Sundance film “Blackfish” is stealing the show, says CNN. Blackfish exposes SeaWorld’s dark past and explores the story behind Tilikum, SeaWorld’s killer orca whale. Blackfish was number one in cable news and highest-rated on CNN Films.
“Blackfish ” shows how Tilikum was stolen from his mother by whale hunters. Several orcas were killed. He was sold to a now-defunct marine amusement park. In 1991, Tilikum killed a trainer. Later, a man snuck in to the pool at night and was found dead on Tilikum’s back. That park finally closed and Tilikum was bought by SeaWorld says Higher Grounds for Animals. SeaWorld said he’d only be used for breeding.
But he was put in exhibitions and in 2010, he pulled trainer Dawn Brancheau, either by ponytail or arm, into the pool, thrashed her about and drowned her in front of children and guests. SeaWorld of Hurt catalogs animals abuses and explains how captivity drives animals to act this way.
Orcas, mistakenly called “killer whales” aren’t naturally aggressive to humans. But in captivity, they’re forced into unnatural situations, behaviors and relationships with humans. SeaWorld claimed to be unaware orcas were dangerous. Yet a 2006 video shows a whale grabbing SeaWorld trainer Ken Peters and holding him under water. He survived but just barely.
One year after Brancheau’s death, SeaWorld put Tilikum in shows again. SeaWorld denied responsibility for Brancheau’s death, claiming trainers were warned Tilikum was possessive and shouldn’t be trusted. Yet they made trainers do stunts requiring close interaction and intimacy. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) found SeaWorld liable for endangering staff. Whale advocates say SeaWorld provoked Tilikum’s behavior.
SeaWorld was fined $75,000 and restrictions were placed on how trainers could interact with whales. Meanwhile, Tilikum continues to perform. Activist group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) advocates putting him back in the wild. With his physical and psychological mutations from park life, his coping skills are questionable. But in captivity he remains a danger.
PETA encourages students to write “Free Tilly” on their arms to raise awareness on marine amusement park atrocities. PETA lists ways students can get involved, viewing and sharing “Blackfish” boycotting SeaWorld and petitioning Macy’s to drop SeaWorld float from its Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Note: Blackfish is graphic. I started crying just watching the trailer. It is PG-13 and parents should be advised if kids are shown in school. Here’s my article on what happened when our daughter was shown “The Cove” dolphin slaughter documentary in 6th grade. We didn’t object to her seeing it, nor the premise of the show. But we parents weren’t informed and so couldn’t prepare her ahead.
Blackfish was created by filmmaker Gabrielle Cowperthwaite and aired early in 2013.