Something seems fishy at SeaWorld parks, and it isn’t the marine life. The Blackfish documentary, released in July 2013 and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, has stirred up an immense amount of controversy regarding the treatment of killer whales and other marine animals at worldwide SeaWorld parks.
This film follows the life of one of the parks oldest killer whale, Tilikum, who has lived up to the powerful, bus sized species’ title. The whale has been linked with three human deaths since his arrival at the SeaWorld Park in 1983, one of which was his trainer who was killed in 2010. But is this animal truly the one to blame? Many are in agreement that there is a greater issue that needs to be addressed.
In the trial that followed the attack, SeaWorld reluctantly readjusted their rules regarding trainer contact with the whales, but not before arguing that the trainer that had been killed was at fault. The film, and many of those interviewed in the film argued differently stating that she was a very experienced whale trainer. The film also recreates separate encounters, showing shocking footage of different attacks and the cover-ups that have taken place along with them. But the question still remains: What could have caused this animal to turn so ferocious?
One possible answer to this question is the treatment of the animals. According to Blackfish, the orcas are housed in cages much smaller than what one would suffice as a good amount of space for an animal of that size. It shows that as the whales are locked up for these long periods of time, their minds start to deteriorate leading them to these outbursts of aggression. SeaWorld has also made claims directed towards the whales’ life spans and bent dorsal fins, stating that these are just as commonly found in the wild. The film questions both these claims, declaring them false. Furthermore, SeaWorld continues to breed Tilikum, despite his reputation of being aggressively unpredictable. Most of the whales at SeaWorld parks contain some of his DNA, ultimately inheriting some of his aggressive behaviors.
As expected, this film has managed to stir up loads of controversy, initiating many protests by everyday citizens and even some celebrities. But during a recent pole taken on December 31st, 99% of people stated that the film did not change their perception of the SeaWorld Corporation. Further investigation found that SeaWorld employees cast over 50% of the votes from computers at SeaWorld. And where does SeaWorld stand with all this exactly? Representatives of the park refused to take part in the making of Blackfish, rebuffing attempted interviews on numerous occasions. They’ve also stated that the film is misleading to its viewers, though they have yet to give any legitimate reason towards the claims made.
Many students of SLV have formed opinions regarding the issue. Senior Molly Greco states, “I think it’s really wrong that these whales are kept in captivity. Something definitely needs to changes.” Others have formed opinions on the documentary Blackfish itself. Student Jessica Holle intervenes, “It really opened my eyes to what has been going on. It’s a very good film.” The film has definitely been eye opening to many citizens receiving a five star rating and easily becoming one of the most popular movies on Netflix. The film has also been nominated for Oscars, revealing the depth of these issues to many people.
– Celia Hare