‘Blackfish’ Star John Hargrove on SeaWorld's Bullying Tactics and PR Blunders, Documentary's Oscar Chances

'Blackfish' Star John Hargrove on SeaWorld's Bullying Tactics and PR Blunders, Documentary's Oscar Chances

“I am counting down the hours because I really want to get nominated, just for those whales, just for their voice,” the former SeaWorld trainer tells TheWrap “And SeaWorld, you're really f–ked”

John Hargrove, a former killer whale trainer for 14 years, left SeaWorld in August of 2012 after witnessing his employer blatantly lie about the danger the massive mammals pose to people in captivity. A week later he was being interviewed on camera by director Gabriela Cowperthwaite for her eye-opening documentary “Blackfish.”

On the eve of the 2014 Academy Award nominations announcements, TheWrap interviewed Hargrove about his experiences leading up to the life-changing decision to help Cowperthwaite expose SeaWorld's role in covering up numerous incidents of whales threatening their trainers, as well as the harrowing effects of keeping them in captivity solely for the entertainment of others.

Also read: Hard-Hitting IDA Awards Nominees Include Documentaries ‘Act of Killing,’ ‘Blackfish,’ ‘Stories We Tell’

When did you first start to realize that SeaWorld was doing something unethical with these animals?
Four years into my career. The first four years of my career, SeaWorld was the happiest place on Earth. I was living out my childhood dream. SeaWorld was the biggest, best in the world, and had the most money, and I had no reason to believe that we were doing anything but giving these animals the best life possible and they were there to serve a purpose.

And after four years of my career little things would happen, really starting with trainers. We would start to see the dark side of stuff with trainers, like with management and how they would handle trainers. It is a very cult-like environment, especially with killer whale trainers. There's very few of us in the world that do it. SeaWorld is, like, the monopoly in the world. So if you want this career, you will do as [SeaWorld wants] you to do, and think the way that [SeaWorld wants] you to think.

For me, with the animals, is when we started separating moms from their calves.

Contrary to what SeaWorld's carefully prepared statements that they put out saying they'll never separate moms from calves unless it's medical, that's bullshit. Total bullshit. I can give you so many examples that that's not true. And not just my opinion that it's not true — it's not true. I was there for those, and I know the exact reasons we moved those whales, and it was because we had a need in another park for that particular animal, whether it was a juvenile male or a juvenile female, or a female that knew all of the water work behaviors, or a dominant female, or whatever.

What's your response to the company's allegations that “Blackfish”only focuses on a handful of events from the park's history and ignores its contributions to education, preservation and animal research?
I think they do some great research and rescue efforts, like with manatees and sea turtles, but that has nothing to do at all with killer whales being in captivity for entertainment purposes. It's such a deflection that they use. Yeah, I'm all for giving credit where credit is due, and I applaud you for what you do with manatees and I applaud you for what you do with sea turtles, but that has absolutely nothing to do with what we're talking about. That has absolutely nothing to do with “Blackfish,” or killer whales in captivity for entertainment, or the death of these trainers by killer whales. It's a total deflection.

And then saying it only focuses on a handful of events, in one way, is right. It only focuses on a handful of events, but there were so many others. We just scratched the surface. There's so many incidents that we did not bring up in “Blackfish,” that trainers nearly died and we didn't even touch on those. So, I mean, they should be grateful that we only brought up what we brought up. If there was more time, it would have been a less-flattering picture for them, for sure.

Were you afraid of legal repercussions from SeaWorld?
Absolutely. I know SeaWorld, I know what they're like. And they're bullies. They've always been a bully. I've just seen them bully so many different trainers, and so many court cases that were settled and gag ordered.

They have so much power and so much money, they've successfully created an alternate universe that they've been able to live in, up until recently. Then the tide shifted. People started to evolve with their thinking. We have camera phones, and all that kind of shit, so things were being captured that weren't being captured before. So they started getting exposed about a lot of the things that they weren't transparent about. But for the '80s and '90s, for sure, they were untouchable. They knew they were untouchable.

Has SeaWorld made any legal moves against you?
No, they haven't made any legal threats against me, yet.

The threat is always there, but at this point they have to go through Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films, so it's not just me out there on my own as an individual, and they know that.

And what SeaWorld doesn't want is all the shit that I know coming out. So if they decided, “We're going to sue him,” first you have to prove it was a lie, but everything I said was the truth.

What was your reaction to news that close to 200 SeaWorld Orlando employees were caught weighing in on the Orlando Business Journal's poll asking, “Has CNN's Blackfish Documentary Changed Your Perception of SeaWorld?” Were you somehow bothered by that? Or was it no big deal?
How embarrassing, you know? It's just so pathetic. I love the fact that they got busted. And how stupid can you be in 2014. Like really? The smartest people that are working in your IT department didn't think that it wasn't going to be traced back to your IP address and its registered under SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment? Dude, I'm not tech savvy, and have trouble setting up Twitter, and I know that. I wouldn't make that mistake, so I just think it's hilarious.

This is historically so fitting for SeaWorld. They screw up like this all the time. They have all the wrong people in the wrong positions. So many people should have lost their jobs so many years ago and they just keep these people in these positions and they just keep shooting themselves in the foot. But that's just embarrassing.

I imagine not, but have you had any interactions with the whales or seen them since “Blackfish” came out?
No, and I never will. No desire to. I'll never do it. When I left there was only one way to handle that and I had to accept it has a death, because I was never going to go back to SeaWorld and be a park guest, and sit in the stadium with some popcorn and watch the show.

After everything I had lived through in my career with these whales, there would be no way in hell I would ever reduce myself to sitting in the stands and looking at them as a park guest.

Was there a scene in the documentary that particularly affected you while watching it?
The capture videos were always upsetting, but I've seen those videos so many times throughout my career. For me personally, the most powerful interview in the film is with John Crowe, the hardened guy that was a part of the captures. And I just think it's because he's got this very rough exterior, but he's so tortured by what he did so many years ago. And you can see that he's tortured by it. Here's a guy that's a rough-and-tough guy, and has lived a rough-and-tough life, and yet he's sensitive enough that he's tortured by what he did.

What does an Oscar nomination for “Blackfish” mean for you, and for the cause?
Full acceptance that this has gone mainstream. That mainstream America has really heard this story, and for me, knowing that all these people out there know the names of these whales and the stories that these whales have left behind.

Listen, I had the choice to leave, to move back to New York City, to live the life that I want to live. Those whales that I love, and meant everything to me, don't have that choice. They have no choice. They're stuck there in those concrete pool walls.

For it to get this nomination, and to know that this is not just animal people that care about this issue, but mainstream America … and the pressure that puts on SeaWorld to change. Dude, I don't even know how I'm going to celebrate, but I will celebrate. I want it so bad.

I am counting down the hours because I really want to get nominated, just for those whales, just for their voice. And SeaWorld, you're really fucked.

How can people who are moved by “Blackfish” get involved in the cause?
We're viewing 2013 as the year that set the stage, and in 2014 you're really going to see a lot of action taken. Until we solidify that action, and what we're doing, and how those people can help, the best thing that people can do is very simple: Just don't go to SeaWorld. And be specific with SeaWorld why you're not coming. ‘We're not coming to SeaWorld because it's not acceptable to us that you forcibly artificially inseminate your whales and take the calves away from their mothers, and that you are forcing the whales to go into pools that are only eight feet deep, and that you haven't updated your facility since the mid 1980s, and that we're going to tell all of our friends and family the same thing.’

That's the most powerful thing that people can do right now, but there will definitely be more things that come this year.

  • Melissa

    Love this guy! Really hoping it gets an Oscar nom. And I agree…watching John Crowe break down over his memory and pariticipation in the capture was heart-wrenching.

    • Ashley

      And at least he admitted what he did was wrong too

  • tracisji16

    Well done interview! Thank you Greg and John! Sure hoping it gets the oscar nomination!

  • Theresa Pugh

    Awesome piece. Thank You! :)

  • Alyson_Fernandez

    Blackfish has backed Seaworld into a corner, ironically similar to the animals they hold captive. Seaworld is lashing out against the constant pressure, but failing miserably. Great article, Fantastic movie. Fingers crossed that it takes the Oscar

    • Tim

      Lashing out? They made a press announcement in a professional manner.

      • Alyson_Fernandez

        I would absolutely consider telling their staff to “blog against Blackfish as if their jobs depended on it” lashing out, BUYING Ads in newspapers would also be considered lashing out and to be honest very desperate.

        • Pete

          then you clearly didn't see the actual release. but i assume you wouldn't be looking for that either now would you….since you have the only side of the story you need….

          • Alyson_Fernandez

            I've been studying the negative effects of captivity on cetaceans long before blackfish came out Pete. How about you? So glad that over 500,000 people have already supported the new blackfish bill in California, and that is only in 2 days

  • anonymous

    fuck killerwhales. they shall all die and vanish from this earth FOREVER.

    • Lucy Fernandez

      You just a coward.

  • seadog7

    Nice interview John!! Crossing my fingers for tomorrow!

  • Viper1999

    Yawn…..guess we're going to close all our zoo's now. Left wingers looking to cash in and make money off this.

    • Julian Christian

      Not a left or right issue. It's a common sense issue.

      • John Hargrove

        Exactly. But the people who make those type comments are the ones you can't reach.

    • smoc1

      This has nothing to do with money. It is the exact opposite. Please educate yourself on the matter before posting with complete ignorance.

      • Sal Brown

        Well the issue is about money. Sea World's money. I think you are referring to John Hargrove's participation and excitement about being in an Oscar winning movie that could save hundreds of whales and dolphins from a live of cruelty and abuse. You are correct. That is not about money!

        • Viper1999

          Close all the zoo's….poor animals. Close down all the traveling circuses……poor animals. Anything produced on film is made to make a huge profit……Hollywood was formed from money and greed.

    • ebolaoutkast

      Yes, many Blackfish supporters are radicals that want all zoos to close. There are those that are in the middle, but this movement is undeniably grounded in animal rights.

      • Teresa Wagner

        Blackfish supporters are against animal cruelty at all marine parks. Call us whatever you wish. The issue is about stopping cruelty in the name of entertainment and profit.

        • Viper1999

          Closing ALL zoo's is in your warped logic. There are even humans abused for entertainment and profit. These animals are treated kindly and fed well, been a Sea World park goer for over a decade. I bet I've seen the Shamu show more times than you have….even been behind the scenes and seen their operations many of times.

          • Sal Brown

            Seriously? You know “these animals are treated kindly and fed well….”?? If you have seen the Shamu show and still think they are being treated well, you are a fool. Do you not know that the volume of the music at those “Shamu” shows is so loud that the animals are in pain during the entire performance. The military uses loud music as a form of torture. This is the same thing for marine animals. If you can't see that then you know so little about the issue and need to learn more on the subject before speaking out.

          • Viper1999

            You radicals are pathetic. The music is NOT overbearing….get a life. I've seen the show at least a 100 times through my years as a season pass-holder. Never seen one abuse of any of their animals, I would be the first to complain. Whiny people in society these days.

          • Sal Brown

            Viper. Get a life? That's what people say when they're loosing the discussion. You are either lying about being at a Shamu show or you are deaf. You can also go online and watch a show as there are many on YouTube for all so see and hear. They are extremely loud!

            I don't believe you care about the animals. My girlfriend was at the show in Tampa a few years ago and the music was so loud it hurt her ears. It was clear to her that not only the animals that were being forced to perform were suffering from the noise level but so were all the others who weren't even in the show.

          • Viper1999

            You people are so negative. I've been a season pass-holder at the SA park for well over a decade and see NONE of the things you complain about. Your GF was at the park years back but seems like you haven't been…..pathetic whiners. You sound like the atheists act, wanting to take away enjoyment and freedom from others for your own selfish personal gain.

          • Lucy Fernandez

            We know SW is paying people to defend them in social media.

          • Viper1999

            Just a LONGTIME park LOVER. Wish I was being paid but that is just a unrealistic fantasy you dreamed up.

          • John Hargrove

            No matter how many times you've been to a Shamu show or have been behind the scenes can't equate to living a life with these whales for 14 years. It requires more than being fed well to be able to live a healthy and enriching life. Just ask the three girls who were kidnapped and held hostage for a decade in Ohio….all were fed well.

        • ebolaoutkast

          It is not ‘cruelty', nor does entertainment with animals automatically entail animal suffering. If the animals are not faring well in captivity, it is unfortunate, yet moving them to any other situation is also not guaranteed to not be ‘cruel'. It was not anyone's intention to harm these animals, that would be stupid. Sometimes zoo situations do not end up how we imagined. The important thing to remember here is that none are taken from the wild anymore (don't lecture me about the beluga whales, that's another subject).

        • John Hargrove

          You are exactly right. Unbelievable these people fight against wanting a better life with improved habitats for these and all animals and think we have the right to enslave animals for our entertainment. Sick thinking

      • John Hargrove

        that's where you're wrong again. Do the math:
        21 million (all time record) viewers on CNN
        Most watched program ever on CNN for 18-23 yo
        #1 for prime age demo of 24-53 night of CNN premiere
        60 million viewers worldwide
        Official selection for Sundance
        Shortlisted for the Academy Awards (top 15)
        Nominated for a BAFTA (Academy Awards for Europe)
        sorry-21 million on CNN setting and all time ratings record alone doesn't support your assertion that this is only grounded in radicals…nice try,numbers don't lie. Never saw or heard of small grouped radicals setting a ratings record for anything. And lets not forget about all the A-list stars that have pulled their involvement with SeaWorld specifically because of ‘Blackfish'. To not accept this is as mainstream is simply delusional.

        • ebolaoutkast

          Animal rights is mainstream, that I'm aware of. Never did I call it a minority. Blackfish is trendy to people because they can feel good about themselves without doing something extremely unpleasant like giving up their diet. People love to declare their hate for SeaWorld and their hate for the inbreeding going on, while they post photos of their inbred pugs on facebook.

  • Teresa Wagner

    GO BLACKFISH GO!!!!!!!!

  • Julian Christian

    All the while the CEO of SeaWorld is bragging about record profits for 2013. Essentially saying that Blackfish had no effect on SeaWorld's business. Either he is in denial or there are a lot of uninformed people out there.

    • Tim

      Folks visit Seaworld cause it's a fun park and they don't give a shit about this stupid movie. Stupid director trying to make a name for herself

      • webding

        Tim, why don't you go take a swim in Tilli's little pool?

        • Pete

          i wouldnt in Tilli's, because there is documented evidence of his aggressive behavior…..but i would say, i wouldnt be horrified to jump in with one knowing that there were MILLIONS of interactions, and only 100 incidents, in over 20 years.

          i can handle that. if that was a lottery, i would not expect to win.

      • Unity Nowe

        Oh “Tim”

      • Mrs. Wilson

        If that is a “stupid” movie, I would hate to think what you would consider a good one. Lack f education and compassion are a bad combination that many humans posess. Too bad you are one of them.

      • Pete

        agreed. i watched the film before i bought my tickets. then i took my family, took a camera and recorded everything. i have re watched everything, looked at all my photos, and i will be returning again.

        the problem is. is that the movie came forward. everyone got all crazy. Then the people involved in the film also started to come forward against it. unethical relationships started to be revealed. Dawns family has spoken against he movie, trainers are against how Sea World was portrayed.

        and what do you people say?? “paid off”, “doesn't matter, its still bad”, etc. If someone gave you a hamburger to eat, and you found out later it was shit, i assume you would want to know….but when it comes to this movie, you not only don't want to hear about the “shit burger” but you want to eat more rather then find a respectable place to get your information.

        Blackfish was propaganda. There is research that supports some aspects of the movie, yes, i agree, but to completely disregard any good the company does is ludicrous.

        so, before you all get all excited, i can already tell the comments about to come “go get educated”, “you shouldn't breed”, “go read a book”……and i have. many now actually. and there is evidence on both sides of this situation, and as hard as this is to believe, not all “pro sea world” research is funded and paid for by them.

    • Julian Christian

      Straw man’ arguments are frivolous and don't hold water (pun intended). He evades the real issue of captivity by attacking activists. The chicanery is palpable, it is our duty to expose this trickery and inform the public with facts and teach empathy. If not for the animals, for our morality as a species.

  • Theresa Pugh

    You're just jealous anonymous. Won't even leave your name. LOL….

    • Pollexter KFedistan

      Jealous of what exactly…? Do the people calling in bomb threats or trying to crash SeaWorld's servers leave their names? :-D

  • smoc1

    Thank you for your honesty! You help restore my faith that humanity is evolving and these barbaric ways will become a thing of the past. Thank you!

  • Theresa Pugh

    LOL Viper, no one in this for the money but $eaworld….

  • ebolaoutkast

    “I am counting down the hours because I really want to get nominated, just for those whales” –What does he mean “I want” to get nominated? It's not ‘his movie'.

    • Sal Brown

      It means he feels invested in the project. He's obviously not implying the movie is “his”. He has used “I want” in the third person. Technically he should have said WE but in his excitement for the issue he used the word I. There is no need to argue semantics. This issue is too big for that.

      • Nancy

        Are you his PR person? It seems that you're speaking for him quite a bit. Do you know him? Is Sal Brown a pseudonym for John Hargrove?

        • Lucy Fernandez

          Looks like you the one doing PR for SW here.

          • ebolaoutkast

            People are allowed to defend it just as you choose to attack it.

          • John Hargrove

            Nobody needs to attack. people can simply state if they agree or not but people take it a peronal level of attacking and when that happens then people have the right (and tehir supporters) to fight back and defend themselves.

        • Sal Brown

          LOL That's too funny. Just saw this on my feed and couldn't help but answer. No I do not know John Hargrove and commenting on a post two times is not exactly “quite a bit”.

          Among other things I used to teach English. Funny what an education can do for you. Did you get the pun there? I used the word you in both the 3rd person and 2nd person. Isn't English a fascinating language? Yes it is!

      • John Hargrove

        Sal, please see my above comment.

        • Sal Brown

          Because of the Disqus formatting I don't see anything above. I'll check back to see if you have added a comment but really what else is there to say?

    • Sal Brown

      He is using the work “I” in the 3rd person. It is a common mistake made when people are excited and speaking extemporaneously. He should have said “we” but his intent is still clear. He's happy that a movie he was asked to be a part of has a good chance at winning an Oscar. Anyone would be excited about that in the same position.
      Regardless, John Hargrove is a great humanitarian who cares deeply about the marine animals suffering at the hands of Sea World and other marine parks. I hope “He” and everyone involved in Blackfish win the Oscar! If Blackfish wins it will be all the harder for Sea World to continue to cover up the atrocities they hide for the sake of their profit margins and lining their own pockets.

      • ebolaoutkast

        OK Sal, I only need one reply. And I still think saying “I win” is ridiculous. And if ‘he wins', it will be because a bunch of simpletons find this topic to be the most important of the year, and not because this film is the ‘best documentary'. So we'll see if the Academy cares even a little about their shirking integrity.

        • loveofcircus

          and the jerk didn't even get nominated

          • ebolaoutkast

            :-)

          • John Hargrove

            Loveofcircus maybe you should expand your horizns and visit countries such as Costa Rica who have outlawed circuses with animal acts as well as cages for animals for more than ten years as well as made it illegal to sport hunt. Although I doubt you would ever have the desire to progress to a higher understanding of life of another living being that isn't human. Call people jerks you don't even know is the first clue. lol.

        • John Hargrove

          Please let us all know the next time you do anything that grabs 21 million viewers on CNN and 60 million worldwide and caused 10 A-list stars to pull their association with an organization. Hate to break it to you but us so-called “simpletons” have you you just slightly outnumbered. Maybe you should retake that test for MENSA

          • ebolaoutkast

            Someone's bitter :-)

          • ebolaoutkast

            Ohhh congrats congrats. Don't think I ever claimed to have a high IQ.

    • webding

      It's not that hard, dude, he wants the message to go all over the world. Hope it does.

      • ebolaoutkast

        It already has. Happy?

      • John Hargrove

        Thank you

    • John Hargrove

      Sal expressed it very well. This is my movie and it's everyone's movie who was involved. All of us who took the risk to speak out for a better life for these whales have every right to take ownership of this incredible film we are all so proud of.

      • ebolaoutkast

        Nice save. Your other posts indicate that you are very full of yourself, hence why the results of the Oscar nominations are something that, I can't lie, made me beam.

        • John Hargrove

          “beam” all you want, you have no influence on what is happening. Thank you I am full of myself and everyone who took action should be too. You just sit around and hate an tear down. You are a cancer.

          • ebolaoutkast

            No influence, huh? I do write on this subject and get a number of views. I've been ‘hated on’ and ‘torn down’ by your ilk, getting called the ‘c’ word and all that jazz. Not that it bothers me. In my article, I did drop a hint that the film was ‘unoriginal’ (which it is). That was no accident. I fully had the Oscars in mind.

  • e sov

    guess i dont understnad whats diff about them or any other animals whos fighting for the fucking sea lions?

    • Teresa Wagner

      Sea Shepherd who works to stop the Oregon fisherman from shooting them.

    • Greg

      If we can't save all animal species at once, we shouldn't save any, ever?

      • loveofcircus

        So you admit you are a petaphile and your goal is no more animals in captivity. It is good to be honest and not pretend.

        • Greg

          Guessing your reply was not intended for me…

    • webding

      Dude, there's a shitload of injustice in the world, starting somewhere is better than being overwhelmed by it all. I figure the sea lions have more room than the whales. I personally would rather projectile vomit than go to a show where animals are doing ‘clever tricks'. Holy shit, let's hope the next generation isn't so stupid.

    • John Hargrove

      We need to fight for them too. Exactly point.

  • John DeGuardi

    This guy is so full of himself! He is obviously extremely selfish, and obsessed with self-interest.

    “And after four years of my career little things would happen, really starting with trainers. We would start to see the dark side of stuff with trainers, like with management and how they would handle trainers.”

    Something that some people know, but won't always mention is the reason why he left SeaWorld. He left because he was moved to another stadium, away from the killer whales. He was moved to the stadium that (unfortunately for how some trainers, like him, see it) is seen as a downgrade. He was moved to the Sea Lion and Otter stadium. The stadium where not necessarily the greatest trainers are – or at least in the way of how he thinks. It's not “cool” to be a Sea Lion trainer, but it is “cool” to be a Killer Whale trainer. You know what I mean? He left because he was moved – plain and simple.

    “There’s so many incidents that we did not bring up in “Blackfish,” that trainers nearly died and we didn’t even touch on those.”

    Mostly all the incidents that are in Blackfish and some that were not shown are available online on the Orca Network website. Everyone knows that this is a risky job where incidents are likely to happen. And no, there is no way of knowing for certain that these incidents are caused by the whales being stressed, or any of the other arguments made by Blackfish. There is no way.

    “Absolutely. I know SeaWorld, I know what they’re like. And they’re bullies. They’ve always been a bully.”

    Why? Because they moved you to Sea Lion stadium?

    “After everything I had lived through in my career with these whales, there would be no way in hell I would ever reduce myself to sitting in the stands and looking at them as a park guest.”

    Of course, he would never go back unless he was back as a killer whale trainer. Something tells me that if there was no Blackfish, he would not have spoken against SeaWorld and would have probably ventured into something else while he recovered from an injury. It was training killer whales, or training nothing. Because, after all, training killer whales is badass – right?

    “Full acceptance that this has gone mainstream. That mainstream America has really heard this story, and for me, knowing that all these people out there know the names of these whales and the stories that these whales have left behind.”

    BS! BS! BS! He wants it because it is incredibly awesome to say – “I have an Oscar” or “I contributed a lot to have this Oscar.” Don't be fooled, people!

    Everything that I've written here can be found online if people do research after watching the film. There are countless sites with the ‘other side’ of the story. There are many articles that reveal who these people who contributed to Blackfish are.

    People – please do your research, and then come up with your opinion.

    And to close it all out, I do not support SeaWorld. I think having killer whales in captivity, or any animal, for entertainment purposes is awful. I just think this is a misleading film that is not “fact-based” as they claim. Honesty is very important, especially when dealing with subjects that people are really passionate about. Let's not just attack a company for self-interest. Let's REALLY care about the animals – ALL ANIMALS.

    • Sal Brown

      I don't see a man full of himself. I see a man who is so excited about a movie he was asked to be a part of that has the ability to make a huge difference in a cause he feels strongly about. For you to make the statement that you know why he quit working at Sea World means you either work for Sea World or you are making this information up.
      Either way, John Hargrove is no different than most whistleblowers. He started out believing, then he started to see things he knew weren't right but still wanted to believe in the company mission,. The more wrongs he saw the harder it was for him to play along. The next step is the hardest – admitting you have been lied to and made to be a part of a morally corrupt institution by the people you had so much esteem for. Good for Hargrove. He saw the wrongs and he walked away. That's a hero in my book.

      • John DeGuardi

        I am not making up this information. Again, do your research. It comes from a park insider and is online – if you look for it, you'll find it. He is excited because he is ready to make sure the company knows he is here to slap them in the face.

        The whole “no different than most whistleblowers” is complete BS.

        And, you can't say “a morally corrupt institution,” if you don't do your research.

        I really hope people get the message of “oh, there is another side, so let's research both sides, and then come to conclusions” than “SeaWorld is bad.”

        DO YOUR RESEARCH.

        • Lucy Fernandez

          I have done my research and I can tell you are one of those SW insides doing public relationship for SW. That only show how desperate they are.

          • Guest

            You clearly have not done your research because your comment is entirely false. I think SeaWorld is smarter than that. I don't see them being desperate at all – especially since they had record attendance and profit numbers for 2013.

            I have absolutely nothing to do with SeaWorld and never been in contact with them. I just support them because I think they are a great place for everyone to learn about the ocean life.

          • Miss Rae

            SeaWorld corp and management has been caught in sooooooo many lies it's ridiculous. Yes there are 2 sides to the story, but SeaWorld management has lied repeatedly about things that scientists have said are bullshit.

          • John Hargrove

            Again, exactly right. Tough to convince you're telling the truth with so much egg on your face.

          • Mrs. Wilson

            Apparently you are just another brainwashed fool. It would make more sense if you WERE being paid to say these things!!

          • John Hargrove

            Exactly Lucy.

        • John Hargrove

          A park insider? lol

        • smoc1

          Do you know what park insider is? Do you not realize how they make their $$$. They need to continue making things up or spinning the truth to insure that they still get to piggy back off of seaworld. Haven't you wondered why the only rebuttals to Blackfish have come from themepark review sites? Doesn't that strike you as odd? Seriously – you need to do some actual research. Good luck because I hope some common sense sinks in with you soon.

          • Pete

            if you are so educated, how come you havent provided any documented evidence? at this point, its just your opinion, which is pretty much all Blackfish was, was the opinion of an uneducated director, and her angry band of disgrutled employees…….

            but wait, she threw out interviews that didnt have a negative enough context to them, and she lied to the interviewees to get the to talk…..she also used 3 minutes of conversation from hours of tape to be able to cut and paste her opinions….and Dawns family is against the movie….

            buuuuuuuuut that means nothing. LOL. the typical media brainwashing worked. you loved the drama music as it shows orcas just swimming about.

            You loved that the video clip of the guy bleeding from his head, when they are speaking of orca attacks, is actually from hitting his head on the projector screen….but it was portrayed as an orca attack, and you want to accept it, so you will and you will defend it in some fashion with the “you are paid” or the “brainwashed” or the “uneducated” comments.

            let the negative comments come.

      • John Hargrove

        Thank you Sal

    • webding

      The doco was exceptional. Seaworld was approached and would not be interviewed. That is NEVER a good look. They have been exposed, and I really hope people are not moronic enough to go see these majestic creatures pander to these trainers. I think we know enough now that this is totally UNETHICAL. You yourself, dude, sound like you have shares in these bathtubs. MAN, I HOPE THIS DOCO WINS.

      • John Hargrove

        Thank you

    • Paul K.

      These negative comments about John sound like they were crafted by a social media marketing company working for Sea World. John's a good guy and straight shooter.

      • John Hargrove

        Thank you Paul.

    • John Hargrove

      I'm flattered that you seem to be so interested in my 14 year career at SeaWorld. You know what 14 years means? that means you love the whales that much and check with anybody and everybody (since you seem to have the time and like to do that) Everything I said in the film and all the interviews since, I had told directly to the faces of management and senior management for years so nobody can accuse me of changing my tune after i left. Proud that I had a backbone to fight for those whales for years from the inside before I left. And as much as I'm sure they wish they could take that from me, the truth (and paperwork proves it) I resigned on Aug. 17th, 2012 and wasted no time (7 days) to tell my story to a filmmaker who had guts and cared and other former trainers that had factual stories to tell.with the same heart. So sad that you seem to be such an angry human being that you seek to tear down people who are trying to improve the lives of these incredible animals. What does that say about you as a person that you slander those who are whistleblowers who want an outdated practice of enslaving animals for human entertainment to end and for their current living conditions to improve? I am so happy that my heart and backbone in no way resemble yours. You are on the wrong side of history. And as far as any disciplinary action I didn't agree with SeaWorld on, there is no shock there. They reguarly bullied all trainers but I would stand up for myself (and some others would too) And trust me there are some disciplinary actions SeaWorld doesnt want to talk about because it paints a very negligent picture on their part just like so many lawsuits in the past with former trainers that were they were eventually paid off and gag ordered….”Settled” is the preferred way SeaWorld would like to call it. Too many skeletons in the closet and the more they fight, the more people will learn. The whales I loved and left behind deserve a much better existence that to be continually exploited for corporate greed.

      • Sal Brown

        I really appreciate your additional comments here John. It is simply unfathomable for people to say you or any of the other X trainers were in this for the money or fame. From what I read you weren't paid to cooperate with the movie producers and have suffered a significant backlash from friends and neighbours. It's the cost of being a whistleblower but I know it must feel great to be a part of stopping something so horrendous. Congrats to you and blessing to your future. ;-)

      • Geoff

        Unlike obvious Sea World employees trying to hide behind the “Guest” profile, it is awesome to see a person who used to work at Sea World, state his comments in his true form. Sea World should be ashamed of themselves for trying to continue to cover up their crimes against Killer whales by hiding behind fake profiles.

        I commend your work and I am more eye opened since watching Blackfish, I shall never visit Sea World again, sure they do some good for aquatic animals however the disgust I felt against them while watching the movie shows that yes, people can be informed correctly by proof of evidence from the audience and former staff of an organization that puts profit ahead of what is right.

        Thank you John

      • Pete

        may i respectfully ask why you remain behind the movie, while your counterparts are backing away and turning on it?

        i am honestly curious.

    • Geoff

      You sign in as a “Guest” are you a Sea World employee trying to give him a bad name, it wouldn't be surprising that you hide behind the Guest profile to have your say, so to me, you could be a Sea World employee trying to make this awesome guy look bad. Shame shame shame.

    • Pete

      im willing to bet he was dismissed because he has the worst mouth ever….this was a professional interview and he is just swearing through the whole thing. i can only imagine what he was saying in the park in front of small kids.

  • Viper1999

    Disgruntled ex-employee…….you have them in all fields. Money talks in show business!

    • Lucy Fernandez

      I can tell you work for SW, that shows how desperate they are.

      • John DeGuardi

        Lol we just have opinions.. do your research.

      • Pete

        is that the only thing you have to attempt to discredit someone? that's desperate.

        guess what? there is a small army of Sea World supporters out there that are not paid nor have any affiliation with Sea World. There is a small army that does not buy into the fancy little musical drama created.

        for example:

        in the movie, when they speak of the danger of the animals, and show the male trainer with the bloody face……are you aware he got the injury from hitting his head on the projector screen?? oddly, in the movie it was portrayed as a result of an Orca attack.

        if you can follow misguided scenes and blurry facts, and some out right lies, then by all means, join the Blackfish revolution, but it does make me wonder how many panes your glass house is.

  • Viper1999

    Bridgette Pirtle, who worked at SeaWorld San Antonio from 2001-11,
    said the film was produced to make money, gain an audience, and push an
    agenda to release all killer whales and shut down SeaWorld.

    “It's not a fact-based movie,” said Pirtle, who left SeaWorld in 2011 after
    the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando, which is the central
    focus of the film.

    “Yes, I'm still against animals as a form of entertainment, yes, I still believe that the breeding program should be ended,” said Pirtle, 31. “But the goal of this film shouldn't have been to shut down SeaWorld, it was supposed to be an opportunity to improve the lives of the whales I dedicated my life to.”

    Pirtle, who did not appear in the film but was involved in its production, said the trainers featured in the film were inexperienced, have not worked at SeaWorld in more than a decade and have “a chip on their shoulder.”

    “My experience wasn't congruent with the direction of the film, which is now: ‘Free the animals, SeaWorld is horrible, put the whales in a sea pen,'” Pirtle said, adding that the movie exploited Brancheau's death to make a profit.

    • devovit

      “The movie exploited Brancheau's death to make a profit.”

      As opposed to the way SeaWorld spun a story that Brancheau was a moron who screwed up and only had herself to blame for her own death… in order to protect their profits.

      • TheNameGame

        so we're going with the more acceptable non-truth? Since SeaWorld is the corporation with bigger profits, we'll give it to the filmmakers of a “documentary” that's more like over-sensationalized propaganda? There's always more than 2 sides, and in this case, the 2 sides are both intentionally misleading aka lying bastards

        • devovit

          And you, like Sea World, seem to be incapable of actually pointing out a single lie in the documentary. It's all very well to bang your fists on the floor and cry about how the filmmakers are meany-face liars, but when you can't actually name any specific untruths you look a little bit silly.

  • Tim

    I'm on Seaworld's side. Blackfish is a stupid attempt for a shitty director who cares nothing for animals, to win an oscar. These trainers were fired for breaking protocall. Seaworld treats their animals better than humans. Notice how the Seaworld trainers are coming forth and admitting the director spun their interviews in a way they didnt agree to? She told the trainers to wait til after award season to admit hse's a fake bitch who lied to them about the way their interviews would be used. Fuck Blackfish. I'm proud to have a Seaworld Annual pass.

    • http://www.thewrap.com TheWrap

      Did you mean “protocol?”

    • Pete

      if i lived close enough, id be right beside you with an annual pass.

  • jjm1949

    “Blackfish” has opened the public’s mind to the mental and
    physical cruelty involved with keeping such large mammals in a bathtub then
    call it education and entertainment. “An Apology to Elephants” a recent
    documentary on HBO is a scientific fact based story about the mental and
    physical abuse associated with keeping captive elephants in constant
    confinement. There is no difference between SeaWorld and Ringling Bros Circus, one keeps orcas in a bathtub and the other constantly confines elephants just to entertain the public and enrich the entertainment industry.

    “There is as much educational benefit in studying dolphins and whales in captivity as there is in studying humans by observing prisoners in solitary confinement.
    Jacques Cousteau

    • John Hargrove

      well stated.

  • Pollexter KFedistan

    So no Oscar Nomination. What's next? Another impotent protest at the gates of SeaWorld attended by 50 passionately misinformed activists? How about another round of DDOS attacks by Anonymous? Fire up a new round of Facebook account creation to shout down everyone on the internet!

    • John Hargrove

      No, I think it's the BAFTA's- do you know what that is? Look it up.

  • loveofcircus

    Blackfish got stiffed as they should. Maybe if they gave an award for best propaganda lies and slander they could get nominated .

    • jjm1949

      There is no difference between SeaWorld and Ringling Bros
      Circus, one keeps orcas in a bathtub and the other constantly confines
      elephants just to entertain the public and enrich the entertainment industry. “An Apology to Elephants” a recent documentary on HBO is a scientific fact based story about the mental and physical abuse associated with keeping captive elephants in constant confinement.

      “There is as much educational benefit in studying
      dolphins and whales in captivity as there is in studying humans by observing
      prisoners in solitary confinement.
      Jacques Cousteau

    • John Hargrove

      I'd love to know what lies you think were told and what is the extent of your experience which qualifies you to make such outrageous accusations. If you are so certain then ask away and see what answers you get.

      • John Hargrove

        And Don't worry, it's not over. Much more to come in 2014.

  • TruthNotLies

    Blatant lies…love this guy and his soapbox. What he fails to mention is that he was demoted and therefore quit. And as recently as six months ago was trying to get his job back…as a killer whale trainer.

    • John Hargrove

      Sorry but you are incorrect after 14 years I was not demoted nor did I ever request or try for my old job back. All official paperwork proves it. I officially resigned Aug 17th, 2012 and gave the interview for the film 7 days later. So whoever or wherever you got that I tried to get my job back is simply a HORRIBLE source- that is something I would never do. How could could I be asking for my job back when I quit from a knee injury (and other things) that specialists wanted me to quit for 3 years for and then I was committed to promoting the movie at Sundance and all the other film festivals in the US and abroad and then when it opened theatrically and then premiered for CNN- nope sorry don't see any attempts to return doing all of that. 14 years was enough for me to see the whale suffer for corporate greed and exploitation. And 6 months ago was opening weekend theatrically in NYC and LA and my interview on HBO with Bill Maher- absolutely no signs of me wanting or requesting my old job back, it was the opposite. After the LA premiere and interviewing on HBO with Bill Maher in LA, I flew back to NYC for opening weekend for a Q&A at Lincoln Center. There certainly were no SeaWorld phone calls going on I can assure you. I guess you thought you could just throw that trash out there and someone might pick it up as truth. Pathetic.

    • jjm1949

      The blatant lies are coming from SeaWorld. There is overwhelming scientific evidence along with pictures at this link, “Voice of the Orcas”. See the holes that are drilled into the orcas teeth to flush out the dead fish they must eat unlike in the wild where the fish they eat is alive. Once you look at the pictures it becomes crystal clear that SeaWorld exploits their marine life for profit.

  • 123tl78

    When you have to treat the male stud killer whale's teeth every day with antibiotics due to the fact that his teeth are ruined by chewing on pool gates because all this few ton wild predator gets to do is swim in circles, look at the same thing every day, bob up and down, splash a front row once a day and offer up sperm to continue the captive killer whale program and babies taken away from their mothers when these creatures would stay with their family groups for life and hunt for miles and miles there is a problem. Sea World brags about such great treatment of injured sea life which is good but it is at the expense of the killer whales. The male stud killer whales and the other whales don't live in family groups so they beat up on each other, the echolocation bounces off of pool walls and people think they can treat a few ton wild animal like a pet and some people wonder why the pet wants to kill the trainers once in a while because they are tired of doing tricks for dead fish when in the wild they play with their prey before killing it after hunting it for miles and miles. Killer whales kill sharks. Would any of that information give someone an idea that it would be smart to get in the pool with a wild predator and treat it like a pet?

  • Blackfish liars!

    No oscar nom!!!!! Hahahaha!

    • John Hargrove

      21 million viewers on CNN
      60 million viewers worldwide
      #1 on Netflix
      most watched program in the history of CNN
      most watched program in the history of CNN ages 18-23
      Nominated for BAFTA!!!!!!!!Hahahahahahahaha- Winning

  • Guest

    Bravo to SeaWorld's IT department – it must take a lot of work to cast 200 fake votes when you have tens of thousands of employees. I think it's pretty clear that there was no rigging of that poll.

  • Susan RN

    This is history and we are doing the RIGHT thing by standing up and telling it like it is.
    These majestic animals have to be respected and left alone in the wild where they belong with their families.
    I am so proud of everyone that came fourth.
    Thank you for doing the right thing.
    Sea world please do the right thing and let them go and swim 100 miles a day and be with their families, give all the BLACKFISH their babies back ASAP. DO THE RIGHT THING.

    • John Hargrove

      So proud of everyone who fought in their own way for these whales and this issue and will continue to fight…we are just getting started. From all the self made activists in their bedrooms and online to the growing list of A-list stars pulling their association with SeaWorld specificially because of ‘Blackfish'- Trisha Yearwood, Pat Benatar, Willie Nelson, Barenaked ladies, Trace Adkins, Beach Boys, Martina McBride, and Heart, Cheap Trick, and 38 special. And this is just the beginning. Everyone should be very proud. We have made a difference and like I said- just getting going.

      • Mrs. Wilson

        John, you are an inspiration to all of us animal rights crusaders and lovers. It must feel great to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know that you ARE making a difference. No matter what happens from here on out, people will never look at Seaworld the same, and for that I thank you!!! Keep doing what you are doing!!!!

  • Susan RN

    BLACKFISH has already won the Oscar.

  • John Hargrove

    Thank you everyone who participated and supported me in these comments you guys/gals were awesome and thank you even to the ones who disagreed because at least it provides debate. The debates using personal attacks not so cool but numbers don't lie and we all know the percentages that supported us is in the right place by a large margin so thank you again! John Hargrove

  • John

    By now you see the truth of Blackfish. It clearly did not get an nomination because it is a bunch of lies. John is a self serving, egotist that only cares about himself. He says that we cares about these whales; I heard from an ex friend of his, that he once left his dog in his backyard, tore open a bag of dog food and went on vacation with no one to care for it while he was gone…and this is someone who cares about animals???

    • jjm1949

      There are dozens of scientist, researchers, trainers and eye
      witnesses other then John Hargrove who have documented the extreme torture and cruelty involved with keeping these intelligent, huge animals in a bathtub.

      All the good work SeaWorld has done at rehabilitating
      injured other sea life is negated when they turn around and breed and exploit
      orcas, dolphins and others mammals to make a buck and try and call it
      educational and conservation. There is no educational value to watching orcas performing unnatural acts.

  • Dale

    It's misinformed to say that whales don't belong in swimming pools? In the 1800's people thought it was kind of fun to put bears in a cage and poke them with sticks. We eventually figured out that wasn't right. Hopefully it's just a matter of time before we evolve our thinking about these creatures too.

    • Pete

      this is true, and now we give them a large habitat, and no more sticks……still in captivity!

      you make a good point.

      maybe just some additional investment into their environment would benefit them.

  • Anonymous

    I'm sure Mr. Hargrove feels like quite the JACKASS now! Blackfish and all of its lies are being exposed and clearly the academy saw right through it. For those of you that support John Hargrove and his continuous lies I can tell you from firsthand experience with this douche he is nothing but a liar. He has always wanted to be in the limelight just search YouTube for all the videos he has posted of himself swimming with the whales. It's funny to me that he is being so critical of Sea World the same place that took him back after him basically begging and pleading. He makes several statements in Blackfish that are complete lies… If you don't believe me here is an example for you. He makes mention of when Takara was transported to Orlando and how that affected Kasatka and the horrible vocalizations she made- he called them long range vocals and really went in depth about describing them… Guess what that never happened! John did not even work for Sea World at the time he was living and working with killer whales in France, that's just one of the many things he failed to mention in the film. Also he says he left Sea World after having a “change of heart”. Really douche bag???? How about you violated major safety protocol while working with the whales… Hmmm he's a liar and supporters you really need to educate yourselves further beyond what this douche has to say!

    • John Hargrove

      Nice try- I was privy to all internal documents of the Kasatka/Takara separation as well as totally being informed while I was away because of my relationship with both whales-so coming back to SeaWorld I had access to ALL internal and private docs. Never in the history of my career have I ever been documented for a safety violation. My only disciplinary action came because another trainer made the safety violation and I waited 1 day to tell management because I didnt want her to lose her job- so nice try.

    • jjm1949

      There are dozens of scientist, researchers, trainers and eye
      witnesses other then John Hargrove who have documented the extreme torture and cruelty involved with keeping these intelligent, huge animals in a bathtub. Every time SeaWorld management opens their mouths they reveal their big lie.

  • It's Candy!!!!!!

    I took my daughter to Seaworld when she was little, we walked into Shamu Stadium and she was in awe. This was the first time she had seen a killer whale. She never really stayed focused on 1 thing for very long, but when this young man came out of the water with this beautiful mammal, she was love struck. She loved the whale and she thought the young man was so cute. When we returned home from vacation, all she could talk about was the whales and the cute man on the whale. She never mentioned Disney, the princess, or any other experience we had. Just the whales. The young mans name was John Hargrove. I am so glad she seen the good in Mr. Hargrove and not the vicious bitter side of him.

  • Geoff

    I am definitely going to be boycotting Sea World forever, I am so embarrassed to say that I have been there once, but never again, this movie has opened my eyes to how corporate greed comes before the well being of the killer whales and trainers. Shame on you Sea World for your constant lies and betrayal.

  • Mikky

    Just watched the documentary twice on CNN. I didn't know about the movie. I received a text from my mother to watch it. Interestingly, later she called me and told me a story, about when I was very young and we were on vacation. I begged to go to SW. ( I don't remember any of this) anyway, she is no activist by any means but respects wild animals, she said she felt a little strange and conflicted, she knew I would love SW but, (and I quote)
    “I just didn't feel right about going, something seemed wrong about these enormous animals being so confined”. Apparently my father ending up agreeing after a little argument.
    And all these years later I watch this film, her intuition was right.
    It's also ironic that SW promotes this as a family-friendly venue, after they have been guilty of ripping these ‘families’ apart. The wailing of the mother when her calf was taken brought tears to my eyes. I'm still thinking about it hours later. I kept thinking WHY?? What mother can't relate on some level? What human even?
    I've never been to SW, and this certainly solidifies that I will never be taking my family.
    Thanks Mom.
    (luckily SW hasn't been able to tear us apart)

  • TheNameGame

    Fuck. The only time people wanna come to the table and talk is when propaganda has succeeded. Sure, I'm glad the discussion is happening about animal captivity, but I will voice my hesitations that things will work out because of the inclination to lean towards either extreme. In case you didn't know, people, the Blackfish “documentary” is one of those extremes w/ “screw the fish” being the other. Blackfish deliberately lied in it's propaganda, the way I'd imagine a lot of high-level SeaWorld execs might've done back in the day and possibly now. To agree with either side is being foolish, and naive. To strike a balance is unbelievably difficult when nobody else wants to.