'Blackfish' film: Why Heart won't play at SeaWorld

Blackfish: The documentary film raises questions about the captivity of orcas. Heart, BareNaked Ladies, and Willie Nelson have canceled gigs at SeaWorld in the wake of the 'Blackfish' film.

The rock bands Heart and Barenaked Ladies along with country singer Willie Nelson have canceled their planned performances at SeaWorld in Florida, citing the recent documentary "Blackfish," which raises questions about the effects of captivity on whales.

Joan Jett on Monday also joined the list of recording artists distancing themselves from the marine park when she sent a letter to SeaWorld President Jim Atchison asking that the park 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," Jett said in the letter.

"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," spokesman Nick 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."

Heart was the latest act in the past week to cancel appearances at SeaWorld Orlando's Bands, Brew & Barbecue music series in February, making their announcement over the weekend. The series is held over several weekends and features top classic rock and country acts.

A posting on Heart's official Twitter page said the decision was influenced by the recently-released documentary "Blackfish." The documentary raises questions about the effects of captivity on killer whales at marine parks such as SeaWorld.

Nelson and Barenaked Ladies made their decisions after fans launched Change.org petitions urging them not to perform at SeaWorld.

Barenaked Ladies said in a statement provided by their spokeswoman: "We watch movies too, ya know!"

"This is a complicated issue, and we don't claim to understand all of it, but we don't feel comfortable proceeding with the gig at this time," the statement said.

SeaWorld officials "have been gracious, and extended us invitations to the park to learn more about what they do, and how they do it," it said.

SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said in a statement that marine park officials respect the performers' decisions but added that 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," Gollattscheck said.

"Blackfish" explores what may have caused Tilikum, a 12,000-pound (5,443-kilogram) orca, to kill veteran SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. She was killed when Tilikum pulled her into a pool. The orca was also involved in two other deaths.

Tilikum was one of three orcas blamed for killing a trainer in 1991 after the woman lost her balance and fell in the pool at Sealand of the Pacific near Victoria, British Columbia. Tilikum was also involved in a 1999 death, when the body of a man who had sneaked by SeaWorld security was found draped over him. The man either jumped, fell or was pulled into the frigid water and died of hypothermia, though he was also bruised and scratched by Tilikum.

The documentary released this year chronicles past incidences of killer whales in captivity acting aggressively toward human trainers and other orcas.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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