If you have ever been to SeaWorld or are thinking about it, you may want to read on.
BLACKFISH is a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival about SeaWorld, and it indicates the detriment to captive orca whales, and unfortunately, their trainers.
In 2010, SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida was the home of a horrific tragedy. Tilikum, an orca whale, killed experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau.
BLACKFISH is directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who has researched killer whales held in captivity for 40 years. Culminating in this eye-opening documentary, BLACKFISH tries to bring to light Brancheau’s work as a skilled trainer, and her tragic parting of this life allegedly due to negligence on SeaWorld’s behalf.
The strong argument is that these massive water animals simply are not innately suitable for captivity. At SeaWorld, orcas are kept in enclosed, drastically reduced areas much less expansive than what they naturally need from their environment to thrive.
This was not the only fatal incident involving Tilikum, who has been connected to the deaths of two others, yet let back into the water to swim side by side with humans again. Nor is Brancheau’s story the only instance of its kind among other killer whales and their trainers, as the film dishearteningly acknowledges others as well as the unnatural process for capturing and enclosing the whales.
Trainers who work with animals of this magnitude normally have the utmost reverence for them, and some can even encompass a certain intrinsic understanding of them, their habits and innate predispositions. They certainly also know the danger they may face, as they literally are looking at it closer than most ever will. The killer whale that took young Brancheau’s life weighed approximately 12,000 pounds and was more than 22 feet in length.
This is not a new argument and has also included zoos and other attractions where wild animals take center stage.
However, the issue at hand is not the mistakes made or inexperience of the trainers, but the facility in which the orcas are held. The question is whether it is an ethical practice to hold wild animals for profit and show, and most of all it poses inquiry into the regard for the safety of the trainers and if they are potentially putting them in harm’s way.
Further, SeaWorld has been heavily scrutinized for seemingly trying to make this accident appear as if it were trainer error, as if to pass off the blame. Day in and day out these tragedies cannot be predicted, and unfortunately obvious, SeaWorld is not equipped to deal with a threatening circumstance from such a massive water creature.
Paying employees who are eager to work with animals beloved to them for a derisory salary compared to the risk they continually take on in order to entertain and provide funds for an establishment that may overlook their protection is going to leave big businesses like SeaWorld with some serious questions to answer.
SeaWorld has only recently responded to the repeated requests for their comments regarding the documentary. One of the statements they have made are an accusation that the film is only an attempt to exploit the human life that was lost and cash in on the subject.
No matter how technologically advanced or modernized we become we walk a fine line with nature and we must respect that, even in the name of profit. The film details that there has never been a record of a killer whale in the wild taking anyone’s life. This has only happened in captivity.
There is no doubt that there will be strong reactions caused by BLACKFISH. But aside from all of it, bless the memory of the lives who have been lost under these circumstances, who are at the heart of it all.
Watch the trailer to learn more about the film:
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