I heard of the documentary Blackfish a while back and I knew I had to see it, even though I hadn’t seen the trailer at the time. A little after that I was able to see the trailer for this documentary and what I saw broke my heart. Yet at the same time it made me even more determined to see it.
Blackfish is about killer whales living in captivity in parks like SeaWorld and others around the world. It focusses mainly on Tilikum a bull orca who lives in captivity and has been involved in 3 human deaths.
Tilikum was NOT born in captivity. He was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983 at the age of 2. He was caught to live in a water park performing tricks for visitors. At the time he was captured he wasn’t the only one, more orcas were ripped away from their pod that day. The documentary even lets fishermen who have been involved in capturing orcas tell their stories and their descriptions and footage of the captures brings tears to my eyes. One of them even says that from all the things he did in life, ripping away orca babies from their mother in the wild is the most horrible thing he ever did.
As Blackfish continues it shows how orcas are sold off to other parks, babies being ripped away from their mothers in parks and relocated. If I told you that young never leave their mother in killer whale pods in the wild, wouldn’t that make it kidnapping or abduction?
Former trainers speak up about what they experienced as employees. They mention the lack of information, cover ups and lies they were fed by their employers, even when they had to work with Tilikum or other orcas that have been involved in attacks.
Some of them explain how they never knew the truth about certain attacks as they were down played, trainers got blamed for attacks and “accidents”. One of them says he only stayed because of the love for Tilikum, who he was looking after. If he didn’t do it, who would, and he wanted to make a difference in Tilikum’s life. But how much can you do to help if the decisions are made by those not as involved in the love and care for these animals?
At the same time, there are also former employees still agreeing with the things that are happening to these animals. They say it’s not as bad as others make it out to be. The animals are fed, have a good place to live and enjoy doing all these “cool” tricks. They are entitled to their own opinions of course, but I think they couldn’t be further from the truth.
There is no way a park is going to admit they’re covering up attacks, nor that the animals living in captivity are frustrated and agitated and act out. But wouldn’t you act out in any way you can if you’re kept between slaps of concrete, an area that’s too small for you and forced to perform for an audience EVERY.SINGLE.DAY (and sometimes more times a day!)
Let me be very clear that I don’t blame the trainers for their own deaths or the attacks they survived, I don’t think it was their fault at all. There is nothing you can do when a 5000 kg animal goes after you. I truly believe the trainers love these animals and it is out of love they stay, because if they go how will the animals be treated, who will take care of them and what will happen to them.
Lots of research is done on orcas living in the wild. A lot of things are known about the way they behave. How they live, act and how social they are. They are one of the most socially developed animals in the world. Scientists even go as far as to say they’re highly developed emotional beings (just like dolphins) with brains more evolved than humans.
We don’t need parks to learn about orcas. To me they are just a way to exploid animals to make a buck. I’m convinced these majestic, regal animals only act out because they live in captivity. In fact there aren’t any documented attacks on humans by orcas living in the wild. Isn’t that a signal something is “wrong” with these killer whales that do act out? And with wrong I mean having to live in small enclosures in captivity that doesn’t even come close to their natural environment.
Education is key. People don’t know what goes on behind the doors of shows with these animals. There are many many pages describing attacks, fatal and non-fatal yet parks continue shows as if nothing happened. Sometimes animals even get punished for not doing what is expected of them, deprived of food, locked up in a too small dark enclosure for more than half a day and more of such things. Sales would drop if people found out, and that is not something these parks want to happen.
It was already clear to me before I watched Blackfish but it’s even more clear now. I won’t visit parks that hold these animals in captivity. I thing it’s morally wrong to teach our children that it’s normal to keep our kin of this planet in small enclosures to do tricks.
When I was in Iceland I was priviliged enough to see whales (not orcas) in their natural habitat. From far far away I saw one of them jump out of water and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. It’s where these animals belong; in the wild.
I recommend you watch this documentary and let me know what you think of it and how you feel about these parks. Do you go to these parks, why or why not and after seeing this documentary will you still visit them? I’m looking forward to a healthy discussion with you all.
Images courtesy of Blackfish