Below is my original post, “Controversy Surrounding ‘Blackfish.'” I wrote this piece before having seen the movie, and my opinions have changed since seeing it. The new writing is in bold.
There is no record of an orca attacking a human in the wild. In 2010, Dawn Brancheau, a veteran trainer at SeaWorld, was killed by an orca during a show. The orca, Tilikum, had already been involved in two deaths. Now a controversial documentary on Tilikum and the death of Brancheau, “Blackfish,” is in theaters.
To fully understand Tilikum’s journey, we should start at the beginning. Each year, many orca follow Atlantic Herring to the rugged fjords of Iceland. It is here that Tilikum was netted and pulled alongside a boat with other members of his pod. The youngest and smallest orca were chosen to be taken into captivity. Tilikum was hauled onboard and stored for the duration of the journey in a “module,” a small, dark holding cell.
This brutal beginning, especially when added to all the ways orca are unfit for captivity, may explain the violence displayed by Tilikum. Orca in the wild travel hundreds of miles per day and are extremely gregarious. In captivity, the lack of room to roam and the absence of a pod cause significant stress. The sensory deprivation imposed on the orcas is enough to cause a human to become mentally disturbed.
Although SeaWorld has entertained and enthralled the public for nearly five decades, animal rights advocates hope “Blackfish” will help bring about a change that seems long overdue.
As I mentioned in the old post, orcas are highly social. When they are placed in different SeaWorld enclosures, which are essentially concrete boxes, families are not kept together. The resulting social structure, stemming from the random placement of the orcas, can be extremely upsetting to the animals. SeaWorld has even separated mother from calf.
In these enclosures, the orcas’ lifespans are significantly reduced from the 30-50 year lifespan for orcas in the wild to late teens-early 20s. In the wild, female orcas sometimes live up to 80 or 90 years, males to 60 or 70 years.
Though Tilikum was involved in two deaths prior to even beginning training with Dawn Brancheau, he was used in artificial insemination and fathered many SeaWorld calves. Even from an outsider’s perspective, it is easy to see how this is dangerous. Just as with dogs or any other species, animals that have demonstrated aggression should not be used in breeding.
What my original post failed to stress was that SeaWorld is at fault. The whales are unhappy and mistreated, resulting in unnatural aggression that has already led to multiple deaths.
Please read more here: http://blackfishmovie.com/news/blackfish_seaworld_bites_back/15297