Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Truth about the Orca Welfare and Safety Act

The Truth about AB 2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act

By Naomi Rose Ph.D.

A lot of media articles have been published on Asm Richard Bloom’s AB 2140, the bill that would have ended orca performances and captive breeding. While SeaWorld, its lobbyists and public relations team may want to claim the bill was defeated, the fact is the bill is anything but dead.

The legislation was referred for interim study – a common process in the California Assembly and one that several successful bills have undergone (e.g., the bobcat hunting bill). The conversation SeaWorld has never wanted will continue and a new bill incorporating the study’s results will be introduced.

To be clear, AB 2140 was not the “SeaWorld Bill.” Or even the “Blackfish Bill.” It was the Orca Welfare and Safety Act and that’s not just semantics. The bill was never about closing SeaWorld or promoting a documentary. It was about protecting the welfare of captive orcas and securing the safety of the trainers who care for them.

Here is the truth. In the wild, orcas have life spans similar to our own – as Dr. John Ford writes in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, “Mean life expectancy for females…is estimated to be approximately 50 years, and maximum longevity is 80–90 years. Mean life expectancy for males…is estimated to be about 30 years, with maximum longevity of about 50–60 years.” In captivity, most orcas die in their teens and 20s.

One of the most tragic consequences of killer whale captivity is the teeth damage that comes with it 

In the wild, fish-eating orcas have pristine teeth, while mammal-eating orcas’ teeth are slightly worn. In captivity, most orcas have broken or completely worn teeth from chewing on concrete walls and metal gates. These teeth must be drilled out and flushed daily (wild orcas don’t need dental care).

In the wild, mothers and their offspring share life-long bonds – in several populations, sons live with their mothers for their entire lives. In captivity, offspring are routinely and traumatically taken from their mothers, simply for management purposes. And while sons stay close to their moms in the wild, they do not mate with them, whereas at least one captive son mated with his mother, producing an inbred daughter/sister. This abhorrent incest happened because the social mechanisms that keep inbreeding from occurring in nature break down in the abnormal environment of captivity.

Unlike their wild counterparts captive females often do not chose their mates & are sometimes artificially inseminated

As for human safety, aggression against trainers has occurred far more often than is reported in official records, which alone document approximately 100 aggressive or potentially aggressive incidents in a 22-year span. There have been dozens of injuries requiring medical attention, several permanent disabilities, and four deaths in the 50 years orcas have been on display. This is in comparison to one or two injuries and no deaths recorded during human encounters with wild orcas, over at least two millennia.

These four young people all lost their lives to captive killer whales owned by SeaWorld corporation

SeaWorld historically has always blamed its trainers when interactions go wrong. The company has never taken responsibility for the fact that the job of training killer whales is inherently dangerous, a reality consistently emphasized by the courts as SeaWorld continues to appeal the citation it received from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau. Indeed, the US Court of Appeals has finally ruled in the latest appeal – against SeaWorld. The court noted that “SeaWorld…violated its duties as an employer by exposing trainers to recognized hazards when working with killer whales” and “Statements by SeaWorld managers do not indicate that SeaWorld's safety protocols and training made the killer whales safe; rather, they demonstrate SeaWorld's recognition that the killer whales interacting with trainers are dangerous.” Most damning, the 2-1 ruling stated that “SeaWorld acted irresponsibly.”

These incidents occur not because captive orcas are crazed killers, but because captivity puts trainers in unnatural proximity to the ocean’s top predator, in circumstances where these intelligent animals become frustrated and bored. Due to their massive size and formidable hunting tools (strong jaws and gripping teeth), orcas can injure and kill people even without intent. That’s the truth.

SeaWorld can end the orca show without losing business. Six Flags’ Discovery Kingdom did it – twice. In 1965, when SeaWorld opened the first Shamu exhibit in San Diego, we knew next to nothing about orcas. The first long-term study of this species in the wild didn’t start until 1973. Today enough is known to lead 40 respected whale and dolphin scientists to write to the California Assembly that the “science on the nature of killer whales and their compromised welfare in captivity – and common sense – has long since provided evidence that this species is inherently unsuited to confinement in concrete tanks.”

This bill will eventually pass, not because of a documentary but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s time for SeaWorld to accept the truth and end this inhumane and dangerous show.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pro Captivity NOAA Scientist and Anti Cap Blackfish Cast Member talk to The Hack

Your Host. The Hack
On Wednesday 12 March 2014, "The Hack" Tom Tilley interviewed two professionals with different opinions on #BlackfishBill AB-2140. Tom's program reaches about forty-thousand listeners and originates from Sydney, Australia. 

His first guest, marine ecologist and NOAA scientist Robert Pitman spoke against the bill, stating that killer whales in captivity are "sacrificial ambassadors" for their species. 

His second guest, Jeffrey Ventre, a medical doctor in Washington State, spoke in favor of the bill, stating that there's no educational value in killer whales doing "bows to Madonna music." 


Should California ban Sea World from using whales for entertainment? We look at the documentary Blackfish and legislation it inspired.

Radio interview here: 

Marine Ecologist

Former SeaWorld Trainer

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Blackfish Oscar Night Party with Captain Paul Watson

Oscar Night for Blackfish in White River Junction, Vermont 

By Captain Paul Watson

Captain Paul Watson will Present the "Big Splash Award" to Blackfish  Director Manny Oteyza on Oscar Night

I don’t know about you but I’m deeply disappointed that BLACKFISH was removed from the final list of nominees for the best documentary film of the year. The five nominees are The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square and 20 Feet from Stardom.

I have not seen any of them. In fact I have not heard of even one of them. I know nothing about them. I could not even find out where I could view them.

Yet I knew all about Blackfish before I even saw it. People were talking about it. It was being aired on CNN. It has gotten rave reviews and it was on the long list for the Academy Awards.

And then it was gone. Removed and I will venture to say – censored.

SeaWorld is a powerful corporation. There is a great deal of profit in enslaving and mistreating marine life, especially Orcas.

No Orca has ever attacked a human being in the wild. But Tilikum the captive Orca at Sea World in Orlando, Florida has killed three people.

I have swam with Orcas and once in the Straits of Bella Bella, British Columbia I was pulled along by an Orca when I grabbed hold of it’s dorsal. I have been in the water with them in Antarctica, Alaska, Washington State and British Columbia and never once felt threatened.

I even met Tilikum once, many years ago at Sealand in Victoria before he had killed anyone. He did not look happy then and I know he is not happy now.

Now why would an Orca, a species that has never harmed a human in the wild kill three people in captivity?

Simple. You can walk down a street in New York City past hundreds of people without having any cause to fear being attacked. But you can’t do the same in a prison exercise yard and turn your back on hardened criminals.

Tilikum is an angry whale and he has every reason to be angry. Kidnapped from the wild, taken from his family, imprisoned in a small concrete cell, fed dead fish, masturbated by humans for his sperm, forced to perform unnatural tricks for the amusement of paying customers and subjected to deprivation training techniques by human jailers.

I’m actually surprised more humans have not been killed by captive Orcas considering the way they are treated.

Sea World’s mistreatment of whales is bad enough but their deliberate exposure of trainers to angry whales is a gross irresponsibility.

And that is what this film is about.

People around the world have responded to Blackfish. It has been a hot ticket at film festivals, it has aired numerous times on CNN and yet the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, without any explanation dropped it from the list of nominees.

Why? One reason is that if it were to win or even be nominated it would have cost SeaWorld tens of millions of dollars. And Sea World has some very powerful allies in Hollywood.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society along with Oceanic Protection Society and the REVOLUTION clothing store of White River Junction, Vermont have decided to honor BLACKFISH on Oscar night in White River Junction on the evening of March 2nd – Oscar night.

On Oscar night I will be presenting THE BIG SPLASH AWARD to Producer Manny Oteyza who will accept on behalf of the film BLACKFISH.

Orca heros Gabriela Cowperthewaite, Dr Ingrid Visser, & Blackfish Producer Manny Oteyza

Manny Oteyza will be flying out from Los Angeles to accept the Award in White River Junction.

Now White River Junction is a small town in the Lower Valley of Vermont and every year REVOLUTION sponsors an Oscar Party usually attended by up to 350 people.

So while the decision is made in Hollywood to give the Best Documentary Film Oscar to one of five relatively unknown documentary films, the relatively unknown town of White River Junction will give an award to the very well known film BLACKFISH.

Like the Hollywood extravaganza, the White River Junction event is a Red Carpet affair with a limousine, tuxedos, champagne and elegant gowns.

And I would like you to all be involved. Simply post your comment here in support of BLACKFISH and we will post the comments at the event along with the number of people who give their vote to BLACKFISH as the best documentary film of the year.

Only 6000 people are eligible to vote for the Oscars. Let’s get more than 6000 votes for Blackfish.

Click the Like button to register your vote.

Captain Paul Watson
Founder and International Director
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Saturday, January 25, 2014

2007 KGTV SeaWorld Investigation called "Secrets Below the Surface"

This fascinating article, with accompanying Q&A, first appeared here on 29 May 2007. It is particularly interesting to review its contents with the advantage of hindsight, in the wake of the 2010 tragedy, an ongoing OSHA investigation, and Blackfish. Thank you to KGTV.


2007 SeaWorld Investigation: Secrets Below The Surface

10News Looks Into SeaWorld During 7-Month Investigation

Posted: 05/29/2007

SeaWorld is a San Diego landmark, a cheerfully choreographed and skillfully marketed celebration of the sea.

Millions of visitors -- locals and tourists -- know very little about an industry built on the capture of killer whales, dolphins and other sea creatures.

Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research said, “I would describe the whole captive industry as being very secretive.”

10News began investigating the park following the killer whale attack during the Shamus how last November.

Investigators spent months obtaining and researching court records, safety reports, animal inventory reports and documents related to the various owners of SeaWorld over the years.

10News traveled to Washington state to learn more about the killer whale, the centerpiece of a billion-dollar business, and the man who started it all, killer whale hunter Ted Griffin, the man who captured the first Shamu.

Namu was the 1st orca captured for profit, 1965
Whales die in the hunt, that's true,” said whale hunter Ted Griffin.

In 1965, in the water alongside Seattle’s Pier 56, was the first ever killer whale performing show. It was the precursor to the Shamu success. The star of the show was a 20-year-old Orca named Namu.

Griffin captured Namu, trained him, rode him and showed people for the first time that killer whales were not evil but wonderful, intelligent mammals.

Griffin caught Shamu later that same year.

Griffin took film of the original Shamu to San Diego. At first, he leased the whale to SeaWorld, he said, because the park was afraid the whale would not survive for long. However, when Shamu became an instant hit, SeaWorld bought her outright for $100,000.

“I was interested in the whales and interested in making a good profit on selling the whales,” said Griffin.

Griffin made no apologies about the whales that died in the hunt, including Shamu’s mother. Griffin shot her with a harpoon and she drowned.

SeaWorld’s current owners, who had no involvement, said it is a sad, ancient history.

Brad Andrews, Vice President of Zoological Operations with Busch Entertainment said, “I am not even aware of the stories told back then and the validity of them, so I can’t comment on something that happened that long ago.”

Griffin was also blunt about the cover-ups that were orchestrated by himself and his hunting partner, Don Goldsberry. Goldsberry ended up working for SeaWorld, assigned to bring whales to the park. He was eventually barred from Washington waters because he hunted killer whales with explosives.

"If I have dead whales, I'm going to conceal it from the public, which is what I did,” said Griffin.

Griffin admitted at one time he and Goldsberry herded three full families of whales into a cove in Puget Sound, trapping them in nets. Three young whales and one adult tangled in the nets and drowned.

"I have 4 dead whales, what am I going to do with them?” said Griffin. What Griffin and Goldsberry did is well-documented.

Balcomb said, “They hired divers to slit open the bellies, fill them with rocks, put anchors around their tails, and sank them at night."

Balcomb runs the Center for Whale Research in Puget Sound where 49 whales were taken from the wild population.

"There's only 1 left, Lolita in the Miami Seaquarium. Basically, they've all died in captivity,” said Kelley Balcomb-Bartok of the Center for Whale Research.

Records from the center showed the whales died from pneumonia, drowning and infections. SeaWorld’s original Shamu died from an infection of her blood and uterus after living 6 years in captivity. She was the first of 51 Shamus.

Today’'s SeaWorld is a much-improved and healthier place for the whales.

Andrews said, “What’s really changed over the years are the husbandry techniques, the veterinary care, just like the evolution of modern medicine for people.”

That first Shamu’s legacy is the park today -- the largest and most successful in the world.

Andrews said SeaWorld has always been a healthy place for whales, but some documents 10News found tell another story.

10News found records during a 7-month investigation that SeaWorld has worked hard to keep out of public view.

Fascinating Q&A Session Below 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blackfish Behind the Scenes


Category: Sammi's Interviews, Published on Saturday, 18 January 2014 03:53



Blackfish: a work of personal transformation and courage “People are capable of changing what they do”

Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and the ethics of capturing, breeding, and keeping captive these sentient fellow mammals.

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite with Dr John Jett in Park City, Utah
Banned together in the movement called Voice Of The Orcas, are Blackfish Cast and Former SeaWorld Orca Trainers: Dr. Jeffrey Ventre, Carol Ray, Samantha Berg, and Dr. John Jett. Voice Of The Orcas (VOTO) is a group of like-minded individuals working for the betterment of large captive marine mammals, and VOTO provides education and information as to how concerned people can help. The founding members of VOTO have this unified message, 

“Through experiencing captivity first-hand, we came to the conclusion that it is wrong.”

The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013, and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures, Dogwoof, and CNN Films for wider release, and has since been was released on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and Netflix.

Gabriela at the Los Angeles Premier
Since it’s release, the film has inspired many people to change their ideas on marine parks and many want to learn more about the conditions and ethics of captivity. From famous celebrities speaking out on Twitter, protests outside venues where whales are held in captivity, to changes to Pixar's upcoming “Finding Nemo” sequel entitled “Finding Dory”. And a wave of activity has also caught the headlines as recording artists and bands scheduled to perform at SeaWorld Orlando in 2014 have cancelled their upcoming gigs, including: Barenaked Ladies, Willie Nelson, Cheap Trick, Trisha Yearwood, REO Speedwagon, Martina McBride, 38 Special, and Trace Adkins. 

I had the opportunity to interview the filmmaker of Blackfish, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, and the cast. Here’s what they had to say…

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Filmmaker, “Blackfish”

What was the most important thing you learned from creating this documentary?  

Carol Ray & Gabriela Cowperthwaite in New York City 

I learned that people are capable of changing what they do, how they feel, if you tell them the truth. What does that say about humanity? It says that despite our differences, our impasses, we're all generally looking to be better. I think that's amazing. 

Jeff Friedman,  Manny Oteyza, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, & John Jett under some palm trees in Florida

And what did you learn about yourself through the process?

I think I realized that in this life, I want to leave things better than I find them. I didn't realize until well into the research that I was making a controversial documentary. Once I realized this and recognized the risks of taking on a billion dollar cultural icon, I said, "I can't make this documentary, I have kids." Shortly thereafter, I told myself "I have to make this documentary. I have kids." 

What will you work on next?
Some things are brewing, but right now I'm focused on making sure Blackfish continues to do good work out there in the world.

Former trainers & Blackfish cast Jeffrey Ventre, Dean Gomersall & Carol Ray on a Whale Watching Boat together

Jeffrey Ventre MD, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist

If you could give a direct request to SeaWorld, what would it be?

SeaWorld, please shift your attention from captive breeding to real world conservation. The Southern Resident orca population is endangered partly due to your collections from 1965 to 1976. Use your resources to help restore wild Chinook salmon, the main food of these killer whales. Help educate boaters to give these social creatures the space they need to forage and communicate. 

Jeff &John are on the red carpet for the Sarasota Film Festival; Opening Night at the Van Wezel Performance Art Hall

What can be done now for the orcas in captivity?

In regard to your (SeaWorld’s) current captives, let them live out their lives in dignity, without the circus stunts, pop music, and choreographed tricks. Place fertile females on oral contraceptives, and investigate the notion of sea pens for those animals that may qualify.

Carol Ray MA, CCC-SLP, Speech Pathologist

What does your family think of your involvement in Blackfish and the movement to help orcas? 

I come from a family of animal lovers, and they are very proud of my voice for the orcas and believe real good can come from me sharing my unique experiences. They've been so heartened to see the response to the film, world wide, and they share my hope that we will see an end to captivity in the near future. 

Carol Ray and Samantha Berg at a theater in Hollywood 

What do you hope people learn from watching this film? 

I hope that people gain a better understanding as to why orcas do not belong anywhere but in the wild. I hope people learn that Dawn's (Dawn Brancheau) death was an unnecessary tragedy, as is Tilikum's life. I hope that a new generation of children around the world will grow up understanding that it is morally unacceptable to confine such social, intelligent, self-aware and emotional beings for our entertainment and amusement.

Blackfish cast Jeffrey Ventre, Samantha Berg, & Carol Ray about to shred a mountain pass in Park City, Utah

Samantha Berg M.Ac, L.Ac, Acupuncturist

Tell Blackfish fans and supporters what they can do to help these orcas?

After watching Blackfish the most important thing you can do is DON'T BUY A TICKET (to SeaWorld or other marine parks with Orcas in captivity). Don't support any marine parks or aquariums the keep large marine mammals in captivity and tell all of your friends to watch "Blackfish" and read "Death at SeaWorld" (author: David Kirby).

Samantha Berg answers media questions in New York 

People can also visit the Voice of the Orcas "Blackfish Landing Pad HERE

This site lists things that everyone can do, including contacting your local politicians and encouraging all marine parks to stop their captive breeding programs. We have also included a list of established Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) who are already doing great animal welfare/anti-captivity work. It's important to support these organizations in any way you can. If contributing funds is not an option, most NGO's appreciate any volunteer time you can offer to help further the cause. 

Samantha Berg, Jeffrey Ventre, Carol Ray

How can folks join the movement and get future updates? 

People are welcome to contact us (VOTO) with specific questions via the Voice Of The Orcas website where we have posted plenty of information and materials to help people understand the realities of killer whale captivity. 
And you can follow us on twitter @Voice_OT_Orcas 

Jeff & Sam get ready to unfurl the Blackfish Poster in Orlando 

John Jett PhD, Research Professor

What risks personally and professionally did you consider when deciding to go public with the story told in Blackfish?

Jeff Ventre and I began speaking and writing about the realities of killer whale captivity prior to Blackfish. In fact our discussion, albeit private, began while we were both still employed at SeaWorld, and has continued through the years. I was personally pretty scared of some type of recourse from SeaWorld. My wife wasn’t very supportive of the idea at first as we were both afraid that SeaWorld or the industry would try to make our lives difficult. We’re both dedicated parents and certainly didn’t want our child to be dragged into some kind of mess. 

John Jett, Carol Ray, Samantha Berg at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City

By the way, the kind of recourse we worried about is currently happening at Marineland in Canada. The owner there is suing trainers for speaking out and telling the truth as they experienced and witnessed. In the end though, we (Jeff, my wife and I) knew it was our responsibility to speak the truth. Professionally, I was worried that my university wouldn’t support me. I approached them early on in the process; they ensured me that I had nothing to worry about as long as I told the truth. I’ve certainly appreciated their support. 

Drs John Jett & Jeffrey Ventre sandwich Samantha Berg at Sundance 

By the time Blackfish was released we had already been discussing the issue for some time so I was less worried about it. By then, the circle of people speaking out was also much larger, and I felt somewhat insulated by the fact that we were, independently, all saying the same things. 

Dr John Jett  on the beach
What else do people need to know that they may not already?

People need to know that stepping out and telling the truth is scary, especially when going against a huge corporation with endless pockets, and it is my belief, a vested interest in assassinating one’s character in an effort to maintain the status quo. It’s been scary for me because I have a family and a career to consider. I have a lot to lose. It’s easy to see why employees are afraid to speak out when they know things are wrong. 

I get it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ballot Stuffing in Orlando and Censorship at FORBES

Trying to untangle itself from its 50 year history of misinformation, SeaWorld ramps up its use of questionable tactics to control the flow of information; including intimidating journalists via corporate power-plays & stuffing ballot boxes related to public opinion. As reported by CNN: 

(CNN) -- Maybe it's not surprising that in SeaWorld's hometown of Orlando, an online poll showed overwhelming support for the theme park in light of a recent documentary that has raised questions about its treatment of killer whales. 
What has turned heads, though, is the fact that more than half of the votes appeared to have come from a computer, or computers, at SeaWorld itself. 
On December 31, the Orlando Business Journal posted an unscientific poll asking, "Has CNN's 'Blackfish' documentary changed your perception of SeaWorld?"
By midday Thursday, the paper reported, an overwhelming 99% of respondents said "no," their opinion of the beloved park had not changed.
What the Journal discovered upon a closer look, though, was that 54% of those 328 votes had been cast from a single Internet Protocol (IP) address.
An IP address is an identifier that can represent either a single computer or a connected network of them.

At Voice of the Orcas we're familiar with SeaWorld's heavy handed tactics. When we worked in the animal training department, "waterwork" was routinely used as a tool to train employee compliance, like dangling a carrot in front of a horse. According to David Kirby's investigative journalism for his book Death at SeaWorld, it was even used by senior trainers to obtain sexual favors for those one day hoping to "ride Shamu." Although we never witnessed this personally, it is in line with the culture, and a lawsuit was filed. 

[For reference, we've learned that Death at SeaWorld is in it's 5th printing in the United States, and is sold out of it's sixth printing in the United Kingdom]. 

We once strove to work with the #Blackfish at Shamu Stadium and noticed that those who didn't pull the company line were "shipped to Sea Lion & Otter," or withheld from waterwork, or terminated. Hence, we are thankful that Blackfish & Death at SeaWorld have pulled back the curtain on SeaWorld's business model, which includes incarcerating cetaceans, polar bears, and pinnepeds, for profit. Through it's massive public relations team, this corporation has been selling the "Happy Shamu" mythology for five decades. Please watch the CNN report below for more on this first story: 


The second demonstration of corporate malfeasance (in the past 24 hrs) has to do with censorship at F-O-R-B-E-S magazine. After he "rattled some corporate cages" by writing a pro-Blackfish article viewed 77 thousand time, Forbes journalist James McWilliams was censored, and resigned his position; in his words:  

Well folks, I suppose it was bound to happen. I wrote a dozen pieces for and enjoyed it very much. But the 13th–an article critical of SeaWorld (a 2.5 billion dollar company partially owned by the Blackstone Group) and praiseworthy of ‘Blackfish” (made on a small budget)–rattled some corporate cages. 
After I posted, editorial management demanded changes that I could not, in good conscience, make. So the article got pulled (after 77,000 hits in one day) and I left my position. Honestly, the experience, brief as it was, was a good one. Until today, when it wasn’t. My immediate editor was terrific.
But, in the end, McWilliams and mismatch.

The author, James McWilliams can be reached at @the_pitchfork. Here are a just few reactions at his blog, where he has republished the original article

Lauren says:
Mr. McWilliams: #Blackfish opened my eyes…wide…to the cruelty of capture, isolation and exploitation of these magnificent creatures. Your article is on point and I want you to know that you have this reader’s… and now determined animal rights activist…respect and admiration. Thank you.

Kimberly Ventre says:
Hats off to you for writing the truth. Corporations like Forbes, Blackstone, and SeaWorld are so used to “controlling the narrative” they don’t know what to do when facts and science don’t support their story.
It would be great to know what they wanted you to change. I suspect they are unhappy to read that preteen generation has taken notice of Blackfish.

Tracy says:
Thank you for this article, for taking a stand, and for refusing to compromise your standards. You acted in a truly admirable way, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for you. I’m so sorry that you now have to deal with looking for a new position, however my hope for you is that you will find one with a company that will appreciate the fact that their writers are willing to use their voice and are unwilling to compromise in order to satisfy the need by a corporation to shut up, and shut down a truth that the world so desperately needs to know. Whether you believe what you did was a big thing or not (I hope you do) please know that today you stood up for those who do not have a voice, and if they did I’m sure they would be thanking you. I’m sure you made your son proud.

Good for you, and Thank You James for standing your ground and not caving to corporate political pressure.
Something tells us you’ll do just fine without Forbes and will gain an even larger following of new friends.
Thanks again!

mynamefluffy says:
As someone who has been writing/blogging/tweeting for a while on the marine mammal abuse, slaughter and captivity regarding Sea World and Taiji (and they are connected), I am not at all surprised at this parting of the ways. Sea World has a powerful corporate footprint, and they are scared. The exposure that has come about as a result of Blackfish has removed the proverbial toothpaste from the tube and there is no going back. I have communicated with non-AR people who have said “I’m done with Sea World.” or “I’ll never take my kids there again.” The truth is out now, and they are going to discredit, stifle, or attempt to intimidate any voice bringing this reality to even more people. I actually find this an encouraging sign, aside of course from the end of James’ contributing arrangement with Forbes (which I am sorry to hear about). The fact that Forbes picked this topic as the one to quibble about says something important about the state of pressure and exposure on the important issue of marine mammal abuse and exploitation. ~Linda

Thank you James for your courageous stand against corporate power. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Florida Lobbyist Group Lashes out at Blackfish Supporters and Gets a TOP Response

The Orca Project defends Blackfish supporters & rebuts outrageous lobbyist from Tallahassee. 

JK writes, "We're just getting started."  

This week, the CEO of a Florida lobby group known as the "Florida Attractions Association" (FAA) lashed out at Blackfish supporters in an unhinged & inaccurate letter to drum up support for one of his biggest donors, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment (owned by the Blackstone Group).  Bill Lupfer referred to animal justice advocates as radical extremists and said that CNN was desperate for ratings.  Lupfer seems unknowledgeable regarding the CNN Films branch of the network, which, according to CNN... 

... brings documentaries beyond the small screen by developing strategic partnerships to leverage distribution opportunities at film festivals and in theaters. 

CNN Films has about a dozen high quality feature documentaries it purchased distribution rights for and has been screening on cable TV. Blackfish is one of many, and notably has been the most highly viewed & rated film in the 2013 series. CNN reports that it will air Blackfish again in January of 2014. 

The intent of the Lupfer's rant was to mobilize voting at TMZ's "You Be the Judge" poll. TMZ wants to know if you like the marine park or would rather "Shut it down." The strategy backfired, and instead, mobilized a community of informed and passionate Blackfish supporters, who reject the idea of keeping cetaceans in concrete pools for corporate profits. "Shut it down" is up by 24 points, currently. 


Here's the opening two paragraphs of CEO Lupfer's letter: 
Dear FAA Member,  
One of our members is under attack. SeaWorld has a remarkable history of investing millions of dollars in their conservation efforts, habitat restoration programs, protection of endangered species, and producing public education programs to inspire millions about the importance of preserving our planet’s natural resources. They are a global leader in animal welfare.  
Unfortunately, a few radical extremist groups are attacking SeaWorld.  CNN network, desperate for ratings, modified their all “news” format to air a skewed documentary denigrating SeaWorld.  A result has been the cancellation of some music groups who had been booked to perform at SeaWorld next spring. 
[The entire call-to-action letter is here:]
Bill Lupfer, President & CEO, Florida Attractions Association, Tallahassee, FL

As you might guess, the letter above didn't go over well with animal lovers, and generated thousands of responses on social media, including a sampling here: 

It also led to Lupfer shutting down his company's Facebook page to delete the hundreds of pro-Blackfish, anti-FLA and anti-FAA comments; and to block commenters.  


Finally, it drew this articulate & powerful response from John Kielty of  The Orca Project, (Thank You, JK) who says, on behalf of many:   

Dear Mr Lupfer,

Your article regarding SeaWorld posted today on the Florida Attractions Association website was brought to my attention and raises some concerns.

I understand your position (and your job) depends on the support of your members and that you must do what you believe is in the best interest of your membership.

However, this article crosses the line in your categorization of of those who are opposed to the treatment of captive killer whales at your member facility SeaWorld.

There are tens of thousands (if not millions) of caring individuals around the world who have made their own informed decisions about captive cetaceans (dolphins, killer-whales, etc) despite SeaWorld's conservation efforts with other animals. I count myself as one of them. And I'm far from being an "extremist". I'm just an intelligent, free-thinking individual who can analyze facts and make decisions upon them. That's what most of the Blackfish supporters are.

By utilizing the same tactics and "extremist" rhetoric put forth by SeaWorld, your organization will alienate the very people that Florida's tourism industry depends on. It is also exposing your other members to a collective reasoning that they too must support orca captivity, and hence, will also be subject to public scrutiny for supporting such.

I'm quite certain you've seen the documentary. And I'm also sure SeaWorld is a big contributor to your organization. I just hope you'll make some better decisions on how to proceed from here. You are exposing yourself, your organization, and all of your members to quite an onslaught of bad publicity.

By the way- 3 more bands have cancelled their SeaWorld performances since you wrote this article and the tens of thousands of fans are taking notice. And we haven't really even started on the business associates of SeaWorld. So tread lightly Mr. Lupfer. We're just getting started.

All the best,
John Kielty
Co-founder, The Orca Project