Sorry!! The article you are trying to read is not available now.
Thank you very much;
you're only a step away from
downloading your reports.

SeaWorld Needs to Explain Why Killer Whales Should Be in Captivity


The hit documentary Blackfish is a PR disaster for SeaWorld.

People hate SeaWorld (NYSE:SEAS)?


I wish we could say it isn't so, but look at what pops up on Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) when you type in "SeaWorld is":

For SeaWorld, the hit documentary Blackfish has been nothing short of a nightmare.

Blackfish tells the story of killer whale Tilikum, who was involved in the deaths of three humans, including that of a very experienced SeaWorld trainer named Dawn Brancheau. Her violent death is central to the story.

The filmmakers behind Blackfish explore the possibility that SeaWorld's treatment of Tilikum led to his aggression, and force us to confront the notion that maybe these beautiful, majestic animals -- which are also known as orcas -- shouldn't be held as captive entertainers.

Interest in Blackfish has been skyrocketing. The film received a small release last July, but was shown on CNN in October 2013, and now, it has taken off on Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) Instant, where it's received 771 written reviews, which is pretty impressive for a documentary. The Avengers, the number three all-time movie box office winner, has 1,097. Blackfish is also widely expected to receive an Oscar nomination.

The trailer alone is pretty damning:

In fact, I've spoken to numerous people who were afraid to watch the actual film after seeing the trailer.

And Blackfish does hit hard. We see killers whales attacking trainers. We see calves traumatically separated from their mothers. And we see fishermen aggressively hunting down whales in the wild.

Here are some clips posted on the movie's website. I don't recommend watching them if you're squeamish:

But most importantly, Blackfish humanizes orcas. They're shown to form incredibly strong familial bonds and have highly complex communication skills. Most deadly to SeaWorld, the film reveals that orcas are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions -- including frustration from being forced to live in a small, enclosed area that's very different from their natural habitats.

And this is where SeaWorld really bites it, because people are empathizing with the orcas.

The company's "Animal Advocates" have come out on defense against Blackfish, penning an open letter including the following facts:
  • SeaWorld does not capture killer whales in the wild.
  • We do not separate killer whale moms and calves.
  • SeaWorld invests millions of dollars in the care of our killer whales.
  • SeaWorld's killer whales' life spans are equivalent with those in the wild.
  • The killer whales in our care benefit those in the wild.
  • SeaWorld is a world leader in animal rescue.
The problem here is that SeaWorld is going tit for tat on the details, likely in an effort to discredit the film, when it needs to be addressing the much bigger question of whether orcas should be in captivity working as entertainers.

That's what's on people's minds right now.

This isn't about whether or not SeaWorld treats its animals to the nth level of perfection. It's whether SeaWorld should have those animals at all.

Nobody is giving SeaWorld the benefit of the doubt and it's got to earn trust now. Otherwise, it could slide into an ugly position where people will be too ashamed to go to SeaWorld.

So come on, SeaWorld, explain it to us.

Twitter: @Minyanville

Follow the markets all day every day with a FREE 14 day trial to Buzz & Banter. Over 30 professional traders share their ideas in real-time. Learn more.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Videos