This post is about something that has been bothering me since the weekend when I watched Blackfish – The Documentary for the first time. I know, I’m a little late to the party, and that people were going on about this months ago – as did I after watching the news footage of Dawn Brancheau’s death atSeaWorld and reading about various other incidents. I was horrified at the time and watching this documentary has brought back those feelings of disgust for the way these beautiful creatures are being treated. The response to my tweet on the topic showed me that it is still very much in the minds of people and made me realise it is important to keep it this way to prevent this from happening again.
I am absolutely fascinated by nature and the world around us – trust me, I am David Attenborough’s biggest fan and loved hearing Doug Allen talk of how he had captured these incredible animals on camera. But the reason I love watching these programmes so much is because these film-makers and the scientists who go into the field to study these animals do so from afar. The most important part of their studies is to do so without interfering with the animal in its natural habitat. This, to me, seems the most important thing.
So it is with huge embarrassment and shame that I admit that my family were once, several years ago, among the thousands who visit SeaWorld while holidaying in Florida. I hate to think that we were among those funding this selfish and despicable business that has caused killer whales and probably several other creatures such pain. The only thing I can hope will redeem us for contributing to the problem is that even then, I remember my mum and I saying to each other we didn’t like it and we didn’t think it was right. Sadly by then it was too late, we had already helped pay the wages of these trainers and the owners. I must also point out that had these incidents happened before, or had I been old enough to be aware of the treatment of these animals, I would not have gone.
The documentary was incredibly hard-hitting – well filmed, cutting together news footage, personal footage of trainers in action, live interviews and more. I would seriously recommend watching it, whether you have any interest in the subject or not. Some of the footage is seriously shocking as you see the killer whales in action – both hurting each other and their trainers. But what is far more horrifying is hearing the interviews with former trainers and those involved with SeaWorld who allowed this to happen repeatedly and who covered it up. This interwoven with clips of incidents where trainers have been dragged into the water and nearly drowned with others where people have been crushed or chased. It is very scary and really brings the whole issue home to audiences. I found myself holding my breath and almost in tears when watching it – it was just so graphic.
Two issues really stood out for me when watching and these are the ones I am going to focus on in this post – otherwise I know I could write all day and all night on this topic.
- The fact that people across the world are not only capturing these wild animals and stealing their babies for monetary gain, but that they are attempting to train them with complete disregard for the fact that they are wild and unpredictable animals.
- And the equally ridiculous notion that corporations like SeaWorld are not only trying to cover these incidents up to save and make more money, but that they are actively lying about these incidents, covering them up and blaming the wild animals for these attacks despite their disgusting treatment of them.
These animals are so magnificent when swimming naturally in their own environment, in natural family pods and hunting their prey – being wild as nature intended. It is awful that these animals have been hunted down by cruel people who just want to make money out of them without think of the animal’s needs. The fact that these trainers, businessmen and investors hadn’t for one second thought that the treatment these killer whales are receiving – squashed into tiny pools with no way of escape from the natural attacks of the females, and forced to listen to their own cries rebounding on the pool walls around them – might cause them to become agitated and threatened is simply ridiculous. These people make themselves out to have the animal’s best interests at heart and to be the experts – yet they fail to realise that these forced conditions can cause animals to become even more unpredictable and dangerous. It is scary to think that these people are all that the whales know and they have obviously come to associate humans with pain and suffering – but what effect this could have on humans if we were to jump in the tank.
At the end of the day these animals are unpredictable, wild animals who, no matter how long you spend on training, cannot be trusted to react in a specific way. As humans are unpredictable and can be dangerous if they panic (take a look at mass crowd panics and see what I mean) so are killer whales – the clue is in the name! But is that any reason to try and pin the blame on the animal?
SeaWorld and various other companies involved appear to be trying to pin the blame for these attacks on the trainers and the whales – but how is this acceptable? After the horrible treatment they have received with inhumane living conditions and forcing them to behave unnaturally, how can we possibly blame the animal for striking back out of frustration and fear? And while I believe the trainers are as much to blame to enabling this to continue, I think it is completely inexcusable to tarnish their memory by blaming the incidents on them when it was merely the animal behaving unexpectedly. It’s about time the owners of SeaWorld owned up and took responsibility for their actions, and realised the lifetime of suffering they are forcing these animals into.
All I know is that the only time I ever want to see these beautiful creatures in front of me again is either in photographs or from a boat on the open sea. I would truly love the experience of going whale and dolphin watching at sea – to see them in their natural habitat as they should be.
Sorry, I know this post ended up being a bit of a rant, but I just felt so strongly about it. I would love to know your thoughts on the topic – why not leave me a comment below?
Also, here are links to some of the petitions available to sign if you want to do more than just talk about it:
Ask Sea World to release their Orcas and dolphins to ocean sanctuaries
SeaWorld: End Captive Orca Breeding Program
Humanely release the Orca whale known as Tilikum to a sea-pen for rehab
So sad 😦 I didn’t know about this at all before reading your post.
It’s horrible isn’t it Denise? I couldn’t believe it either!
I didn’t know the full extent of the story although I had heard of the blackfish movie. I am going to head over to their site and have a watch to see exactly what it’s about! Such a sad story thanks for sharing and making more people aware of the plight of these beautiful animals. I have also added this to my new blog in my weekly favourite links, hope that’s ok.x
Neither did I until I watched the documentary – it really shocked me because although I knew small parts of what had happened, I was completely ignorant to so much of the story. I’m glad I could share this with others, even if it is completely devastating. If you feel as strongly as I do about it, I have left links to various petitions at the bottom of the post – I’m sure your signature would mean a lot to those campaigning. Would love to hear your thoughts on Blackfish when you’ve watched it. And thanks for adding me to the list 🙂 honoured to be a part of it! xx
Such an interesting post. I honestly didn’t know any of this beforehand.
I love watching David Attenborough as well and I to love that those programme follow these animals in their natural habitats.
I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for anyone – trainers or whoever – who get injured from this. I know that sounds horrible but they should see it coming and stop being so naïve as to think that these animals won’t lash out at some point. You’ve seen them on the discovery channel right? The way they hunt in the wild just shows they’re one of the most dangerous animals in the ocean and in the world for that matter and if being confined to a tiny space being made to do tricks isn’t going to set them off I don’t know what will!
I don’t think I’d watch Blackfish, it’d just make me too sad but I’m definitely going to sign the petition you posted.
Great post and a great way to get people’s attention on a subject that most of us are probably oblivious to! xx
I was exactly the same – was horrified to learn the full extent of the cruelty. And you’re so right, in the documentary the trainers keep talking about the relationship they had with the whales and how they had a mutual trust – how could you possibly have any idea what the whale is really thinking?! It’s crazy that they thought they were in no danger! I’m glad you feel the same way and that you signed the petition – hopefully out signatures will make all the difference! Xx
I don’t think that most people understand what is really happening, nor do they want to. Every day millions of animals are tortured, killed, and punished because humans disregard their lives. They have no count for the number of lives that have been lost for their own pleasure. Blackfish does an amazing job at telling the story of one small species of animals that are being humiliated for human entertainment, and yet we are appalled. We will fight to save them, we will spread the word and hope that maybe we can make a difference for them. But once they are saved, will we be brave enough to look at other creatures that are treated without regard for life? From the biggest to the smallest, all lives are sacred. Great article!
You are so right Crysta – people avoid thinking about the issue because it is distasteful and horrible to face up to. Often people just don’t have the knowledge of what is really happening – I know that I didn’t know the full extent of what was happening at SeaWorld until I saw the documentary. It really is an incredible documentary for this specific story, but I think you can take the overall message and apply it to so many wider stories and examples happening across the globe (for example, the elephants and camels that are forced to carry back breaking loads across Africa and Asia and that are beaten, cruelly treated and not given enough food and water all for human entertainment and to make our lives more comfortable). I hope that by passing on the petition and encouraging others to sign it will make a difference in the longer-term, but you’re right, when this issue is dealt with and removed, what will be next? Is there ever going to be an end to it? Thanks for your comments.
Thanks for making sure I saw it. I am glad I did.
Love your article and your passion about this subject. Definitely read SeaWorlds response though! I like that we have different view points that still come to the same conclusion that there is a problem here!
Thanks Kayla – was glad to share with you, especially after seeing our different angles on the same story – but you’re right, we do end up coming to the same conclusion. I’ve now read the response and although it is difficult to take seriously with Blackfish ringing in my ears, it does explain quite comprehensively points that SeaWorld believe are biased or just plain wrong. Instead of making me agree and believe their view, it does make me think we should take both sides with a massive pinch of salt – both are just propaganda which have been created to make the public believe fully in their take on the same story. Probably neither is correct in its entirety, and while one pulls on emotions the other tugs at our reason. At the end of the day, we were both right in coming to the conclusion that whatever the truth, it is entirely wrong that these creatures are being kept in captivity whether they are being mistreated beyond that fact or not. Thanks for your comments x
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