Thursday, March 12, 2015

Save the Whales?

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)


  1. I have seen Blackfish too and it broke my heart. I also never really thought about the feeling of the orca whale but they are deeply feeling creatures with very strong social lives. I think that it is sad that we are ripping apart these creature's lives for our own entertainment and then not even providing a proper containment for them. I really like your post though and I think that Blackfish opened up a lot of debate about the issue but there is still a lot to be discussed and shared to people who haven't seen it yet, and who haven't thought about the welfare of these giant and intelligent creatures.

    -Madison Boone

  2. I've always been an advocate for animals whether they can feel or not, and it is awful to think about what we do with them. I sometimes think about what it would be like for an alien species to arrive and throw us in tanks, make us do tricks or use us for breeding.

    When it comes to taking the blame for killing those people. It is unfair in a sense for the Orcas to be blamed as opposed to the people who have kept them captive, but when we look at society as whole it's not too far off from what we see in the real world where people who have been brought up and raised in bad environments leads to homicides; we're animals too after all.

    ~ Mitch

  3. I did know that Orcas were extremely intelligent creatures but I had no idea that they had the "deep emotions" that you talked about in your post. I just never thought about it, and did believe that lie that they were happier and lived longer lives in captivity. I had no idea that this was happening or that they had such strong emotional ties to their families in the wild. Now that I've heard about this I completely agree that it isn't the animals fault for acting up when he is being treated unfairly.
    -Ashley Condon

  4. Come to think about it, there are alot of animals endangered but are in the zoo, which honestly like you said are essentially killing them. I am from Boston,MA and I go to the Franklin Park zoo once a year and have been doing that since I was 10 and I feel like there are always signs about endangered animals yet they are in a way causing it.
    -Barbara Afogho

  5. This is really sad that the whales get taken away from their families at a young age. Its so inhuman to put an Orca in a small environment when the ocean used to be it home. Do you know if they have tried to fix the conditions they live in?

    - Jazmin Granadeno

  6. While as a rule of thumb zoos tend to be about conservation and animal care, this just doesn't work for animals like whales because they need large expanses of free space to move around to be healthy and happy. I like watching them as much as anyone else, but it's inhumane to keep animals like orcas in enclosed areas and have them do tricks ad nauseam. I'd rather have to make a trip out to see them from a whalewatching trip on a boat and see them in their natural habitat than see them in environments where they're clearly slowly dying.

    -Mark Glasman