm also waiting to see how SW's "NASCAR" defense plays out in the federal court of appeals in the ongoing lawsuit with OSHA. Interesting read though, as the Orca Project and other sites post the legal stuff online. Ironic that in its legal arguments, that SW apparently compares its important research, educational and rehab work with cetaceans, with spectator sports which are all about entertaining audiences and making participants and sponsors a lot of money.

Also if you view the only video that exists of most of the attack that's also online, you can see it there too. I'm of course always on the lookout for more videos, having a friend who's good at matching videos together from different sources and trying to see which ones go with what. Having an investigative background, I'm leery of claims made of misconduct by the deceased, sometimes they pan out, other times they don't but it's a challenge b/c that's a perspective and account of events that's clearly missing. What I have learned is that it usually means taking a deeper look.

I agree with you C. Scott Taylor on dolphins and Orcas including them being in different situations and providing unique challenges. Dolphins are difficult in captivity as well. I always think that dolphins should initiate contact certainly in the wild. I mean I bump into two bottlenoses in the wild I'll call Fred and Ethal who swim pretty close to shore but let them just do their thing.

I'm not in favor of what I call "meet and greet" parks with dolphins or other cetaceans. Dolphins can as I'm sure you know be very dangerous animals and unpredictable and that's true in the wild (where there's been documented attacks) I think more so it seems than Orcas who usually do the whole avoidance thing.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Comments have taken a turn for the better, thanks all.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

@ marzy dotes I'm certain dolphin attacks have occurred, and I've written about my beliefs on that. As I've stated here, I'm not sure why dolphins should be viewed as a bigger threat than other animals that we interact with that can cause injuries and even fatalities such as dogs and horses. I'm going to guess that proportionally speaking, dolphin-caused injuries do not outweigh that of other animals and other risky activities that are common.

marzy dotes 3 years ago

I think they're a greater threat than some because they're so underestimated in their ability to attack without warning. People grew up with Flipper, and other shows and movies of dolphins that don't do that at least not on the movies and shows.

Dolphins of most species including bottle noses can be quite large and they're very strong. Having been really closet them in the wild, it's really something that you don't expect to be the case. You feel so incredibly vulnerable out in the ocean which is huge and foreign to people in a way it's not to the dolphin too. I think with most "wild" animals, there's also not entire industries based on what I call "meet and greets" with dolphins. You don't do that with lions, tigers and rhinos and such. But dolphins you do and there's been some serious problems.

I did find some interesting photos.

This one is Kalina's teeth with text as to which ones were broken and which were drilled down for those partial root canels. When people talk about "liberating" Orcas, one of the major stumbling blocks is the condition of their teeth.

The other photo I wouldn't click unless you have strong stomach. I was searching for photos of Kandu V who died of a broken jaw from "raking" Corky II in 1989. Almost wish I didn't. it's from one of Zimmerman's articles which is a lot of it is Kalina (who died late in 2010) but also some of Kandu V's history as she was quite an aggressive Orca.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Exactly why I say dogs are dangerous marzy dotes. People never expect man's best friend to maim their children (unless they have a fear of dogs). Honestly can't say that I would fear being in the minority to experience an attack from a dolphin, but it can happen. Almost anything can happen. I avoided elevators for months after that tragic NYC incident.

Just a small correction, there are 'meet and greets' with big cat cubs (it's highly controversial). Older than 8 weeks it is illegal to do this. In other countries, they have these with adult big cats. One famous example is the Tiger Temple in Thailand. Many people abhor the place.

I've seen those images on the Zimmerman blog a few years ago, it was my first introduction to this subject. I think there may have also been a video. It sounds like even moving the animals to a sea pen is a potentially unrealistic option. Sad.

Led 3 years ago

Are you aware that orcas normally travel over 100 miles A DAY in the wild? How can living in a tank (not even 1% of a whales natural habitat) suffice? I don't care how sensationalist the trailer is- if it gets people to view the documentary then great.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

@ Led yes I am. Nearly all animals live in less than their natural range in captivity, including those that are migratory. Even clownfish, which are kept in smaller tanks (down to 5 gallons) because they have teeny ranges and stick mostly around their anemones, would need a tank about 10 feet long to accurately give them their wild space. Again, I'm -not- saying orcas are doing well in captivity, just contending this logic alone.

gsm6410 3 years ago

I have read all the comments.....I believe all those who are passionate about what they believe should work at Sea World and see first hand what goes on with the animals. I did for a long time. I know the truth....I didnt need the movie to inform me. Dont make judgements with uninformed knowledge.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

What did you see gsm6410?

Kate 3 years ago

Wow, this is pretty incoherent. The fact that you have to argue with and give explanations to all of your commenters should be a hint that your articles are not accomplishing what you set out to do...

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I think it shows that many people are emotionally invested with this subject and drew conclusions from my article that simply aren't there, Kate. Also, I have endured many insults.

Bachelard 3 years ago

I saw the film last night and decided to check out some reactions to it around the web. I read this entire discussion this morning.

I've been a journalist and opinion writer for 30 years. The ad hominem comments and the use of sock puppets here are par for the course, thanks to both the "disinhibiting effect" of anonymous writing and the strong feelings underlying this issue.

A few points:

The film obviously has a strong point of view and can't be said to be "objective" in the sense that it provides much voice for views like Melissa's. This is common -- even necessary to a great degree -- in any work of advocacy. And that's what this documentary is: advocacy journalism. And that's completely legitimate.

I think Melissa's point of view is pervasive in the culture and that it's reasonable to presume most people share it. The film is inherently an argument against that point of view. One of its repeated points is that we are not educated in an alternative point of view. Incredibly, the young, idealistic trainers themselves were not even informed of the dangers to which they were exposing themselves. The trainers were clearly in love with the animals. Surely SeaWorld had an ethical obligation to make its incident reports available to scrutiny. Their defenses before OSHA were appalling.

I live a block from a zoo. Personally, I am not comfortable visiting it. But, writing in a nearby coffee house, I often encounter kids absolutely overcome with excitement about their visits. They babble constantly about the animals. It is totally true that the vast majority of us will never see a rhinoceros in its native environment. And can we seriously compare a film view to a face-to-face view? This is a painful ethical discussion.

Years ago, I mentioned eating veal in something I wrote for my newspaper employer. I received countless enraged calls from members of PETA. I woke up one morning to find my yard covered with posters depicting the horrid conditions of veal calves. How is it I had no idea about this? PETA's style was rude, but necessarily so. I did my research and I gave up veal forever (including the so-called "free-range" variety). Anti-abortion activists use the same kind of techniques. The value is to shock people into educating themselves -- not necessarily coming to advocates' same conclusion.

Melissa, I did notice that, despite your frequent responses to people, you made no response to Natalie Parra's actual account of the way SeaWorld abuses its whales. No offense, but you do participate in the ad hominem character of this debate. Most here, with Natalie being an exception, don't address actual facts.

Finally -- and there's so much more to say -- none of this argument accounts for the effect of sentimentality, which can block our use of reason. Oh, I relate. I'm embarrassingly sentimental about animals. I'm also a psychologist and have thought and read a lot about the psychological effects of humans and animals on one another. I often wonder how much my own feelings are projections -- anthropomorphizing. I wonder, too, if anthropomorphizing isn't necessary or at least inherent to human nature. Maybe it's a bad term for a good thing. Look at the world's myths. There is a reason so many gods take or share animal forms. There's truly an ancient recognition of their importance, the wisdom of instinct and the value of uncomplicated presentation...and so much more.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

My opinion is in the minority, actually, Bachelard. And I'm not sure if you and others know what that position is.

Why did I not answer the question of why 'SeaWorld "abuses" its whales'? This article is NOT about that and I have other articles that go in more depth about this issue. I've stated my points about why I wrote this article and I will again: I'm challenging the idea that orcas are 'psychotic' for killing people in captivity, to me this seems in line with their nature, combined with living in captivity. I oppose introducing animal rights activists like Lori Marino as objective scientists. She works diligently to end all zoos among other things. Last but not least, I feel it is obvious that large apex predators are dangerous, and even as a child I knew a death was inevitable...just not any time soon. Do I think the outcome might have been different if SW educated the trainers about the orca's history? Possibly not.

There's nothing here in this article defending SeaWorld's 'abuse'. Can I ask you exactly why you needed PETA to convince you to stop eating veal? You knew they were baby cows, right? I'm just not picturing any conceivable way that photos of veal production would appear anything other than shocking. Although, all meat production isn't pretty, for adults and young alike.

And so yes, without a doubt some unfortunate methods go down with SeaWorld, probably because it's still a cooperation, money is a factor, and animals need to be separated for successful captive breeding. Does that answer your question? I'm not pulling the strings, but I'm arguing against important points that people will and are using against all zoos for a more unsettling future (animal liberation). If SeaWorld were my park I'd do things differently but, this is life. In my opinion, and in theory, zoos are a wonderful thing, certainly more benefits to animals than the meat trade. Try to see it more like nature or 'the wild'; a lot of beauty and good, but some unfortunate brutality, that we can at least aspire to change.

Bachelard 3 years ago

Melissa: My understanding of your point is that a confined animal's episodic violence is natural and not necessarily related to something like confinement-related "psychosis." I wondered the same thing, given the near decade between the two incidents with Tilikun.

It was my understanding that the great majority of the public believes animals from the wild are inherently and unpredictably violent -- perhaps more so than they actually are. That's why I called your opinion the most prevalent. But I'm no expert and I may still be not getting your point. I do of course understand the difference in "animal welfare" and "animal rights."

(This discussion, like most forum discussions, has taken off in different directions and I think that's fine.)

You repeatedly raise "science" in your comments and disqualify Lori Marino from the debate because she represents an extreme of "animal rights" activism. She seems over the top to me too, but calling scientists "objective" is quite an extreme claim in itself. I won't bother to list some of the ethical transgressions and weird beliefs of respected scientists.

I am glad that you had more insight into animal behavior than I did as a child living in the Disney fantasy world. I didn't NEED PETA to convince me to stop eating veal. I'd never seen such pictures, never read any discussion about it, never investigated it. You don't really think this was even talked about 30 years ago to any degree, do you? (I'm not sure if the organization was actually PETA, but the tactics were the same.)

Likewise, you can blame the trainers for not knowing better about what they were risking -- that argument is actually examined in the film. It is incredible to me, too, that somebody would stand on a whale's nose and not know they might get ripped. But the fact is that they didn't and nobody tried to educate them. It's also true, however, that some continued the work after learning of the risks.

There's been a ton of research about the effects of confinement on animals. The film doesn't just claim the whales are abused. It shows how the whales manifest classic symptoms of confinement in small spaces and with inappropriate companions. How you define the psychological state of such an animal is not as relevant as acknowledging the presence of stress. (I assume you don't disagree with that.)

I don't mean this negatively, but I really think you need to see the movie, although I didn't even find the trailer that sensational. I shoulda known about veal calves? Shouldn't you know about the use of music to create suspense? In any case, the movie's not as strident as you're guessing. I don't even recall there being any particularly strident activists in it.

Bachelard 3 years ago

There's a great essay about the film on the National Geographic website:

It makes your general point, Melissa, and takes up the subject in more depth. The commenters are not, um, psychotic by and large.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I don't really disqualify her, I'm saying that she misrepresents herself, or the documentaries do, as just a 'scientist'. She comes off as a neutral party, and that simply isn't the case, so the viewer gets the idea that, 'wow, even the scientific community is against this!' When I debate I have no problem describing myself as an exotic pet owner and zoo supporter. The special interest needs to be understood. People would be interested in knowing her commitment to pushing 'non-human rights' into legislation, something PETA has been all about all along, albeit more childishly.

I had no special insight in animal behavior...I just think there is not any large carnivorous animal out there that will be guaranteed to not harm a human. It's probably even possible in the wild (there have been some unconfirmed cases), but humans are simply not around them often. A wild pilot whale (a type of dolphin, like orcas) once dragged a snorkeler down (who tried to pet it), almost drowning her, similar to the attack of Kasatka, but brought her back up. That was unusual, wasn't it? It's not common for humans to come into contact with these animals. I doubt anyone thinks that animal was psychotic.

"Shouldn't you know about the use of music to create suspense?"

I don't see your point. I will eventually see the film, expect an update when I do on if I feel as though my article was misguided. I do believe that article you linked brought up similar arguments, I've skimmed it before. I've acknowledged in other articles that the main issue with captive orcas is stress from social strife. The attacks Tilikum was involved with were likely initiated from different circumstances than the latest attack. The concerns over tank size and bad pairings are valid. I just abhor claims like 'animal revenge', ect.

spongebobX 3 years ago

Profit off anything, anyone....Here is my two cents worth....Links to Seaworld investors, PAC and recipients in the US Congress....Courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics


"The Killer Whales have their own languages and culture-each group is unique. Their life spans are as long as those of human males and females in the United States. Their societies are female dominated. Killer Whale offspring stay with their mothers throughout much of their life spans, according to Black Fish. In two of the most riveting scenes in the documentary Killer Whale children are taken out of the water away from their mothers. The baby screams and cries and the mother does too. More's the pity, the mothers, research showed, sent cries meant for long distance communication in the ocean--an obvious plea for help and sympathy from comrades."



SEAWORLD $$$ Members of Congress LOBBYISTS MAKING WAVES IN WASHINGTON: Following the death of a whale trainer at SeaWorld Orlando last month, the renowned Florida attraction is now trying to makeamends while, at the same time, facing down criticism from animal rights groups for the inhumane confinement of killer whales. Amid all of this, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment Corp. has increased their lobbying presence in Washington, and according to an update in The Hill, Bryan Cave LLP has been tapped to do just that. The man at the helm of this new lobbying campaign is David Russell, former counsel to the Senate Science, Commerce and Transportation Committee and chief of staff to former Sen. Ted Stevens. Though it is not certain what future relationships between whale and trainer will look like following an extensive safety review in April, SeaWorld’s new lobbying presence could signal the beginning of a mutual bond between the park’s owners and Washington.


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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

spongebobX, did you write any of this? Please refrain from copy pasting a bunch of content unless it is directly related to my article. This article doesn't go into orca whale culture, the horrors of captivity, ect. Here is my article about what I think about cetacean 'personhood':

It really needs updating, but I absolutely disagree with the conclusions reached in your links.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Is that you, freedomfororcas? I've followed your videos before. We've spoke a few times. Thanks for reviewing my review :P

Jne 3 years ago

I don't get how you can defend that they inbreed their ora's, cross ecotypes with different cultures, rip calves away from their mother to ship them to another facility for convenience -in the wild, orca family groups always stay together-, think the concrete bowls are sufficient of a habitat for such large searoaming creatures.

I mean, orca brains are more developed then ours in the emotional part of the brain, a new study proved dolphins have names which other dolphins remember for over 20 years. Recently, Georgia aquarium wanted to import wild caugh-yes, wild caught- belugas from russia and lend some to seaworld. Additionally, wild genes are imported in the gene pools via the drives in Japan -ow, they don't import the wild ones directly, they go through other facilities or they import their offspring.

If this is not a thriller on its own accord, I don't know what is.

How can you justifie this? In the film, they explain how the mothers and calves fled when seaworld was capturing them, the males diverted the capturers, but because they had helicopters, they found the mothers and their babies anyways. Any creature that can ploy such an escape deserves far better then to live it's live in a concrete bowl.

DW 3 years ago

You start your article by stating that you haven't seen the documentary, and are only basing this on the trailer. And then proceed to trash the very concept and underlying message of the documentary itself with a decidedly anti-animal rights mentality slant. The fact that you include the word "stupid" in the title of a review on a documentary you haven't seen lends credence to the notion that this is more a personal rant encapsulating your own prejudices than anything else.

It is hard for me to even imagine that we watched the same trailer, because I came away from it with tears running down my cheeks, and a very real sadness in my heart for the plight of these tragic whales. I am almost ashamed to admit that I had no idea of the suffering inflicted on these noble creatures.

You openly mock the point in the video where the narrator alludes to the spirituality that is evidenced in the killer whales eyes. I almost feel sorry for you that you couldn't see it as well, because I certainly could. But I guess that's what allows for their continued exploitation, the people who can't witness the common life connection between man and animals, not only of whales, but every other abused and exploited for monetary gain animal on this planet. I just will never understand how someone could believes that an entity with a heart doesn't feel pain, with eyes doesn't experience fear, with the ability to produce young, doesn't mourn for their loss.

My God, just the images of the killer whale stolen from the sea, taken by force from the life-giving sea, being hoisted up into the air by a crane, and stored inside a space barely large enough for it to turn around is more than heartbreaking, it's cruel and sadistic. It is horrible and unforgivable. The fact that this poor animal turned on it's captors is not only understandable, it was inevitable. No matter how gilded the cage, and in this case it wasn't guided at all, or even the good intentions of trainers, captivity is a form of abuse, and human or animal, we all have breaking points.

What happened to this poor whale, and many more like him, would be the human equivalent of being buried alive. And then, dug up, but only for the duration of a Sea World entertainment show, and then buried alive again, over and over and over again. Put yourself in its place and try, just try to hold onto any semblance if sanity.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Yes DW I've heard and watched what you are describing, no need to re-write it. Please focus on what I'm trying to say. The orca didn't turn on its 'captors' (trainers). I do not subscribe to many spiritual or religious point of views. Regardless, these wild captures are no more.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Yes, I saw that clip Jne.

Josie 3 years ago

I read an Early comment where someone suggested you do more research. You asked what exactly you should do more on. I did not see if they ever answered, and I do not have much interest in going through all the comments, but I have an answer. Start with the correct information on the date of the death of Dawn Brancheau. I mean if you can't even get that right, who cares what else you have to say. Not me.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

The date has absolutely no significance to the subject that I'm discussing Josie, but thanks for bringing that up, I'll correct it. Wikipedia must have listed this date incorrectly. I plead guilty.

Tatyana 3 years ago

"The orca didn't turn on its 'captors' (trainers)" - I wonder if Dawn Brancheau would disagree...

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Dawn was not the captor of any of the animals. Pretty simple.

Tatyana 3 years ago

You are doing it on purpose, aren't you? Avoiding the real point and concentrating on something not of importance. But you've been doing all throughout the blog, so shouldn't be a surprise.

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Sean Handler 3 years ago from Ann Arbor, Michigan

I really like your Hub, Melissa. Very well written with a solid argument. Though seeing the documentary would most likely solidify your points even more, you do a great job with what you have. Feel free to check out my own Hub on Seaworld:

Tatyana 3 years ago

Why did you delete my last post? It was not offensive by any means.

Josie 3 years ago

You wrote, "We hear an off-screen dispatcher actually say “a whale has eaten one of the trainers” and then we see...

.....This is very strange because I have never heard of an orca whale ‘eating’ a human, ever, and if this has occurred I have yet to find what they are talking about." My question to you would be, if you are eating steak and leave some on the plate, did you still eat steak? Or does it only counts if you ate it all? The whale ate part of Dawn, he ripped off and ate one of her arms. He did not spit it out, he swallowed it. You would know this if you bothered to watch the movie, but yes we know that is not really something you are interested in.

Emma 3 years ago

Instead of getting so wrapped up in how the trailer is presented, because, duh, of course they made it dramatic and sensational as any documentary trailer does to pique the public's interest, why don't you put your energies towards addressing the actual issue at hand, which is that wild animals are being held captive purely for profit.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

If Tilly wanted to eat Dawn her body would not exist right now. It sounded to me as though he 'tasted' her during the big commotion and trainers attempting to yank her body from his mouth. That to me doesn't sound like intentional 'eating'. They do similar things to pelicans. They don't want to eat them, they just kill them and play with them. If a piece gets swallowed I don't consider that 'eating' the pelican. Now, as for not seeing the movie, give me the link to a free place where I can see it or quit bothering me about that.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

If you click on my page, you will see I have plenty of energy to spare about these subjects. Why am I not allowed to comment on Blackfish unless I praise every part of it?

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

It was just annoyingly confrontational and I wasn't in the best mood. I don't think it makes any productive sense for you to interrogate me with nonsense. I don't agree with your accusation and I think I'm the best judge of that.

Gerard 3 years ago

“when you look into their eyes, you know somebody is home”

If the author did at least a little research on the subject, she would have known that the above quote, which she find 'almost religious', is from a Sea-world trainer. He said this in the movie "Believe - behind the scenes", some-kind of a Disney like feel good 'documentary'.

We live in a free world, so the author can write down whatever she wants. Which doesn't change the fact that she is dead-wrong. A wild animal should be in the wild, that's why we call them wild animals. That the movie uses certain tactics to play emotions doesn't make this less true.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I've down research Gerard. I've watched Believe and behind the scenes of it (twice), so this surprises me. Oh well, it's no huge huge deal anyway.

Gerard 3 years ago

Just watched 'Behind the scenes' days ago. So I immediately recognized the scene. Which came as a surprise. Never thought Sea-world would let 'Blackfish' use their material without a legal fight.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

They clearly didn't. Don't know what's up with that. Another reason this surprised me.

Alina 3 years ago

I came across this article hoping for some insight on an opposing view of Blackfish but truly I have to agree with the majority of commentators here.

How can you possibly justify captivating such a large whale in such a small space. As for the trauma, of course they are traumatized when you are capturing them from their marine habitat and keeping them in a tiny swimming pool. Furthermore keeping them isolated for days for training purposes and that too at an age where they well remember their lives as free whales. Overall, this a free killer whale that been captured, isolated, transported and then trained to perform the same routine numerous times a day. How are you justifying animal cruelty? As for domesticated dogs, lions and/or tigers, these animals live on land. Most of the time they are not confined to a small cage for the rest of their lives. You cant really compare it to killer whales I feel. Dogs and sometimes even lions and tigers can well interact with other humans. Can we even think about putting an unprofessional trainer in the pool with these whales? probably not.

As for the movie itself, even if they are using marketing strategies to attract the "uninvolved public" id say good for them. As a child I've been to 2 Sea Worlds in the States and loved every minute of these shows. However, before this movie even came out I had the realization of how cruel this is and would probably never pay to watch these shows again.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Alina, please point out where I've justified any of that. I'm glad you're not one of the anti-zoo types. This article addresses some other aspects of the arguments that I disagree with.

Kristin 3 years ago

Haven't even seen the movie yet forming a huge opinion about it...this article is a waste of time.

Natalie 3 years ago

Oh and P.S. for all other commenters if you think this is funny you should go check out her other article 'Dolphins Are Not “Too Smart for Captivity'

That one is just as ridiculous.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Natalie, please stop forcing me to unaccept comments. You were going to be the second person to make me do this, but then I went and accepted that of Tatyana anyway. So, congrats for being the first. Want to write your comment again, sans the bullying, you're welcome to.

Cealy555 3 years ago

I shouldn't even waste my time commenting on this ridiculous nonsense. This "article" may have one or two valid points on the marketing of a movie what? If it will get people to get informed and watch it, it's done what it was intended to do. The author seems to have a lot of time on her hands to be consistently responding to almost every single comment. May I suggest, take the time and read some books. It's been scientifically proven that these animals are highly intelligent, social creatures. They deserve to live there lives in the wild. To even compare an Orca (or any other cetacean) to a Tiger, horse and domestic dog is complete ignorance.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Cealy555, even humans are prone to the elements I was speaking about, although I don't agree at all that cetaceans are as intelligent as humans. Just because I don't agree with you doesn't make me 'ignorant'. The true ignorance lies with the many commentators that pegged me and my stances incorrectly.

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Peter Dickinson 3 years ago from South East Asia

Fair and honest reply Melissa.

Bird 3 years ago

As a human you can't possibly think that an animal that has lived and evolved in the ocean would ever live to its complete satisfaction in a tank. Even if said animal was born in captivity who is to say it won't miss what it has not known. If you knew anything about whales or seaworld for that matter you would know that the infant futality rate was extramly high because the females whales are bread very young and do not know how to care for their young. On top of the fact that most mothers are split from their young so these young mothers are not raised with a mature female whale to learn how to care for their young. Most whales don't make it past their teens in seaworld while most live to the age 30-50 in the wild whole only a hand full have made it past the age 30 out of the thousands of whales that have been made captive. Before you go judging a trailer of a documentary you know nothing about I suggest you study with sides of the coin.

Garret P 3 years ago

So I saw the movie last night. I'm a lawyer, and this was actually somewhat interesting to me because the lawsuit by the man's family (the guy who ended up dead after sneaking into the park) was raised in my torts class years ago in law school. "Its a 'killer' whale you dope, that's assumption of risk!"

Look I'm not easily swayed or convinced by so-called liberal agendas usually. And the "psychosis" angle really doesn't necessarily have to boil down to a whole lot more than this is an abused animal. His capture and treatment at his previous park in British Columbia is pretty terrible all things considered. My family used to adopt rescue german shepherds growing up, and even those "lower functioning" animals don't get over early abuse no matter how much time they spend in wonderful care with big open spaces and lots of love later in life--so its perfectly reasonable to me that an abused animal is going to be more dangerous than one that isn't and its early traumas will be borne out later in life and never go away.

The point the film makes kind of as a side note to its agenda against the captivity of higher thinking animals is essentially that Sea World was irresponsible as a corporation by downplaying the danger with its employees. Now, true, maybe each of the half dozen or so trainers they interviewed has a private beef with the company, and all of them have fallen on the side of "captivity is bad for these animals" since they've stopped working there, and so maybe they've entered into a pact to lie about what the company told them about attacks and Tilikum in general. That's plausible, but I find it less likely than the company just didn't want to make waves and didn't want to unnecessarily distribute potentially harmful information about a significant investment on their part. Tilikum is big business for them, not just because he makes big splashes at the end of shows by being their most massive whale, but as a bull to father offspring, he's just worth an awful lot of cash.

So, what you see in the film, is that the company potentially put people in unreasonable danger without being honest with them so they could jerk off this whale, inseminate others, and not have to jump through the legal hoops of capturing more in the wild or the expenses involved. The company's reaction to the film I've read today I find somewhat suspect. The video clearly does not show this girl being pulled in by her pony tail, but her arm. The film also shows a dozen or so shots of Tilikum with trainers who have pony tails over more than a decade and its clear this was nothing new to him, and there are some pretty glaring holes in the stories surrounding the other deaths, even after Sea World has tried to reassert some of those defenses since the films release. They just haven't addressed specific inconsistencies in the company's actions and policies lobbed at them by their former employees in the film.

The one thing I really left wondering was, why in the hell did we ever get the idea in our heads it was a good idea to surf on top of two-ton carnivores in theme parks and swim around with them in the first place? It sounds really freaking stupid when you think about it. And my biggest issue is whether the company has fairly disclosed all the risks to its employees, and whether they're legitimately doing what they can to reduce those risks, and at least from the film, the courts decision in the OSHA case against SeaWorld, and this first round of responses, I'm not convinced they are, and some of that necessarily involves keeping the animals happy. If Tilikum were a dog, they'd have put him down by now because he's demonstrated a propensity to injure people. But they haven't because there'd be an uproar about it being cruel. They could stop allowing direct trainer interaction, but they haven't because he's got to make that big splash at the end and they need his sperm. They could release him into the wild too, but that might be cruel in a different way . . . I just don't know, I'm sure there are other options I haven't considered and an expert in the field is probably necessary. The impression you get from the film is that for the most part other options, and upfront honesty with park employees and the public, have not been explored mostly because he's just worth too much money. And that doesn't sit well with me.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

"The video clearly does not show this girl being pulled in by her pony tail"

Now this surprises me, I saw a blog a few months ago that swore up and down there wouldn't be a video of her death in the movie.

"why in the hell did we ever get the idea in our heads it was a good idea to surf on top of two-ton carnivores in theme parks and swim around with them in the first place?"

Killer whales are actually giant dolphins. Most, if not all of them at SW (forgive I'm not entirely sure) are piscivorian in nature. Whatever the reason, they don't find humans palatable or worth attacking. However, all large animals are risky. Elephants are not carnivorous in the least bit but they are extremely large and I think working with them is very dangerous (and they are possibly equally intelligent as orcas), yet they give rides to people in various parks and are used in Asia as transportation. They can, and have, intentionally killed humans. It just seemed to me that the risks were obvious, I don't know. I'm not so into legal jargon, but hearing about the occasional animal attack and fatality is not surprising to me at all. There are other parks operating currently that have people perform with adult tigers (Google Out of Africa in Arizona), animals that are certainly carnivorous and potential man eaters if the conditions are correct. This seems to get less attention.

"but they haven't because he's got to make that big splash at the end and they need his sperm."

To clarify, it's probably just his sperm. I don't think the splash is so important.

Dani Trueartgirl 3 years ago

What's pissing me off about this is that both sides of this topic spends more time arguing about "freeing the whales" when the ones in the wild are actually dying off! Many of them are Endangered! The Pacific side of America and Canada alone is loosing numbers with their Orca pods. Whole family-lines are disappearing. Some of the calves are becoming orphans and swimming near dangerous, populated areas like Seattle. Not to mention the funds to research these magnificent animals are decreasing as fast as the Orcas themselves.

Where's the passionate augments on that topic? Why aren't so many people upset about that? Are captive whales and dolphins more important than the declining wild ones?

I understand that the theme parks need to upgrade on their "education" and care for their animals but freeing every single one is not the answer!

Did anyone think what the consequences would be if they went into the wild? The ones born don't speak the languages of any wild pod and are more likely mutts due to captive breading. Will they create more imbalance to the already existing pods? Will pods except them? Can captive whales hack the polluted waters of the ocean (many wild ones aren't). These are valid questions that need to be addressed before we dump our human expectations on another species, no matter how good our intentions may be. Think critically!

klHarderwijk 3 years ago

First of all thank you for writing this Melissa. It's refreshing to have someone shine a light on the other side of all this.

Now I'm not pro or anti captivity but I have had enough of all these protesters. I've spoken to many of them and seen many a pamflet on the subject. I live near the dolfinarium in Harderwijk that JPatton444 mentioned before, and I know a bit of what goes on there. To me it has become clear that most of those protesters don't even know what they're talking about, they basically just find it "sad" for the animals. I also know that the Dolfinarium has invited protesters to look inside the park and let the dolphin trainers explain a few things about how they treat the animals and such, but they refused. That to me says that they're simply ignorant.

On the subject of Morgan, the orca captured and cared for by the Dolfinarium. The intentions were to nurse the whale back to health and set it free. When they were examining her they found she was deaf, and hearing is essential for a whale in the wild. Since the Dolfinarium did not have enough space available for an animal of her size they started looking for another place that would be able to provide bigger space for her.

They knew that if they put her back into the wild Morgan would die. Since Morgans capture a lot of people have looked at this case. Everytime this case went to court (I believe 3 or 4 times by now), it has been ruled in favor the Dolfinarium.

I'm just wondering if it's more important to keep an animal alive or to keep it in the wild, and where do we draw the line?..

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi klHarderwijk, animals should be put down if their quality of life is too poor, the hard part is determining what this is. Cetacean strandings do occur so captivity is the only option for permanently handicapped animals aside from death. Thanks

Eric Flynn profile image

Eric Flynn 3 years ago from Providence, Rhode Island

Melissa A Smith, our government has a cage awaiting you with your name on it. Enjoy. P.S. Maybe you'll be lucky and they will sell and exploit the footage and make a stuffed animal that we can all buy while we carry around our big gulps and fall out of our clothes. True consumer bliss.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for another pointless comment Eric Flynn.

Garret P 3 years ago

Melissa, thanks for responding. Like a lot of people I stumbled on your page trying to get the opposing viewpoint on the documentary because, let’s face it, these things are hardly ever objective.

As for what the film shows re: Dawn's death, it shows her on the "slide pool" I think they call it, and her arm up to shoulder in Tilikum's mouth . . . that's it. Whether or not that's what leads to him pulling her in is kind of left ambiguous. Certainly the film intimates it’s the moment right before she goes under, which may be a problem with it generally.

The film also uses several experts who explain the oddness of putting all these random orca together. At least how they explain it, the whales vary extensively in their social behaviors from pod to pod, including the songs they use to communicate, and what they eat. Some pods (again, according to the film) eat fish, others spend most of their time hunting mammals like seals and sea lions, so just forcibly making them "piscivorian" because it’s cheaper for the park is another, minor cruelty. Of course as you point out, we do the same thing with all kinds of animals.

I guess my point (and what certainly comes across in the film even if it’s not explicitly stated, as well as seems to be part of the subject of the OSHA case against SW) about why this seems like a really stupid idea is that there is no actual way to control the animal. If you've got a big elephant or potentially man eating tiger, there are safety precautions you may not want to use, but are available. Tranquilizers, guns, electric prods, that if something goes terribly, terribly wrong, you can save a human being from the animal. There's a part in the movie about another trainer who survives an "attack" (which admittedly is a more playful game for this particular whale) where the orca takes hold of the trainers foot, plunges him to the bottom of the pool, holds him there for about a minute, and then shoots him back to the top. And does this roughly half a dozen times. The whole event is on film, and you can see the serious pain and fear on the trainers face as he's being subjected to very quick changes in pressure, and gasping for air. What makes it unsettling is everyone is standing around just completely helpless and at the mercy of the whale. There's literally nothing that can be done except hope it decides not to kill him. There is no option of disabling the whale or putting it down. I think that's part of the crux of the case against SW, and why a federal judge has ordered that the trainers not interact directly with them in the pool. There's no way to safeguard the employees, or at least none that is viable when you consider the value of the whale to the park. I found that part very disturbing. That the value of this guy's life was ultimately subject to the financial value of the whale . . . and yes, I think it’s clear the sperm/breeding value of the whales is much higher than what the park makes on their tricks and splashes.

The other big problem with SW is it becomes clear through the interviews with the former trainers that they are not knowledgeable about the risks. They have no expertise in whales. They get hired because they are strong swimmers, are attractive, and outgoing. It’s a PR position with swimming as a requirement basically. What they learn about the whales is what SW tells them, and what SW tells them seems to be factually inaccurate about the whales and whale behavior, the dangers involved, and that they misled the employees specifically regarding Tilikum’s history, as well as the general public about what happened in the multiple attacks. What may be intuitive and obvious to you may not be to the kid from Virginia who went to a show when he was 17 on vacation, then at 19 stepped off a bus and was a Shamu trainer in six months (which is a guy in the film).

As for the legal "jargon," on a personal note I always find it funny when people aren't interested and don't care about legal jargon. Because it’s the only time jargon is actually relevant. Legal jargon is responsible for civil rights, liberties, what safeguards you against the intentional and negligent acts of others, jargon like "probable cause" "reasonable suspicion" and "expectation of privacy" are the things that keep the government in check. It’s just funny to me when clients roll their eyes at “ugh legal jargon,” because hey, that legal jargon is going to determine whether you go to jail, whether you need to pay for your three back surgeries when that city bus ran you over, whether the bank is going to take your house, or whether a company has taken enough reasonable action to prevent your wife/daughter/mother from getting killed on the job.

You really should watch the film. I’d be interested to read your revisited take on all these little side issues after having seen it. Sure you’re probably not going to be swayed on your basic points and fundamental standing because those are things your experience and educational background have given you a lot more time to think, consider, weigh, and come to personal conclusions on, but there’s actually quite a bit more to it. It’s an interesting watch.

Eric Flynn profile image

Eric Flynn 3 years ago from Providence, Rhode Island

The "point" is.... the topic at hand is the exploitation of all things sacred for the almighty dollar. Stop making excuses for your sick desire to possess nature. You may not do it for a dollar sign, but you're just not intelligent enough to see Sea World for what it is. You seek love from animals, you must possess them for you to feel love. Stop possessing things and let them be free. Classic cliche ---" if you love something set it free.".... if you released your animals they'd run and never come back

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 3 years ago from South East Asia

Eric Flynn I really don't think you are in a position to form an opinion of anyone's intelligence. Your comments will cause some to question yours.

Eric Flynn profile image

Eric Flynn 3 years ago from Providence, Rhode Island

Peter Dickinson, People should always question my intelligence and yours. If i am not in a position to question intelligence than who is? Should i appoint someone to think for me, and form opinions for me? I voice them, you can't deem power of opinion over all of humanity. Can you? hmmm maybe your in a political office somewhere, so maybe you can. That'd be scary. Want a cage with Ms. Smith?

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

"so just forcibly making them "piscivorian" because it’s cheaper for the park is another, minor cruelty."

In my past research I think I found that there aren't too many transient whales in captivity. I read of one in Argentina. I don't recall how many are at SeaWorld parks. I don't think fish feeding is done to save money. Breeding or catching seals, baby whales, and dolphins in the wild to feed captive orca whales is not only impossible, but I will guarantee that this situation would receive extreme backlash and for good reasons. To call it cruelty, I don't know, what are the reactions of the animals when given fish? I think they can easily adapt to other diets, in the wild they just adopt the hunting procedures of their parents, but meat is meat. They swallow their food whole.

" Tranquilizers, guns, electric prods, that if something goes terribly, terribly wrong, you can save a human being from the animal."

Tranquilizers rarely help. The only thing to do in most cases is to kill the animal (however sometimes even this has failed if it isn't done immediately), but you're right in that they can't do this to the orca whale. I'm surprised that no one has innovated a way to remedy this situation. A few years ago I recalled a plan to have a rising platform elevate the tank bottom. If there was simply a way to get the animal out of the water, they'd have more leeway.

Honestly though, there are some situations with other animals, such as elephants, that are not resolvable. They may not even go down even when being fired upon. This is also pretty cruel for them. I am referencing an incident that happened in Honolulu that can be watched in full on Youtube. I think it's fair to say that in such situations there are no guarantees of safety if an animal is 'set off'. I feel as though this is the nature of free contact with large animals, not unique to just SeaWorld. Some other options exist for other forms of animal attacks but they are not fool proof. So now my understanding of this is that regarding the law, free animal contact must include a meager attempt to thwart the attack and even if the employee still dies, which they often do, it's OK as long this non-infallible option exists? Would this work better if SW had some way of killing the orca? Would people be happy about this (and couldn't SW just freeze Tilikum's sperm)?

"then at 19 stepped off a bus and was a Shamu trainer in six months (which is a guy in the film)."

That is very strange. I figured you'd need some zoo experience to become what used to be one of SW's most desired positions. I saw that one of the trainers had a degree from the Moorpark teaching zoo.

" I always find it funny when people aren't interested and don't care about legal jargon."

It's just not something I understand easily, hence why I'm not in law school. I just want to discuss what makes sense to me. So my reply will not really be able to address legal matters, economics, or big business corruption but I do certainly plan to make an update once I see Blackfish...if there is a way I can watch online please message me, otherwise it's getting a little tedious to be told over and over to watch it. I don't usually even get to see the movies I WANT to see in theaters. It's stated in this review at the top that I will watch it. I will probably discuss this issue in a more 'broad scheme of things' approach than to object to the information they present.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author did Eric see your reply before I approved it? @_@

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Don't your comments belong on one of my exotic pet articles? This is about Seaworld and performing animals. I own no killer whales nor am I a SW customer. You state "you must possess them for you to feel love" like it's a bad thing. It's not something I am ashamed of. My animals are staying right here with me where they will not perish immediately.

Garret P 3 years ago

No, there doesn't have to be an infallible option, because you’re right, that’d just be impossible. Basically though, it's a question of disclosure on the part of the park (so the employees know what they are getting into) and whether or not they can make it reasonably safe, and if you can't make things reasonably safe, well you can't put the employees there, and at the very least you have to let them be able to make an informed decision about whether or not it’s worth the risk to put themselves in that position. Unfortunately I haven't had time to read the volumes available on the OSHA case, just like you, I've got a job and stuff to do too, but that’s my understanding of the issues from reading summaries on various legal websites since seeing the film.

And it IS true about the trainers! It's really, really shocking. The former trainers admit it's really shocking. That now that they are older, and a little bit wiser, they're surprised they were allowed to be put in that position too. It's just crazy. The point being your perspective and understanding seems to be far above and beyond what's required of them to work in that job.

And for everyone else, I didn't mean to stray too far off topic. I just wanted to say there's more to the film than just whether or not we choose to keep the whales in captivity, and for Melissa’s sake, despite the sensationalism and obvious Hollywood spin on the trailer to pack people into theaters, it’s got more to offer than just a bunch of anti-captivity activists (which you wouldn’t get from the trailer). Namely, it takes a look at the big business and corporate policy that seems to affect the animals' and employees' treatment, which I just think might be interesting to a student/employee in similar fields.

See it when you get a chance. I’ll keep an eye out for your further review. And sorry for my diatribe on "legal jargon," that’s my own personal, constantly failing beef with society because of my job, haha. Got nothing to do with you.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Oh OK, Thanks Garret.

DarrenB. 3 years ago

An opinion. One your entitled to. Each to their own. However, you are common of the way Humans think and are generally. Which ever way you cut it, anything that is alive , has feelings, and a heartbeat should not be subjected to captivity unless for conservation. You make a point that Orca's baby's do not know the Sea is so obnoxious. Thankfully people with the opinion as yours are rapidly becoming a minority and your been left behind by a new educated public due to the good work as the makers of Blackfish. An ever growing Majority of people just know its not right to have a huge animal in a fish tank, why? because they too have a heart which clearly you seem to have been born defunct of. Do you have children? If you do would you tell your child to stay in a tiny room for the rest of their lives? If your answer which obviously would be no? Then you don't have any modicum of argument. It's that simple.

rhian 3 years ago

I've been to sea world, I loved it so much I cried watching the 'believe' show. I believed they were a small family pod, I believed they were born there safely. Never will I step foot in another sea world or aquarium, the fact that babies are getting brutally STOLEN' from their mothers, then have to perform for food while having a human stand on their face, all the while getting bitten and beat up on by other whales because they're not a family and are strangers to each other and territorial in the bathtub that they feel they own. They can't even mate how they would in the wild. I hope you've watched this film now to see that the trailer is just trying to be a clever marketing campaign to gain interest.

Nicola 3 years ago

I can't believe this article came from a woman.... Have a heart?

Denali 3 years ago

For future reference, watch the movie before you decide to write an article about the trailer. You can't get the full story of a 90 min movie from a 4 min trailer. It just makes you sound ignorant.

Lina 3 years ago

I agree with some of what you are saying, but other parts are just stupid statements. You are saying that people are usually within the safety of a sea vessel and therefore it's not surprising that there's no record of an orca doing any harm in the wild.

How come that there are shark attacks every now and then? It's not like sharks would jump into a sea vessel attacking people. No, they attack when people are in the water or on a surfboard. But there has never been a case of an orca doing such thing, event hough orcas do come very close to surfers or kayaks or even divers. So please don't use the vessel as a reason for an orca not to attack.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Even though shark attacks are still relatively rare, there are still way more sharks in general, and within the vicinity of humans. Most beach-goers are probably unaware of how close they are to sharks on a daily basis. They are a densely populated fish species.

MLK 3 years ago

Anyone attacking the author of this article (im guessing 90% of ppl posting) are not really bringing anything worthwhile to the conversation. Please stop this, and bring up valid conversational points.

Obviously we as humans are at the top of the food chain on earth and we may feel that all other life forms are below us, but wouldnt the world be a better place if all life was respected and cherished? It wasnt that long ago that certain ppl were seen as below human, and were subjected to slavery. This is the same mentality that allows us to exploit what we see as unequal.

If we were invaded by a more intelligently advanced life form, would it be okay to be enslaved since we would be seen as beneath them in their eyes?

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi MLK. I've given thought to such a situation. I would find it impossible for another being to not recognize the obvious communicative abilities and intelligence of humans. I think that with slavery, a different dynamic was involved. People did not merely view Africans as 'non-humans' but probably resented their differences, while with captive cetaceans, we originally felt that they could be kept happy in captivity just like any dog or most zoo animals.

K.Paq 3 years ago

This article was more confusing than informative. Movie reviews are shorter than this review of the "trailer". I cannot even remotely see the authors perspective on this.

Webby79 3 years ago

Not sure if I've got this right. You haven't actually seen the documentary! How can you have such big opinions when you haven't seen the whole thing?

Person 3 years ago

I think you should never, EVER judge a movie on the trailer. The trailer is there to catch attention and make people want to see the movie. I watched it, and it had some very good points. I would suggest you see it before making direct assumptions.

martha 3 years ago

i'm pretty sure you should watch the film before you write something like this. having seen the film, your post just makes you sound uneducated and vindictive instead of illuminated and validly opinionated. this documentary was excellent. and considering i'm always extremely reluctant to buy into anything that seems unnecessarily biased or tactically persuasive (i.e. leaving out facts to sway the watcher/reader/listener in one direction or another), this documentary had a huge impact on me. Be careful next time you decide to post something like this. It's never a good idea to do so without having more than a two-minute preview into something to glean an opinion from.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I don't know how many times I need to state that I will watch the movie, and that this article isn't really about the movie, but its trailer and how said trailer is a condensed version of the rhetoric that I want to discuss here.

Nic Pedleton 3 years ago

this article misses the primary argument of the documentary. all articles posted out there that support sea world are overlooking some of the more obscure and unknown practices sea worlds put into place to domesticate these whales. Their practices regarding all their other animals are relatively fair to the animal but their practices toward the orcas are inhumane and no one knows about these! AS A PERSON WHO WORKED AT SEA WORLD, we should all agree that Seaworld should have no attraction involving these whales.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Nic, I'm aware of the primary arguments and I'm not disagreeing with it.

Heather M 3 years ago

Have you seen the film? What is your take on it now?

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

No, do you know where I can watch it?

Justin 3 years ago

Yes Melissa, you are entitled to your opinion and way of living as you mentioned in one of your comments. However your not entitled to spread arrogance, ignorance and unenlightment about intelligent cetacean beings that we live with on this planet, without some push back from those of us know the truth about these beings. Whales and Dolphins are intelligent beings that don't belong in captivity. As a writer I will continue to let people know how backward and unenlightened your view is so that we can continue to improve the plight of captive Whales and Dolphins. Intelligent and spiritually/self aware beings like humans, elephants, whales, dolphins & etc don't belong in a cage or pen.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

" Unenlightened"? OH brother, give me a break. That's one of the more 'arrogant' statements made in this comment section. I don't take claims of animal 'spirituality' seriously, it is religious in nature and that simply doesn't apply to me. Just be aware that if you post any more uninformative, smug retorts it might not show up here.

isabel 3 years ago

I just watched the documentary and it is nothing about the horrors of working with whales. It is about how keeping them in captivity is monstrous and cruel. And it's true. It is cruel and these whales deserve to be in the wild. They are social beings with a whole different part of the brain than us which deals with emotions. If a human was locked in a room with 3 other people, none of which spoke the same language, and was asked to preform, you too would call this cruel.

peter 3 years ago

Aren't you being that tad ignorant? You're criticizing a cinematic trailer with arguments biased by failing logical structure and with no scientific background, yet you speak as if discrediting the parts depicted in the trailer is enough to grant you rights to speak in favor of animal captivity. I'm not taking sides here (because I can see you easily trying to discredit this comment through preconceived ideas about what you call a kinda of "activism euphoria), but you didn't even watch the documentary you're criticizing and while using arguments that really aren't fitting for the film's objective. The doc depicts several security breaches (for both animals and trainers alike) undertaken by not only SeaWorld that you can't deny, and are part of the old usual 'operating costs' the capital system works on. I don't mean to insult you, but as an answer for your text I can only ask you to watch your usage of (biased) common sense with greater care, least you skip really well developed arguments that may, in turn, express logically what you're trying to prove.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Aren't you being a tad redundant? Sorry, but your comment is not original. I've stated tirelessly that I will update this when I see the movie. I did not judge the full movie. It even says in the TITLE that this is about the trailer, and I have reasons as to why I wanted to write this. The movie is not the first element to express these ideas and I'm really just discussing what I've always believed for a new audience that might be novice to this subject.

If the trailer is lying about the movie making the argument that animals are 'psychotic' because of altered behavior in captivity I guess I am wrong for attributing that to the actual film.

senatorbob 3 years ago

I'm really not sure what your problem is with the trailer. To title your article "The Stupidity of the Blackfish Trailer..." must surely be your attempt at getting people's attention - which is really no different than what the trailer is doing. Why you're hung up on the label of "psychological thriller" is equally as perplexing to me since that was the wording from a Vanity Fair reviewer. The label actually makes sense as a psychological thriller focuses on the psychology of it's characters - in this case the Orcas.

I think it's completely ridiculous to NOT believe that the captivity of orcas, especially those ripped from their natural setting in the wild, isn't mentally traumatizing and could certainly leave the animal with psychological damage. Did Tilikum kill due to "psychosis"? I have no idea, but it's certainly possible. It's also possible that sometimes it's just fun, to an orca, to "play" with a human body in a way that causes death to that human. Regardless, orca's are too large to accommodate in any human made facility. It is cruel to do so. It was cruel to take them from the ocean and it's cruel to breed them so that their offspring will spend a drastically reduced lifetime in captivity.

Personally, I'm thrilled that SeaWorld's stock is taking a nose dive since the release of Blackfish and hope it continues.

BTW - I believe Blackfish is scheduled to air on CNN October 24th.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Senatorbob, what positive outcome do you hope for with SeaWorld losing stock? Do you think it will just shut down and the whales will just be released and swim into the sunset? Hopefully you realize this is not reality. Thanks for the date.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Isabel, I just want to say that you lied to me. I just saw the movie, and my 'review of the trailer' is ACCURATE. So for those of you who have criticized this article as being ignorant and that I should see the movie, you were all being entirely disingenuous for exclaiming that this article is not valid.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

My arguments were 100% valid Peter. Disagreeing with them does not negate that.

Ingrid 3 years ago

CNN is playing Blackfish this Thursday if you wont to see

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I've seen it Ingrid and my response is already 3000+ words.

Rn2003 3 years ago

Melissa I met a former trainer from Sea World San Diego and he nearly lost his life! Look him up. I believe his name is Jonathan Smith.

Rn2003 3 years ago

scubaescape 3 years ago

Happened upon this page while searching Blackfish trailer. Anti-captivity touches on the issue of an individual animal's forced lifestyle change in exchange for the purported good of its wider species. Whether it is fair or not fair for the individual animal, and whether captive animals really serve the purpose of conservation is the debate. People who spend time outdoors and interact with wild animals regularly will mostly feel that it is unjust to imprison them- I surf 5 days out of 7, and see dolphins about twice a week. To say that catching them, putting them in a tank, and doing tricks for us can justify research to help ocean conservation is very difficult to accept. I have been to SeaWorld, and dolphins in captivity are not the same as those outside- and thus there is no way whatever research conducted is truly reflective of their species. Furthermore, to say that these facilities connect the masses to nature doesn't work- I live in San Diego, there is a Seaworld here, right on the ocean. The masses can easily take a dolphin or whale watching cruise to see the animals in their homes- why put them in a tank on the coast? Because San Diego is a big tourist hub, and that is where money can be made. This documentary may be biased, as are all movies, articles, news stories that has a human voice behind it- but the truth is, people go to SeaWorld to be entertained- very few leave with the renewed sense of wanting to contribute to ocean conservation. So, does Seaworld really serve any purpose other than entertainment?

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Scubaescape, SeaWorld is an entertainment park, that doesn't mean that some good can't come from it, but it's mostly for human enjoyment, like the existence of most captive animals (pets, zoos, ect.).

LouNYC 3 years ago

How in the world can you author a piece about a film you haven't seen? Seriously? I just viewed Blackfish. SHAME ON YOU.

123456 3 years ago

you are a dumb biatch...didn't expect much out of the monkey cage

Yoslin P 3 years ago

Melissa, you should be in captivity like the whales and then open your STUPID mouth

bbl 3 years ago

If you want to go to a free zoo drive through the ghetto...Plenty of monkeys, chimps, and apes on crack all over. Also we have many apes in captivity at the local jails all across the country.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi LouNYC, if you read even 1/20 of this article you would see that at the VERY beginning I state in bold letters that I have seen the movie and there is a link to my new review right there.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

And after the CNN premier, the trolls roll on in.

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Sondra Erb 3 years ago

you say "The other strange thing about these claims of any negative incident involving the whales being related to psychosis is the idea that such severe mental damage would only yield the animals attacking every couple of years, and almost never."

Almost never? really?? hello??

people have DIED.

lost their lives.

seize to live. because a large corporation wanted to market these animals and put human being at risk for MONEY. this needs to stop.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Sondra, what I said is true. The total number of trainers killed weren't all from the same animal, so it is true that they rarely attack, and some never have.

Sondra Erb profile image

Sondra Erb 3 years ago

and what i said is true. i see you changed your wording.

you know what these things are capable of. would you get in a tank with an Killer Whale? and trust it fully? would you risk your life riding on their fins? I sure wouldn't. and i think its quite dumb others do it.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

No, I wouldn't. But this is a bad example. I'm even afraid to drive.

Lloyd 3 years ago

Social engagement is the capacity within mammals, including primates killer whales and humans to attune and connect with each other for the purpose of ensuring safety within the group. In other words there is an inborn potential to care about each other in a shared common interest and to ensure the wellbeing of one’s offspring, partners or pack-mates. This dynamic is the essential definition of trust. The disconnected state of separate interest that has followed the development of human society since its inception is an aberration and deficit in the brain’s natural capacity to mediate such engaged group behaviour.

Neuroscientist Lori Marina is absolutely correct in her assertion that the Whales are being traumatized. Trauma occurs within all beings with an evolved nervous system. Flight, fight and freeze are the primary survival instincts of all animals and as such when there have been permanently immobilized there are subject to trauma. In the wild, if an animal is immobilized in a freeze state and survives it can discharge the effects by trembling, shaking and perspiring. An animal that is caged and in a constant state of containment will not only be traumatized but may well suffer from psychosis due to the constant state of thwart in their nervous system. Neuroscience does not lie because it is based on the known science of the brain. We share all aspects of both the reptilian and mammalian brain with our animal ancestors. 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.

Lloyd Tosoff, Author

Critical Condition, Rx for Organizational Health

Coming soon on ORB Press Books

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Lloyd, I'm sorry to say that your final sentence made your comment less credible in my eyes. Thanks for your thoughts anyway.

Rimo 3 years ago

Wow. Way to insult your readers. Stay classy Melissa. Oh and I completely disagree with your article but I simply don't have the time to list all the reasons why. Guess I'm a "troll."

Rimo 3 years ago

One more thing on your quote "After the CNN premiere, the trolls roll." Maybe that's because they now have seen the actual documentary and thus have the right amount of information to give a valid opinion on the documentary. Something you originally (before updating) thought was appropriate to do after a trailer! But since they disagree with you, let's call them all trolls.

I live in cleveland. I miss the park but I don't think that any living mammal should be in Captiviti neuralgia 3 years ago

I wish your he

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Rimo, did you miss this racist comment? "If you want to go to a free zoo drive through the ghetto...Plenty of monkeys, chimps, and apes on crack all over." or this one "you are a dumb biatch...didn't expect much out of the monkey cage". I have little problem with insulting these 'readers'. Your defense of them puts your credibility into question.

Sandra 3 years ago

I quit going to rodeos,circuses,zoos a long time ago.I instead prefer to see animals in their natural habitat on tv or visit them in their natural habitat to observe them from a far not some man made one.

Ashley 3 years ago

"Seaworld does good work regardless of one's opinions of their other practices." So, you're rationalizing SeaWorld's treatment of their animals by saying their "research" has helped other animals? The same "research" that "educates" people that they live longer than captivity at the age of 30 years, when everyone knows that's a lie? That's okay with you, that these animals who have long memories and brains more elaborately wired than our own are being used as circus attractions? This is no different than the treatment of elephants in the circus.

"At least they are no longer being taken from the wild anymore." Redundant, but the point is this: They are no longer being taken from the wild because they have enough bred in captivity that they don't need to. Otherwise they would be capturing them still today, if it wasn't illegal. Since it is, however, they would have gone out of business - which is probably for the best.

Compassion - you don't have it.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I don't think they are pushing that information anymore Ashley. 30 is average for males, 50 for females, which I'm sure was on their website before but I can't find it now for some reason. I don't think I mentioned any research that they've done; they provide rehabilitation services for less cared about animals I guess. The animals they currently house could theoretically also contribute to research if it's not already being done. I'm not justifying any of their alleged 'bad treatment' but just reviewing the facts. Now that we know the orca longevity rates are not improving with time we need to assess how to proceed with the situation. They also don't have enough for their breeding program so that was not the reason they stopped taking them from the wild.

ryan 3 years ago

so sad. if you WATCH blackfish you will realise that this ENTIRE article is completely biased. i HATE PETA but this is one of the few things i will agree with them on.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

If you READ my article (or even just the intro) you will see that I did.

paradisecircus 3 years ago

Phew! What a thread! I read a good portion of the comments but stopped about 3/4 of the way down. Melissa, I *think* I generally understand the point you're trying to make here (correct me if I'm wrong). I know that I personally get irritated when I'm trying to learn about something or watching a documentary and it's filled with exaggeration and speculation. I want to hear/read facts and fact-based information and then form my own viewpoints. Having something wrapped and packaged in a way as to intimidate or scare people into being receptive is irritating. I didn't see your post as necessarily arguing animal rights/welfare, captivity or anything like that. Moreover, it's about the spin the trailer puts on the film, some of the statements made and how off-putting the nature of the trailer was to you. I liken it to the way I'll groan and roll my eyes when someone touting some controversial/social/political/etc. issue decides to inject a healthy dose of guilt, sentimentality and/or moral superiority (that wasn't in reference to anyone here, posts, comments, et. al.). Just give me the facts and let me form my own opinions.

Another commenter made mention of "the big picture". A lot of finer points are being argued in the comments but I didn't feel that's what the point of this particular post was about. I'm not really here to comment on MY personal opinions on the subject of orca captivity or zoos. Or to debate over what is/isn't fact. Rather, I've formed my opinions based on the big picture. Because this post happens to directly deal with a hotly debated issue, I suppose some folks felt you were discounting the entire film and the issue of animal captivity altogether, which I don't feel was the case. And some of the comments made were not conducive to a constructive discussion. On the flip side, as someone who posts their opinions online, surely you understand that there will be some shit-slinging now and then. I'm not saying the name-calling is justified but some of your comments in response have been just as dismissive of their opinions as they've been about yours. If it were up to me, I would likely refrain from responding at all in the comments section. Your hubpage is your forum to say whatever you want. The comments section is for response by your readers. It's your page and you'll use it how you wish but maybe there would be less rudeness if you didn't discredit other people's arguments in an area where I think they should have the fairness of response without censorship. But as I said, this is your page and you'll run it how you want and that's your right.

Anyway, at the end of the day, I tell myself that nothing is completely objective (except a dictionary!) and that it's the TV/film/media's job to create entertainment and make money. It's up to me to educate myself, learn what is fact and what is distorted fact, and form my opinion then. I know documentaries are going to be biased in some way. That's why I no longer watch MIchael Moore. But I don't rely on films to educate me. In addition, I don't see these films as aiming to convince anyone of anything. I view them as a door to awareness and discussion. Some activists lose their message in their approach but that doesn't mean they don't have a valid message. And so what if some people choose to take everything at face value and suddenly become anti-SeaWorld? That's their decision. It doesn't matter what information it's based on. If someone feels differently from me, it's not my job to tell them their opinion or the manner in which they arrived to it is wrong and vice versa.

Indigonote 3 years ago

I find it absurd that you have taken such exception to the trailer and have not responded to the root issue of the abuse at Sea World and other such parks. It feels to me of setting up a straw man to knock him down, allowing the real ill to continue. To any objective or compassionate soul that really wants the truth, do your own research. Watching Blackfish is a good start and you can certainly take it from there if you are not convinced in one or another direction. Oh, I personally have not seen the trailer but have watched the documentary, which I found heart rending in it's report - from many reputable sources - of the truth of terrible abuse for profit.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Strawman it isn't. The main reason I addressed the trailer is due to some commonly accepted and erroneous ways of viewing animals and captivity. As far as 'abuse' in SW goes for the animals that currently live there, aside from the conflicts that captivity has on the animals and specific individuals, there is not what I consider to be abuse occurring. Please see my new article that reviews the actual movie.

kara 3 years ago

You are an absolute idiot and it's a shame that the Internet has become an open market for morons like you to think you have a platform to spew this kind of garbage. Disgusting.

Robert 3 years ago

Melissa, it's amazing the depths one has to strive for when you are on the morally wrong side of an argument. These animals have no place in captivity -- especially for human tricks and entertainment. Period. And the way SeaWorld has handled this has exposed them for the greedy, conniving liars that they are. Everyone wants to point out PROBLEMS with Blackfish. I'd like to hear the MERITS of SeaWorld's argument as to why they should be allowed to continue this barbaric circus. I'll spare you the drama..............MONEY.

Shane 3 years ago

I absolutely love what you're saying. I couldn't have put it better myself! Well done! Keep up the excellent work!

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Shane

Yourstruly 3 years ago

Your blog is the stupidest thing I've ever read. You need to watch what you say. It's way out of line.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

I'm fine with what I say.

Matt 3 years ago

Sea World are an evil money driven corporation focused on a whole in the market during the 80's and profits, they pollute people with propaganda and lies. They don't care about their trainers, or their animals. They only care about Image and what is deemed acceptable. Orcas and all other cetaceans are too sentient and emotionally intelligent for captivity period, as goes for a LOT of other animals, but that's another argument.

I'm no Hippie, and I agree breeding programs in a well executed, humane and controlled capacity are vital for preserving endangered species populations. The fact that a community of orcas' are endangered BECAUSE of Sea Worlds OVER hunting and capturing of orcas (the capturing of one orca would routinely result in a few orcas dieing in the process) during the 80's is icing on the cake.

Also slandering and bashing a documentary you haven't even seen is nigh on moronic, and purely highlights YOUR emotional bias towards the capture and keeping of orcas.

I agree the documentary was emotionally weighted, but it was weighted naturally by showing the viewer what conditions these animals are actually put through. Was it exaggerated? I don't even think so, I think the all encompassing reality of this trade with black markets and cheap run down sea pens is probably far far worse than was displayed.

Jackyll 3 years ago

I haven't got round to watching this documentary yet but I'm sure it's crap and biased ... sums up your abilities for critique no doubt. Not that I'd know for a fact because I can't be arsed to read it.

Russa 3 years ago

We are not on this planet to entertain wild animals, amd they are not here to entertain us. There is no excuse or reason for beautiful creatures to jump and splash in order to entertain kids and their stupid parents who unwittingly teach bad lessons. This isn't the deep conversation so many of you have made it. And based mainly on a damn trailer. Be a spirit, appreciate all spirits, and stop talking for the same of talking. Get over yourselves. I just spent a day at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand and it reinforced all of my beliefs in the beauty of our animal brothers and sisters. Shut your mouths and protect this precious planet and the beauty she has provided. Disgusted can't describe my feelings. I have never commented on anything publicly, but it's time to stop the debate. There is no debate. I'm saddened at the thought some want to debate.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hold on Russa, I had to stop reading at your first sentence. I don't believe that any animal has some sort of religious 'purpose'. We're here because we're here. Oh, so you went and had a glamorous vacation with elephants in captivity and that inspired you to speak out against people interacting with animals? What irony.

Russa 3 years ago

You are, to use the most tasteful term I can conjure, a moron. I spent time shoveling elephant shit and working on this not so glamorous trip. I did this work because, much like the whales, these elephants were taken against their will, used and abused by humans, and were rescued so they can live peacefully in sprawling acreage, as free as they can possibly be given their history as slaves. We were there to work and educate ourselves so that we can continue to help those who believe wild animals should stay in the wild. That is hardly ironic. Pull your head out of your ass and just go away.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Sorry, but to me playing around with animals is not 'work'. I guess that's why I write so passionately on the subject of trying to stop people from attempting to tear this opportunity away from others, restricting access only to a few 'elite' under the guise of rescue. I can tell exactly by your egocentric proselytizing in your last post.

Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 3 years ago from South East Asia

Very polite answer Melissa. It is a pity people have to lower themselves into the gutter when writing to you. It confirms further much of what I already knew.

shannon 3 years ago

I am striving to become a Marine Ecologist and study Orca Whales out in the wild. I have always disliked Sea World, the only thing I could possibly enjoy was seeing my favorite animal up close and in person. I hated that they had to be confined in a small tank and forced to preform tricks for our amusement. I only think captivity of animals should only be for those that are going near extinction. I have a hard time believing that Sea World actually takes time to actually study these animals, if anything they're too busy trying to train them their next trick for an upcoming show. It's bullshit. How would you like to be taken from your home, confined in a small box a bit bigger than you are to live in , and forced to amuse thousands of noisy people DAILY. You'd probably go ballistic as well. Now, I'm in no way a PETA fan or even an Animal Rights Activist or anything of the sort, I just think it's wrong to capture animals JUST for amusement.

Kyle 3 years ago

The documentary is partially about a people being trapped in with killer whales who won't let them leave the tank. #soundslikeathrilltome

chunder 3 years ago

“there’s no record of an orca doing any harm in the wild” - this is incorrect. The film says ''there's no harm of an orca doing any harm to any human in the wild.'' In no way are these attacks not a sign of aggression and emotional distress. Its morally wrong and i believe the film shows this in every way and has made the public so much more aware of the behind the scenes action of sea world.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi chunder, I don't understand you. Are you being sarcastic?

Nancy 3 years ago

Melissa A. Smith you really are sick in your head. I feel so sorry for you. I wish that you could trade places with all these animals that you have no problem with being held captive. If you think it's ok for your parents to be imprisoned in a small space. Then for you to be born there then taken from them at an early age and be forced to have your uncle's kids then you really are sick. I don't care if your human or animal only the devil himself ment for the world to be the way sick people like you have it now.

Misty 3 years ago

I really feel that you should of written a review of the film AFTER watching the film. It is common practise for trailers to be dramatically edited, it is just a ploy to get people to watch. I personally watched the film and it is very informative and is built mainly on facts rather than opinion. Many of us do not have indepth knowledge of orcas so I feel that you personally cannot really dispute the points of the film.

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Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Misty, it seems to me that since you don't have much information on the subject it made more sense for me to discuss the trailer. There are plenty of non-facts in the movie. Please see my updated review.

Ken 3 years ago

Melissa states, "And also it is about our right to live our lives we want."

Just because we believe humans are different it doesn't make it right that other intelligent life-forms doesn't know what they want. If I was a captive in an alien planet used for their entertainment, I would do everything I can (tricks and other BS) just to live another day, hoping someday I'll be free. If animals want captivity, they should do it on their own free will-y. get it? lol

Jonny Hotchkis. 3 years ago

Hi! I just came across your article, whilst trying to find a link to BlackFish...

I think you're an idiot. Who writes a review about a trailer about a documentary they haven't seen?

What's your point?

I think it's obvious that awareness of the inhumanity crimes commuted by 'animal carers' in 'entertainment professions' needs to be increased.

It's been obvious to me personally (for

some time) that sea-parks are not animal friendly, but not everyone thinks ... 'enough'

So I'm a naive, animal-loving human(e)

Being. I can't help thinking that if people innocent 'enough' (like, kids?) were aware of the COST of our ACTIONS, things would be different.

Knowledge is power.

Ps I'm sorry for my earlier outburst! I just find your article .. A little incredulous. You seem like a sane person (you highlight the seemingly apparent; that all animal-oriented industries are tainted with abuse) yet you criticise a film because... They dramatise scenes?

If I'm being unfair, and you still believe your article contributes valuable insights, I'd like to read more of your thoughts, on the pros and cons of the documentary, and the industry perhaps, and what you feel on these matters.


Alexis Andros1214 2 years ago

i think you added a lot of thought and detail. Thank you for another view. people who keep trashing the author… please look up more information on google scholar (which contains credited, published articles) before adding an uninformed opinion. I reserve my view due to the lack of respect on this site. Please remember most everything is influenced by money and politics, just like everything has always been. The author had very good points from a statistical point of view. Thank you for using your freedom of speech to open up a new area of discussion. Also people, in science, an animal rights activist conducting research would be what is known as a "conflict of interest" its embarrassing to think most of y'all don't recognize that. best of luck to your common sense and analyzing skills

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Alexis, glad you enjoyed it.

Georgia 2 years ago

I think your article is simple your opinion... you're not some expert as it relates to Killer Whales. You simply don't care about them. And clearly that's your right- nobody says you have to care (but morally I am of the opinion- you should). The bottomline is this... SeaWorld didn't rescue these Whales in some conservation effort- they went looking for them. They disrupted their natural way of life, tore apart their pod, and all for one thing $$$. And I find kidnapping calves from their mothers only to ship them around the Country, to the highest bidder, to make them perform (as if they have some choice in the matter) until they die is horrifically wrong. I hope each and every person that supports these programs suffers abuse exactly like what they're wrongfully inflicting on these Orcas. Wonder if the head cheese at SeaWorld would like to torn away from his family, kept in a change, jerked off occasionally for the sole purpose of procreating, and placed in solitary confinement. Who knows- the sick twist just might enjoy it.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sounds like you know everything about me Georgia, and you didn't even need to read my article to figure it out.

Alexis 2 years ago

Ok, they may have started bad, but that doesn't mean it hasn't evolved into something good! America was built on the suppression of native Americans. I'd say that is pretty bad. Now, though, as a country we are doing pretty darn well.

dnice 2 years ago

i think it's important to note that these animals were taken against their will. they were kidnapped and then imprisoned, and ultimately have no choice but to bend to the endless ridiculous whim of business. the commodification of animals in captivity is immoral any way you cut it. Gandhi said that society's moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. it doesn't get much worse than separating a calf from its mother.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Dnice, I think that's obvious. I don't find captivity immoral at all if animals are treated well.

WeArePETA 2 years ago

You seem to be pro-captivity? That is immoral and unethical. People like you make the world worse and worse by justifying these acts. These beautiful creatures are kept in tanks that are the equivalent to a bathtub when compared to the ocean but you're okay with that. These circumstances cause extreme stress and to make matters worse, they are forced to perform too. Whether or not you thought Blackfish was stupid, the point was to raise awareness that these are dangerous creatures while in captivity and that Dawn Brancheau's death was not an accident, not because of her ponytail, and not because of training error as Seaworld led the world to believe. There are no documented cases of these creatures attacking humans in the wild. No matter what you say captivity is wrong even if animals are treated well. Pets are not considered to live in captivity because they are not domesticated.

Ashley 2 years ago

Found this page by complete accident looking for something else on orcas... but I must say wow, I'm honestly not surprised to find a ridiculous article like this from someone that knows nothing about whales at all, but I am quiet amazed how you can manage to disregard all logic and still only see one side after all those comments... instead of writing you should take up reading maybe you might actually learn something

rutherford 2 years ago

I think that regardless of your critique or analysis is the fact that people go to these places for entertainment not thinking that these animals are use to being free and have been separated from their families. How is this right? I am not an animal activist and I don't care if orcas kill people in the wild because that is their place not in seaworld and because we are rational beings we should know better to stay away from wild animals because animals are animals and we do not completely understand them

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sorry philkon, I'm not clicking that. The address concerns me that it may be a virus (I really hope people aren't sinking that low).

kim 2 years ago

So, it's out of neflix now. Have you watched yet?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Kim, I watched it in October.

Dylan 2 years ago

You are obnoxious, your writing has a bad attitude, and your opinion is uneducated and lacks good critical analysis. Its very funny reading all the comments, mostly you defending your argument, I can tell your a miserable person. Have fun contributing to population of crappy people. If I had more time I would post a real rubuttal, maybe next time...

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Peter Dickinson 2 years ago from South East Asia

If anything Dylan....I reckon your comment shows you are not only uneducated but an obnoxious little troll.

Lisa M. 2 years ago

I watched the Blackfish documentary last night on Netflix and let me start off by saying that I've always been against the captivity of these animals and any other animals in SeaWorld and zoos in general. Unless humans are helping aide the animal back to good health, then who are we to keep them caged up. With that said, the documentary made me sad and angry. Sad because these massive creatures are in confide spaces when their natural habitat is the vast ocean. Angry because humans use them as entertainment and they shouldn't be. I've gone whale watching and seeing dolphins and whales out there in the open sea is something else. I don't want to say too much about the movie and all thoughts and feelings are exclusive to me so please don't bash me for feeling for the whales.

Dave 2 years ago

Cry me a river, Lisa. Why don't you be angry and sad on someone else's behalf? "Feeling for the whales"? Seriously?

Shari D 2 years ago

Yes, seriously. Why should Lisa not feel this way? As she said, her feelings are hers. BTW, it's called 'empathy.'

steve 2 years ago

if you're going to attack Blackfish for sending it's message via horror movie tactics, shouldn't you equally attack SeaWorld for marketing their parks as magical wonderlands? both sides are exaggerating the reality. it's really no different than you posting a controversial headline just to get someone read your mediocre at best article.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"...shouldn't you equally attack SeaWorld for marketing their parks as magical wonderlands?"

I have. I don't see the need to beat a dead horse however if that's how most people feel now.

Dave 2 years ago

Shari, are you suddenly privy to the private thoughts of the animal? I dislike abusing animals intentionally as does anyone else, and I doubt you could point to an instance where the trainers have done so. "Feeling for the whales" is possibly one of the most pathetic things I have heard, there's a difference between empathy and anthropomorphism. If you read Freeing Keiko you'd realize that releasing the killer whales back into the ocean would be folly. The activists released Keiko after 20 million dollars worth of investment to recondition him to the wild, and after his release he appeared a month later in Norway seeking out humans and playing with them. What the team had to do was persuade local politicians to enact laws barring the villagers from interacting with Keiko or else they'd be fined--even though he was the one initiating most of the encounters. In the end the experiment failed because before succumbing to pneumonia, Keiko kept looking up and down the coast for humans and was prevented from doing so by the very same humans trying to help him. Moral of the story? Don't force these ideas of 'freedom' and 'liberty' on animals that don't have the ability to grasp either. I can't tell you how many times I've rolled my eyes when people proclaim that it didn't matter if Keiko died, so long as he died 'free' and in the ocean.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Dave, I've just read a big part of the reason wild male orcas die earlier is often due to the death of their mother. Their mother plays some very important role in their lives. I think it would be silly to attempt to release males and expect them to live on their own without some form of a surrogate mother. Many activists reveal their ignorance and believe that as long as the animal is 'free' it is better off.

Dave 2 years ago

Hi there, Melissa. A male killer whale's mother might have some influence on their health, but that isn't to say they're required to spend their time in a tight-knit pod. The funny thing is both sides don't realize that killer whales can live alone or migrate around pods, as the transients do quite often. The pro-caps will sometimes say because the killer whales are residents that they can't survive in the wild, but the majority of the time it's the animal rights activists that are saying Seaworld should release the whales because they can't live outside of their pod, which is patently false.

I love your blog and I find that we share many of the same ideas. I believe that Seaworld should focus more on education than entertainment and decrease the amount of performances killer whales do; they should increase the size of their pools and pursue more enrichment strategies; and they should probably spend a little more money on wildlife rehabilitation (not to say it's not a lot, but as a percentage of their profits it's not even a minor burden). Unfortunately, these animal rights activists can't see the larger picture and are absolutely fanatical about releasing the whales into the wild. I'm sorry you have to deal with all these idiots assailing you on your blog, some of their comments make compelling evidence as to why they should be denied rights. I'm glad you're active though, seeing so many people jump onto the bandwagon without considering both sides is disheartening. Anyway, happy New Year!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks, I never hear of killer whales living alone. I wonder what the conditions are that this happens.

Phoenix Borealis 2 years ago

SeaWorld is AZA accredited. I'm just going to leave that there.

ImOpenMinded 2 years ago

I have review the movie and the video clips speak for themselves. Tillikum was a damaged and disturbed animal. I am not saying all Orca's are dangerous or human killers, but these animals need to cared for better than the owners of the Sea World Parks have to this point...

Morrison 2 years ago

I agree with the above. Also, you neglect to mention that Orcas are actually extremely intelligent creatures that think a lot like humans. They CAN get frustrated or agitated. You seem to think that killer whales are dumb animals who have no emotions or brain matter, which is completely false, of course.

Destiny Moore 2 years ago

At the end of the day Orcas are wild animals if any one wants to help them the best way is to treat them and release them not put them in a pin and teach them a couple of trick so you can make money To me this is just another form of slavery

Joann 2 years ago

I just HAD to take a second and say, that despite the fact you didn't watch the movie before writing this, you hit the nail on the head- because this "stupid trailer" is a perfect portrayal of what this movie is about. Also, revealing that you know who Lori Marino is proves that you have, in fact, done your research. And I also need to take a second to stand up and scream "hallelujah" because your section about Wild Orcas v. Captive Orcas in their relations to human attacks... common sense... etc... couldn't have said it better myself.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Joann.

Huy 2 years ago

The bottom-line is we have a huge corporate entity making money off of captured animals and training them to do things for entertainment.

I don't care for how you spin that or against it. That's an objective statement that is not complex not complicated to describe.

Frankly I think that is wrong.

BeNT888 2 years ago

Agree with Huy. Above, and I did well-peruse all the comments and the article.

I think firstly that reviewing a trailer was kind of pointless and foolish for some of the gripes- given its (being the blog) propaganda value- which is exactly what the trailer was for (propaganda).

We all know (anyone with a degree of intelligence) that the trailer was designed to make people watch, raise awareness possibly, and raise money for the film(s). Seaworld and Zoos agenda is the same.

Again, agree with the previous comment- Take the money out period (that's a big topic- but could be done). No Corporate- Science Only, and no money to be made corporately ever. I have an issue with the "shows" be it elephants or dolphins or orcas (And I am just a regular guy/dad).

If they need to be kept in captivity for various reasons (scientifically) so be it.

People (the public) doesn't need/get to benefit from that as entertainment.

Just my 2cents.

David 2 years ago

Hello Melissa and all who have posted. As a former dolphin trainer... and someone who spent years and years, more than any ex trainer from "Blackfish" training and working with dolphins... I thought I would comment here... most of those who claim these animals are miserable and "un-happy" quite frankly are speaking out of ignorance. Most animals at modern Aquarium were born at aquariums... animals are just not collected anymore. Morgan is deaf... which is probably why Morgan was orphaned. Morgan would probably be dead right now if back in the ocean. These animals... out of my own personal experience. .. are well adjusted and content. I don't blame most people for their efforts on behalf of the animals... it shows how much they care. We need more of this in the world. The makers of "Blackfish" have created a masterful bit of propaganda... I think its disrespectful of Dawn and her family... and in poor taste. I can accept the wave of borderline hatred that this post will generate... and thats fine... I only ask in your replies to me that you furnish some credible proof that these animals are "unhappy" and miserable. For the rest of you please don't make your opinions based on the Blackfish misleading content... it is full of lies and deception to make you the viewer support a radical cause. If you want to be radical... do it based on the full assessment of the facts... not only one viewpoint.

Heather 2 years ago

I agree with you and this guy ^. I wish people commenting on this would feel so passionately about child abuse, sex trafficking, and other problems we have day to day in the United States. At least we are learning from the zoos and aquariums.

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WD Curry lll 2 years ago from Brevard County, Florida

I live on the Indian River Lagoon. This is what Sea World does there.

Brianna 2 years ago

This is a very ignorant article. Anyone and anything kept in a captive unnatural place is a prisoner and will feel as such. It's amazing these people who write these call themselves animal lovers

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WD Curry lll 2 years ago from Brevard County, Florida

Well, then, Brianna, you shouldn't keep cats or dogs in captivity, either.

pleaseno 2 years ago

Sounds like another pseudo-intellectual rubbed the wrong way by PETA. Look, I agree animal rights activists are a little crazy, particularly those in PETA, but your "logical" argument has a tendency to criticize facts without providing any of your own.

The concept comes down to imprisonment and cognitive awareness. Despite how unethical McDonald's chicken farm CAFO hellholes may appear (and are, IMO), these animals don't share the advanced cognitive awareness similar to that in humans. This is still grossly unethical, but still it goes to show the needs of an animal are determined by its social complexity and cognitive awareness. Keeping a cow in a field with a few dozen other cows will keep it's simple life happy and carefree until the day of its slaughter. However keep them in a CAFO for their entire lives and you can bet even for such a simple-minded creature, it'll be a miserable life. Then you get to the enormously intelligent and aware cetaceans. Essentially human beings in the water. As someone who has spent 2 days (wrongfully) in jail, I can tell you captivity is insanity-inducing, and SeaWorld's conditions make our jailing system look like a five-star resort. Instead of calling bullshit on the crazy PETA fanatics, why aren't you even looking at the myriad of bullshit facts SeaWorld clearly did regurgitate to its trainers and the public? Because having a controversial opinion gets you hits, maybe...

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Looks like another short-sighted person convinced by the invalid myth that dolphins are "human beings in the water". A species that doesn't even have a real language cannot be considered as such (and before you ram the key board to try and refute me on that, research what a 'language' actually is); such foolish beliefs are often inspired by the same nimrods that believe dolphins are 'superior' or 'more emotional' than humans, despite scientific training that should leave them with better sense. What if I told you chickens aren't that different from dolphins? If a dolphin doesn't need to have a hugely complex language to be a 'human', I don't see why a chicken would have to measure up with a few discrepancies in their so-called lack of awareness. The orcas are largely treated better than the chickens in factory farms, with their missing feathers and visible horrendous health despite ease of their domesticated care. Dolphins are highly susceptible to stress, and if we treated them to the equivalent of a factory farm existence we would surely never see any live longer than 3 months in captivity. I don't know what kind of prison you were kept in, but if you think they exceeded SeaWorld's conditions, it is troubling to hear how well we are treating potential criminals.

Sarah 2 years ago

Actually, it has been scientifically proven that the look you see on animals faces, what you think you see in their eyes, is acurate:

So that makes it a fact that Seaworld's action of separating these animal families is disgusting and should be stopped.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"Actually, it has been scientifically proven that the look you see on animals faces, what you think you see in their eyes, is acurate"

Your links don't support any of that.

alex 2 years ago

I saw the excerpt from the black fish where orca pull down the trainer into the depth of the pool. I thought it was very interesting that the orca pulled him down but did not release him and brought him back up before he ran out of breath. I wonder if they trained like for this where they took dives together and orca was just doing what it was trained to do. The other possibility is more strange and highly unlikely but orca was just on stage fully out in the air not in his environment of choice, so orca taking somebody for a swim in his environment is an interesting idea. The trainer did not look very comfortable in their environment maybe orca is not comfortable in ours.

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Mike Hughey 2 years ago

I find it sad that people rationalize the concept of keeping or using animals for their own selfish gratification. I also think it is sad that all people who care about animals are considered "crazies" by some people. I only hope that humans compassion will evolve to include all creatures that we share this planet with. I have a lot to learn and hope we all keep learning.

Mark 2 years ago

I have viewed / read a tremendous amount of rebuttal to the movie Blackfish, but have yet to see a note mentioning the lack of education in the title itself. Cetaceans are mammals not fish. Would the title "Black Mammal" or in this specific case, "Black Male" have hit a little too close to our shared experiences? Slaveholders provided food and shelter for those poor black people who would have had to struggle and compete for existence in the native land. They allowed some to breed, if they could provide healthy worker genes. Those slaves probably had a higher mortality rate than if they were raised in the "wild." In the wild there would be all those nasty diseases, wars, accidents, etc. Slaveholders protected their investments. And, those born a slave didn't know any other life, so would not realize what they were missing. Really ?!?! You don't see the connection between the enslavement of humans and that of OTHER animal's ? Oh, that's right, black Africans were not considered humans either by some. . . And the same could be said of many native people around the world. Course, we civilized, intelligent humans provided them with the things they really needed to survive.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Mark the title is a reference to a word some Native Americans used to describe the orcas.

Dave 2 years ago

Mark, minorities have been dealing with your pathetic analogies ever since you smart alecks figured out you could make potshots at people by comparing the treatment of animals to that of their ancestors or other human beings. Factory farming is equivalent to the Holocaust, animal testing is like the concentration camps, etc. If you automatically assume that humans, or Africans in your case, are the same as a pig, chimp, and/or dolphin, then there's nothing I could say that would probably change your way of thinking.

Sarah 2 years ago


I found your article quite humorous. A 'psychotic thriller'. Pardon me while I snicker. Great research done, and I'm sorry for your having to defend yourself against less educated people.

I have sent he film and it is rife with unfair biases. I repeatedly thought of the documentary 'Loose Change' and it's ideas about 9/11. It was good for Sea World to to refrain from commenting as people's ideas and words with opposing opinions are skewed to ensure the director gets the reactions from the public he/she wants.

I don't blame Sea World; we live in a capitalist society, this is how companies make money. I do not agree with how they bred new whales, but new ways should be researched to prevent these situations from happening again. I do agree that it is in their rights to buy and sell orcas as they see fit, with no moral obligations. If they wish to have happier orcas, they could change. If they are content, they are under no moral or legal obligation to do so as their orcas are legally healthy. I do not agree with how they tried to cover up the deaths of the trainers. Information means power, and Sea World clearly showed this by how the 'brainwashed' their trainers.

I am not purely on either side. I believe that if an animal can be captured and remain healthy in a humanized environment, then there is nothing wrong with doing so. If, in any way, the humans cannot meet the animals basic needs or the humans are performing actual, physical (psychological harm cannot be consistently measured in animals) harm to the animal, it should not be allowed.

So, I agree completely with you Melissa, and can't see why people need to remain so blinded by such obvious biases.

Kerri 2 years ago

I think although well written with some fair points, your article in the long run does more harm than good. Anyone with any sense of morality and compassion can clearly understand that any animals taken out of its natural habit for human enjoyment is wrong on every level imaginable. You don't have to agree with all the points of the film to agree with its basic message. By pulling the film part and making people doubt that, you do in the long run create more harm than good. Of course every one is entitled to an opinion but at what cost? For me it is a simple question are you for or against animals in captivity, if against then why create articles that muddle the waters, confuse people and lessen the chances for future generations of Orcas and all captive animals?

Jim 2 years ago

This is so sad to have animals in captivity.

Kim 2 years ago

Funnily enough, other people can track IP addresses, too. Many of your supporting comments were written by you, using other names.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hello Kim, looks like you need a new IP tracker. I couldn't give a flying yahoo if people do not write supporting comments for me.

Bella Neff 2 years ago

I just watched this movie and will never go to Sea World again. I was ignorant and completely fell for the lies I was fed when they told us the Orcas lived longer in captivity, were happier and were being cared for better than if they were in the wild. It is not just this movie but over the course of the years I have listened to marine biologists I know and respect fill me in how keeping them in captivity is cruel. Not only is Sea World doing marine life a disservice but obviously have no respect for human life if they aren't informing their new trainers of past incidents at the parks. Personally, getting in a pool with a Killer Whale seems a bit dense for the sake of science or entertainment. Other workplaces are required to have safety training and equipment like a hard hat just so,you don't bump your head. ...seems Sea World is a bit risky. But that's entertainment I guess.

I was really shocked you would write such an in depth review of a trailer as opposed to just watching the dang movie and then making your pro captivity speech. I feel really sad for you because I don't see how anyone can see this movie and nor feel some empathy for the plight of these Orcas.

Kate 2 years ago

how unbelievably sad that you feel you are in any position to be critical of blackfish or those that produced or starred in it. you only highlighted how 'inland' you must live. I come from New Zealand where we spend enormous amounts of time in the ocean where sharks, dolphins and orcas also reside. to suggest that it's silly to state that there are no known fatalities in the wild baffles me.... a local was savaged by a great white at a popular beach here less than a year ago and orcas regularly swim within two meters of our shores. what part are you therefore finding silly? my Dad used to say the following to me all the time as a kid and perhaps you could consider it also: "no person has the right to criticise someone who is taking action if all you are doing is sitting on the couch with no intention of doing anything".

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Kate I live a 15 minutes drive away from the coast, so there goes your little theory. Killer whales are not common to view for, I'm guessing, a large majority of the coastal United States and that's why people take special trips to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska to see them. Sharks are far more prevalent in the coastal oceans and even attacks from them are rare.

Ryan Thornton 2 years ago

The fact that they rip the babies away from mothers who exhibit undocumented scientific behaviour at the loss of a child. And the sheer intelligence we know whales possess. Is more then enough with out the constant lies and denials of there captors. Looking at the facts this is obviously wrong please imagine your kids being ripped from you and being stuck in jail for committing no crime besides being a marvelous creature.

Unknown 2 years ago

Don't let the trolls get to you Melissa. I'm a big fan of your posts

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks, that's not a problem.

Kristie 2 years ago

Melissa A Smith 8 months ago from New York Hub Author

"I think you'll enjoy the movie as it will just reaffirm what you're saying here. I will eventually watch it so I beg people to keep these comments relatively short. For male orcas 40 is a decent age."

Actually they have equivalent to human life spans, but if you actually did research before writing this article, you would know that. They only live to about thirty-fourty years in captivity, because its detrimental to their health.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

@ Kristie: "males typically live for about 30 years, but can live as long as 50-60 years;

females typically live about 50 years,but can live as long as 80-90 years"


So basically the NOAA seems to think that male orcas sometimes live to what we consider to be middle aged. Sounds like you're the one who needs to do research.

Anon 2 years ago

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 she "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.

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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.

jesse 2 years ago


thanks for cherry picking. We all know how humans can be so over dramatic, in both ways, but comparing this film, and it's intentions, when the director is hardly a name, and has made as of last month, nothing on this; to sea world, that just has me questioning your intelligence.

Yes, they dramatized it. No a killer whale didn't eat a trainer (just her arm) doesn't mean this shit isn't fucked up. Most of us use our big evolved brain to work this out. I suggest you try.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Jesse, what is it that you are trying to say? Dawn's arm was not eaten.

Ana G. 2 years ago

How about you actually watch the movie before you rip it to shreds? Grow up, not all animals are meant to be pets. These animals are meant to be free. If you really cared about animals you would realize that instead of acting like a selfish child.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Ana I DID watch the movie eons ago and I still agree with what I wrote here.

Unknown 2 years ago

Hey Melissa, I found this while surfing the web

To me it looked like they took what you said, and they warped it into something else entirely .

Tammie 2 years ago

Do you own exotic pets and teach others how to keep them in captivity safely?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author


bigperson 2 years ago

Hi melissa,

A student at another school in my district is an avid animal rights activist and is petitioning our prom (which we have planned the whole year) because it is at seaworld. Can you take a look at his article/ petition because i dont know how to feel about seaworld after this.

Thank you.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I don't know what else to say bigperson, other than how sorry I am that animal rights are erupting in your classroom and taking precedent over the school's activities (if this student succeeds). What's next? Not allowing the prom or school functions at facilities that serve meat or have hired an exterminator? The factory farm industry is undoubtedly cruel, so who gets to define and control which 'cruelties' the school is going to force its students to acknowledge? SeaWorld does not intentionally harm any animals. All zoos have their successes and failures and obviously capital has to come into play when dealing with the husbandry of hugely expensive animals.

Jmvallejo 2 years ago

I've read almost all these comments.. You've managed to reply to most.. Why support the fact that these majestic animals be trapped in a pool.? Morally there is something wrong with you.. Right? I mean just speaking about Orcas. You say they are treated well in captivity, are you kidding me. What choice do they have but interact and obey their trainers. the hunting of orcas has seen them decline in the wild as we all know and it's sickening we humans think we can do what we want to snatch a baby from its mother and leave them traumatized for some time.

Anyway I know it's about $ I read it's a 2billion a year industry.. A year! It is going to take time but SW has been on the decline, I'm sure because of Blackfish, people who watch it probably will never spend another dollar supporting SW. I don't know what bubble you're living in but these recent numbers don't lie. I've seen them in the wild, it's breathtaking and hell of a lot cheaper people. It's like you're battling yourself to see what nonsense you can reply to others .. I actually feel sorta bad attacking you because I don't do that, but you disgust me as a human being who has no respect for the lives of these incredible creatures.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"I've read almost all these comments.. You've managed to reply to most.."

I've deleted quite a few. Given your final sentence yours should have been as well.

C.O. 2 years ago

Have you lost your mind? NEVER is CAPTIVITY a humane choice to make. If an animal is being rehabilitated, it should be so and then returned to the wild AS FAST AS POSSIBLE (like most animal rescue organizations already know). SeaWorld's response to the movie was a link to their page that lists what "good" they are doing -- I therefore sent this reply to each point:

"We do not capture killer whales in the wild." -- YOU DID CAPTURE THE PATRIARCHAL structure from the wild - AND YOU SHOULD RELEASE THEM BACK INTO THE WILD WHERE THEY ALL BELONG.

In what way, other than monetary benefit, are you rightfully REPRODUCING these creatures in captivity? THERE IS NO SANE REASON TO DO SO. YOU ARE SELLING A SICK AND CRUEL CIRCUS ACT.


"We do not separate killer whale moms and calves." -- Takara lives at SeaWorld San Antonio, and her calf Kohana lives in SPAIN. Since pods in the wild stay together for their entire life span, how can you LIE and say you do not separate them? THERE SHOULD BE ZERO CALVES IN CAPTIVITY PERIOD. ARTIFICIALLY INSEMINATING IN CAPTIVITY IS A DISGUSTING INHUMANE PRACTICE FOR HUMAN ENTERTAINMENT BENEFIT AND KEEPING THE PARK PERPETUALLY OPEN.

"SeaWorld’s killer whales’ life spans are equivalent with those in the wild." -- ACCORDING TO NOAA, IN THE WILD ORCAS LIVE TO BE 50-80 years old. AND THEIR LIFE SPAN INSIDE OF CAPTIVITY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE LACK OF QUALITY OF LIFE - THEY ARE NOT MEANT TO BE CAGED AND TAUGHT TRICKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"We invest millions in the care of our whales." -- Considering your public offering value is 2.5 Billion (according to the NY Times), you are making a KILLING literally on profits from these cruel forced circus acts.

"SeaWorld is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums." -- Who cares what associations you are a member of? WHAT MATTERS IS DOING WHAT IS RIGHT.

You are a cruel, ignorant person Melissa if you do not understand.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

The only thing I don't understand is why you are making a fool of yourself in the comment section with all your CAPS and responses to assertions that I didn't even make.

Jmvallejo 2 years ago

If that's what makes you feel better.

Well said C.O., honestly though the caps bother you? They're there so you can soak it in. But you won't I'm sorry Melissa but you are the fool. Period.

C.O. 2 years ago

Read much Melissa? I specifically say this in front of my list:

"SeaWorld's response to the movie was a link to their page that lists what "good" they are doing -- I therefore sent this reply to each point:"

It was my reply to SeaWorld Investors - not to you fool. If you read properly you would have known that and therefore not have anything stupidly snarky to say in reply.

THE POINT (like the All Caps I used there?) ... is for you to see how ill-informed your views are in hopes of you can see the error of your ways. SeaWorld can't even explain away their actions (or lack thereof), so how and why would you?

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

C.O. I didn't read your response properly, I fully admit to that. I should have just deleted it and not responded, but I was bored.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Jmvallejo, before I delete your post; I bunch of asinine CAPS and exclamation points do not help anyone soak anything in, they just make the person who produced them look like a fool. I could have overlooked them if they contained any ORIGINAL thoughts that haven't been repeated tirelessly above, but they obviously didn't and contained responses to SeaWorld in them that I never advocated. So I will probably just remove all of your comments. Thank you.

Shanna 2 years ago

I am writing to you firstly because I don't understand how you can 'review' documentary/film from watching a trailer. Watch the whole thing, also watch other documentaries and read books about animal minds. Secondly am sure you are aware that making animals perform in arenas such as a circus is cruel, the animals are bored and often mistreated. Seaworld is no exception. I am really am gobsmacked by what you have written. I could rant and get angry but can see there really is little point. Personally I found this a deeply disturbing documentary on so many levels. I don't want to argue but I don't think you or anyone can claim to know what an animals thinks or feels - just because they do not speak our language does not mean they do not have their own language. Science has proven this with whales, elephants, pigs, monkeys etc etc....please don't think that humans are so damn superior. I guess all I can say is we all have a right to speak out, including you, but yet again you like so many other people make me ashamed to be human.

Shanna 2 years ago

and before you get back to me firstly, I want to apologise if my grammar/english is not to your standard. English is not my first language. Secondly, I did not read the reams of comments after your original article. I refer only to what you wrote at the start.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Shanna- Your English and grammar are much better than your knowledge. If you think SeaWorld's animals are bored now, you can only be sure that they will suffer even more without their performances. It's the only thing they have right now that gives them motivation to exercise. Animals communicate but they DO NOT have a language. You probably don't know anything about the studies you're citing and just assume they are shouting that animals have a language, but it isn't so. If you want to be ashamed about something, how about your lack of understanding?

Shanna 2 years ago

You are very rude, personally I don't think you know as much as you believe you do and you know nothing about me or my knowledge. You do not listen to others views and you cannot say animals etc DO NOT have language you DO NOT know that. I am not going to even comment any further with you and I should not have bothered in the first place as you clearly are a very blinkered, righteous person who orders other people to think like you do. Freedom of speech is a good thing and you should be open to others, not so damn obnoxious. Oh and I am a marine biologist and animal behaviourist and I used to also work for the MOD and various other jobs over my long years of don't judge me or comment on my knowledge when you don't know me. My only apology is for commenting on this ridiculous carry on. I normally always stop myself from getting angry about ignorance and never comment on these knid of things as it solves nothing just makes everyone angry and argue. So goodbye

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Shanna, there is a difference between 'not listening' and not AGREEING. If you found this documentary so disturbing it seems as though your employment failed to teach you some basic facts about marine mammal captivity. Why would I trust a person with that kind of ignorance over whether or not an animal has language?

Shanna 2 years ago

As I said earlier there is no point is us communicating. I do not have to tell you my reasons for finding the documentary disturbing, as to me it is obvious, nor to I feel the need to write long comments to you to which whatever I write you will disagree with. Language is a subject in which you will find many people are divided upon not just me and you. Anyway, I wish you all the best

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

There is a group of people who believe non-humans have language and they are known as 'wishful thinkers' and generally campaign for animal rights. Unfortunately this group might include some scientists, but hey, I'm sure you can also find scientists that believe in creationism.

C.O. 2 years ago

Melissa - I think now you are just enjoying the fight and not even processing information. My answers to SeaWorld's responses were through my own investigative work and further reading and researching. Whether you call it "language" or not - the animals communicate with one another, good and bad. This is proven again and again through field research and study. Besides that, animals are innately wild animals - therefore belong in the wild. How can you possibly refute that? If an animal has been rescued, it's time spent in a cage or tank should be limited to that of rehabilitation and then released back to the wild. Period. These animals are not pets. These animals are not "enjoying" their stunts and food-based routines. An example of that is how they are trained to do the stunts they do. They are offered food as a reward for doing a particular action. If they did not receive those rewards those stunts would never have been learned in the first place. Meaning, we treat them like dogs when they most certainly are not. They are doing what they must to survive in their environment - exactly what wild animals have been doing for millions of years before our existence.

"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." --Immanuel Kant

I can see clearly (with you) what Immanual Kant meant with this quote.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

You call looking at Facebook photos 'investigative research'?

None of your unoriginal conclusions are indicative of advanced research, it was just a bunch of ranting.

"Besides that, animals are innately wild animals - therefore belong in the wild. How can you possibly refute that?"

tiffany mondak 2 years ago

Hate all who wears any animal wear. You can be cozy in fake fur or Orca. All animals should be left to their own devices except when man is hunting. The only thing that shoud be in captivity are animals that need to be saved.

some guy 2 years ago

Well I wonder how useful studying a whale in captivity really is, i've read from some marine biologists who aren't so sure it's very useful compared to observations of whales in nature.

Killer whales naturally spend their entire lives within their pod with their family within the habitat of the entire ocean traveling hundreds of miles a day, putting a group of killer whales together from different pods in confinement and inbreeding them would probably not yield very much useful research, since that's nothing like the actual life of a whale.

Seaworld has done a disservice to the public and to science by lying about the lifespan of whales and lying about fin collapse.

In the end Seaworld is a company started to make money for a beer company, not a marine biology institution. They basically run a circus with whales instead of lions, and "trainers" making the whales do tricks instead of a guy with his head in a lions mouth.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

some guy-- That's like saying studying humans that live in the modern world, vs. their natural state is useless. Even studying humans in confinement (prisons) would be useful to anyone wanting to learn about humans. Don't you think?

Neali Clark 2 years ago

The movie trailer did exactly what it was meant to do.. Grab attention.. The title of this review was probably thought up with the same intentions.. so who is to criticize? If I was just to read the title I could presume things about the writer that wasn't actually true and it would have been similar to basing a documentary off of the trailer. After getting that out of the way I have to say that I do agree that the trailer accurately depicts what the film is trying to convey AND the documentary does play on emotions, distorts the truth, and causes people without facts to join their cause blindly. I believe (after reading comments) that the writer of this review is a logical person who cares about animals and has taken time to consider the pro's and con's of taking animals out of their natural habitat. Most people are arguing about inhumane conditions and I couldn't find any comments where improper treatment was condoned. In my opinion, the people that come here to rant or verbally abuse this person for stating what she believes is just as barbaric as the ones who rip calves away from their mothers and have them living in cells for the majority of their life. Stop being so emotionally driven and take the time to actually listen..

Darcey 2 years ago

Well written Neali Clark.

Catherine 2 years ago

My native language is not English but goshh I can identify so many mistakes in your writing. Anyways, I hope that your message is just a product of your ignorance in regards to this topic.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Goshh thanks for your useless, idiotic comment Catherine.

Taylor :) 2 years ago

Interesting how the term CAPTIVITY is used so often when discussing topics on animals kept in places considered to be tourist attractions. It is also interesting that the term FREDOM happens to be an ANTONYM for both of the words Slavery and Captivity. When I think about animals being used to make a profit... I can not help but realize that these animals are slaves kept in captivity. I do believe that one day the human race will realize their moral obligations and duties and choose to make zoos, marine worlds, seaworlds, circuses and all other uses of animals for entertainment unlawful! Animals are definitely a resource that humans use for food, medicine, labor, materials but for gods sake at least stop at that! Once upon a time humans believed slavery of different races was a lawful act and that its profit was worth more than any humans life. After wars, realizations on how slaves truly lived and felt, and advocates fought towards ending slavery, it was eventually deemed immoral and unlawful in many different countries. So I'm sure that one day in the future, the human race will look back on the acts of keeping animals that do not live among us in our everyday surroundings and life captive, as a barbaric action in history.




noun: captivity; plural noun: captivities

the condition of being imprisoned or confined.

"he was released after 865 days in captivity"

synonyms: imprisonment, confinement, internment, incarceration, detention, custody

"these creatures will languish in captivity"

antonyms: Freedom


late Middle English: from Latin captivitas, from captivus ‘taken captive’




the state of being a slave.

synonyms: bondage, enslavement, servitude, thralldom, thrall, serfdom, vassalage

"thousands were sold into slavery"

antonyms: freedom

the practice or system of owning slaves.

synonyms: bondage, enslavement, servitude, thralldom, thrall, serfdom, vassalage

a condition compared to that of a slave in respect of exhausting labor or restricted freedom.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"Once upon a time humans believed slavery of different races was a lawful act..."

Interesting. So you approve of killing animals for food but letting them live with us and maybe doing a few tricks here and then is too horrendous. You see, if you're going to compare human slavery to animal slavery, you might want to dwell upon the fact that we eat animals. Why is it so immoral for us to keep them as 'slaves' but they are OK to 'cannibalize'? I take it you are also against the horse and dog slave trade.

Taylor 2 years ago

Animals eat animals. It's the circle of life. Captivity is not apart of the circle of life.

Kelly 2 years ago

To the "author" of this filth....Lady, have you ever looked a LIVE marine mammal in the eye and it look back at you? I have done that very thing and it is a life changing experience! It actually felt like looking into a humans eyes that could not speak back to me. This dolphin's name was Harley and his prison was at the Oklahoma City Zoo. I am happy to say that I helped shut that mess down! The death rate was horrendous and they (the zoo big wigs) finally gave in and called quits to captive dolphin shows! HOOORAY!!! Now every time I see someone with a dolphin shirt, necklace, tattoo or see a dolphin on TV, I SMILE AND KNOW IN MY HEART THAT I DID THE RIGHT THING!

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sounds like you've made a great case for the lasting impact zoos have on people Kelly, whacky as it might be.

Frida Nyberg profile image

Frida Nyberg 2 years ago from Sweden

Awesome stuff. I used to be all "Blackfished" from October-February, and while I loved your other articles I avoided the Blackfish ones like the plague until I had (reluctantly) opened up to contrary opinions and evidence, elsewhere on the internet.

I know am a "captive orca facts-nerd", and I can say that Lolita is probably 48 years old, though she may be as old as 50.

She was captured in 1970, and was 4-6 years old then.

Corky 2 was captured in 1969 at the age of 3, apparently, so she should be 48.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Frida, the Blackfish argument is more complicated than it seems. I can't believe they captured 80 ocras.

Frida Nyberg profile image

Frida Nyberg 2 years ago from Sweden

Yes, and it was after that it became illegal to capture orcas there, and they started doing it in Iceland instead. In the mid-late 80s, all Icelandic orcas went to either Japan or Europe, as America already had enough, and SeaWorld had started a succesful breeding program. (The last orca they bought "freshly caught" was Kasatka, in 1978.)

The captures then ended in the 80s, with a few captured in Japan (where they slaughter dolphins and porpoises still, over 99% for meat) after that, and the last couple of years now, they have been capturing in Russia, for Russian and Asian parks. (Very little is known about what's going on there.)

About the 80 orcas, they do write "Many orcas died, the others were released and 7 of them were sold to Marine Parks." As far as I know, less than 10 died, but it was when their dead bodies washed up on beaches that a public outcry came, and it was made illegal. So they didn't take 80 orcas at once and put them in marine parks, they rounded up 80 orcas ans most of them were released.

Payton 2 years ago

People like you should'nt have a voice, pro captivity is a disgusting thing. Well done for voicing yourself though, you have clearly made your 'point'.

Rivenfire 2 years ago

I think it's extremely easy to point out and judge the flaws regarding anything in the world. Melissa has her own unique way of expressing her feelings through her writing. And I disagree with a good majority of what she states, but I don't think that she's wrong, bad, drool, trash, etc. I also believe that it's a powerful action to post your opinions right or wrong to the world and stand by them no matter what. There may not be a person on Earth who doesn't possess an opinion. In my eternal optimism I wish they were respected, embraced, learned from, and not taken for granted.

Frida Nyberg profile image

Frida Nyberg 2 years ago from Sweden

"People like you shouldn't have a voice"

There's some democracy and freedom of speech for you right there!

People who have facts and real arguments should be allowed to speak as much as they want. Now I think every opinion should be allowed, but decisions and laws should be made on facts, not feelings or emotions. ("I just don't think they should be there" is not an argument.)

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 20 months ago from New York Author

Timothy-- 10 minutes of my life I'll never get back, going through that pointless post of your trying to tape into your mind and figure out what you're trying to say. So, it's gone, as will any others of the same nature be.

Timothy 20 months ago

fair enough. selecting statements that you have made in this article and in its comments, arranging them in such a way that highlights their contradictory nature, and hoping that you would recognize my intent was far too much to ask. that being said i'll only burden you with three quotations i think are important (two of them are yours) and, so you don't have to "tap into my mind," i'll even elaborate along the way.

you said: "Just because I don't agree with you doesn't make me 'ignorant'."

yes, okay, true, a person who has a stance regarding an issue on which stances can be taken is not automatically qualified as ignorant of the opposing stance. i'm in complete agreement with you.

however, you made that statement AFTER this exchange:

Alex said: "I first and foremost recommend an incredibly enlightening book by historian Prof. Joanna Bourke - What It Means To Be Human." you responded: "The book you recommend is not some 'omnipotent' force of truth, and I'm obviously not paying for it, putting money directly into the hands of those who want to ban my pets and zoos just so I can argue with you...nice try."

now, if the case is that you actually HAVE read the book then the point i'm trying to make is null. but what you said to Alex's suggestion indicates that reading a particular book is not something you will consider doing and, further, you refuse to do it solely because that book (and the money you would use to purchase it) is associated with an idea that you don't agree with.

you are ignoring that with which you don't agree.

i should also point out the reaction i feel you had towards the word "enlightening." something that is enlightening is not an "omnipotent force of truth," and i think i can safely say that that's not what Alex was claiming the book to be. he used that word to describe the book because he felt that the book would, "give (someone) greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation." who knows; maybe Joanna Bourke's, "What It Means to be Human," really is 469 pages of manipulative coercion. if i read it and that turned out to be the case, then at the very least i will have gained just a bit more knowledge about with whom and what i disagree.

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Melissa A Smith 20 months ago from New York Author

Much better Timothy! Never do that quote thing again. As for your concern, there are many factors at play here.

"you refuse to do it solely because that book (and the money you would use to purchase it) is associated with an idea that you don't agree with."

That's not correct. That is not 'solely' the reason, and I never stated that. I wrote " I'm obviously not paying for it". How do you get 'solely' from this phrase? It is obvious that, given that I have maaany books I would like to buy, and even more I would like to read, that I'm not going to drop all of that and focus on a random blog commentator's book suggestion that is not about neutral science. I thought that title was another animal liberation piece, although a quick search shows it might not be, regardless, I still have no time for full novels of one-sided philosophies, I'm not a very fast reader. I prioritize non-slanted science books, and money doesn't grow on trees either.

Also, it is an obvious tactic of some critics to point out that I need to read an entire novel to 'get' their perspective. Obviously it is not feasible at all that I will run out and read a book before addressing my opponents concerns. Do you know how many books are out there that could enlighten my perspective? Millions. (the ability to read a full book in minutes would be the best superpower ever, and trust me, I'd be a force to be reckoned with). I have little doubt that book wouldn't do the same but that doesn't mean I'm buying it or reading it. It would be fine if that was a genuine recommendation, and not a swift 'you won't get it until you read this'. In the comment sections of blogs, people should rely on their own arguments, or they are more than welcome to provide quotations from sources, articulations of what they've learned, links to material I can read in less than 30 minutes, ect. If 'What It Means To Be Human' was available online and of approachable size, I'd be happy to look at it.

Orca Lover 19 months ago

Melissa I read your words " It's my blog and if I want to use CAPS and sarcasm I will" that attitude seems a little childish and has nothing to do with the matter in hand. Why do you call people 'fools' for disagreeing with you? People posting here are interested and concerned for the welfare of the captive Orca's they don't come here for a petty argument with you and if they do would it be more mature of you to ignore them? Feel free to ignore me when I post this I'm just a fool anyway right?

My point I would like to make to the readers is that these creatures should NOT be kept in captivity as the environment they are being kept in is totally inadequate on many levels - the main one being that it is too small and has little in the way physical or mental stimulation. The 'tanks' are just so small. Look on Google Earth Map and look at them from above. .. There is nothing natural about these tanks that is a fact I am not just saying this for effect- look and see for yourselves. To keep these animals in this way is slow torture. How are their senses being cared for? (touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing). Anyone who says their tanks are suitable are deluded. All us animal lovers out there need to be heard and taken seriously we cannot sit back and let this cruelty continue. I am no barbarian and I want this practice of keeping wild animals in small holdings stopped for good. The documentary Blackfish was made to highlight the misery of captive Orca's. It is what it is... the makers of this documentary did their best to highlight the plight of the whales and as far as I am concerned they did that. I am sorry that you didn't like it and it failed to amuse you maybe you could have done a better one?

We know some of the babies are taken from the mother's can someone please explain to me how that is fair and just? If someone took my babies away I would be inconsolable and very angry for years and years.

C'mon people what can we do about this terrible mess? We cannot allow it to continue. It's nothing more than a Victorian side show for money. Am I the only one who wants this horrible treatment stopped?

There are so many things wrong in this world and this is another one of those things. Some things we cannot change and some we can. We could change this if we all stuck together and used our voices for the whales.

PLEASE someone somewhere help the whales.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 19 months ago from New York Author

"Melissa I read your words " It's my blog and if I want to use CAPS and sarcasm I will" that attitude seems a little childish and has nothing to do with the matter in hand."

Next time try reading the entire conversation.

anonymous 17 months ago

What's the deal you don't like my comments? They seemed prudent to the arguement to me. By the way you talked these other people I assumed you would have some kind of bullshit rant to throw up back at me.

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Melissa A Smith 17 months ago from New York Author

; )

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