On Nov. 1, 2015, my family and I spent the day at SeaWorld San Diego for my 18th birthday celebration. Nowadays, most teenagers would much rather throw a party or as they would say, “kickback” for the big 18, I on the other hand, am not your average 18-year-old.
For years, it has been my dream to interact with dolphins. I’ve talked about it for as long as I can remember, and as you can imagine, there was nothing else in the whole wide world that I’d rather do.
I like to define myself as a “developing environmentalist”. Of course I care about the environment, however I don’t necessarily agree with everything an average or even a radical environmentalist believes in. (No offense). While you’ll never see me chained to a tree, going completely vegan, or throwing flour bombs at celebrities as a way of protesting -at least not yet-; You will however, hear me talk about environmental issues and encourage others in my community to take action as well.
Many of my friends warned me about SeaWorld, and insisted that I watched the documentary “Blackfish” before going, but I refused to do so. Days after our trip to SeaWorld, I became curious about this documentary and decided to watch it.
The documentary, whose solely purpose is to damage SeaWorld’s image, provides “real life” testimonies of former SeaWorld trainers and their experiences, and for a quick second I almost bought it.
For months, I went crazy watching SeaWorld accident videos, news, testimonies, literally anything I could find. I vowed to discover the truth. However, after all the research, my brain was suddenly filled with so much Information that I did not know what to believe.
Deep down inside, a part of me refused to believe the allegations made in the film, but the testimonies seemed so real that you can’t imagine them being false. And then there was SeaWorld. Of course I realized that if this were true, it would not happen right in front of our noses, (Not that animal abuse is EVER acceptable) but like in any court system, the accused is innocent until proven guilty.
According to a 32-page Backfish analysis* released by SeaWorld, which the misleading content of the film is exposed and thoroughly explained, there were many strategies used in this film to confuse the viewers.
- Misleading footage– The opening sequence consists of different pieces of footage from SeaWorld’s underwater cameras-featuring Tilikum- along with the 911 call regarding Dawn Brancheu’s death. This of course leads the audience into believing that SeaWorld trainers were allowed to swim with Tilikium, such thing that was never allowed.
- Deceptive testimonies– John Hargrove, whom throughout the film speaks about Tilikum, worked at SeaWorld San Diego from 1995 until 2001 and SeaWorld Texas from 2008 through August 2012. Hargrove never worked at SeaWorld Florida, and never worked with Tilikum.
- Inaccurate comparison– The voice of Ms. Berg over the film is heard while showing female trainer riding a whale. The trainer is not Ms. Berg, it is Holly Byrd, and is footage recorded at SeaWorld more than 10 years after Ms. Berg left SeaWorld.
I could go on and on about all 69 pieces of evidence presented in the document, but I figured this should be enough. Now tell me, who in their right mind would take the word of a film whose only purpose was to brainwash the audience into believing what they wanted them to believe? I certainly wouldn’t.
Still, there are many more controversies regarding SeaWorld and their animal care. Critics argue that these animals are abused and/or mistreated by their trainers, but the two times I visited SeaWorld, I saw nothing but love and affection between trainers and animals. When I met some of the trainers during my two visits to SeaWorld, they all referred to their position as much more than a job. While many people believe that trainers are completely deceived about the job risks, all you need is common sense to realize that trainers should be aware of the job risks before applying, and that they are not forced to remained on the job.
The claims regarding SeaWorld collecting whales from the wild are false. The truth is, SeaWorld has not collected a killer whale from the wild in more than 35 years. As SeaWorld Veterinarian Dr. Lara Croft states: “The vast majority of our whales were born in our parks.” And even if they did release the animals, they would not be able to survive because they cannot look out for themselves.
What many critics fail to recognize is the good work that SeaWorld has done throughout the years. What about the 27,000 animals SeaWorld has rescued and rehabilitated? Does that not count?. You tell me, how else would a child fulfill their dream of interacting with marine animals that can only be seen in the deepest of waters? How else would researchers be able to develop new and improved technology for animal care if they cannot study them up close?
SeaWorld is constantly changing for the better. From discontinuing theatrical shows to constructing new and improved habitats for their animals, SeaWorld keeps up day-to-day with the demands of society and strives to improve visitor and animal experience at all times.
At the end of the day, knowledge is power, and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge something without having experienced it first hand. Do not let any sort of propaganda cloud your judgement; if you want to know the truth behind something, you must find out on your own terms.
*Click this link to check out the Blackfish Analysis document.