Author Archives: Kyline Stephens

SeaWorld’s Low Blow

Pedicini, Sandra. “SeaWorld Steps up Offense against Former Trainer John Hargrove.” Orlando Sentinel, 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.

John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer, published a book entitled “Beneath the Surface.” In his book, Hargrove provides readers with a firsthand look into what happens behind the scenes at both SeaWorld San Antonio and SeaWorld San Diego. He criticizes SeaWorld and “portrays the animals as bored and stressed out.” Hargrove claims that trainers were sometimes instructed to hold back food, yet SeaWorld denies this statement. He also argues about other issues raised in the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” such as SeaWorld being an unsafe environment for its killer whales.

In response to Hargrove’s book, SeaWorld sent an “almost 5-year-old video of Hargrove drinking and repeatedly using a racial epithet” to reporters. SeaWorld also said that John Hargrove quit his job “after being disciplined for a severe safety violation involving the park’s killer whales,” resulting in his transfer from orca stadium.

Hargrove disputed SeaWorld’s comments about him and stated that he believes SeaWorld is “conducting a smear campaign against him.” Instead of addressing the actual issues about the killer whales, SeaWorld is using anything they can to discredit Hargrove and make him look like an awful person.

SeaWorld spokesman, Fred Jacobs, says in an email: “We are offended by John’s behavior and language. The video is particularly reprehensible since John Hargrove is wearing a SeaWorld shirt. SeaWorld would have terminated Hargrove’s employment immediately had we known he engaged in this kind of behavior.” Hargrove claims to not remember the incident, but regardless, he states that this is a pathetic attempt on SeaWorld’s behalf to slander his name. In addition to releasing the video, it was also discovered that SeaWorld helped fund a website called RealJohnHargrove which “attacks” and “mocks” the ex-SeaWorld trainer.

Although SeaWorld is correct that this video showed John Hargrove to be irresponsibly drinking and his use of the “n” word to be highly inappropriate, I do not think SeaWorld should have personally attacked Hargrove because Hargrove’s use of a racial slur and his decision to drink does not affect or correlate with his opinions about SeaWorld being an unsafe environment for killer whales. This article is a perfect example of the ad hominem fallacy. Instead of using research or facts to refute the criticism in Hargrove’s book, SeaWorld decided to retaliate by releasing a video of Hargrove after having had too much to drink. To make matters worse, SeaWorld also funded a hate website entitled the RealJohnHargrove. On this site, people post articles and dig up dirt about Hargrove in order to mock the previous SeaWorld trainer.

These two responses that SeaWorld used are completely illogical and do not come close to addressing the arguments against SeaWorld’s mistreatment of its animals. These personal attacks do not have any correlation with the points SeaWorld should be addressing about it being an unsafe environment for killer whales. SeaWorld’s release of Hargrove’s drunken video is definitely in attempt to discredit him, making this an ad hominem fallacy.


Filed under Blog Post 4

Research Summary 4

Kyline Stephens

Cowperthwaite, Gabriela. “Filmmaker: Why I Made ‘Blackfish'” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Aug. 2015.

The controversy I am researching is whether or not SeaWorld is a safe environment for its captive animals. This secondary source relates to SeaWorld’s open letter that I used as my first because it is the opinion of Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of Blackfish, the documentary that began the backlash against SeaWorld.

I believe that this article is credible because CNN is a reliable news source that has been around since 1980. This CNN special features Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s first-hand opinion as to why she chose to create the documentary that stirred up so much controversy. She has been making television documentaries for 15 years, which also makes her credible and knowledgeable in her field. Blackfish was the first of her documentaries to be distributed theatrically. It is apparent that Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the author of this article, is trustworthy and thoroughly researched the topic of killer whales in captivity prior to creating her film. The article is very informative and she presents herself in a way that allows us to understand her motives behind wanting answers to the many questions she had regarding captive marine animals. Cowperthwaite mentions her research through autopsy reports, interviews, and correspondence with SeaWorld. Her argument is formed very responsibly and ties in all her well-developed research.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite begins her article by referring to SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau’s killing. She claims that this is how her questioning began. The information did not add up, in her opinion, and Cowperthwaite did not understand why an animal as intelligent as a killer whale would bite the hand that feeds it. “Why would America’s lovable Shamu turn against us? How could our entire collective childhood memories of this delightful water park be so morbidly wrong?” These were the questions that motivated Cowperthwaites to “set out to understand this incident, not as an animal activist,” she insists, “but as a mother… and of course as a documentary filmmaker who unfortunately can’t let sleeping dogs lie.”

Gabriela Cowperthwaite claims to have wanted SeaWorld’s voice as part of her film all along. After many back-and-forth e-mails, however, they declined. Cowperthwaite explained that “this was [not] an easy film to make. There were nightmares, too many autopsy reports, sobbing interviewees and unhappy animals.” There was also the fear of being squashed by the $2 billion a year entity named SeaWorld, who would do anything in their power to protect their beloved Shamu. “But as I moved forward I knew that in telling this story in an honest and fact-driven way, I was telling the truth,” Cowperthwaite states, “It sounds cliché but it’s really that simple. At some point you’re simply compelled, in spite of yourself, to tell a story that needs to be told no matter how scared…” Because of all her research, she now claims to know that killer whales are not suitable for captivity. The effect producing Blackfish had on herself and on her crew is “impossible to shake.” She is now “dedicated to spreading the word” of what happens behind closed-doors to the animals in captivity at SeaWorld. She hopes that her film can be used as momentum to “help evolve us out of using animals for entertainment.” She urges that the killer whales that are in captivity be retired to “sea sanctuaries” where a large ocean cove is divided with a net. With the whales in these sea sanctuaries, “we could monitor their health, even feed them if need be where they can live out the rest of their lives in a dignified, sustainable manner.” Cowperthwaite closes by saying that her purpose behind Blackfish was simply to tell the real story. “Once audiences are armed with the truth, they will make the best decisions by themselves and their families,” she states.


Filed under RS 4



Filed under Blog Post 3

“An Open Letter from SeaWorld’s Animal Advocates”

SeaWorld. An Open Letter from SeaWorld’s Animal Advocates [web log post]. SeaWorld. Retrieved from

SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment has repeatedly been accused of mistreating its animals that are held in captivity, specifically its killer whales. In this open letter, SeaWorld addresses these accusations and insists that the animals that are under SeaWorld’s care are receiving the necessary attention they need and deserve.

I personally do not believe that SeaWorld is a credible source in determining the mistreatment of killer whales in captivity. SeaWorld claims that its men and women are “animal advocates,” but at the end of the day, with ticket sales decreasing in response to the constant criticism, SeaWorld will do just about anything it takes to bring back the park’s seasonal customers, even if it requires the occasional bending of the truth to manipulate newcomers into visiting their park. Although the SeaWorld company seems to be a credible source when referring to marine animals, the key points that SeaWorld addresses in its letter do not prove to be credible or well-researched. SeaWorld argues that their company places its animals’ health and safety above all else. However, they lack proper evidence to support their claims that say they care for their animals more than the money their parks bring in.

Recent reports have criticized SeaWorld and its mistreatment of animals, especially its killer whales. This open letter was a way “to set the record straight,” claims SeaWorld. SeaWorld then goes on to list six different facts that have stirred up controversy against their company.

The first fact states that “SeaWorld does not capture killer whales in the wild.” SeaWorld claims that they have not collected a killer whale from the wild for the past 35 years.

Fact number two explains that SeaWorld values the bond between a mother and her calf and claims that the trainers will hand raise the calf in the event that the mother cannot care for it herself. “We do not separate killer whale moms and calves,” SeaWorld urges, except when needed to maintain a “healthy social structure.”

Fact number three: SeaWorld claims to invest millions of dollars in its whales. The company insists that their money go toward “state-of-the-art, multimillion-gallon environments of cooled and filtered water” to ensure their animals’ health and safety.

Fact number four: “SeaWorld’s killer whales’ life spans are equivalent with those in the wild.” SeaWorld suggests that recent studies show that the life spans of their killer whales are comparable to the life spans of the killer whales in the wild.

Fact number five claims that “The killer whales in [SeaWorld’s] care benefit those in the wild.” According to SeaWorld, this is because they collaborate with “universities, governmental agencies and NGOs to increase the body of knowledge about and the understanding of killer whales.”

As stated in fact number six, “SeaWorld is a world leader in animal rescue.” SeaWorld states that their team is always on call and prepared to provide animals with the best veterinary care possible. SeaWorld claims to have rescued more than 25,000 animals and ultimately treat and return them to the wild.

“The truth about SeaWorld is right here in our parks and people,” SeaWorld says to convince us that they are indeed telling the truth. SeaWorld concludes this open letter with stating that they want to provide a lasting impact on their customers and have them gain a greater sense of appreciation for the sea and its life.


Filed under RS 3

The Most Meaningful Communities to Me

There are many words I could use to describe myself, of course, some more apparent than others. If I were to ask a stranger to choose a word they think best encompasses who I am, they would reply quickly with “blonde” or “white”— no hesitation. Although these are true, there are two words in particular that you would not be able to assume based on my appearance. In addition to being blonde and white, I am also Mexican and Mormon. These are the two communities I hold most dear.

Growing up in a dominantly Hispanic area, I grew accustomed to feeling like the black sheep in most situations. Although I was born in Mexico City and learned to speak Spanish before I did English, people walking by would not second guess calling me anything but Caucasian.

Mexicans are often stereotyped as uneducated and undocumented. “How are you Mexican? You’re smart…” and “So you’re illegal?” were among the list of ignorant questions I received when claiming my ethnicity. Intelligence knows no race. It is not about your background or where you come from; I think the amount of hard work and dedication we invest into something is what makes us successful at what we do. As a member of the Mexican community, I believe that to put an end to these stereotypes we must continue to work hard and learn to look past the negative words that are associated with our culture. I am proud to be a part of a culture that appreciates the things they worked so hard to acquire.

The second community I find myself most associated with is the Mormon community. Those who know little of our religion claim that we are not Christians or that we practice polygamy (which are both false stereotypes), so here is a short overview of what Mormons believe. (I’ll make it brief, I promise!)

  1. “Mormon” is the nickname given to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or LDS for short.
  2. We believe God is our Heavenly Father and that He sent Jesus Christ, our Savior, to suffer for our sins. We also believe that we can return to live with God again someday.

Sound familiar? That’s because…

  1. Mormons are Christians. Our religion is completely centered around Christ and striving to become more like Him. We read the Bible in addition to the Book of Mormon (another record of scripture like the Bible).
  2. We do not practice polygamy or plural marriage. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), however, does. The FLDS church is not affiliated with the LDS church whatsoever, but because FLDS members also call themselves “mormons,” society does not recognize that those who practice polygamy are of a different denomination than those who do not.

Using the Hornslink database, I found that I would be interested in joining the Hispanic Student Association. Being that I am hispanic and I enjoy community service, I would like to be a part of this organization whose purpose is “to preserve, promote, and produce awareness and understanding of Hispanic culture.”


Filed under Blog Post 2

“Americans are not ready to make another mistake like we did with alcohol and tobacco.”

Ludwig, Mike. “Marijuana Legalization Debate Turns Heads on Campus.” Alt-Press Watch. Proquest, 28 Jan. 2008. Web. 19 July 2015.

Mike Ludwig is a writer and investigative reporter for Truthout, a nonprofit news organization in the United States. In this article, Ludwig writes about the “Heads vs. Feds” debate that took place at Ohio University. The debate was between Steve Hager, former editor for High Times (a magazine dedicated to the fight for marijuana legalization), and head of New York City’s Drug Enforcement Administration, Robert Stutman. They disputed the legalization of marijuana and its pros and cons on society.

Ludwig begins by saying that Hager motivated the students of Ohio University to become activists for the cause of legalizing marijuana and suggested that they become serious about it if they really want to see a change. According to Ludwig, Hager argued that the positive factors of marijuana outweigh the negatives and that marijuana can have valuable medicinal and spiritual properties. Ludwig reports that Hager thinks the black market encourages corruption and drug trafficking, and with the legalization of marijuana, the two of these would slow if not completely end.

According to Ludwig, Hager’s opponent, Stutman, disagrees and claims that marijuana should not be made legal. The reason behind this being that “legalizing marijuana validates a drug that intoxicates, impairs depth perception, and can lead to health problems such as lung cancer.” Seeing that marijuana can be tremendously harmful to our bodies, Stutman insists that America is not ready to repeat the mistake that was made with tobacco and alcohol.

Ludwig says that both Hager and Stutman agree that drug use on its own should not warrant a prison sentence, however, Stutman does not side with the use of marijuana recreationally. Hager concludes his argument with, “We have built the largest prison system in the world in my lifetime. I think doing 10 years in the prison system is worse for you than smoking a joint.”

I found this article helpful because the two debaters certainly have “the credentials for their respective positions,” as Ludwig states. Both of them are experts in their fields and have contrasting opinions on the legalization of marijuana that are more unique than those I had read in other articles. It was interesting to me to hear that DEA Officer Stutman believed that if marijuana were to become legal, it would add onto the list of mistakes America has made, the other two being alcohol and tobacco. I think this source could be of use to those who are thinking of writing on how marijuana affects society as a whole.


Filed under RS 2