I believe the mind and psyche are a powerful thing, I woke up this morning after having had a dream about this documentary I saw a few months ago. I decided to write about it.
Orca’s were first put on public display in the 1960’s
There has been much controversy about the dangers to the Orca whale in captivity. I watched the documentary called ” Blackfish” directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite some time back and there were so many things that went through my mind and heart. It was beautifully layed out like a psychological thriller. except that it was real life. It detailed the practices of Sea World in regards to the raising, training and subsequent fatalities involving the so-called “Killer Whale”. One in particular named Tilikum. I decided to watch it again several months after I watched it the first time. I was equally saddened by the trainers recollection of what was required of them during all their time at Sea World. I was even more surprised and disgusted over all the practices and cover ups this conglomerate was responsible for. How safe are these animals? The problem that I have with a place like Sea World is that in no way whatsoever are their shows nor have they ever been set up to truly educate the population on and whales. They are purely for our entertainment. Now don’t get me wrong I am an avid animal lover and have even been to the zoo. Even still, I found it hard to digest, watching animals that have, for thousands of years if not longer, been wild animals not bound by the bars of our human cages. However the purpose of a zoo, much like a botanical garden is to educate our population about the conservation of wildlife animals and their natural habitats. What is the purpose for taking new-born baby whales from their mothers in the wild only to hold them in captivity to do tricks everyday of their lives. They are living in spaces the equivalent of a human living in an actual box. When animals are highly intelligent shall we as humans just say ” Well they can be trained, how much can we make?”. This goes for the circus as well. An abomination all on its own. This documentary followed the story of a whale named Tilikum.
(Tilikum’s and other whales story)
-Tilikum was captured in 1983 off the coast of Iceland along with two other whales. He was two years old at the time. He measures 22.5 feet long and weighs 12,000 lbs.
-Tilikum was naturally at the bottom of the social structure of the other female whales and was mistreated by them and because he was in captivity had nowhere to run thus trainers kept him in a much smaller medical pool for his training.
– His dorsal fin is completely collapsed to the left side which Sea World tells people paying to see these shows, is a natural occurrence in the wild. Untrue. Something like 60-90% of all males in captivity experience this which is a physical pathology due to what essentially is a bad home environment. We remove children from a home when they display pathologies due to abuse and neglect. How is this ok for a whale?
– Food motivation is the primary way to used to train all sea animals including the enormous Tilikum. This is where the trainers are instructed to withhold food from them when a trick or command is not performed correctly or on time. Many of you may use such methods to train your dogs. But your dog does not weigh 12,000 lbs nor is your dog genetically and instinctually wired to hunt, stalk and kill their prey like that of an Orca. Your dog is a highly domesticated animal and has been for tens of thousands of years.
(Trainers accounts of the Sea World practices required of them)
-Everyone at Sea World is told that whales in captivity have a life span that is the same as that of the ones in the wild and thus they would share this with visitors of Sea World. A fallacy.
– The fact that Sea World rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that Sea World commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research is no consolation for the barbaric rituals of the lives of other performance animals in their custody. Several good things do not make one on going horrific tragedy good. Sorry, it just doesn’t
– From the testimony of many of their former trainers who worked directly with and/or around the whales it seemed that various people were aware of Tilikum and other whales growing aggression.
1.The first death that occurred was in 1991. At Sealand of the Pacific involving two pregnant Orca’s and Tilikum. They dragged a 20-year-old marine biology student and champion swimmer under water several times. She suffered extreme blunt force trauma, broken bones and limbs. She drowned. Tilikum was moved to Sea World and the Sealand pacific was closed. hmmm interesting.
2. The second death occurred in 1999 involving a 27-year-old unknown man who is believed to have snuck into the water park. He was found draped over the back of Tilikum. They say he died from hypothermia. Lets be serious, he drowned. At his own fault of course. He should have never been in there at all… however we now know the extreme aggression Tilikum displayed is due directly to his captivity conditions and may have otherwise never occurred in the wild if say, the man had come across a whale in the ocean.
3.The third and most noted death occurred in 2010. It involved one of Tilikum’s very experienced trainers, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau. During a performance (that had very clearly been out of the ordinary to several of the Sea World employees) she was pulled into the water by her arm and dragged and tossed around in the water until she died. Sea World lied over and over again about this particular incident blaming the trainer herself for having a pony tail for the whale to grab onto thus leading to her subsequent death. Every single eyewitness and video show though that she was dragged in by her arm which was nearly ripped off. Along with being scalped she had a severed spinal cord, broken jaw, cervix and ribs.
Tilikum is still performing despite a court order policy not to . These unfortunate deaths and the mistreatment of these animals is a prime example of Sea Worlds direct lack of respect for the animals and their safety. They actually blame the victims for their own deaths. Let us remember that it is not the whales fault either. Tilikum like so many sea animals has been kept in captivity for a extremely long period of time because he is coveted for his potential to sire many more whales and bring in millions of dollars for their ability to be trained as they are highly intelligent. But that is just the problem. The practices very clearly lead to a pattern that is not even debatable. A pattern of accident, injury and death. These animals are not aggressive bc they are just in a bad mood that day or a little cranky one afternoon. They are subjugated to minuscule sized pools in comparison to what the girth and size of their bodies require naturally, the ocean. They are highly intelligent and thus mistaken for that of a house cat that can be pet and coerced to comply with human standards and expectations of living, eating, breeding etc. In return they are mentally damaged and segregated when they do display any signs of aggression or depression and then put back into the shows. How is it that Tilikum is still performing? That is ludicrous.
OSHA ( Occupational Safety and Health Administration ) gave Sea World a fine for $75, 000 for three safety violations after the third death involving this specific whale. That’s it, that will fix it. A multi-million dollar company received a fine that basically equates to pennies and was never reprimanded for the actual problem. They need to be shut down in my opinion. There are so many similar deaths due to this kind of neglect in many of sea worlds locations.
Tilikum, like others is revered by them for his sperm. He has sired 21 offspring, 11 still alive and 2 by artificial insemination. And some of his sperm is used to impregnate female whales from other marine show animals in other parts of the country. They are using him as a sperm donor. The process by the way includes a human getting into the water with him and masturbate him. Which also goes against a court order for no human contact.
These animals are confined and trained and then punished when they don’t perform correctly and then become isolated, frustrated and ultimately depressed. The sea world VP along with many other very high up executives have been interviewed and caught lying many times over again about things that were not only witnessed by the trainers themselves but on video too many times to count.
(Problems with being held in captivity)
Whales, as with most animals in captivity, don’t live as long as those in the wild.
Their captive environments are nothing at all like their natural ones no matter what you see or hear on television.
Their social structure and groupings are forced and not natural just like the chemically altered water they live in that we pretend they love. This would be stressful for any person or animal. By the way, there have been zero confirmed attacks on humans by an Orca in the wild that resulted in a fatality or otherwise. So many though have and continue to occur among whales in captivity.Their natural tendency for aggressiveness, that they use for hunting and territorial purposes does not diminish within captivity. Marine parks often mis-categorize the incidents and deaths of trainers and others when aggression does occur. Basically they lie about it.
Female Orca’s often give birth much earlier when in captivity. which can result in them not being able to care for the calves properly and calves apparently have a low survival rate.
This is not an issue that is even remotely debatable in my eyes. Not when the lives and well-being of humans and animals alike are ultimately at stake and no care is taken whatsoever to correct outstanding issues such as these. If it were the other way around and we found people treating humans this way, it would never be allowed. We don’t allow this in our society to happen to humans. When it does those people are punished and/or jailed. Money isn’t a good enough reason for me, to haphazardly handle animals of any kind as a regular practice. Like us they are a complex and multi-faceted animal and we should treat them as such. They are graceful and fierce all at the same time and command respect and reverence.