I am grateful for those who engage in the creation of documentary film, those who commit themselves to learning, investigating, probing and then sharing that knowledge with us where the sharing sparks conversation and debate, all of which bring us to higher ground.
I recently watched Blackfish, a documentary film released in 2013 about the plight of orca whales in captivity and more specifically about Tilikum, a male orca who was involved in the death of two trainers and a trespasser. Tilikum killed Dawn Brancheau in 2010 and the tragedy compelled Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of the film, to tell the story of Tilikum and other captive whales.
Some say (and those “some” include SeaWorld representatives who declined to appear on film), the film is too one-sided and doesn’t accurately tell the story of SeaWorld’s care and treatment of orcas, but the situation certainly does beg the questions: Why do we feel justified to confine animals in often appalling and limited conditions for our own entertainment? When did we decide that our false superiority on this planet allows for such treatment of any animal, be they wild or domestic?
Tilikum was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983 when he was only two years old. He wasn’t rescued or taken for study. He was removed from his pod, from his family for the sole purpose of becoming an entertainment tool in Sealand of the Pacific’s facility near Victoria, British Columbia. The park is now closed and it was here in 1991 that Tilikum and two other orcas drowned a young marine biology student who had slipped and fallen into their tank.
Tilikum is twenty-two and a half feet long (22 ½ ft) and weighs twelve thousand pounds (12000 lbs) and he spent his nights in a tank that was twenty feet (20 ft) deep and twenty-eight feet (28 ft) across, a whale who would naturally swim over one hundred (100) miles a day. And it requires a study and hearings to determine if this is humane?
Don’t take my word for it. Watch the film Blackfish, read David Kirby’s book Death at Seaworld published in 2012 and read Killer Controversy: Why Orcas Should no Longer Be Kept In Captivity written by Dr. Naomi Rose.