Recently, CNN showed a documentary called Blackfish. Blackfish is about killer whale performances at various locations like Sealand and SeaWorld. This documentary explores everything from the acquisition of the whales used for performances, the treatment of the show whales and the tragedy that accompanies this industry. The male whale responsible for several deaths and similar injuries is Tilikum. Tilikum, meaning “friend” in Chinook, was a mistreated and aggressive whale that should not have been in captivity.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about SeaWorld, but after watching what unfolded in Blackfish, I was disgusted. I have never been a fan of show whales because I find their living conditions and treatment to be cruel and detrimental to the organisms. Watching Blackfish really uncovers how badly these animals were treated. SeaWorld used to hunt for their whales in Washington, but ended up getting banned from hunting orcas after being reported for disturbing populations and separating infant whales from their mothers. The main show whale, Tilikum, was acquired from a small marina called Sealand, located in Canada (which has since been closed down). While at SeaLand, Tilikum was abused by trainers and whales alike. Using negative reinforcement, such as starvation for misbehavior, resulted in aggression towards Tilikum from other larger whales. At night, these whales were stored in small, completely dark containers with a depth of about 30 feet and no swimming room. This would be like storing you in a coffin for the majority of your life. You wouldn’t like that, would you? These abusive behaviors instilled a sense of aggression in Tilikum, leading to the death of one of the trainers in 1991.
After the death of this trainer, Tilikum was sold to SeaWorld and became the largest male in the orca show. Trainers were not notified that there had ever been an incident involving Tilikum, which is absolutely ridiculous for SeaWorld to cover up. Several deaths and injuries resulted from Tilikum during his time at SeaWorld, but the company continued to cover up the incidents. When called out on their cover up by witnesses, SeaWorld quickly put fault on the deceased trainers.
Orcas are not meant to live in captivity and are not meant to be trained. In my blog picture, note the folded dorsal fin. This misshapen fin is almost non-existent in the wild and indicates a depressed and mistreated animal. Just because orcas are intelligent animals, doesn’t mean that humans have the right to assert dominance and tame the animal. Currently, orca trainers are not legally allowed to be in the water with the killer whales (rightfully so!), but SeaWorld continues to fight this ruling, insisting that trainers need to be in the water with these abused, aggressive and wild animals. Blackfish shined a new light on the disgusting events occurring at SeaWorld. I thoroughly suggest that everyone watch the documentary and form your own opinion on this controversial issue.