Latest SeaWorld lawsuit frames animal abuse allegations as deceptive marketing

Posted Monday, April 13, 2015 8:44 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A new class action lawsuit has been filed against SeaWorld in Florida accusing the marine park of keeping its performing killer whales drugged and suffering from sunburn in tanks that are the equivalent of “chemical bathtubs”, leading to early death for the intelligent mammals.

Read more from The Guardian.

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Monday, April 13, 2015 10:35 AM
Raven-Phile's avatar

The Blackfish folks should really be *thanking* SeaWorld at this point. I mean, without SeaWorld, no one would care about these animals that they never get to see in the wild - so then they wouldn't have had the opportunity to make the movie and make all the money they have.

So, thanks to SeaWorld, the movie's makers are driving Teslas.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 12:14 PM

What are you talking about? Blackfish grossed just over $2M. After production and marketing costs that's hardly enough for the filmmakers to be driving Honda Accords.

Also, that fact backs up Jeff and my consensus that the movie had much less impact on SeaWorld than people have been led to believe.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 12:56 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

It's probably hard to gross much when your movie is shown on what seems like a 24 hour loop for the better part of a month on CNN.

Nearly 21 million people watched "Blackfish" when it aired on CNN.

At $10 a ticket, that'd be a $200 million dollar movie in theaters.

I don't really care either way, to be honest, but a lot of people saw it and a lot of people were pissed - right or wrong. Whether that translated to real impact at the park is debateable. However, when 1-in-4 people say they're less likely to visit your park, you'd better take notice. Then again, this was all 18 months ago and time has a way of fading this crap from people's memories.

Who knows?

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Tuesday, April 14, 2015 1:12 PM
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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 1:05 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

Sure, the movie itself didn't gross much, but what about the bandwagoners who jumped on and started supporting the cause, probably giving money and I'm sure they have all kinds of backers.

You've seriously got a gigantic set of blinders on if you don't see the impact that this whole "Save the Whales" movement has had on SeaWorld.

SeaWorld themselves sent out marketing emails for a solid week straight with information debunking Blackfish and the newest wave of protestors. You're kidding yourself if you truly believe it didn't have the impact that it has. I don't want it to be true, but there's no denying it.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 1:17 PM
birdhombre's avatar

When I was watching @midnight online yesterday, I got to see the same SeaWorld Loves Teh Whales spot at each break. Whatever it cost to make that commercial, it seems odd that they'd spend it if #TeamBlackfish isn't having an impact.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 1:58 PM

I'm not understanding where this lady gets her "expertise", since she is just an animal lover, not a vet or a biologist or even an employee of SeaWorld who has really seen these supposed horrors occur. How is she the mouthpiece for these animals OR for patrons that visit the park? What offended her delicate sensibilities to the point that she's pulled these things out of her ass? Yes, I'm sure orcas probably don't live as long in captivity. No matter how much care we give them, they're still wild animals that are unable to speak for themselves when something is wrong. We're also most likely not able to EXACTLY reproduce a balanced ocean habitat that sustains life for whales in captivity. However, without the assistance of humans, many of these creatures would not have survived in the wild due to illness and injury.

There are a lot of evil corporations out there. There are a lot of cases of animal cruelty out there. However, I can't figure out how in the world this lady went to SeaWorld and saw anything close to what she is claiming she saw. And IF any of these things actually happen, how on earth did SeaWorld allow this information to be gleaned in the very public eye? I smell BS.


"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 2:17 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

egieszl said:

Also, that fact backs up Jeff and my consensus that the movie had much less impact on SeaWorld than people have been led to believe.

What fact backs up your opinion? All I see from Sea World is "Please believe us and not Blackfish", just as I have since it was released. THAT Fact shows that the movie (I hardly call it a documentary) has impacted Sea World enough that they're out there telling people how wrong the movie is.


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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 5:59 PM

I find it interesting that Blackfish still comes up in most any conversation about SeaWorld. But when is the last time anyone heard any thing about that huge animal cruelty case involving MarineLand in Niagara Falls, Canada?


But then again, what do I know?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 7:14 PM
rollergator's avatar

birdhombre said:

When I was watching @midnight online yesterday...

Watch @midnight AT MIDNIGHT....or you forfeit all your points! ;~P


You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015 7:47 PM
Jeff's avatar

Raven-Phile said:

You've seriously got a gigantic set of blinders on if you don't see the impact that this whole "Save the Whales" movement has had on SeaWorld.

The great irony is that SeaWorld essentially invented the "save the whales movement."

Look, I'm not saying that the faux doc had no impact at all. What I'm saying is that, in the grand scheme of things, it's not the poison that analysts and the media think it is. Try to get a reservation for the dolphin package at Discovery Cove at the last minute during the peak season. Total year attendance dropped 4% for the entire chain. For perspective, USF and IOA shed 10% and 11%, respectively, in 2009 (SWO shed 6% that year, while Disney's recovery began). In 2010, Disney took a hit ranging from 1 to 2%, while USF was up 6%, and IOA was up an insane 30% (SWO was down 12%).

So what's my point? Aside from 4% being the kind of drop I wouldn't get overly concerned about, attendance follows investment in the parks. This isn't a new phenomenon, and it's not unique to Orlando. Honestly, in competing against Harry Potter 2 and New Fantasyland, I would have expected attendance to take a bigger dump than it did.

Vague correlation is not causation.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 11:56 AM

What fact backs up my opinion? The performance of the company and the attendance at their parks.

The two biggest problems with SeaWorld at the moment is a lack of successful capital improvements in their parks and strong competition from their competitors in their biggest market- Orlando. Harry Potter has done more damage than Blackfish. Antarctica their big new reason to visit is a disappointment.

In response to Lord Gonchar the article states that 28% of Americans who watched Blackfish are less likely to visit SeaWorld. What percentage actually watched the film? Is less than 10% a reasonable guess? And how many of those who watched it were actually SeaWorld's customers to begin with? Few.

Also, that survey was a year ago and with the fickle mind of Americans today some have already forgotten Blackfish and the majority of the rest will follow in the years to come.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 12:40 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

You know, I continue to see a few people here, and the company themselves saying that Blackfish had an impact (I don't see anyone here saying that it is the sole issue with attendance), and I see far less people playing Blackfish down.

Obviously, the company feels it's an issue. So much so that they're spending money to fight the issue. Sitting back saying that it isn't an issue without citing facts that the company obviously has access to, well, it's whatever. You can continue to disagree, Eric, but obviously Blackfish is AN issue, even if it isn't the only one.


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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 12:59 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

egieszl said:

In response to Lord Gonchar the article states that 28% of Americans who watched Blackfish are less likely to visit SeaWorld. What percentage actually watched the film? Is less than 10% a reasonable guess? And how many of those who watched it were actually SeaWorld's customers to begin with? Few.

Well, it's a poll. It's meant to represent the population at large. The point is that you can reasonably expect 1-in-4 Americans (and I'm being generous, the article rounds up and frames it as 1-in-3, but I'm not trying to be disingenuous) to be less likely (not definitely) to visit.

Also, that survey was a year ago and with the fickle mind of Americans today some have already forgotten Blackfish and the majority of the rest will follow in the years to come.

Yeah, I said the exact same thing in my post.

Tekwardo said:

Obviously, the company feels it's an issue. So much so that they're spending money to fight the issue. Sitting back saying that it isn't an issue without citing facts that the company obviously has access to, well, it's whatever.

This is where I am too. I've never even seen the film. Like I said above, I don't care if they're punching dolphins in the face. None of this matters to me. But to say this had no impact seems mostly like wishful thinking and personal views. SeaWorld has done a lot to fight the allegations and try to protect their image. That still doesn't prove anything about the actual effect it had on their attendance.

Jeff said:

Vague correlation is not causation.

And that's the fun thing about this. There's no way to measure exactly why attendance was down beyond maybe something like sampling people that went to Orlando theme parks, considered SeaWorld, but then didn't go...or something.

Your number comparisons are correlation. Blackfish is correlation. That's the fun of business. It's a gut check...a personal call. One business owner might point to lack of CapEx. Another bad press from a movie. It's exactly what creates varying levels of success.

There's simply no way (especially for any of us) to know the truth, the cause, the effect, the changes that happened during this time because of SeaWorld's choices. We can plead our cases all day and no one will ever be right or wrong or know the real reasons behind any perceived dip in business.

All I know is that over two years from when Blackfish premiered at Sundance, SeaWorld is still running TV spots saying, "Oh, come on. We swear we're nice guys and the animals dig us.", the story is still in the news and we're still discussing it.

If you're convinced that's a "no impact" situation, then you'd be running your SeaWorld differently than I would mine.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 1:16 PM
Jeff's avatar

SeaWorld waving their conservation banner is not a recent phenomenon. Heck, it was probably even more emphasized when it was owned by Anheuser-Busch (and why not... it's hard to argue that selling beer contributes to the world). I don't think they respond because of a drop in attendance, they respond because allowing the nonsense to go unchecked is a way that it could fester into fact.

But even if the entire attendance drop across the whole chain of 4% could be attributed to Blackfish, is that really the end of the world for them? In light of all the crazy attendance swings in the last ten years? Hardly. The bleeding slowed in the 4Q, and I wouldn't surprised to see continued improvement this year on the eventual slow down of Harry and the Dwarfs. With that said, it's not going to bet better until they build something that people actually want to see. We'll see how fast Manby can make something like that happen.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 2:48 PM

I don't know how much of an impact that Blackish has had. I suspect it's difficult to quantify with much specificity (particularly with the limited data we have--though the park likely has more but still probably not enough to know for certain).

But one reason (pretty cynical now doubt) management could be focusing on the movie even without it having any substantial impact is to help deflect attention away from their own mistakes. If the primary reason for the park's problems is lack of investment, I wouldn't expect management to admit that. Analysts and shareholders will wonder why the park has fallen behind in terms of investments. It's the job of management to understand the competition and the industry and make appropriate investments. Why isn't management doing its job?

Blaming the movie removes those questions as management responds to something outside management's control. Looks better for management. Happens fairly frequently in business. More often in politics.

And again, Blackfish may be having a real and substantial impact on the parks bottom line. I don't know.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 5:22 PM
kpjb's avatar

Jeff said:

... it's hard to argue that selling beer contributes to the world.

Okay, now you've lost me.


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