Blackfish' director 'inspired' by
artists canceling SeaWorld shows
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[December 11, 2013]
By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters)
— The director of "Blackfish," a
documentary that raises questions about the treatment of whales used
in performances at SeaWorld, said on Tuesday she was heartened by a
number of musicians canceling shows at the Florida theme park over
"I'm very inspired by it," director Gabriela Cowperthwaite
"Blackfish," which aired nationally on CNN in October, makes a
case against keeping orcas in captivity for entertainment.
SeaWorld has called the film "inaccurate and misleading."
Rocker Joan Jett on Monday became the fourth musician or musical
group to show support for a campaign led by animal-rights
activists by asking SeaWorld to stop using her 1981 hit "I Love
Rock 'n Roll" as opening music for the theme park's "Shamu
Rocks," an evening version of the killer whale show.
Jett's demand followed decisions by country singer Willie Nelson
and rock bands Barenaked Ladies and Heart to withdraw from the
theme park's Bands, Brew & BBQ event on weekends starting
Jett threatened to join a protest by People for Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA) outside the park unless she received
written confirmation that her music would no longer be used,
according to her letter to SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison posted on
"I'm among the millions who saw 'Blackfish' and am sickened that
my music was blasted without my permission at sound-sensitive
marine mammals," Jett wrote. "These intelligent and feeling
creatures communicate by sonar and are driven crazy in the tiny
tanks in which they are confined."
SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said Jett's song was fully
licensed and previously played — but no longer in use — as
walk-on music for the Shamu show.
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As to the cancellations by other musical acts,
Gollattscheck issued a written statement saying: "While we're
disappointed a small group of misinformed individuals was able to
deny fans what would have been great concerts at SeaWorld by Heart,
Barenaked Ladies and Willie Nelson, we respect the bands'
"Blackfish" details the life of Tilikum, a
12,000-pound bull orca who grabbed 40-year-old trainer Dawn
Brancheau by her ponytail in 2010 and drowned her in front of park
After her death, a federal judge sided with the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration (OSHA), which claimed SeaWorld exposed its
trainers to a hazardous environment, and ordered the theme park to
physically separate trainers and orcas in performances.
SeaWorld appealed in November arguing that OSHA rules "cannot be
used to force a company to change the very product that it offers
the public, and the business it is in." A ruling is pending.
Meanwhile, Cowperthwaite said "Blackfish" is having a resurgence
since being short-listed for an Academy Award.
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Cynthia
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