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article imageBlackfish fallout as Willie Nelson and Heart cancel SeaWorld gig

By Eileen Kersey     Dec 11, 2013 in Entertainment
Miami - Following the release of documentary “Blackfish,” which raises questions about the effects of captivity on whales, performers such as Willie Nelson and Heart have canceled appearances at SeaWorld Orlando's Bands, Brew & Barbecue music series in Feb.
Musicians are angry that their music was blasted out at SeaWorlds' sound-sensitive marine mammals.
Various artists have now pulled out of SeaWorld Orlando's Bands, Brew & Barbecue music series. These include, Joan Jett, Heart, Willie Nelson and Barenaked Ladies.
PETA reports that Jett sent an open letter to SeaWorld President Jim Atchison asking that her song 'I Love Rock 'N' Roll' is no longer used as the opening music for its 'Shamu Rocks' show. "I'm among the millions who saw 'Blackfish' and am sickened that my music was blasted without my permission at sound-sensitive marine mammals," wrote Jett.
A petition by those outraged after viewing Blackfish led to artists pulling out of the SeaWorld music event.
SeaWorld disagrees.
A spokesman for SeaWorld, Nick Gollattscheck said that "the company respect the performers' decisions but criticised "a small group of misinformed individuals" who were able to influence the performers, New York Daily News reports".
He went on to offer a standing invitation to the musicians to visit any SeaWorld park, talk with staff and see firsthand how the organization cares for its animals. He claims there is
"little truth in the allegations made by animal extremist groups opposed to the zoological display of marine mammals."
In October Digital Journal reported "Around 1.4 million people tuned in to watch Blackfish when it premiered on CNN last week. It was good news for CNN but bad news for SeaWorld. From open letters to tweets and Facebook comments, SeaWorld is being battered by public opinion". Singer Josh Groban said, "Kudos to @CNN for airing #Blackfish...what amusement parks are doing to our orcas and dolphins is immoral."
Documentary Blackfish features SeaWorld's prize bull orca, Tilikum, and in particular what led the creature to kill a trainer. It ruffled feathers, however, long before its July release.
Voice of the Orcas/Blackfish
In January Digital Journalist Elizabeth Batt reported that the film Blackfish would premiere at the 2013 Sundance Festival. Batt wrote:
Blackfish focuses on the life of SeaWorld's prize bull orca, Tilikum, and the unfortunate path that led him to kill a seasoned SeaWorld trainer with 16 years of experience. In this brief interview [see video] featuring the director, Cowperthwaite explains how the idea for the documentary first took shape.
Filmed over two years and featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews, Cowperthwaite revealed that what she unearthed, was something she could never have predicted.
The director said that the movie was initially about the death of a trainer at SeaWorld but ended up so much more. It revealed a culture of secrecy at the Florida centre. Staff who had arranged to be interviewed mysteriously pulled out.
Digital Journal continues Cowperthwaite said this was an issue that extended to other parks, including Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain, where the majority of orcas belong to SeaWorld.
There, Cowperthwaite described people as being "terrified of being on camera for fear of what the owner of Loro Parque would do." And while she wanted to offer some assurance the director said, "we were followed and our pictures were taken on more than one occasion."
Tilikum, Florida's star Orca, has been involved in the deaths of three trainers but has earned SeaWorld huge sums of money in visitor numbers and siring offspring, at least 21 calves. He has a value of somewhere in the region of $10 million US dollars.
He was captured at age around two, off the coast of Iceland, in 1983, and so has lived 30 years in captivity. After a year long break, following the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, Tilikum returned to performing in 2011.
An autopsy on Bracheau revealed the cause of death as drowning and blunt force trauma. "The autopsy noted that her spinal cord was severed, she had been scalped, her upper-left extremity had been completely avulsed, and she sustained fractures to her jawbone, ribs and a cervical vertebra, as well as a lacerated liver."
Celebrities have been using their influence to campaign against the captivity of marine mammals following the release of Blackfish. You can see who is part of the movement and what they are doing to try bring about change at Back Blackfish.
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