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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Bloo's Reviews | Blackfish

"We should all be aware that there is not one thing we can give a wild animal in captivity that they need."
Tippi Hedren

Two days ago my sister and I watched the documentary (or propaganda film, depending on which side of the fence you sit on) Blackfish. No matter what your views are in relation to the documentary, SeaWorld or keeping animals in captivity, if the film doesn't evoke some kind of emotion within you... I'm sorry to say you probably aren't in possession of a heart.

The documentary centres mostly around SeaWorld's orca whales and the effect both capture from the wild (where applicable as some are captive bred whales) and living in captivity has on them. Focusing namely on Tilikum, a male orca who was captured from the wild in 1985 when he was two and has since been involved in the deaths of three people. Experts have attributed this to the years of physical harassment he's suffered from the other captive whales, the intense confinement, isolation and lack of emotional and intellectual stimulation he's had since his capture. Other 'accidents' involving different orcas are also talked about. The documentary takes the stance that orca attacks on humans and each other are directly in response to living in captivity as there is only a handful of orca attacks on humans in the wild, none of which being fatal. They are just too big and too smart to be adequately cared for in captivity. And although most of the whales in captivity now are captive bred whales which is seen as less controversial, it has been said that captive orcas are dying faster than they are being born. The lifespan of killer whales in captivity is substantially shorter, with many having only lived into their twenties. According to marine mammal scientist Naomi Rose male orcas in the wild live an average of thirty years, the maximum being fifty to sixty years whereas, females in the wild average living to the age of 46 with a mFaximum age of eighty to ninety years. Apparently there have been a total of 32 orcas that have been born in captivity and have died; that is excluding stillbirths, but in total, 156 have died in captivity including stillbirths and miscarriages. Often female whales give birth at a much younger age than they would in the wild. And young that would normally stay within the family pod for their whole lives are sometimes taken from their mother, causing distress to both the mother and the young. SeaWorld say they only remove an orca from it's mother if there is medical need or it becomes 'disruptive' to it's mother or other whales. In Blackfish it is said it was more for the fact they were being disruptive to the shows. Still, one wonders how much of this 'disruption' comes from the fact these young whales are in such a confined space. Like keeping a child in a play pen.

Interviewed in the documentary are former SeaLand (where Tilikum was first owned and was involved in his first death) and SeaWorld employees, orca enthusiasts, researchers and experts. One of the most poignant interviews is with an old whaler who was involved in the capture of orcas for SeaWorld back in 1970. This hardened old man, with his grey beard and sleeve tattoos, was still visibly shaken with regret and haunted by his whaling days. He describes it as the worst thing he'd ever seen or done. And equates it with taking a child from it's mother as they only captured the young whales.

All this being said, whilst I fully agree with the documentaries message and believe it's wrong to have these beautiful creatures in captivity, I am smart enough to recognise the tactics, methods of emotional manipulation and bias that the documentary holds. There is an obvious agenda, and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if the film makers did manipulate and use out of context or date footage etc to their advantage as SeaWorld and opponents of the mission to stop the captivity of whales have suggested. There is a page on SeaWorld's website called 'The Truth About Blackfish' where they have 40 second video clips of employees and such rebutting some of the things that were said in the documentary and then below there's a list of other things they say are falsehoods. However there are some things they cannot deny and what's more, some of those things are common sense. There is no way an animal so big and so smart could ever have a healthy fulfilling life stuck in a concrete pool that in no way resembles their natural habitat, in false social groupings, with chemically altered water. And while watching the SeaWorld clips and reading their rebuttals, there was one thing from the documentary that rung in the back of my mind. Former trainers spoke of how embarrassed they are when they look back at recordings of themselves and the script they were given by SeaWorld of what to say and what's more, how they truly believed in what they were saying at the time. It wasn't until later they realised how wrong it was. And that's what I thought of when I watched SeaWorld try and convince me these whales were happy and well cared for and that Blackfish was a bunch of lies. They have an invested interest in believing what they are saying is true.

If there's anything else I've taken from this documentary it's a reminder of how much I dislike wild (even captive bred) animals being in captivity. This whole post might sound highly hypocritical after me spending Easter Sunday at the zoo, but it's reminded me why I avoided the zoo for so long and now will continue to. As much as I enjoyed seeing the animals, it was on a very superficial level. I can only enjoy it if I don't put too much thought into it. Looking back now, it's almost like I have renewed sight and I see it all differently.

So yeah, I would really encourage everyone to watch Blackfish. It is very thought provoking. I'm not ashamed to say I cried once or twice. SeaWorld has said the documentary failed to say about the good things they do, like their rescue, rehabilitation and release of wild animals and the money they put into research and conservation. And I'm sure they do a lot of good in those respects, but I don't think that justifies the exploitation of orcas and other animals they display and use in their shows. It's basically irrelevant. Still, as I said before I am aware there are probably falsehoods and things that are open to interpretation and differing opinion on both sides. I would say if you do watch the documentary, maybe do some other research before you make up your mind. But in my opinion regardless of whether SeaWorld is guilty of the stuff Blackfish accuses them of or not and vice versa, it is common sense captivity could never provide these creatures with the life they deserve. It's up to you whether morally you can live with that or not.


  1. I really love this documentary it is really shocking and exposes something that I hadn't really thought about before, you should also check out the documentary 'the cove' about dolphins. I love this blog article I watched the documentary quite a while ago, but never thought about blogging about it.


    1. Yeah, it was a very interesting watched. Helped me remember some things I really care about. I've seen a couple of people mention The Cove in relation to Blackfish. I'll def have to look into it. Thanks, I just had so many feelings after I watched it that I couldn't not write about it. Lol. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Hi
    I'm Rachel, I'm in Eva's class at tech. I used to blog but I never knew what to write or if anyone actually read what I posted. I saw you with Eva in the shopping centre once. I saw one of your posts about scoliosis, I was born with it and it turns out we have the same doctor xD your blog has made me realise that I have so much more to offer to people so thank you I guess! I hope your muscular dystrophy improves. It's not nice being in a wheelchair all the time is it? I had one for a few weeks after I had an operation.
    Ps: you're beautiful.

    1. Hey there. I think Eva's mentioned you before. Yeah, I'm lucky I can find a lot to write about considering I don't do very much. I also use a bunch of social media sites to promote my blog, but I still have a super small audience. It's still fun though. Ah, that's cool! Well, the same doctor part. I guess it's a small world after all. :) I don't really mind the wheelchair, I guess I'm used to it. :) Thanks! Take care.


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