Here’s something to celebrate: after 3 years of public pressure following the broadcast of a documentary called Blackfish, SeaWorld is finally canceling its Killer Whale shows, stopping its captive breeding program, and phasing out keeping killer whales in captivity all together!
We first published our article sharing the story of Blackfish with the world in July of 2014 when we were simply testing the waters ourselves with the first version of EverWideningCircles.com. And yet as new as we were, that article has been the most shared and most viewed in our history.
Why should we celebrate Seaworld’s recent change of heart?
Because this outcome is an affirmation!
It’s a shining example of the fact that each of our voices can count and we can vote with our feet to change things.
Because of the movie Blackfish, attendance, stock prices, and public opinion fell dramatically at the SeaWorld parks in the last 3 years and despite all SeaWorld’s efforts to gloss over the issue, the public wasn’t coming back around.
Watch the documentary for a half hour and you’ll have no doubt that Killer Whales should never have been kept in captivity and this is a dark chapter of human hubris coming to a close. There was no way Seaworld could fool us by putting lipstick on this pig.
Ordinary, good people changed the outcome and demonstrated their humanity.
Here’s the trailer:
The Blackfish Outcome
Here’s what SeaWorld’s CEO said last week:
“‘Today marks a bold and impactful shift for our company…The killer whale issue is a growing reason why many people don’t visit SeaWorld and this is about doing the best thing for our orcas, our guests, our ambassadors and our company.” 2
The company says the remaining orcas will live out their lives at SeaWorld as educational ambassadors, and will not be replaced as the years go by.
In another quote from the CEO:
“They will continue to receive the highest-quality care based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science, and zoological best practices…Guests will be able to observe these orcas through the new educational encounters and in viewing areas within the existing habitats.” 3
One of the most uplifting parts of this change of heart:
The good news got even better when SeaWorld also announced they were going to partner with one of their biggest critics, The Humane Society of the United States, to advocate for the health and welfare of marine life.
The Humane Society’s CEO, Wayne Pacelle, welcomed SeaWorld’s commitment to spend $50 million over five years to rescue animals and fight shark-finning and commercial fishing of whales and seals.
What I love about that part of this story is that former intense adversaries have demonstrated tremendous courage and humility. They put their differences and egos aside and just lurched forward together. This will be a win/win/win all around.
Here are some key points from a great USAToday story:
SeaWorld Chief Financial Officer Peter Crage said the company expects financial benefits from the move based on consumer surveys showing support for the move. Over the next three to five years, the company is projecting an attendance increase of 380,000 to 940,000, revenue uptick of $20 million to $80 million and pretax profit increase of $25 million to $65 million.
The percentage of consumers who would consider visiting SeaWorld after this decision jumped from 5 to 17 percentage points, based on internal polling, Crage said.
After the decision was announced early Thursday, social-media sentiment about SeaWorld turned positive for the first time since Manby joined in March 2015, he said.
“The guests just want to observe and learn, and we don’t need these theatrical quote-unquote tricks,” Manby said.
SeaWorld shares (SEAS) jumped 9.4% to close at $18.72. 4
If you want to truly understand the power of this public victory, for both man and beast, take the time to watch the critically acclaimed Blackfish documentary and you’ll have no questions. What an extraordinarily, fact-based, firsthand account of a world most of us knew nothing about.
What an extraordinarily, fact-based, firsthand account of a world most of us knew nothing about.
I know… you probably don’t watch CNN. (Many people that love this website wouldn’t.) I’m with you. I almost never watch TV and I certainly don’t watch depressing shows that just hype and dramatize the woes of the world.
But this show is nothing like that. It’s just real people – the trainers from SeaWorld – calmly sharing their stories, good intentions, and the lessons they learned from working with another really smart creature on this earth.
Now here’s part of our story from 18 months ago:
How do you make a killer whale do what you want it to do?
About ten years ago, we took our children to SeaWorld and I remember sitting in the famous “Shamu Show” thinking that nothing I watched made sense. There were trainers in sleek black wetsuits that, for all the world, looked just like seals, swimming with giant beasts who eat… seals!
The leviathans were very obviously intelligent creatures, yet they were condemned to life in a tiny swimming pool that, to scale, was like you or I never, ever being able to leave our living room.
I kept my feelings to myself so as not to ruin the fun for my family, but later that day at lunch, my six-year-old asked “Is Shamu happy, going around, and around, and around, and around in that swimming pool?”
My daughter wobbled her head and rolled her big green eyes dramatically to demonstrate the mind-numbing monotony that she could imagine.
I don’t remember how Chuck and I responded, but I buried that child’s insight in some remote part of my memory banks until the memory resurfaced one evening last fall. The night I stumbled onto the Blackfish movie, I was folding laundry with the television randomly tuned to CNN (which I never do), when Blackfish started, and I was slowly drawn in, instead of opting out.
This was such a strange turn of events for me. I never watch docudramas that try to stir the worst impulses in viewers: fear, anger, and hopelessness.
But this one was different.
It was factual and exceptionally non-dramatized by CNN, mostly because the videos (captured by former SeaWorld staff) spoke for themselves.
And in an empowering way, the movie Blackfish captures the observations of a 6 year old, perfectly.
“Is Shamu happy going around and around and around and around in a tiny pool?” my daughter asked, swinging her head and rolling her bright green eyes to highlight the monotony of what she was seeing at the famous SeaWorld show.
My questions from a decade earlier at the Shamu Show were answered by Blackfish, and the answers were not pretty.
Again, CNN needed to do little but allow numerous former killer whale trainers to tell their stories and show the videos they took.
I have to say, it was one of the most compelling things I have ever seen on television.
At the very least, this is astonishingly good food for thought that will make you the smartest person in the room when thinking about what you will or will not support as a consumer: Family Fun at the expense of these majestic animals? Guess not! After you look into this a bit, you’ll probably agree this is not something we want to teach our kids.
The uproar and public outcry after the Blackfish broadcast left me feeling like common sense could and would prevail sometimes in this world. Calls for change – including a bill in California – have been mounting months after the release of a documentary; SeaWorld closed the Shamu show for some time and has come out with a new show that does not include trainers in the water and does include some pitches for conservation.
Along with the clips from Blackfish at the end of this article, you can also check out “A Surge In Wild Orca Capture for Killer Whale Shows” by Outside Magazine, a well-respected publication that is not at all preachy but instead just lays out the facts, and expands on the idea of orca capturing by looking beyond SeaWorld exclusively. Even well-respected groups like the National Geographic society have taken a stand on this issue; take a look at nationalgeographic.com‘s take on whale and dolphin entertainment in their fabulous article “Free Ride: The Case Against Whale and Dolphin Shows,” an article that came just after Blackfish and questions the confinement of the intelligent animals.
It’s a very interesting subject that none of us knew a thing about (part of the EWC mission)!
I can’t believe I’m doing this… but I’ll have to close with the following: Thank You CNN for enlightening us about the error of our condoning this inhumane practice for too long, and contributing to our appreciation of the natural world!
Unfortunately, being a now-well-known production, we are unable to embed or upload a full video, however we do have a couple clips below. If, after seeing the official Blackfish trailer, you want to get a copy of this astounding documentary, you can find the film on Blackfish official website, streaming on Netflix, or for sale on Amazon. See what you think!
So, there you have it!
Due to many articles like ours, organizations like the Humane Society, and many others, the gentleness in our DNA has won out and we, the little people, have changed an entire industry.
This is progress folks.
The world is still an amazing place (our EWC motto)!
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~ Dr. Lynda