Photo via Brigette Pirtle's Facebook page
The MiceChat blog has a pretty fascinating interview today with Bridgette Pirtle, a former SeaWorld trainer who says she cooperated with the makers of the documentary Blackfish, but now feels like the filmmakers misrepresented their intentions.
Pirtle tells MiceChat that, while she agrees that SeaWorld should phase out its practice of keeping orcas in captivity, and tells the blog that if it were up to her, she'd like to see SeaWorld "end animals for entertainment purposes, and stop the breeding program," she thinks advocating for freeing them into the wild – a suggestion that is explored in Blackfish – is irresponsible. She also tells the blog that some of the trainers who appeared on the film were not experienced enough to criticize the work that was done by Dawn Brancheau, the trainer who was killed by Tilikum the orca in 2010.
On her Facebook page, Pirtle elaborates on the material in the interview. She writes that when she agreed to take part in the making of Blackfish, she was promised that it would not be an activist film:
When I first spoke out to many of the film’s subjects, creators and producers, I truly felt like they were as passionate about the animals' welfare as I was. I felt they believed in the relationships and respected my ten years of experience in animal training at SeaWorld and the insight I have in regards to my time with the killer whales. It is not that I am opposed to zoological facilities, but rather that I am against the idea of animals being exploited and used for entertainment purposes. I now look at the movie Blackfish as "The Little Film That Could.'' It could have inspired a shift in perception of the public that encouraged better facilities for animals currently in zoological settings. Blackfish’s genuine message that emphasized the emotional capacity of orcas was presented as the central focus to inspire its audiences to push for better conditions for the animals. As mentioned earlier, I was promised this would never become an activist film. Now, a mantra of "Free Them All" reigns supreme with the likes of Naomi Rose linked within its promotion, a researcher who let a personal agenda take precedence over the well-being of Keiko, an orca who portrayed “Willy the Whale” in the film Free Willy.
Pirtle says that, in the interest of winning an Academy Award, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite capitalized on the deaths of Brancheau and other trainers. You can read her complete critique, which was posted on her Facebook page an hour ago, here.