SeaWorld deals with black eye from ‘Blackfish’
Seaworld is swimming in a public relations crisis over a film called Blackfish. It documents the killing of a Seaworld trainer by a six-ton orca whale.
This film was an effort to document and expose how Seaworld treats orcas and their trainers. It's about keeping whales in captivity for entertainment, and profit. The death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando three years ago was by an orca involved in two previous fatal attacks.
Blackfish premiered this summer, and since then all but two celebrity performers have canceled their Seaworld engagements. In addition to the public pressure, there's a legal effort underway to prevent trainers from swimming with the orcas during shows.
Fearing a backlash, Seaworld has struck back, purchasing full-page ads in eight major newspapers to tell their story.
The written statement says, in part: “We felt it was important to tell the truth about our parks and the enriching, and educational experiences we provide to more than 10 million people who pass through our gates.”
At Point Loma High School, Blackfish became a class project.
“I just gave the kids an open ended assignment,” says teacher Anthony Palmiotto, “they're gonna watch a documentary.”
26 students produced a 54-second video for Palmiotto's multimedia class entitled “Dear Sea World.” They address the park directly; they speak individually, but the video is edited together into a single statement, of which the following is an excerpt:
“After watching the documentary Blackfish on CNN, all those special memories have been totally cheapened. It it true? The orcas in exhibits are kidnapped from their families.”
“We don't expect Seaworld to close its doors, we just invite you to change your business model and stop using animals for entertainment.”
Palmiotto is proud. “When you start looking at the point of storytelling. its to invoke emotion. This story does it, and I personally felt the kids did it appropriately, and I was just super impressed.”
For their effort, the class received a plaque from PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Seaworld may suffer if visitors stop coming to their parks, but the numbers suggest otherwise. In November, the company posted record revenue for a third consecutive year.