by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
“All whales in captivity have a bad life. They’re all emotionally destroyed. They’re all psychologically traumatized. So they’re ticking time bombs.”
This documentary film explores the issue of Orcas in captivity. The narrative follows the life of male Orca Tilikum. He was captured in North Atlantic waters at the age of two, to spend a life in captivity and consequentially kill three people on three separate occasions.Told in a non-linear account, various mediums of footage tell the tale, over a span of thirty-nine years.
In captivity these animals have been separated from their pods, placed with foreign species of Orca in a pool of water which seems large to a human, but to a creature than navigates numerous miles everyday in the extensive ocean, is no comparison. An obvious effect of this caged environment leads to the collapse of the dorsal fit. Not only do they experience isolation of their own kind but the small proximity leads to psychological issues. In this way it is hardly surprising an animal would turn on the people whom ‘care’ for them.
Surely this topic draws parallels to how circuses were once perceived. Animals performing for peoples entertainment and yet now most people would be horrified to see exotic animals such as lions, tigers or elephants out of their habitat performing in this way. But how is the practice of whales in places like SeaWorld any different? How is this practice any better to old circuses?
As a child I went to Sea World on a family holiday and I remember thinking these huge creatures were in such a small space of water. But equally I was mesmerised by these animals as they jumped out of the water, beautifully trained. I supposed there was a much larger area they lived in most of the time. However, this is not the reality. A change needs to be made.
“I think that in 50 years, we’ll look back and go ‘My God, what a barbaric time.”
Blackfish is a powerful film, shedding light on institutions that many of us have grown up going to as a fun day out. Although not fully understanding the enormity of what happens behind the scenes, being too enthralled with these magnificent animals in the show.
The film is compiled of footage old and new, from the people who caught Tilikum decades ago, spectator report of attacks, to the trainers that worked with him everyday. This array of sources help to provide a solid foundation of evidence showing the cruelty of these animals. However, Tilikum is still at SeaWorld and so are other Orcas, another disaster waiting to happen. All this considered, it begs the question why are Orcas still in captivity?