No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. No dolphins or marine mammals who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands parks can be considered normal.
– Jacques Yves Cousteau
Way back when I first started my blog in 2010, one of the first posts I wrote was about the documentary The Cove, which shed light on the atrocious dolphin killings in Taiji, Japan. It’s a movie that still haunts and saddens me. This past week, I started seeing postings on Facebook about another documentary titled Blackfish, which tells the story of the killing in 2010 of experienced SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau by a 12,000-pound orca.
From the Blackfish website:
Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.
While Blackfish didn’t have the violence or atrociousness that The Cove did, it was very hard for me to watch and struck a cord with me in the same way.
These whales, kept in captivity, occasionally act out as wild animals will do, and we blame the animal. These whales, like other animals in captivity, are not happy and are not living fulfilled lives. As stated in Blackfish, these whales are used to swimming hundreds of miles a day; the tanks they are kept in while in captivity for no other reason than to entertain are not adequately meeting their needs. Not even close.
What surprised me most about Blackfish was the lack of education needed to become a whale trainer at SeaWorld. I assumed (I know, assuming is bad) that trainers would at the very least need some type of experience working with marine animals as well as a degree in marine biology. Not the case. Trainers featured in Blackfish stated they had no educational background or experience. All that was required was that they be strong swimmers and have a big personality.
Another thing that was surprising was that while there have been cases in captivity where orcas have killed people, there has never been one case in the wild where orcas have killed people.
I’ve been to SeaWorld several times, and we’ve taken the kids to the zoo before too. We all enjoyed both. But every time we go, I’m always saddened by all of the animals living out their lives in cages. It’s not how their lives were intended to be lived, nor the way we are supposed to see them.
After seeing Blackfish, I doubt I will ever take my kids to SeaWorld again. Maybe not even the zoo, for that matter. This saddens me. Because I want my children to be able to see up close how beautiful animals are, but I also don’t want to contribute to or condone the conditions these animals are kept in.
There are films out there like the Discovery Channel’s Earth series that allow us to see animals in their natural habitats, as they should be. And maybe for my family, that is how we will chose to see animals from now on.
Check out the Blackfish trailer here. And once you’ve seen the movie, make sure to visit the Blackfish website, as well as liking Blackfish on Facebook and following Blackfish on Twitter to show your support.
Did you see Blackfish? What did you think?