They call it the “Blackfish effect.” Things just keep getting worse for SeaWorld ever since the controversial documentary released in 2013 that accused the popular marine entertainment park of abusing the Orca whales in its care and showing reckless disregard for the safety of its whale trainers. Blackfish highlighted the killing of trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, who was mauled by a 6-ton Orca named Tilikum during a performance at SeaWorld Orlando. A whale that had killed at least twice before.
The documentary has unleashed widespread protests outside SeaWorld’s entertainment parks and online over the welfare of the whales.
Howard Stern is one of a number of celebrities who have jumped on the anti-SeaWorld bandwagon.
Now, a California state legislator name Richard Bloom wants to put SeaWorld in San Diego out of the whale business entirely.
If Bloom’s bill were to pass, SeaWorld would lose its most lucrative attraction.
That prospect has been wildly applauded by animal rights activists on blogs:
And on Twitter:
SeaWorld has aggressively fought back, denouncing the Blackfish documentary and its allegations of animal maltreatment as lies. The company is appealing a $75,000 federal fine levied in the Dawn Brancheau case. It is also fighting the court’s ruling that trainers can no longer swim with the whales and must only work with them through a protective barrier.
SeaWorld is arguing that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which conducted the investigation has overstepped its bounds. The theme park’s lead attorney is Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
SeaWorld is also going after OSHA investigator Lara Padgett. The company accuses her of being biased against SeaWorld and of collaborating with the documentary producers.
A reported photograph of Padgett posing with the Blackfish cast on micechat.com
For comparison purposes, a photograph of Padgett on her Facebook page:
OSHA has confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that the agency is investigating Padgett’s conduct.
Not to be outdone in the court of public opinion, SeaWorld has mounted an aggressive attack online and in the media.
The company has employed some of its trainers who were interviewed in Blackfish to refute claims of animal maltreatment that were made in the documentary.
In a move that has enraged animal rights activists, SeaWorld hired Steve Irwin’s daughter Bindi as an ambassador. Irwin the world famous Australian wildlife expert died in 2006 after a stingray stabbed him repeatedly in the chest.
Dawn Brancheau seems all but forgotten in all the brouhaha over the whales. The video of her mauling was never made public at her family’s and SeaWorld’s request. Here is a summary that was released in court by the Orange County Sheriff’s department.
Brancheau’s family members it appears, are not among the Blackfish film supporters. They went about as far as they could to distance themselves from the documentary with this post on the Dawn Brancheau Foundation website.
Stay tuned as the SeaWorld saga continues.