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Is it okay for killer whales, or orcas, to be held in captivity for public appreciation and education or do they belong only in the wild?
In the Crossfire: Tim Zimmermann, Associate Producer of "Blackfish," who believes killer whales should not be kept in captivity, and Director of Conservation for Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium Grey Stafford, who emphasizes the preservation and educational benefits of zoos.
They join hosts Van Jones and Newt Gingrich at 6:30 pm ET to make their case.
We want you to weigh in. Would you take your children to SeaWorld?
Vote by tweeting your response using #Crossfire or comment on our Facebook post. View results below or through our Poptip results page if you are on a mobile device.
Don't forget to tweet along with the show using #Crossfire.
CNN Films presents "Blackfish," which traces the history of killer whales in captivity, particularly the 2010 killing of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau by a 12,000-pound orca.
Tune in for the premiere of "Blackfish" on CNN tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Posted by Crossfire staff
Filed under: Animals • Fireback • In the Crossfire
Author, documentary filmmaker, historian, Speaker of the House (1995-1999), and 2012 Republican presidential candidate
Fmr. Obama Deputy Campaign Mgr. and W.H. Sr. Adviser, founder of Precision Strategies, fmr. Sr. Adviser to Maj. Leader Reid and Sen. Kennedy
Conservative columnist for New York Daily News, contributing editor at Townhall Magazine, commentator and author
Former Special Adviser for Green Jobs under President Obama, co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, author and attorney
THANKYOU FOR EXPOSING THE HORRORS OF THE ORCAS IN CAPTIVITY.I PRAY THESE MARINE AMUSUEMENT PARKS WILL CLOSE AS A RESULT OF YOUR DOCUMENTARY AND BE ALLOWED TO RETURN TO THEIR NATURAL HABITAT. PERHAPS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC COULD FACILITATE TRIPS FOR PEOPLE TO VIEW ORCAS IN NATURE.
I WOULD HOPE JIM ATCHINSON,CEO seaworld, could audit a course in ethics from UCF where he received his MBA.
I watched this interview and I must say I loved Van Jones' approach while interviewing Grey Stafford. I really liked his follow-up questions when Grey spun his answers to deflect from the real issue in question. Thank you Van for pointing out the wholes in his answers and the fact that these animals are not respected and cared for like at a zoo, but used merely for profits. Your analogy of the circus was spot-on, nothing to do with the animals' best interest.
Sea World is basically a circus!!!! What about the rights of the orcas an and dolphins!!!!!!!!!!! Taking the bsbies away from the mothers (wich. would never happen in the wild. except by predators) it is sooo disturbing!!!!!!! Sea World has become the predator!!!!
NO Stinkin way!!!!! Never will take my kids to a circus with poor intelligent animals being locked up and will never take my kids to SeaWorld. If you take your kids to these places you don't appreciate animals and their feelings. We run a rescue and try and educate people on the importance of animals!
Shame on Seaworld for your lies. ~Sarah 🙁
And, as very difficult as it might be...there is no time like the present to educate our children about the importance of their responsibility to attempt to live in harmony with all living creatures...especially sell-aware creatures.
Unconscionable and heart wrenching. I am heartbroken and ashamed Americans flock to marine parks where whales entertain so our young children can be briefly entertained.. America, get enlightened, teach your children, this captivity of these highly evolved whales is wrong and certainly inhumane. If you want to go see whales, get on a boat which takes you out to the ocean to view them in their own natural environment.
Boycott these type of Marine parks where these poor whales are held in small "jail cells". If their shortened life span, collapsed dorsal fins, despondency and depression caused by separation from their kin,enduring grossly small living environment for such large mammals, aggressive behavior due to depression and frustration does not enlighten you, Sea World, then perhaps no longer making money on this barbaric business will. Shame on you! This is all about making lots of money by ruining the lives of other fellow creatures on this planet. I hope this movie begins a huge movement to put all these type of entertainment parks out of business simply because people choose to no longer participate in such a cruel
business. I will say prayers and actively seek out the companies which are fighting the good fight to end cruel treatment of these glorious wild animals, and more importantly, to put these parks out of business. One word: BOYCOTT
Disgusting, depressing and totally unethical. There should be a law against orcas in captivity. The US should give an example to the rest of the world: "No orcas in captivity".
The film should have shown a TV recording showing two sick orcas at SeaWorld in San Diego: one orca was trying to comfort the dyeing orca when people were pulling the dying orca out of the pool.
The act is disgusting. However, delivering this bitter message to the general masses that would have no way of particularly knowing otherwise in their daily existence, normal people are beginning to look at this issue in a fact driven way when making their decisions.
Kudos to CNN for not only televising this documentary, which I had originally seen in an indie theater, but for giving this issue the attention it deserves on Crossfire. CNN....please keep this issue alive and out there....we cannot forget about these whales
These amazing creatures should be living thier lives in the ocean where they belong. Orca whales have the same characteristics as humans. Whales can speak to thier families. They have feelings and emotions. They can tell when another member of thier whale family dies or is taken away from them. They feel grief just like we do. To hear the saddest sound of an orca whale crying because her son was taken away from her... Could RIP YOUR HEART OUT. To me, everything humans have.. shelter, food, family, love, relationships ,whales should have the same... THIER OWN FREEDOM...IN THEIR OCEAN! COME ON, GIVE THE WHALES THIER VOICE BACK!
PS I lost all respect for Jack Hannah that night on the post film show. I have always been suspicious of his motivations as I think he sold out along time ago (as evidenced by his MT lake home he has been filmed at). However listening to him Thursday night equating these animals, whose children travel with females for life, and zoo animals was plain wrong not to mention that when he equated SeaWorld's bath tub habitat to the better zoo natural habitats, I wanted to throw something at the TV.
I watched the film, and because I was in a hotel room travelling for work; the panel discussion after AND crossfire (rarely do). I have to admit that I was shocked by Mr. Gingrich's position which was in the middle leaning left (meaning environmentally sound). He has always been among my top five most un-respected former politicians, having lived on the other side of Atlanta when he was speaker and watching the government shut down. However, after Ted Cruz and now "this" where he recognizes SeaWorld is not providing anything close to the natural habitat better zoos strive for; I think perhaps even he is capable of evolving and may even be able to hand off the once a cheater always a cheater label... If I had a Twitter account, I would have given him a shout out that night 🙂
I am still in shock ..shocked to see and to find still in use in many parks punishment training used instead of at first science backed positive reinforcement . The horrible teeth marks on this poor baby by the others and locking him up all night in his first few months ..and the vivid scenes of how they captured him from his mother and family who wouldn't leave him is heartbreaking . This is so well done I understand why Sea World does not want it seen.
I was actually surprised how well they just gave information and leave it up to the viewer .
This at last is showing a side never shown before.
I don't think most of us have a problem when treatment and environmental conditions are fully met ...this was not and is not always as we know what is done . I don't know anyone who can watch this in it's entirety and not be moved ?
Unfortunately there are many investor backers who are connected to the Sea World corporation who demand to see profits
Like Loro Parque, the truth and awareness has been finally opened to many who did not know and there are many experts not paid by Sea World to say what they are told to say who all agree they should not be on these tiny cement pools . The dorsal fin issue ....and the lifespan of those in captivity compared to those in the wild is eye opening in itself.
When they weighed down the two dead whales who were killed trying to rescue baby Till , so there was no trace of them I was outraged ...when he was locked up alone and scared and bitten up I was in shock and when the other captive baby was taken from her captive mother ...and she grieved so vocally for months and never been the same whale again ...I just cried.
Sea World was sold by Budweiser to the Blackstone Group ( owned by Pete Peterson,who founded the Blackstone Group with Stephen Schwarzman who made Forbes top 10 worst billionaires list of 2013) and just recently was made public on the stock exchange .
If Jack Hannah is all the ill-informed, Kool-Aid drinking, ammunition that $eaWorld has then the writing is on the wall. Free Willy or at least move them to offshore pens to live out the rest of their live in the ocean if they are unable to fend for themselves after so many years living under POW conditions.
Never did and will. No Zoo neither. I always explained why.its no fun its torture.
It is obvious orcas should not be captive in any tanks. Killer whales are accustomed to swimming up to 100 miles a day. At marine parks like SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium, orcas are left doing circles in very small pools. Trainers care a lot about orcas, but they have no power resolving the orcas problem of being confined. It is cruel to see the orcas begging for food, being drugged and swimming as prisoners and accepting it during entertainment is unethical. It is too bad that the public enjoys seeing orcas performing without realizing what is going on behind the scenes. SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium only care about making money and putting on a facade of “Educational purposes” to disguise the truth about orca confinement. Only the brain reptile side of Society accepts this kind of behavior. Thank you CNN for educating the public. I applaud you.
#BLACKFISH. So I rarely add my two cents on political or social issues because I feel like everyone has a right to their opinion and I just prefer to keep mine to myself. But I watched the #CNN documentary about Killer Whales & Sea World last nite, BLACKFISH, and it was very near & dear to my heart because I used to grow up going to Sea World in San Diego....maybe once every couple of years. I effing LOVED that place!! When I was 13, I even nagged the workers at Shamu stadium to randomly 'pick' me to be the person from the audience who got to meet Shamu during the show. I remember saying immediately afterwards that when you look that animal in the eye, it sees you back. It acknowledges you. It registers you. It was a very odd but awesome sensation and it was interesting to hear them say the same thing during the documentary. Heck, I even have whales & dolphins tattoo'd all over my body!
But after watching CNN's #BLACKFISH last nite, I don't think I can ever go to Sea World again. I know documentaries always have an agenda & are clearly one sided, pushing that agenda but Blackfish really solidified the concerns I've always had in the back of my mind and tried to suppress. The initial, cruel kidnapping of the calves & separating them from their mothers/families, the containment of animals that swim miles a day in small concrete pools, again...relocating babies from one park to another & removing them from their families, the hanging dorsal fin of the males, the shortened (by almost HALF!!) lives of Killer Whales in captivity, the aggressive behavior of these poor animals towards their trainers. It's a sad, sad story and as bothersome as it was for me to watch BLACKFISH, it was something y'all should definitely try & see if you've ever visited Sea World or have any desire of visiting in the future. There! That's my two cents. ;o)
Good for you! That's great!
I love your response because you are willing to be humbled by the truth and to speak of your own ignorance regarding the Orcas, even though you literally grew up going to Sea World. It gives me hope, that instead of people being defensive and skeptical about the movie, we just listen, with eyes wide open, and see things the way we've never seen them before. I had NO IDEA that Orcas had such high emotional development, that they grieved, that they travelled as families, and aren't necessarily compatible with the other Orcas they were put with. It all seems so obvious now, but its hard to face how much I have supported these types of parks, raised my children with them, and feel helpless to do anything about it except to encourage people to see the movie and stop going to Sea World!!!
I never realized that Jack Hannah was just a PR spokesperson, he comes off like a dumb jock!
Not going to sea world they risk their workers life and this animals should be set free. I will not contribute my $$ money to this and so should you.
Tillicun's was kidnapped at two years of age, whereby two whales died in the nets, this was covered up by drowning those whales to cover up the tragedy during the hunt. Then he was repeatedly bullied by the other whales at SeaWorld, and then separated in isolation living alone in loneliness. TRAGIC!
Ongoing CRUELTY to these social creature has repercussions... It's surprising that any trainers are alive!
Can we all just admire the fact on how Grey Stafford, being the "professional" that he is, totally ignored the question at hand and kept referring back to "positive reinforcement training?" There was no questions that related to this positive reinforcement junk on the show tonight. SAVE THE ORCAS!
I watched the Crossfire episode following the CNN showing of Blackfish. I would say it is safe to assume that any advocate of Seaworld is probably NOT offering facts in his or her argument. Grey Stafford briefly mentioned that there are ocean pens that release orcas to swim freely and that these orcas return to the pens of their own free will. I have a hard time believing this. Is there any film, documentation, or evidence to support that claim?
I will not take y children or grandchildren to see whales in captivity!
There are laws against kidnapping, so why is this going on? Babies ripped fro their pods causing intense pain and anxiety! Whale trafficking for profit. We have a lot of resources to learn about whales today, there is no need for whales to be kept in captivity for our entertainment....
Please Stop the capture of whales, they belong in their own pods in the wild.
Same with dolphins. That's right, send a clear message by not going to see them.
Blackfish was truly an eye opener and I thank both Producers and CNN for taking the time to discuss this delicate matter. I think that there is no way Sea World can state that these whales are better in captivity than out in the while. Even if a killer Whale is born at their facilities that doesn't make them less of a killer whale. There instincts are being controlled. I don't have to be a Trainer to have common sense. They are fed, instead of allowing them to hunt, they are used to living with family for their entire lives. Basically, they are deprived of their natural course of life. To suggest they have them in captivity to educate us is an insult to our intelligence, bottom line is Sea World's bottom line. I hold Sea World responsible for the deaths of these trainers. They should have pulled the whale from the act with 1st incident but here we are with (3) deaths. I praise OSHA for not backing down. Needless to say, I will not be taking my daughters to Sea World until they correct the problem or release them.
So how much money did Grey Stafford get paid by Seaworld to spew his bullshit on Crossfire? He claimed that these animals are so well cared for and blah, blah, blah. I would have liked to see the clip demonstrating how young calves, which normally spend years with their mothers and the family pod learning to hunt and survive are separated from their mothers within the first year of birth and shipped off to another marine entertainment center. The mother spends days crying for her lost calf, not knowing what happened to it or where it is. As for Seaworld, they've lost sight of their purpose and have become a money-making scheme more than a research facility. No ... I will NEVER visit Seaworld or any other marine entertainment center ... incuding swimming with dolphins (of which Orcas are a family member).
NO!! I will never go to Seaworld, circus with the the animals or aquarium. We need to learn about the animals in different way, using our intellegence. These places should be closed! We keep dogs and cats inside. But at least, we let them go outside, they don't stay inside of our bathrooms. And this what happened to the orcas. I am glad I saw this movie. Very well done.
Seaword should save the animals who was hurting or sick, but instead of that they use them for profit. The orcas should live free among with the elephants.
Since having viewed Blackfish in the cinema and having ordered the DVD, I have now joined the fight for these intelligent and magnificent creatures in getting the word out on the the cruelty inflicted upon these animals for the sake of pure greed. How would you like to be kept in a 5 ft x 5 ft room for most of your life with strangers who relentlessly harm and harass you. This after having been taken from your family. You are allowed to eat only after you are coerced into 'performing'. And this is your life...that's it. I will never set foot again in any marine park that holds these orcas captive. Seaworld, please do the right thing.
How would you like to be born in a bathroom and left there to live for the rest of your "natural" life?
As a layman who taken to the Bronx Zoo and the Museum of Natural History as a child, I developed a deep love and appreciation for animals. I say a blind man could see that there is no natural history taught at a SeaWorld orca display.
SeaWorld's shows are a shameful display of man's arrogance of his place in nature.
Let the CEO's of SeaWorld put on some swim trunks and get in the water with their cash whales and show the public "how swell everything is."
After seeing Blackfish, I will do everything in my small circle of influence to urge people to
boycott SeaWorld and tell them to seriously re-think it's marine animal displays.
If SeaWorld is genuinely interested in educating the public about these magnicent, regal animals who have done nothing to deserve what essentially is criminal treatment, then let them show it by stopping the Believe show. With all your billions, find another way.
"A civilization is judged by the way it treats its elderly, children and animals." ~ Mohandas Ghandi
My twelve year old daughter watched Blackfish with me tonight. She has always been interested in all types of animals. While discussing this show, she said, "Why are the humans in the water with killer whales?" I am so in agreement with her. Even someone at age 12 can question the reasoning on this. I truly believe that having whales and other sea animals in places where humans can see them and learn to appreciate them is very beneficial, not only to the human race, but to the whales and other animals that live freely in the oceans, because hopefully humans do learn, by seeing them up close, to respect them and to help preserve the habitats of these creatures. But breeding the captive whales for more captive whales seems inhumane to me. If it weren't for the greed of putting on a great show and having plenty of whales to make that happen, I think we could make more progress on how we exhibit these animals in a better way for us to still get to see them and truly learn from them, while improving their health and quality of life in captivity.
The bottom line is these animals are too large, too socciablea and emotional to be kept in captivity. There are other ways for Sea World to educate the public on these beautiful mammals. Set them free.
I bet the people of sea world, would not like if strange people came in their homes and snatched their children up, right in front of them. Free the whales........
I've been to seaworld. I found the killer whales and the show to be exactly that, A SHOW. Ive been fortunate enough to see the whales on the internet and was rather let down that Sea world had the whales do something purely for revenue generation and very little in the education dept.
I have yet to see a video on the net that shows these animals with humans riding them in the wild . The bent over fin only happens in captivity.
I wonder if anyone would enjoy being in jail. Where your fed and can get education and exercise and free room and board etc? After all being locked in a small cell would protect you from the natural environment and the tax man.
I bet many would rather take the risk that freedom has rather being locked up and protected from the outside.
I think Seaworld does a great job with their animals. However, every species has a behavior indicating they are unhappy or not feeling well. I think the trainers of these magnificient sea creatures need to pay attention to what these creatures are trying to tell them. I think the trainers may be a bit complacent in that area and need to be more aware of the signals these creatures are trying to convey.
Did you even watch the documentary because your posting indicates you likely didn't. How would you like to be locked up in a cage and fed only when you do tricks exactly like someone else wants you to. Then when you don't do them right, you don't eat or you are only fed nasty undesirable food. Oh, and we know that living in a cage (constantly exposed to chlorine chemicals from the water) will make you physically ill and so we will also need to pump you full of drugs to keep you alive. You will also be constantly exposed to high concentrations of mosquitos from all the nearby standing water. But we have learned how to drug you and your pool mates quite well to prevent west nile disease from incapacitating you; although we have lost a few over the years to various other diseases and issues. We will also need to give you constant ant-acids due to all the stresses we constantly put you under and because you are being bullied by the other Whales in the same small cage/jail who don't speak the same language as you and are from completely different places around the world. Those other whales are bullying you because we want them to bully you. They know we didn't feed them either because you didn't do the tricks right and we want you to fear for you life when it comes to doing these tricks right. After all, people pay a lot of money to come see you. One of your friends were murdered by the other whales for that reason when things go particularly violent and their artery ended up being cut. They bled out in front of everyone. You too could swim in a pool of their blood for a couple days. Oh, and if you ever do have any joy in your life; such as a new baby; we will take that baby away so you aren't distracted from the tricks we expect you to do as we exploit you to make the most money. Your baby will be great for us once we get it away from you and under our special positive reinforcement training (where you get to eat if you do things right and no one beat you up- only when you do things right). If that is your definition of a great job, your standards are different than most.
We won't be taking our kids to Seaworld. I'm the parent of 9 year old triplets who has never and won't take my kids to Seaworld, just as I won't take them to an animal circus. The characterization of Seaworld as an aquarium is wrong. It is nothing more than a circus.
Wow Newt you should not comment on something you know zero about. Your comment about how female orcas have higher mortality rate than at sea world giving birth is ludicrous. The reason they are dying at Sea world is they are breeding them to young. Also inbreeding going as well these things do not happen in the wild.
I wouldn't take my kids to sea world they treat bad the animals
What's Newt doing there. He knows Orcas??
Crossfire is annoying as the advocate for sea world definitely has an agenda. No sane person would think orcas are doing great at seaworld. The area they are confined to is way too small and I find the orca living condition appalling
Please free the whales, obviously they don't belong in captivity, .. how many more trainers need to die to make it a point!
I feel sorry for the people who go to Sea World and have no idea how an Orca behaves in the wild. You are promoting cruelty beyond imagination. Do you really believe that the purpose of these magnificent animals is to entertain you? Are you that arrogant that you believe the lies that Sea World tells you without ever looking further?
I will never go to seaworld again
I will never take my child or recommend Sea World to anyone.
Tilikum has served his jail time. Keep the whales you have produced in captivity, the ones that don't know what there missing. Tilikum has been kept long enough. Set him free.
Very interesting show on Killer Whales. Why is it ok for these animals to be captured and sold in the first place?
I have a problem with pod families being broken up and babies taken from their mothers
So seriously, I'm listening to Newt Gingrich's opinions on whales? Really?
He's a Host of the show and works for CNN Crossfire which is for the purpose of bringing different people in to talk about subjects of controversy. He wasn't on the show as an expert. He is one of the four regular moderators of the show. None of the four moderators are experts in this area or many of the subjects they cover. They invite guests to the show and use it as a forum to discuss areas of concern.
Monetary greed is the root of all animal exploitation. Such a terrible character trait for only us humans. Breeding and reintroduction programs are great for endangered species, but marine animal parks, the circus, and many zoos are unethical at their core. I will never visit such venues as long as I live. And all of my family and friends will clearly know why.
Killer whales are the same as elephants as far as their intelligence, emotions, strong family units and nature to journey long distances. More and more zoos are questioning keeping elephants in captivity because of the impact captivity and isolation have on these amazing beings. This should be the direction we take in how we view orcas.
Keeping an animal that naturally travels thousands of miles annually and lives in large family groups in captivity away from its family is simply wrong.
Sea World should focus on wildlife rehabilitation and like many rehabilitating facilities, keep only those animals that cannot be reintroduced into the wild. This would be a much more powerful lesson about wildlife and conservation than making animals perform in circuses such as Sea World;s shows.
These beautiful animals are simply too large to be confined. It's one thing to study animals to understand their health and environment. It's another to capture and confine for entertainment and big business. They obviously have their own pods and way of life. They belong at sea!
Free the wales and stop their suffering. It is cruel and shameful.
There's something about having the word wildlife and trainer in the same sentence that simply does not make sense. As a certified wildlife biologist, with extensive experience in marine mammalogy from private institutions, nonprofit, and the Smithsonian Institution, I am appalled that you are representing the wildlife community. Cetacean, pinniped, in the rest of intelligent mammals have no place in captivity. Unless the species is threatened, endangered or near extinction, I cannot see any reason for why these animals should be in captivity.
Of course killer whales should be released as they belong in the wild as free animals. BUT then how about the animals in the zoo, in pet shops, in farms, etc.???
I strongly appose these kind of surveys. They have no validity. They only measure responses from people who not only look at this page, but care to reply. Obviously a heavily biased sample.
I have seen CNN report real statistically valid polls. To see them even use this kind of tool is somewhat disingenuous, simply pandering to readers who get to see what they want. Their own views parroted back to them.