Marine park SeaWorld is lashing out yet again at one of this year’s most popular documentaries.
The Oscar-shortlisted “Blackfish,” the film from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite that debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, has provoked a strong response since its theatrical release and widely watched CNN broadcast. As many musical acts (Barenaked Ladies, Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, Heart) have canceled their shows at SeaWorld and various online petitions have sprung up asking for the parks to release their orcas, SeaWorld is feeling the heat.
Earlier this year, Indiewire was the first to release the “Blackfish” team’s responses to SeaWorld’s initial eight defenses of the story the film depicted, which were disseminated to the press by a PR firm the company hired.
This morning, in newspapers from the New York Times, USA Today, and the Orlando Sentinel, SeaWorld bought full-page ads consisting of an open letter that defended their practices. While their claims this summer were all attempts to correct the narrative as they saw it in the film, this time they focused only briefly on their negative portrayal.
The ad’s first two bullet points counter the story as told in “Blackfish,” saying “SeaWorld does not capture killer whales in the wild.” and “We do not separate killer whale moms and calves.” The fourth bullet point reiterates the claim that their whales live as long as orcas in the wild, a claim they more appropriately say can’t be answered definitively because of the way lifespans have been tracked and the small size of their population.
The rest of their points, though, change the subject. Their third point starts, “SeaWorld invests millions of dollars in the care of our killer whales.” (Hard to argue with that.) From there, SeaWorld says, “The killer whales in our care benefit those in the wild.” Their justification on this one is that it’s hard to study killer whales in the wild because they are endangered, which also means this research is all the more important. The claims end with a broad assertion: “SeaWorld is a world leader in animal rescue.”
Read SeaWorld’s complete open letter here.
After it makes those claims, the SeaWorld letter reads,
Naturalist Baba Dioum put it best when he said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.”
Implied here is the fact that SeaWorld is the force behind our will to protect orcas. But does the disappointment and outrage that seems to have been activated — not created — by “Blackfish” speak otherwise?