'Blackfish' director 'inspired' by artists canceling SeaWorld shows

ORLANDO, Florida Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:54pm EST

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ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The director of "Blackfish," a documentary that raises questions about the treatment of whales used in performances at SeaWorld, said on Tuesday she was heartened by a number of musicians canceling shows at the Florida theme park over the film.

"I'm very inspired by it," director Gabriela Cowperthwaite told Reuters.

"Blackfish," which aired nationally on CNN in October, makes a case against keeping orcas in captivity for entertainment. SeaWorld has called the film "inaccurate and misleading."

Rocker Joan Jett on Monday became the fourth musician or musical group to show support for a campaign led by animal-rights activists by asking SeaWorld to stop using her 1981 hit "I Love Rock 'n Roll" as opening music for the theme park's "Shamu Rocks," an evening version of the killer whale show.

Jett's demand followed decisions by country singer Willie Nelson and rock bands Barenaked Ladies and Heart to withdraw from the theme park's Bands, Brew & BBQ event on weekends starting February 1.

Jett threatened to join a protest by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) outside the park unless she received written confirmation that her music would no longer be used, according to her letter to SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison posted on PETA's website.

"I'm among the millions who saw 'Blackfish' and am sickened that my music was blasted without my permission at sound-sensitive marine mammals," Jett wrote. "These intelligent and feeling creatures communicate by sonar and are driven crazy in the tiny tanks in which they are confined."

SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said Jett's song was fully licensed and previously played - but no longer in use - as walk-on music for the Shamu show.

As to the cancellations by other musical acts, Gollattscheck issued a written statement saying: "While we're disappointed a small group of misinformed individuals was able to deny fans what would have been great concerts at SeaWorld by Heart, Barenaked Ladies and Willie Nelson, we respect the bands' decisions."

"Blackfish" details the life of Tilikum, a 12,000-pound bull orca who grabbed 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau by her ponytail in 2010 and drowned her in front of park guests.

After her death, a federal judge sided with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which claimed SeaWorld exposed its trainers to a hazardous environment, and ordered the theme park to physically separate trainers and orcas in performances.

SeaWorld appealed in November arguing that OSHA rules "cannot be used to force a company to change the very product that it offers the public, and the business it is in." A ruling is pending.

Meanwhile, Cowperthwaite said "Blackfish" is having a resurgence since being short-listed for an Academy Award.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (5)
FloridaFun wrote:
This article just disgust me. Gabriela Cowperth is inspired and heartened by all the musical groups boycotting SeaWorld now because of her film. What is hurt most from the musical acts canceling and less guests coming to the park? Its the animals she is hurting the most. I really cant stand this woman and the so called former trainers of the park. They do not care what happens to the animals. They just want to shut SeaWorld down. Whether she says it in an interview or not. Thats her primary goal here.

Dec 10, 2013 10:15pm EST  --  Report as abuse
angelondeck wrote:
Perhaps the auther of this piece, Barbara Liston, should actually research the topic. (Hey here’s an idea: see the movie!).

“Blackfish” details the life of Tilikum, a 12,000-pound bull orca who grabbed 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau by her ponytail in 2010 and drowned her in front of park guests.

Senior trainer Dawn Brancheau was NOT pulled in by her pony tail and “drowned”. She was grabby by her arm, (which the wale later ate, scalped and mutilated.

“Blackfish” details the life of Tilikum, a 12,000-pound bull orca who grabbed 40-year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau by her ponytail in 2010 and drowned her in front of park guests.

Please report accurately

Dec 11, 2013 8:37am EST  --  Report as abuse
danielle14 wrote:
@FlordiaFun If closing sea world will allow these animals to never be in captivity again then so be it. Did you not watch the whole documentary? the former trainers said they want to see the animals fit and young enough to be released back into the wild and the animals that are older and sick and not fit enough to be put back into the wild put into a open water sanctuary. That is for the best well being of these animals. Sea World only cares about profits and has proved that time and time again.

Dec 11, 2013 2:25pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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