Gripping, terrifying, unsettling. Blackfish is a documentary film revealing the problems of animal captivity, but in particular with the Sea World Orcas – aka the Killer Whales. This film was screened by BioPALS and the Film Soc at the Teviot Study.
A story about corporate negligence and tragedy, the film covers the life and history of Tilikum, a killer whale. Orcas are remarkably evolved animals, with complex emotional lives, a sense of self, and forms of language. This film claims that the series of violent incidents surrounding Tilikum, resulting in a fatal accident in 2010, was the result of a prolonged history of mental abuse, akin to a psychosis.
For instance, in order to train the whales to do tricks, they would pair Tilikum with a more experienced whale that knew what to do on command; if Tilikum failed to perform correctly, both whales would be denied food. This caused his female partners to lash out, scaring him. Tilikum has had to live most of his life removed from his kin.
The film also stresses Sea World’s negligence. Having known about his previous history of aggression, Sea World not only purchased Tilikum and failed to implement any precautions or warn its handlers about his past, but they also effectively cultivated his sperm and infected the population of captive whales with the genes of an aggressive animal.
This film really made me rethink my perspective on animal rights and the status of zoos and animal parks. There might still be something to be said about the conservation efforts institutions make to preserve endangered species from poaching; however, too much is at stake to muddle these intentions with the irresponsible business practices of animal amusement parks.