“You’re not a killer whale trainer because from my limited knowledge of marine biology, killer whales come out previously trained. They’re already perfect killer whales unless you’re trying to train them to do backflips for fucking sardines and to dance on their tails which they don’t do naturally.”
Run time: 1h 23mins
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
IMDb rating: 8.1/10
Blackfish documents the life of killer whale Tilikum, who became notorious for killing his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, at SeaWorld in 2010.
With his famous floppy dorsal fin, Tilikum became the icon that represented all killer whales (orcas) and marine mammals kept in captivity. Blackfish charts his life from his capture in Iceland to the near total isolation spent in a back-tank at SeaWorld Orlando.
Through the eyes of former park employees, what is revealed about Tilikum and his fellow orcas, is a life of torment and torture. Ripped away from their families in the wild they endure repeated physical abuse and psychological damage brought about by violence towards each other and being forcibly kept in tiny enclosures with a lack of genuine stimulation. In 2010, Tilikum turned on his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, dragging her underwater and eventually swallowing her arm, in a fatal example of what can happen when a highly intelligent predator animal is imprisoned in an unnatural environment and made to perform unnatural acts. However, this was not an isolated case.
The Vegan Bit
Blackfish isn’t a typical vegan documentary in that there’s no mention of diet or the environment. From a vegan perspective, Blackfish represents how humans exploit animals for financial gain, in this case for what one may describe as ‘entertainment’, some of which is under the guise of what SeaWorld claim is science.
Vegan or otherwise, it would be very difficult after watching Blackfish for anyone to believe it’s still acceptable for SeaWorld and parks like it to keep creatures with such a strong sense of self and a sense of social bonding (more complex than even humans) in captivity.
Former employees admit to naivety and indoctrination, which many in life are guilty of falling foul of, with regards to say society’s false belief in the necessity of eating meat. Many were fearful of speaking out, knowing they could lose their livelihoods. Corporate might wished to present orcas as cutesy, cuddly animals in order to keep selling tickets and keep merchandise flying off the shelves. This job would have been much harder had the public been fully aware of the causes behind the catalogue of deaths and accidents, footage of which is shown in Blackfish. Orcas have always generated fear and superstition, due to a lack of knowledge and education, however, there has been no record one ever harming a human in the wild.
Since the release of the documentary, SeaWorld have announced they are to discontinue their orca breeding program.
Tilikum died on January 6th 2017 having spent 33 years in captivity.
Where And How To Watch
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Official Website: blackfishmovie.com
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