Blackfish – a distressing indictment of SeaWorld’s inhumane treatment of whales

Blackfish film logoJust finished viewing Blackfish, the sobering documentary revealing the inhumane treatment of killer whales by the powers that be of SeaWorld and similar venues.

The shocking footage, the candid interviews with former SeaWorld trainers all brutally documented the abysmal conditions that orcas go through and have to endure before and during their captivity.

The words that continue to reverberate through this writer’s head are harsh and ugly:

  • Killer whales frolic in the wild

    Killer whales in the wild

    kidnapping – the process describing how wild orcas, mainly baby whales, are separated from their mothers, yanked from the wild and thrust into a harsh, severely limited existence for the entertainment of onlookers who pay to see them

  • torture – what aptly describes how orcas are trained: if they don’t perform, food is withheld until they “get it” and do; locked up for 2/3 of their life in small concrete pens with no stimulation, along with other whales with whom they have no similarity, no common language, nothing
  • heartbreak – orca mothers who have their calves ripped from their sides only to have them transferred to other sea-entertainment sites around the world; the mother whales documented in their intense, heart-wrenching grief
  • a futile existence – without family to relate with, a significant factor for whales in the wild; left to swim in circles in too small concrete pens when not in the public eye

Blackfish 1The former trainers and former whale captors admitting their shame for their culpability during those times they participated to gather and/or “train” these magnificent creatures who’d been caught. The film showed, via cartoon-like drawings, pieces of transcripts of trials / hearings that took place after the well-publicized death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at the Orlando SeaWorld, along with film clips of witnesses as they exited the courtroom. Clearly there was a discrepancy between what they testified to and what they really knew to be true.

What I was left with was the absolute horror of life these remarkable mammals must go through; the cruelty humans – particularly those who are in the business of making money from having them in captivity – and the ignorance of the viewing public who attend these performances.

Blackfish 2These aren’t “dumb” creatures. They’re highly intelligent, highly social and have strong emotions. They deserve so much better from us, we creatures who are capable of both incredible cruelty and immense compassion.  When do we turn that compassion to those who have never done humans harm in the wild? When do we allow other creatures to thrive in their native habitat without greedily wanting to profit from owning them, and, in the process, making them do ridiculous tricks for our amusement?

Blackfish is a film that must be seen, felt and taken in. It may break your heart; it might make you scream or gasp in horror (I did). Not for the squeamish, it’s an important film and not to be dismissed. SeaWorld and its ilk need to know that (hopefully) their days are numbered with these kinds of shows and animal captivities. And hopefully much sooner than later.

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