The Oscar nominations were announced last week and many people were surprised that Blackfish was not nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category. The film caused a huge amount of controversy when it was released as it depicts the treatment of captive orcas in SeaWorld in the USA. I hadn’t wanted to watch it as I have long been against keeping animals in captivity, plus anything featuring cruelty to animals is bound to upset me. In short Blackfish sounded like my idea of a horror film and I was right.
The film focusses on Tilikum, a bull orca who is the largest in captivity and who is notorious for being involved in the deaths of three people. Tilikum was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983 when he was about two years old. The footage of his pod being hunted is heartrending and when a calf is finally captured the remaining orcas don’t leave but instead stay there communicating with the little one. One of the fishermen involved in Tilikum’s capture is interviewed and gets visibly emotional when he recalls the events saying it was like “kidnapping a little kid from her mother.”
Tilikum’s life since then has been horrific. First he was kept at Sealand in Canada in dark and very cramped conditions with no stimulation, and often starved if he did not comply with his training. Then he was sold to SeaWorld in Florida where he was forced to perform, kept in small quarters with other orcas who attacked him, and, despite his track record of aggression, used as a sire multiple times.
The footage of the orcas in captivity is heartbreaking and I spent much of the film in tears. Many scientists and researchers are interviewed and they explain how whales are incredibly intelligent and communicative, capable of a range of emotions, very social creatures and deeply connected to their pod. To keep any animal in captivity for human entertainment, but especially an animal this intelligent, is morally indefensible.
These disgusting parks, or prisons as I think of them, should all be closed down: Loro Parque in Tenerife, Marineland Antibes, the many SeaWorld parks, Moscow Aquarium and Dolphinarium, all of them. I hope that in fifty years’ time, thanks in part to films like Blackfish, marine parks will be an embarrassing memory in our past.
You can sign a petition to free Tilikum here. I urge you to do it. The petition creators want one million signatures but so far only have 100,000.