James Cameron has broken his silence after attending a “dolphin show” as part of the Avatar: The Way of Water publicity tour.
The director, who went vegan a decade ago, said he had no idea he was attending such a show. And, that he was “seething” about the situation while on stage.
The incident occurred earlier this month. He was promoting the new film in Tokyo, Japan, alongside stars Jon Landau, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang.
As part of the press conference, they all watched an Avatar-themed show at a marine park. Cameron introduced the proceedings, saying “Welcome to Pandora” (referring to the fictional world the movies are set in).
Cameron has long been a vocal voice in the vegan community, so his attendance at the show was met with backlash.
‘I was seething’
In an email apparently written by Cameron and sent to ocean photographer Brian Skerry, who he previously worked with, Cameron said he hadn’t known about the show until the last minute.
The email, which was shared to Facebook, reads: “We were on a whirlwind publicity tour for Avatar: The Way of Water across multiple countries, and I was getting whisked along from one appearance or interview to another for a week straight, literally doing twenty or thirty interviews a day.
“I got handed a schedule that showed, as my first of six stops of the day, a fan event at an aquarium. I was visualizing something like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, with its great science and conservation programs. There was zero mention of a dolphin show. I literally found out there was a dolphin show AS we were walking out on stage. We were already out in the lights and fans were cheering.
“I said something snide on-mike like, ‘I’m sure the dolphins were all asked for their consent to be part of the show’ or something like that. I was seething. But I didn’t want to create a big public incident. Maybe I should have, in retrospect. But my instinct is always to meet people where they are. Which is the whole point of Avatar: The Way of Water. To shift consciousness.”
The dolphin show
The show featured a number of dolphins performing “tricks,” and one appearing to dance with a trainer. After applauding the show, Cameron seemed to claim that the dolphins themselves agreed to be in it.
He said: “I love these animals, I love their intelligence. I love their sociability, their ability to connect with us and to interact with us and learn from us. And I’m sure everybody asked their permission to be in the show.”
Animal rights organization PETA criticized the director’s decision to attend the show. Speaking to Plant Based News (PBN) at the time, PETA US Senior Vice President Lisa Lange said: “James Cameron waited 13 years for the development of the right technology to bring the underwater world of Pandora to life. So why on Earth didn’t he pause for just five minutes to consider whether he should have allowed himself to be seen as endorsing the cruelty of marine parks?
“Confining far-ranging dolphins to concrete tanks and using them as surfboards – riding on their faces in circus-style shows – is something the villains of Avatar would do. PETA urges him to reject such animal misery outright and encourages everyone to shun these cruel parks.”
Activist Bailey Mason (@warriorforanimals) also slammed the filmmaker. Mason told PBN: “James Cameron, as a high profile environmentalist, should never associate himself with the captivity of dolphins. Dolphin shows are cruel, not conservation.”
Is James Cameron vegan?
The video came as a shock to some of the vegan community, as the director has long been an outspoken advocate for animals.
Cameron was also an executive producer of the 2018 Netflix film The Game Changers, which looked at the health benefits of a vegan diet.
Cameron first adopted a plant-based diet in 2012. He recently announced that he now refers to himself as a “futurevore,” rather than vegan, in reference to his belief that it’s the diet of the future.
This article was original published on December 13, 2022. It was updated on December 22 to include James Cameron’s response to the backlash.