Thursday, May 8, 2014

event recap: Voice of the Orcas in Rochester, NY

From left to right: Samantha Berg, John Jett, Carol Ray, Jeffrey Ventre, Phil Demers, Diane DiGravio
screen shots from Katie's talk at the Blackfish Brigade symposium 

Interviewing former SeaWorld trainer Samantha Berg for 'Voiceless'

interviewing former SeaWorld trainer Carol Ray for 'Voiceless'

It's one thing to have knowledge on an issue or a topic. It's an entirely different thing to be able to take that knowledge and communicate it in a way that will actually make an impact and a change.

A few years ago, if someone had told me that at 19 I would be engaged in an education program that would have an expansive, international reach, and that I would be privileged to role as an educator in this program... I don't think I would have believed them.

I've always loved working with my generation, with middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students-- it's a web, woven intricately, and getting to work within that web and see my place within it, it becomes simple to see it's ability to impact the way our world works in really huge ways.

In many ways, I'm glad that I didn't know back when I was 15, where my involvement in humanitarian and environmental causes would lead, because for a kid with mild stage fright, I may have run from the idea. But looking back, I'm profoundly grateful that the experiences I had lead me to where I am today. I feel privileged to be able to be an example for other young people out there, of the fact that one person-- and more specifically, one kid can make a big impact. You don't need to have a degree or a title in order to understand truth and stand.

There are more resources available to us now than ever before. Quoting my friend and also former Sea World trainer, Samantha Berg M.Ac., Dipl.Ac. , "You can learn more about Orcas in five minutes on the internet than you will in an whole day at a place like SeaWorld".

That's how I started. Having been involved in ocean projects since I was about twelve, I naturally had questions when the fatal attack at SeaWorld occurred in 2010. I was able to wade into the details of the issue because of the resources available. I was able to become educated on the issue because of the resources available, and I was able to start a movement among my own generation, again-- because of the resources available.

Things aren't like they used to be. We can start using our own tools for change right now, right where we are.

It was an honor for me to be able to assist Mrs. Diane DiGravio, a science teacher in Rochester, NY and Martha Sullivan in organizing an educational symposium on the topic of cetacean captivity and student involvement, and it was also an immense honor to be invited to speak alongside former SeaWorld trainers Carol Ray MA, CCC-SLP, Samantha Berg M.Ac., Dipl.Ac., Jeffrey Ventre MD, DC, and John Jett, Ph.D., also former MarineLand trainer Phil Demers. It was awesome to be able to listen to them speak on this issue, and answer so many great questions from the audience.

It was also amazing to listen to the inspirational speeches given by several of Diane's amazing students. It was really amazing to hear about their dreams and goals and most of all their passion to make a difference.

It was incredibly special to me, to be able to have a chance after the symposium to chat with so many passionate and inspired young adults. I was deeply touched by how each one of them was impacted and inspired by my talk at the close of the symposium, and I can certainly say that the inspiration was mutual-- I was greatly inspired by them as well.

Getting to see first hand the passion embodied in my generation is a very special thing. So thank you to every young adult who was there that night, thank you to everyone who supported the event, who donated, who listened, who asked questions, and who made this event really super awesome. Thank you to Abbie, Ashlyn, Susan and everyone on the BF team for their astounding efforts.

Recommended resources: 


  1. The following review of SeaWorld San Diego was written by a TripAdivor user on May 7, 2014. The review is an indication of how much ignorance is out there regarding SeaWorld and the film, Blackfish:

    TripAdvisor User: “My family has been going to Sea World San Diego every year since my kids were born. My son now 14 and daughter 13 years old have always gone several times a year with our family yearly passes.

    I thought I would one last time time get annual passes since the kids are now teenagers and probably not be wanting to go as often as in the past. Well, after our third visit so far this year...the love it as much as ever! New updated adventures including the Manta Ray Ride and the skin eating fish ponds the kids dip their hands in and feel fish eat all the dead skin after all the Buzz from the ridiculous BLACK FISH Movie has actually attracted them to see for themselves how wrong the movie portrayed Sea World. My kids love how great they take care of their animals.
    I expect to buy annual passes for more years to come!
    Also, now that their older they love to invite friends and they can take off on their own in a safe environment to do rides over and over again without their parents trying to keep up them and we simply meet up at a designated time to watch a show together before their off again.

    FORGET ALL THE NEGATIVE PUBLICITY you may have heard! SEA WORLD does it right and cares more about our sea life than any self serving movie making mogul ever has!”
    Following is my response to the reviewer:
    Me: “Four people---all young adults---have been killed by captive orcas.

    Life at SeaWorld is dangerous for both the orca and for the trainers who take care of them.

    Not that it matters here, but I would strongly disagree with your review characterizing the Blackfish film as ridiculous and that everything is just fine at SeaWorld.

    Change is coming to SeaWorld. Your review emboldens myself and others to work even harder for that change.

    California, pass AB2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act.”

    The reviewer responded to me in this way:

    TripAdisor user: “Your why thousands of us keep supporting Sea World!

    SeaWorld Contributes millions of $$$'s to preservation and conservation of our natural resources! By the way...the four people that died at SeaWorld did so doing what they loved to do! How many millions of people died because of the materials you use daily that effect our planet!

    Not that it matters here, but I would strongly disagree with your response!

    Your response emboldens myself and thousands of others to work even harder for the support of Sea World.

    Change is coming to Sea World...More rides and family attractions!”

  2. If somebody is willing to die "doing what they loved to do"---that's fine, I guess. But please leave the animals out of it.