Film of the evening: “Blackfish”

Film trailer:

This is a documentary about killer whales being kept in captivity in amusement parks like SeaWorld and how this impacts their health and well-being to such an extent that it shouldn’t really be too shocking when they do turn and behave aggressively, resulting in death in several cases discussed herein. The primary death focused on in this film was that of Dawn Brancheau, a well-respected trainer killed in 2010 in SeaWorld Orlando by a whale named Tilikum. In years prior, Tilikum had also been implicated in two previous human deaths. But he was not alone in receiving such notoriety.

Appears to be a case of highly intelligent beings not coping too well with living in confinement. I’d argue that humans don’t fair much better, but that point seems to fall on deaf ears more often than not. But we can wait until over-population of our species proves this to us — we seem bound to learn everything the hard way.

Anyway, this film calls out SeaWorld and the inaccurate claims it puts out about killer whales, from playing down their lifespans to excusing away drooping dorsal fins among captive males. Plus they had a nasty habit of blaming their trainers for any and all lethal incidents that occurred in what can be safely assumed to be a bid for reduction of their own corporate liability in both legal trials and the court of public opinion. OSHA sued them; SeaWorld appealed.

What can I say? Personally not a fan of intelligent animals being kept in captivity, neither in zoos nor amusement parks. Never visited SeaWorld or any place similar and lost interest in zoos years ago due to finding them depressing. Since lost interest in most pet stores too, particularly the nationwide chains like Petco, Petsmart and Petland, and ceased shopping in them about 2008-2009 after working in one for a few months in the aquatic section. Corporate + animals + profits = a bad idea. In my opinion and experience. Don’t care if others disagree — most folks I know and work for don’t take as much issue with these businesses. Probably not familiar with what all goes on behind the scenes or given much thought as to where the animals sold there come from. But I do know and can’t partake in supporting those sorts of businesses in good conscience these days.

But if people wish to work in amusement parks or in circus rings with powerful animals capable of taking their lives in an instant, I suppose that winds up being their own prerogatives. Would be nice if the public ceased creating demand for such forms of “entertainment,” but alas, it’s novel and unprecedented. I can understand the value in observing these animals in captivity and even in figuring out how deadly they can become, because we humans seem to need direct experience before we truly grasp anything. Otherwise it’s just theory, and depending on one’s political leanings or level of sentimentality or whatever else we can easily dismiss such concerns as alarmist or “bleeding heart” or otherwise unfounded. And if one profits in any way from such ventures they’re sure to be more resistant to seeing with clarity. Such is life.

That’s not to sound haughty or pompous over here. Just kinda sad. Was an emotional film, particularly learning how the whales are caught in the wild and separated from their families of origin and then later separated from what young they produce while in captivity. That was disturbing. And it was sad seeing those trainers go through what they did. A few survived. I understand that they didn’t know much better either, having believed their employers and not knowing much about these animals outside of that environment. Tough lessons for all involved to learn, including us out here in the audience.

I just couldn’t imagine living in such a tiny space when I had known something so much greater, having been removed from my family and placed essentially in slavery where I was made to perform for others ultimately at my own emotional and physical expense. Sounds like no real quality of life. Sounds like hell on earth. Or prison without having committed a crime. Such a life could turn any intelligent, social being insane over time. Doesn’t take a bleeding heart to acknowledge that either.

To learn more about this film and the responses it generated, you can check out its wikipedia page. It’s interesting food for thought, though I don’t doubt the creators had their own biases and agendas too. Such is the way it tends to go. I’d simply suggest watching it and reading more on these matters and forming your own opinions.