As a child, John Hargrove visited SeaWorld Orlando at the age of 6 and fell in love with these majestic orcas. He even wrote letters to SW. As a young man, he gets closer to the tanks and starts talking with trainers. His dedication eventually pays off as a position opens in SW while he’s still studying at college.
J. Hargrove has spent a total of 14 years among the 20 orcas of SW and Marineland (France). His dream collapsed little by little as he discovered the real conditions killer whales were living in.
Addressing the crowd in New York City in April 2014, he says: “It’s an evolution that you have to go through. You start, as trainers, because you love those whales, you want a life with those whales, and then, as you progress higher through the ranks, you start to see things from the corporate end of it – the corporate greed and exploitation that you don’t agree with. And, even as a high ranking trainer, you cannot stop those things from happening. … I thought I had the power to stop it. I could not.”
During a sick leave for an injured knee, J. Hargrove is asked to give an interview for the movie “Blackfish”. He first refused for fear of reprisals with his employers. He then changed his mind. He knew his choice was a definite and difficult one because from that moment on he would never be in touch with the orcas. And he knew he would not be able to come back as a visitor because he does not want to encourage captivity. He handed in his resignation on July 17th of August 2012 and was interviewed for the movie Blackfish 7 days later. He knew the best way to help killer whales was by speaking the truth.
His book, Beneath the Surface is published in 2015 and paints a compelling portrait of these highly intelligent and social creatures, and includes vibrant descriptions of the lives of orcas in the wild, contrasting their freedom in the ocean with their lives in SeaWorld.