Originally published April 29 2015
SeaWorld responds to animal abuse criticism with character assassination, posts old video of former trainer drinking
by PF Louis
(NaturalNews) The killer whale, also known as an orca whale, has been at the center of limited controversy for some years, mostly hidden away where only animal rights and naturalists go.
Orcas have also been called blackfish because they are predominately black with some white. They are not fish however. They are considered at the top of the dolphin family, but much larger and equipped with larger teeth.
Like smaller dolphins these huge sea creatures are intelligent and highly sociable. Their killer whale tag is justified. They hunt in packs and feast on whatever they find in the ocean, including sea lions and even larger lone plankton-eating whales that don't have the wherewithal to defend themselves.
Nevertheless, many environmentalists and animal rights groups and individuals have bestowed the same respect on them as dolphins and those larger plankton-eating whales.
Public orca empathy suddenly boosted It started with a documentary by Gabriela Cowperthwaite called Blackfish. Gabriela stated that originally her intent was to explore the relationship between animals and humans. But instead the focus went on Dawn Brancheau's death when she was the top orca trainer at Orlando's SeaWorld.
Dawn was killed by the largest killer whale in captivity, 12,000 pound Tilikum. Tilikum had been in captivity for 30 years. Dawn's was the third trainer death recently involving killer whales in captivity worldwide.
As part of her documentary, Gabriela interviewed a few other orca trainers involved with SeaWorld, which has three different sites, San Diego, Orlando, and San Antonio.
The fact that killer whales can get frustrated and crazy after a long period of confinement was brought up as a reason for Dawn's death.
At first SeaWorld had tried to cover up Dawn's death as accidental, then when that was disproven they blamed it on trainer error, claiming veteran trainer Dawn had her ponytail exposed and Kilikum inadvertently grabbed it.
The point of how poorly treated predatory animals held in captivity can be disastrous was confirmed and corroborated by two of the four trainers interviewed in Blackfish. Those two trainers quit SeaWorld and became activists for orca freedom, discouraging orca captivity for training and entertainment.
Kill the messenger One of the trainers who quit, senior trainer John Hargrove, recently published a book of his experience, Beneath the Surface, relating how he transformed from the hubris of orca trainer to realizing that orca whales are beings, not just creatures.
So he became sympathetic with animal rights causes and became a spokesman for not interfering with orcas' freedom.
He used his exposure in the critically acclaimed Blackfish documentary, which was produced by CNN and shown often to help launch his book.
But the simple prose within Beneath the Surface reveals a person who is serious about his turn-around regarding man's relationship to wild animals as beings who have their rights. Hargrove is not pleased with the way SeaWorld handles them.
The reviews on Hargrove's book indicate it's likely to be read by many. SeaWorld doesn't like that.
They've decided to attack Hargrove and ruin his reputation with a campaign that includes a video taken when he was in a bar five years ago and drunkenly babbling on his cell phone with a woman who claimed some black kids threw rocks at her.
Hargrove used the n-word often in that video. He claims it was edited to make it seem worse than the conversation actually was.
But now the SeaWorld whistle blower could be seen as a heavy drinking racist instead of looking at what his book presented. The character assassination had some success, as one of his book tour appearances in California was canceled.
Nevertheless, many thought that SeaWorld's character assassination was irrelevant to the issues presented in Hargrove's book regarding the insanity of putting mistreated wild animals in captivity for entertainment.
They agreed with Hargrove's assessment that SeaWorld was looking for ways to avoid scrutiny and address the real issues, just as they had done with top trainer Dawn Brancheau's death.
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