A new documentary about SeaWorld and its killer whales has caused some serious waves.
"Blackfish" recalls how SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by a 12,000-pound orca on February 24, 2010 at the Orlando. Fla. theme park (video trailer below).
According to the Orlando Weekly, SeaWorld tried to blame Brancheau's death on her own error, but that is disputed by the film and witnesses.
The documentary also questions the safety and logic of keeping killer whales in captivity at a theme park.
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"I am not at all interested in having my daughter who is 3-and-a-half grow up thinking that it's normalized to have these intelligent, highly evolved animals in concrete pools," John Jett, a former SeaWorld trainer, says in Blackfish. "I don't want her to think that's how we treat the kin that we find ourselves around on this planet. I think it's atrocious."
Blackfish was directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, a filmmaker and mom, who used to take her kids to shows at SeaWorld in San Diego routinely until Brancheau's death.
"I think it’s very clear that killer whales are not suited to captivity," Cowperthwaite told MNN.com. "I think there’s no place for animals in entertainment in our culture anymore. And I think SeaWorld has the financial resources to evolve out of animal entertainment into sea sanctuaries, which are much more dignified and sustainable way of watching whales."
According to CNN.com, SeaWorld called the film "inaccurate and misleading" earlier this year and claimed the movie "withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld -- among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research."
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CNN recently interviewed SeaWorld's Vice President of Communications Fred Jacobs, who also stressed SeaWorld's rescue operations, but not its shows.
When asked about killer whales normally swimming hundreds of miles in the ocean, Jacobs said, "While a killer whale can and occasionally might travel as much as 100 miles in a day, it should be said that swimming that distance is not integral to a whale's health and well-being."