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'Blackfish' Director Reacts to Artists Canceling SeaWorld Shows Over Her Documentary

December 11, 2013, 4:51 am GMT

Gabriela Cowperthwaite says she's 'very inspired' by the support shown by musicians like Heart and Willie Nelson, who have canceled their gigs at the Florida theme park.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Gabriela Cowperthwaite is glad that her movie "Blackfish" has helped raise awareness about the effects of captivity on whales such as the orcas at SeaWorld. After artists like Heart, Willie Nelson and Barenaked Ladies took action by canceling their scheduled performances at the Florida theme park, the film's director tells Reuters, "I'm very inspired by it."

Cowperthwaite's documentary raises questions about the treatment of whales used in performances at SeaWorld. Following the controversy, musicians are distancing themselves from the marine park with Joan Jett as the latest to show her support by asking SeaWorld to stop using her song "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" as the opening music for its "Shamu Rocks" show.

"I'm among the millions who saw 'Blackfish' and am sickened that my music was blasted without my permission at sound-sensitive marine mammals," the female rocker said in a letter to SeaWorld President Jim Atchison. She threatened to join a protest by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) outside the park unless she received written confirmation that her music would no longer be used.

SeaWorld, through its spokesman Nick Gollattscheck, has responded to Jett's request. "Ms. Jett's music is not currently part of any show, although it was played as walk-in music for the 'Shamu Rocks' nighttime show at SeaWorld Orlando and was fully licensed for us to use," Gollattscheck said in an email. "A new nighttime Shamu show is being designed for SeaWorld Orlando and we had no plans to use any of her music in that show."

The spokesman also stated that while marine park officials respected the performers' decisions to cancel their show, they were disappointed that "a small group of misinformed individuals" was able to influence the performers.

"The bands and artists have a standing invitation to visit any of our parks to see firsthand or to speak to any of our animal experts to learn for themselves how we care for animals and how little truth there is to the allegations made by animal extremist groups opposed to the zoological display of marine mammals," he added.

"Blackfish" highlights Tilikum, a 12,000-pound bull orca who was involved in the deaths of three individuals, and the consequences of keeping such large and intelligent animals in captivity. The documentary also rejects SeaWorld's claims that whales in captivity live longer.

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