SeaWorld’s implication that the director of “Blackfish” was biased before making the film is not consistent with her history. Gabriela Cowperthwaite had no history of animal activism, in her professional or personal life, before making “Blackfish.” She has consistently stated that she was a mother who had taken her children to SeaWorld in the past1. She has described her shock when she heard about the death of a trainer (Dawn Brancheau in February 2010), as it seemed inconsistent with SeaWorld’s messaging on the amazing bond between orca trainers and their intelligent charges. She then read an article by Tim Zimmermann2and determined to make a film about Dawn Brancheau. However, as she has described in numerous interviews, the more she looked into the matter, the more she realized the story was also very much about Tilikum, the other orcas and trainers, and SeaWorld itself.
Prior to making “Blackfish,” Ms. Cowperthwaite was unknown to the wider anti-captivity movement, including PETA. When she contacted various scientists and advocates, including those responsible for this website, for interviews and background, she was doing so as a journalist making a documentary, not as an activist.
SeaWorld’s allegation that Ms. Cowperthwaite was “opposed to SeaWorld from the start” is false. As the film notes, Ms. Cowperthwaite requested SeaWorld’s participation in the film, but the company declined. The fact that Mark Simmons, a former trainer for SeaWorld who supports the public display of orcas and is featured on SeaWorld’s AskSeaWorld website, agreed to be interviewed for the film suggests there was no reason to assume that Ms. Cowperthwaite was biased when she began making the film; the company’s refusal to participate was therefore unlikely to be related to an obvious “agenda” on her part.
Ms. Cowperthwaite developed a point of view during the making of the film. However, her point of view developed over time, due to the facts she uncovered through research and interviews. If SeaWorld had simply agreed to participate, its viewpoint on “killer whales in human care” would have been adequately represented in the film.
We don’t know why, but the finished product suggests that the filmmakers weren’t interested in a fair, accurate and balanced discussion of killer whales in human care. It appears to us that they were opposed to SeaWorld from the start and shaped their project to advance that agenda. CNN purchased the film and has since aired it more than 30 times. They have also broadcast more than 100 news stories to promote it. A former SeaWorld trainer named Mark Simmons is in the film and he reflects on his experience here: