Archive for October 2013

orcas

CNN recently aired the movie Blackfish, which had previously played in theaters and which has received a great deal of attention highlighting the plight of captive orcas and marine animals in entertainment venues, such as SeaWorld. Hopefully the broadcast by CNN (which they have played several times) will restart the important conversation about marine animal entertainment parks and the cruel abuse they inflict on their captives. I was heartened by the survey done by CNN after the movie in which 60-something percent of respondents said they would NOT take their children to SeaWorld now, while only 30-something percent said they would. I doubt those were the percentages before the movie was aired, so this compelling film does have the capacity to change minds about this issue.

I never really did a review of Blackfish for this blog, so I would like to share my collection of thoughts after last night’s airing:

The most wrenching part for me was the beginning, when the captures were taking place. Seeing the reaction of the young whales and the reactions of their family members while the young were being hoisted away ripped my heart out. The panic and cries of the family and the young whales even moved one of the kidnappers to say years later that it is the worst thing he has ever done in his life.

The emotion displayed by former trainers, even years later, while talking about food deprivation and other cruel techniques to control the whales was quite moving and shows the extent of their emotional evolution as they reflect on their years as trainers. They were also quite angry at SeaWorld for not having told them anything about the risks they were taking with their own lives given Tilikum’s history of killing people.

The initial response by SeaWorld to the death of Dawn Brancheau, particularly their attempt to blame her for her own death, was beyond revolting. They accused her of having a loose ponytail (which was later determined NOT likely to be the part of her which was grabbed but rather her arm) and of making a mistake in setting Tilikum off – as if a 12,000 pound/5,400 kg apex predator kept in deplorable and confining conditions NEEDS a reason to “go off” on anyone. The very fact of him being there at all made him a loaded weapon which SeaWorld was only happy to keep loaded and exploit for profit, even after he killed three people, including one of their most experienced trainers.

Speaking of Tilikum, his sperm has been harvested and used to parent a number of progeny, most of whom are also captives of the SeaWorld profit machine. Anyone out there think it is a good idea to breed an animal with a known history of aggression? Sure, he kills, but he is smart and trainable, so let’s make more of him – a fantastic example of how SeaWorld puts profit before human OR nonhuman animal well-being. And on the subject of sperm harvesting, the film does show how that is done. The trainers do it, and I don’t think I need to get graphic here about the technique used. Let’s just say it is a tried and true method of extracting sperm from a male animal. Just another horrible indignity and abuse heaped on these magnificent creatures.

One of the females, after her baby was taken from her to be transported to another park, went into grieving and made a sound that had not been heard before. Whale specialists were called in to examine this and determined that it was a long-range sound. She was attempting, in vain, to try and contact and find her baby. How do these people even sleep at night?

If you have not seen this film and are active in animal rights, I would recommend Blackfish. It is not terribly graphic in terms of violence (it’s not The Cove), although there is certainly enough there to evoke strong emotion. It is definitely something to recommend to any friends or family who insist on visiting SeaWorld type parks. These parks have to close, and people have to stop exploiting and abusing these beautiful animals for human entertainment and profit. Hopefully films such as Blackfish will help to make that a reality.