The filmmakers behind Blackfish and The Cove have challenged SeaWorld to a public debate on the issues the documentary has brought up and the park's assertions that it's nothing but propaganda from a group of extremists.
The Oceanic Preservation Society has put out a news release and thrown down the gauntlet, calling on SeaWorld to step away from its online PR machine and have a sit-down in a public forum to discuss all the issues.
While SeaWorld has boasted of record profits, it's also been hit square in the pills with the black mark of controversy, all thanks to Blackfish, a documentary that exposed the dangers of keeping orcas in captivity.
Classic-rock artists and country music acts have been bailing on SeaWorld's Bands, Brew & Barbecue music fest left and right ever since several Change.org petitions were launched in response to the documentary. In December, parkgoers were met by a throng of protesters at SeaWorld's main entrance.
The documentary, which features several former SeaWorld trainers, exposes the park's inhumane practices with orcas. It chronicles how the park gets their killer whales, by separating mothers from calves. The film also shows how the whales are kept in small, cramped tanks and how at least one whale, a bull orca named Tilikum, was abused by other orcas while in the tanks. Tilikum eventually ended up killing three people over the years, including trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. According to the film, he is now kept in isolation at SeaWorld.
SeaWorld itself has been busy fighting back through news releases and posting its own facts on its website.
In December, it told the media that the protests were nothing but "a coordinated campaign of digital harassment and does not in any sense represent the opinions of the American public."
SeaWorld also placed a full-page ad in major newspapers and launched a "The Truth About Blackfish" page on its website, where it combats the allegations made by the film with bullet points.
But the filmmakers are now taking the fight back to SeaWorld, challenging the park to debate the issues head-on.
The OPS new release states that the group understands that SeaWorld is "a multi-billion dollar corporation with shareholders and banks to answer to." But, the release says, SeaWorld still practices an antiquated form of animal entertainment. The group also maintains its accusation that the park separates orca families, and it invites the public to do its own research rather than just watch the film or just read SeaWorld's news releases.
"[The public] will reach the same conclusion we did," the OPS news release says.
OPS says it's willing to set up the debate whenever SeaWorld is ready.
We challenge SeaWorld to debate these issues with our teams in a public forum, which we will be happy to arrange. Throughout the production and theatrical release of Blackfish, SeaWorld has refused to directly engage with the film or its points in any public way, despite repeated invitations. Instead of releasing more PR spin, written statements, and online critiques (which often allow no comments), we encourage SeaWorld's leaders to step forward and address these issues openly and honestly in public debate. Let the public hear both sides of the argument (as we have always desired) and draw their own conclusions.
It would appear that shit, as the kids like to say, just got real.
Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.
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