Save the Whales?
You may have heard of what has come to be a cliche environmental activist pitch of "Save the Whales!". It comes up in movies, television shows, and sometimes occurs in real life. Some people will keep walking, act like they're listening to headphones. Now I personally am not an environmental activist, and I don't usually think about animal cruelty in my spare time but I recently saw the documentary "Blackfish" about Orcas in captivity. It was eye opening and made me think again about animals, especially Orcas being kept in their unnatural habitat and subject to captivity. I remember going to Seaworld when I was younger and being amazed by all of the animals, and the "tricks" they could do. I never thought about how the animals could feel (and yes Orcas can feel, scans show they might have even deeper emotions than humans). But watching the documentary expose how Orcas were taken from their homes and their families where they had close bonds made me think about what humans are actually doing.
The documentary was mainly about an Orca, Tilikum, who is currently being kept in captivity in Florida. Tilikum has injured multiple trainers even killed some.. Researchers believed Tilikum was in a sort of psychosis due to being held in solitude, injured by the female Orcas he was in his minuscule tank with, and not getting rewards for his "tricks". Even though Tilikum allegedly killed three humans he is still being subjected to performing, but his "punishment" is being in a tank in solitude only performing a couple stunts for shows and being used for breeding. This arises the question, is it fair to Tilikum and other Orcas to be blamed for the killing? Or the people around them. Orcas have only harmed one human in the wild, and killing none; yet in captivity they have injured over one hundred, killing four. The people who captured the young Orcas from their family when they were only a couple of years old. It was even reported that when humans first began hunting Orcas to hold them in captivity, they would take the pups, and sometimes kill the older Orcas they were with which is highly illegal. Yes, it is illegal to kill Orcas in the wild, but isn't taking Orcas into captivity essentially killing them? It reduces their life span by 70%, but they definitely didn't tell me that when I was visiting Sea World (they actually say that Orcas live longer and happier lives in captivity due to veterinary care which is not true).
There are currently 57 Orcas in captivity, 24 of these being in the United States. I am in no way saying that watching animals isn't entertaining, I go to the zoo and as I mentioned I've been to Sea Worlds and had fun! But can we really keep animals in captivity for our own enjoyment, even if its detrimental to them? How would us humans feel if one day a superior animal arose they put us in small cages and pools and forced us to do tricks in order to get fed.
Fate of Captive Orcas
PBS - Ethics of Captivity
Netflix - "Blackfish" directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Posted by Victoria Bortolussi (C)