animal captivity

My Response to Blackfish

I watched Blackfish last night. I have lost another thread in the thin fabric of my faith in humanity.

If you’re not familiar, Blackfish is a recently released CNN documentary about orcas in captivity, specifically exposing what goes on behind the scenes at SeaWorld. For those naysayers who claim the film is biased and one-sided, I acknowledge that the story is slanted by the point of view of anyone who disagrees with animal captivity. However, in my opinion, no amount of good things that SeaWorld might be doing to help conservation efforts, or to help rehabilitate animals, can excuse or justify the terrible things we as humans have done to another living, feeling, highly intelligent creature. Two rights don’t justify a wrong. Anyone who thinks that way is simply rationalizing to make it possible to accept and look past terrible, terrible things. You can even read between the lines and see that the former trainers interviewed in Blackfish did this to a degree before leaving SeaWorld. Rationalization is, unfortunately, a fact of the human condition, which can be a powerful coping mechanism for survival, but is also too often twisted for personal gain. The ability to rationalize allows us to perpetrate unspeakable acts, not just in the realm of cruelty to animals but in many other ways historically, and to this day: slavery, the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps, the misuse and abuse of our planet and resources, war for reasons beyond simply defending oneself and ones property. The list goes on and my heart breaks over the atrocities of humanity. Always in the name of progress, education, reform, revolution, ___________ [insert reason.]

I was once like the former trainers in Blackfish. I fell in love with SeaWorld as young child and for many years I dreamed of becoming a trainer. At some point my focus shifted and I believed I would pursue a career in Marine Biology, focusing on whale research. Sadly, I didn’t understand enough at a young age how that would translate into a tangible job which left me not knowing how to pursue it seriously. And in the end I let my weakness in mathematics and science studies push me away from that goal. I went with what was comfortable, reading and writing. But I never lost my love of orcas and dolphins. Interactions with these intelligent, beautiful animals in the wild have been highlights of my life. I hope to have many more.

Over the years I have become increasingly uncomfortable with animal parks – zoos, marine parks, etc. I’ve only been to a few in the last 10+ years and each time I left with a feeling of sadness and wrongness. It is often rationalized that it is important to have these institutions as a means to educate the world, and children specifically, about animals. Blackfish has confirmed what I think my unconscious has been trying to tell me, that animal captivity, for any reason, is wrong. We can educate our young about animals in other ways. Study them in the wild. Allow them to roam freely and observe them from a respectful distance. I now feel firm in my belief to never visit another animal park of any kind. I urge others to do the same.

If you have not seen Blackfish, please keep the title in mind. Watch for possible encore presentations on CNN. Watch for its release on netflix or other media sources. Ask around, perhaps a friend has it on their DVR. Please watch and open your eyes to what we have been doing to these majestic creatures, and to take action in efforts to change things. You can sign petitions to help free Tilly to a sea pen, to urge SeaWorld to end their exploitation of sea animals and to rehabilitate them back into the wild and to quit breeding, Like, Share, and Tweet, to your network of friends about these initiatives and others. I am not so foolish as to believe this is the only important cause in the world. There are many. Everyone must choose to support those causes that speak to them. Perhaps this is not yours. I can respect and understand that. All I ask is that you educate yourself and take part in trying to make a change somewhere, somehow, in some way that is meaningful to you.

Links for various petitions and articles about Blackfish and protecting marine life:

I no longer feel any allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despise being one myself.
~ Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay