Is Blackfish all that Credible?

In class on Thursday we talked about the documentary Blackfish. This film focuses on SeaWorld and their questionable treatment of killer whales for entertainment purposes. It describes how the smallest whales are captured and separated from their families in the wild and put in captivity for the remainder of their lives just to be showboated around for audiences. It details the conditions of the whales and how they are often violent towards each other because the older, bigger whales assert their dominance on the smaller whales. It then goes through several different accounts of the whales either killing or injuring the trainers at SeaWorld, and discusses several reasons why. This documentary definitely makes SeaWorld look like a cruel, inhumane corporation that tortures these creatures for their own monetary gain, however I found a statement made by SeaWorld that objects to the documentary for a variety of reasons.

In this statement, SeaWorld claims, “the film conveys falsehoods, manipulates viewers emotionally, and relies on questionable filmmaking techniques to create ‘facts’ that support its point of view”. SeaWorld denies the claim that they capture killer whales from the wild and separate mothers and calves. They say that the footage of the fisherman collecting the orca was from 40 years ago when this practice was legal, and that this no longer takes place. They note that Tilikum was not collected in this manner. In the film, they talk about a whale named Kalina who was separated as a calve, but SeaWorld claims that she was moved when she was 4.5 years old because she was disruptive to her mother and other whales. They say that they never separate mothers and calves, and rarely even move whales at all unless it is completely necessary.

SeaWorld also says that the individuals who were interviewed in the film haven’t worked there for over 20 years and that they are unfamiliar with the current conditions and techniques used. Additionally, they say that the scientists in the film have no expertise with killer whale behavior in captivity. They also claim that the account of Dawn Brancheau’s death was overdramatized and not accurate with what really happened. Apparently, no one was actually even allowed to swim with Tilikum from the date he arrived at SeaWorld, and Ms. Brancheau actually never did. I found this to be a very interesting claim. They say that Tilikum was falsely suggested to be psychotic and aggressive, and neither was true. Finally, they claim that the neuroscientist in the film has no known expertise in killer whales and she had no scientific support to her claims. They say that her description of the whales as “emotionally destroyed” and “ticking time bombs” were the words of animal rights activists who had no idea what they were talking about. According to SeaWorld, Blackfish is not a documentary, but simply propaganda.

This statement did not completely convince me that the documentary was entirely misleading, however it did put some doubt in my mind. These are very bold statements and there is no way to know who is telling the truth and who is blatantly lying. At this point, I don’t know who to believe. One fact that really stands out to me above everything, however, is that the lifespan of orcas in the wild is similar to humans, but in captivity it is only about 25-30 years. Even if the documentary made up some of its information, this one fact should prove that this practice is cruel and inhumane.



  1. I like that you did some research to find opposing statements and incorporated that into your post. It definitely provokes more thought and allows for people to agree or disagree and post opposing viewpoints. However, I find it tough to believe that the interviewed trainers hadn’t worked there in 20 years. Many of them looked as though they couldn’t be more than 35, and I doubt they worked as trainers at 15 years old. One man was even moved to tears by his testimony. I feel like some of seaworlds comments were their own counters propaganda, but I also believe that some of it could be true. Its so tough to know what exactly is and isn’t true.

  2. I agree that the documentary manipulated some information. This is always the case in persuasive films. The point of the film was to expose the wrongs in SeaWorld and to make the public aware of these issues. In all persuasive documentaries some facts (the ones that prove the producers point) will be emphasized or maybe even altered slightly. SeaWorld releasing a statement discrediting the film does not really change the credibility to me. Just like the film, SeaWorld is trying to persuade the public. Obviously SeaWorld wants to keep its credibility and customers. It is hard to the know most accurate truth in this case since both sides can alter the truth to persuade the public.

  3. Great post! Very interesting research you did and yes the documentary can be deceiving some information is true and some isn’t . Check out they have a good argument detailing how they are just trying to hurt SeaWorlds reputation. All zoos and other SeaWorld related parks all had similar technology dealing with these animals. They couldn’t take good care of it due to funds because obviously money is always a problem especially at that time.

  4. I am currently on the fence line for this controversy. I believe both sides are fighting a little dirty and they both have their exaggerations but they both have their valuable opinions. But I still believe that no matter how well they treat these creatures they are just simply too large to keep in captivity.

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