Last night we got back on the communal movie watching scene with an epic screening of Gabriella Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish. It might have been the most exciting Green Wednesday to date.
Within the first five minutes the film subjected us to heart breaking scenes of orcas crying at the side of the boats that had cruelly snatched their babies away from them. We heard an ex-hunter describe the technique for chasing and cornering the orca families so that it was easy for them to pick out the youngsters: prime meat for Sea World to train up for their circus shows. If that wasn’t bad enough we then had to hear about what they did to the ones they didn’t want, the ones who died in the nets as they refused to leave their stolen babies’ sides. They cut them open and filled them with rocks to make them sink.
The film followed one whale in particular- Tilikum. The whale notorious for killing his trainer during a live performance at Sea World Orlando. Tilikum was a popular whale. His trainers loved him. But none of the Sea World trainers were ever told that he had killed twice before. Nor were they aware of the extensive list of fatalities and brutal injuries caused by other whales at Sea World resorts.
We learnt from experts that orcas are highly social and intelligent animals susceptible, like humans are, to intense emotional feelings. We heard trainers talk about the strong bonds they formed with the whales they worked with, interspersed with scenes of other trainers being assaulted, maimed and killed by their supposed sea friends. In one part we saw a whale repeatedly pulling its trainer by his foot to the bottom of the tank, holding him underwater for extended periods of time. He escaped with his life, but others weren’t so lucky.
To lighten the mood we were sporadically shown cheesy Sea World commercials from the 90s. My particular favourite featured an orca flying through the sky as a little boy watched through an aeroplane window. Probably intended to show the audience that Sea World were living on another planet when they decided it was a good idea to take orcas from the ocean, re-home them in a paddling pool and force them to perform tricks for their food.
So, does the entertainment and amusement of millions of people justify the cruelty of subjecting these animals to a dismal life cramped into tiny, dark, metal pens resembling nothing of their natural ocean home? Of course it doesn’t. But that’s the choice millions have been making when they take their children to watch the famous Shamu show. Given the circumstances, can the whales be blamed for turning on their captors?
Watch the movie and make your own decision. Visit blackfishmovie.com to find out more and order your DVD. And keep your eyes peeled for our next Green Wednesday event in early 2014!