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Archive - Award Winners > Beneath the Surface - March 2016

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message 1: by Savanes, Moderator (new)

Savanes | 2044 comments Mod
Winner of Science & Technology category

Beneath the Surface Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove
Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish

Book Summary
Over the course of two decades, John Hargrove worked with 20 different whales on two continents and at two of SeaWorld's U.S. facilities. For Hargrove, becoming an orca trainer fulfilled a childhood dream. However, as his experience with the whales deepened, Hargrove came to doubt that their needs could ever be met in captivity. When two fellow trainers were killed by orcas in marine parks, Hargrove decided that SeaWorld's wildly popular programs were both detrimental to the whales and ultimately unsafe for trainers.

After leaving SeaWorld, Hargrove became one of the stars of the controversial documentary Blackfish. The outcry over the treatment of SeaWorld's orca has now expanded beyond the outlines sketched by the award-winning documentary, with Hargrove contributing his expertise to an advocacy movement that is convincing both federal and state governments to act.

In Beneath the Surface, Hargrove paints a compelling portrait of these highly intelligent and social creatures, including his favorite whales Takara and her mother Kasatka, two of the most dominant orcas in SeaWorld. And he includes vibrant descriptions of the lives of orcas in the wild, contrasting their freedom in the ocean with their lives in SeaWorld.

Hargrove's journey is one that humanity has just begun to take-toward the realization that the relationship between the human and animal worlds must be radically rethought.


ally  ¯\(ツ)/¯ (allykennedy) | 1002 comments This book was fantastic! Is anyone planning on reading it?
The documentary Blackfish really changed the way I look at "conservation" and this book solidified it.

If anyone wants to chat about this book and/or Seaworld, I'd love to join that conversation!


message 3: by Lynn, Moderator (new)

Lynn | 4120 comments Mod
I wasn't planning to, then I saw your review a couple of weeks ago and thought maybe I should. I'm not sure I can fit it in though as I've got a busy month with reading challenges,


ally  ¯\(ツ)/¯ (allykennedy) | 1002 comments No pressure. I understand bookish (and scheduling) problems :P


message 5: by Vicki Willis (new)

Vicki Willis | 865 comments I am planning on reading it this month. I am curious. I live in San Diego and Sea World is a big deal here. I am one of the minority who hates Sea World though. lol
I can't wait to talk to you.


ally  ¯\(ツ)/¯ (allykennedy) | 1002 comments Vicki wrote: "I am planning on reading it this month. I am curious. I live in San Diego and Sea World is a big deal here. I am one of the minority who hates Sea World though. lol
I can't wait to talk to you."


Woo!


message 7: by Katy (new)

Katy Mann | 278 comments ally ¯\(ツ)/¯ wrote: "This book was fantastic! Is anyone planning on reading it?
The documentary Blackfish really changed the way I look at "conservation" and this book solidified it.

If anyone wants to chat about this..."


I've started it. I'm still in the introductory chapters, which are inspirational. He shows all the work he did to become a trainer, and how they called him just because he had made himself known to the trainers by asking them questions.


message 8: by Vicki Willis (new)

Vicki Willis | 865 comments I am at 14% already I am wondering if this is going to be a trianwreck for me. I never watched Blackfish because I didn't want to be upset.
It is fascinating, but I am anxious for what is to come.


ally  ¯\(ツ)/¯ (allykennedy) | 1002 comments The qualifications needed vs the compensation paid really amazed me. Let me know when you get to wages!


message 10: by ally ¯\(ツ)/¯ (last edited Mar 03, 2016 09:37PM) (new)

ally  ¯\(ツ)/¯ (allykennedy) | 1002 comments Full disclosure: I've been a vegetarian for almost 9 years. I do eat eggs and cheese, but I try to get them from responsible sources or I do not buy them.

I would define myself as an animal advocate. I try to educate people on what happens to many animals "behind the scenes". One of my favourite quotes is from Paul McCartney - "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarian".

That said, I don't demonize those who choose to eat animals. I just want them to make ethical choices about how they choose to do so. I have a pet Rabbit, and I believe animals play an important and meaningful part in our lives.

Its hard watching something you find disgusting or reading something that breaks your heart, but at the same time, ignoring it allows it to continue.


message 11: by Vicki Willis (new)

Vicki Willis | 865 comments That is very true Ally. Ignoring is like a tacit agreement.

I definitely think the trainers who did the job loved their whales to the point of wearing blinders about the real conditions. They for sure were not doing it for the money. It seems too that they were almost blackmailed or positively reinforced to ignore certain things or not be able to work in their job of choice. Very sad way to live.

I am a teacher here in San Diego and Sea World tries to get many school groups to come to the park by offering discounted tickets. It is one field trip I have never done. My own children (now 15 and 18) have been to Sea World once in their lives and it was with their elementary school. For me it was always the commercialization of the whole thing, but it is much more than that.


message 12: by Katy (new)

Katy Mann | 278 comments Vicki wrote: "That is very true Ally. Ignoring is like a tacit agreement.

I definitely think the trainers who did the job loved their whales to the point of wearing blinders about the real conditions. They for..."


I'm a bit past half-way through. Reading about the physical rigors for the trainers was astonishing. These people were at such risk. And that they had to perform the dental work...

And I didn't know they withheld food.


message 13: by Vicki Willis (new)

Vicki Willis | 865 comments 55%

Yes, withholding food is terrible.

What also struck me is the brain comparison idea. Comparing parts of brain that deal with stress. How Sea World won't allow the brain of a deceased captive whale be compared with a wild one for research purposes.

The whole AI thing makes me sick as well.


message 14: by Katy (new)

Katy Mann | 278 comments Vicki wrote: "55%

Yes, withholding food is terrible.

What also struck me is the brain comparison idea. Comparing parts of brain that deal with stress. How Sea World won't allow the brain of a deceased captive ..."


I thought that was interesting as well. I was fascinated by the discussion of the complexity of their brains, social structures, and the interactions between groups in the ocean.

Really learned a lot.


message 15: by ally ¯\(ツ)/¯ (new)

ally  ¯\(ツ)/¯ (allykennedy) | 1002 comments The different groups thing I found really interesting too. It makes sense that whales from different geographic ranges would never be an ideal match.

Now you breed a pair that would never mate in the wild and what happens? Disastrous genetics. Bad breeding matches is not conservation. It's mutation.


message 16: by Janina (new)

Janina (sylarana) | 692 comments I didn't like the book at all. I can't say it tought me much about conversation or anything because it's kind of obvious that SeaWorld is not the answer to anything. I visited SeaWorld San Diego back in 93 as a teenager and even then it just felt horribly horribly wrong to me to have these majestic creatures living in swimming pools doing silly tricks for people. And this guy writing the book and actually working with them needed 14 years to figure out the same thing. I have zero respect for that or for him to be honest. You don't get away saying you were just an employee of the gas chamber and it was the Nazis who were evil. Doesn't work that way. And, I couldn't stand the way he still fantasized about his oh so wonderful relationship to these abused animals. Some chapters brought me close to throwing up .. not just because of what he was describing, but more so because of how. Maybe that was the intention and his way of finding absolution ... it just felt wrong to me.
There is simply no way to keep a predator captive respectfully .. you are always taking away an essential part of its life. And being unable to even remotely provide at least a natural habitat and abusing it to perform stupid tricks certainly only worsens the situation. How anyone can take part in this and still glorify himself and the relationship with those creatures is beyond me. As are remarks about how its impossible to release them into nature as they would be unable to survive. So what? It's the only merciful thing to do ..


message 17: by Vicki Willis (new)

Vicki Willis | 865 comments I finished.
There were very interesting aspects about ocras and there were very upsetting aspects about their lives in captivity.
We as consumers have the power of controlling where we spend our money. I, for one, will never spend another dollar at Sea World. I will never take a school group to Sea World on a field trip.
Hopefully bringing this to the public's eye, Sea World will step up and make improvements and try to do true conservation to protect these beautiful creature.

One thing that really bothered me about the author was his epilogue. I felt that he is irresponsible and wrong to keep a violent dog who has attacked and hurt multiple animals and people as a pet. I don't see him as a savior of dangerous things (because he liked dangerous whales and dangerous dogs). It makes me view him as a selfish and uncaring. It is wrong to keep an animal like that because there are no assurances it won't kill a child or a child's pet at some point. It makes me question his motives and working at Sea World for as long as he did. It didn't sit well with me at all.


message 18: by Chris (new)

Chris I am so glad this was an award winning book otherwise I would have never read it -- we all need to read this to become more educated - it was timely with Sea World coming out with their announcements about stopping shows and other items. Bravo to the ones that had the guts to step up and do things about the situation and also write about it. Lets hope this helps with the situation with these animals in other countries but especially with what Blackfish and the Cove showed us!! Great but sad book!!


message 19: by ally ¯\(ツ)/¯ (new)

ally  ¯\(ツ)/¯ (allykennedy) | 1002 comments Glad you enjoyed it too Chris!


message 20: by Deb (new)

Deb Bartram | 115 comments ally ¯\(ツ)/¯ wrote: "The qualifications needed vs the compensation paid really amazed me. Let me know when you get to wages!"

I was frankly appalled by this (in addition to the absolutely horrible situation of keeping those animals in captivity with such poor conditions).


message 21: by Deb (new)

Deb Bartram | 115 comments I read this with my RL book club last month, and I found the comments here and there just as interesting as reading the book. It for sure is a way of life that I was unfamiliar with, and I definitely learned quite a bit about the specifics of captivity. Everyone who reads the book comes away with a different focus and it's so interesting to compare thoughts.

So, I found the whole aspect of captivity, including the original methods of capture, the physical living conditions, the methods for breeding, and the entertainment focus all very appalling. I think we as humans have a responsibility to take care of this world (I'm actually an environmental engineer in RL) and that doesn't mean that we have the right to abuse other species for sport, entertainment, etc. I don't see an issue with animals as a food source, although I (like others have commented) try to patronize responsible sources.

However, I was surprised to encounter a few folks who felt very differently, and feel that humans have the right to essentially do whatever to animals.

As for the author, I had very mixed feelings. I did not care for his attitude, which seemed very self focused. And it was awful convenient that he finally chose to leave his profession once he was essentially physically unable to continue.

Anyway, I'm glad I read it and encourage others to do the same.


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