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Family of SeaWorld Trainer Killed by Whale Releases Statement on Blackfish

The family of Dawn Brancheau, the SeaWorld animal trainer who was killed by an orca following a show at the park in 2010, has released a statement distancing itself from the documentary, Blackfish.

The film, which exposes the abuse killer whales endure in captivity, specifically at SeaWorld, focuses on Brancheau's February 2010 death after the 12,000-pound orca named Tilikum pulled her into the water and drowned her.

The Brancheau family, who has remained silent since the film debuted, took to Dawn's foundation website to release their statement.

See also: SeaWorld Swarmed by Protesters Sunday After Blackfish Backlash

The statement reveals how the family has been bombarded with questions about their feelings on the film, and their thoughts on Dawn, who worked as a SeaWorld trainer for 15 years.

"First and foremost," the statement reads, "we are not affiliated with this movie in any way. We did not assist with its creation and were unaware of its content until the film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. The Dawn Brancheau Foundation as well as our family members have never and will never accept any compensation from its production."

The statement goes on to say that Dawn, who had a lifelong dream to be an animal trainer, and was animal lover, would never have worked at SeaWorld if what the film says about animal abuse there were true.

"Dawn Brancheau believed in the ethical treatment of animals," the statement reads. "Dawn followed her dreams and became a marine animal trainer. She loved the whales and was proud of her work as a trainer. Dawn thrived on introducing the whales to the audience and educating them about the animals in her care. Dawn would not have remained a trainer at SeaWorld for 15 years if she felt that the whales were not well cared for."

The film interviews several former SeaWorld trainers, and chronicles other attacks by Tilikum on another trainer years prior to his attack on Dawn. The film also discusses the time a man homeless snuck into SeaWorld overnight and was found dead on top of Tilikum the following morning.

The abuse and captivity, the film suggests, may have pushed Tilikum to the edge, causing him to snap on several occasions, with fatal and tragic results.

Blackfish has also been behind an online protest to have musical acts boycott SeWorld and cancel their scheduled shows at the park.

The park's music festival, which is scheduled to go down throughout February, features weekend shows for parkgoers. But after fans made the band Barenaked Ladies aware of Blackfish, the band released a statement saying it was taking itself out of the festival.

Willie Nelson's cancellation soon followed, after 8,500 fans signed a petition asking him to cancel his February 1 show. Other artists, such as the Beach Boys, Heart, and Pat Benatar have also canceled on SeaWorld as a result of the online protests.

Last month, SeaWorld took out a full-page ad in major U.S. papers, including the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, in an all-out PR campaign designed to combat the allegations brought on it by the documentary.

Two weeks ago, the park announced it had set record profits in 2013.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph

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