“What did you do last weekend?”
“Oh, I finished season 6 of Gossip Girl on Netflix.”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that someone was on Netflix, I would have enough money to buy out SeaWorld. Think about it: I could just jump in the water and swim with the dolphins and seals and whales any time that I want. I’ve always dreamed of being able to jump out of the water on a killer whale, like how cool would that be?
In fact, there is a documentary that was recently added to the Netflix new arrivals list called Blackfish that is all about SeaWorld. One would assume that it was a film that demonstrates how the trainers interact with the animals and how they accomplish to put on a show for the visitors.
Instead, the documentary reveals the details of the inhumane captivity of the marine animals at aquatic parks across the world. In particular, the film focuses on the killer whale and more specifically, the whale named Tilikum.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Blackfish starts out with the crew of a ship tracking a pack of whales, but the pursuit isn’t limited to just tracking, the crew continues to capture 3 whales in order to bring them back to SeaLand. The most horrifying part of it all is the fact that the captors choose to separate the mothers from their calves. According to BBC, the young whales in a killer whale society never leave their mother’s side. During this part of the movie, the bond between the whales is tested when the mothers and calves are rounded up; instead of leaving their young in order to save themselves, the mothers stay around the boat all the while that their children are being taken onto the boat, the definition of a true mother-child relationship. At this point, the noise the mother whales make as her child is lifted onto the boat is one of pure grief when she realizes that her calf is gone. Based on NOAA, each whale pod has their own “language” which helps distinguish their own from other pods. That shriek is one that I never hope to hear again and one I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Following this scene, the whales are taken to SeaLand, a miniature version of SeaWorld up in British Columbia, where Tilikum was first introduced. It was only a 35 foot pool which housed 3 whales, and even I, with no whale knowledge whatsoever, can tell that such little of a space is no place for 3 whales to be together. Tilikum’s journey didn’t end there either; after the drowning incident with one of the trainers at SeaLand, it was forced to shut down, at which time SeaWorld used the opportunity to attain another whale for their shows.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
To most kids, SeaWorld seems like a magical place to see a giant killer whale move his fins and splash the whole crowd, but what they don’t understand is the inhumane conditions the killer whales are forced to live in. Sure, the whales are fed but the documentary discloses that the whales were often food-deprived as means of training techniques. Sure they are free to swim as they please, but compared to the life that they what they would be having in the open ocean, it seems like putting a kid in cardboard box and saying “This is your home for the rest of your life, enjoy.” Everyone loves a good show, but if SeaWorld wants to continue, they need to change their standards and training practices of these magnificent animals.