In his new tell-all book, “Blackfish” star and former SeaWorld killer whale trainer, John Hargrove, blasts the theme park conglomerate for its “inhumane practices” which he claims to have witnessed during his 12 years working for the company.
In TheWrap’s exclusive excerpt from Chapter 8 of his explosive book, “Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish,” Hargrove describes how SeaWorld artificially inseminated the orcas only to separate mother from calf for monetary gain and how the company allegedly brainwashed its staff in a systematic effort to keep them in line.
Read preview from the book here:
Once again, Dr. Robeck – who flew in from San Diego – was on hand to perform the actual insemination. Once again, we had to wait a month to see if she had become pregnant. She did. But by March 2012, her progesterone levels had dropped to the point where the veterinarians were certain she was no longer carrying a calf. No one could explain what happened. Takara was less than half way through the gestation period but the fetus had vanished, reabsorbed, it seemed, into her body.
I told everyone how happy I was that she was not going to have another calf. Management was upset with me and did not want me to go around undermining company policies, especially with younger staffers. But I couldn’t keep my feelings to myself. I was also incensed because I knew they were soon going to want to put Takara through the process again – and that they were eventually going to take Sakari away from her.
Julie Sigman, a SeaWorld supervisor whom I greatly respected at the time, took me aside. “John,” she said “you are a leader at Shamu Stadium I cannot have you telling everyone that you’re glad she’s not pregnant and we shouldn’t be doing this to her. We have a moral responsibility to diversify their gene pool.” That was the gist of her long talk with me. It put a spell on me and I was once again a loyalist. Her words took my anger away and I reverted to my old self as an obedient subject of the SeaWorld kingdom. I even thanked her for reminding me of the mission, telling her that no one had ever explained the situation to me that way before.
Within 24 hours, however, the spell was broken. “What the hell just happned to me?” I said to myself. I realized what my responsibility really was.
I’ve been around this industry for a long time and I have strong views shaped by experiences with these whales, experiences that few other people share. I began sputtering. Our moral responsibility is not to diversify the gene pool of these orcas. We took these whales from the ocean and put them in a captive situation and now we are breeding them because we want more whales in our collection in order to make more money. Our responsibility is to make their lives better, not to impregnate them again and again in an abnormal way.
I was angry at myself. I had finally realized what the corporation was going to put Takara through and had converted from a true believer in SeaWorld into a rebel with a powerful cause. Yet, Julie Sigman turned me around. If I could allow myself to be re–brainwashed so quickly, how much easier would it be to fool the public?
“We recognize the importance of the family bond,” Chuck Tompkins, the corporate vice president of animal training told the press. But I had done the math: 19 calves were taken from their mothers in SeaWorld’s history. Including Kasatka and Katina, who were captured from the wild and thus, wrested from their mothers.