NPR.org Interview with David Kirby on ‘Blackfish’ and SeaWorld

From Barbara King, author of the wonderful book, How Animals Grieve:

‘Blackfish’ Takes Aim At SeaWorld

In a photo released by SeaWorld San Diego, Kasatka, a killer whale who is approximately 37 years old, swims with her newborn calf in February 2013.

In a photo released by SeaWorld San Diego, Kasatka, a killer whale who is approximately 37 years old, swims with her newborn calf in February 2013.

Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego/Getty Images

Blackfish, a movie opening Friday in New York and Los Angeles, takes aim squarely at theme parks like SeaWorld where captive dolphins, including orcas or killer whales, perform in entertainment shows for the public.

“Nothing at [SeaWorld] is what it seems,” Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has said, .

I have not yet seen the film, which goes to wide release in subsequent weeks and will air this fall on CNN. Judging from the trailer and other advance material, Blackfish focuses heavily on the 2010 death of SeaWorld-Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau caused by the orca called Tilikum. Blackfish claims that the psychological stress of captivity and being made to perform caused Tilikum (and other cetaceans as well) such stress that severe trauma and aggression is the result.

For its part, SeaWorld released a statement on Saturday calling Blackfish “shamefully dishonest, deliberately misleading, and scientifically inaccurate.” SeaWorld made a case against the film in a series of 8 points, and the filmmakers have responded.

Last year at 13.7, I wrote about another incident , this time at SeaWorld-San Diego in 2006, in which an orca named Kasatka pulled trainer Ken Peters under the water repeatedly (Peters survived). For that post, I turned to David Kirby’s book Death at SeaWorld , and this week I invited Kirby to participate in a Q&A with me about Blackfish. Our exchange, which was conducted by email, went like this….

Please read more here, and leave a comment. Thanks!

About David Kirby

DAVID KIRBY is the author of 'Evidence of Harm,' which was a New York Times bestseller, winner of the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) award for best book, and a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, and 'Animal Factory,' an acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms which NPR compared to Upton Sinclair’s classic work 'The Jungle.' His latest book, 'Death at SeaWorld,' was previewed by Library Journal, which wrote: “Lives are at stake here, and Kirby can be trusted to tell the story, having won a passel of awards for his investigate work.” Booklist called the book “gripping” and “hard to put down.”
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