Blackfish, SeaWorld and the backlash against killer whale theme park shows
Willie Nelson is just one of the artists rushing to cancel gigs at SeaWorld after seeing Blackfish, the documentary about killer whales who have attacked their trainers. Story from the Guardian.
Heart are an unlikely bunch of revolutionaries. But the American soft rockers’ decision to cancel a concert at SeaWorld in Florida may mark a turning point in the relationship between humans and one of the most magnificent mammals of the ocean. The band this week joined Willie Nelson and Barenaked Ladies in cancelling shows at the Orlando theme park because they had watched Blackfish, a film about Tilikum, a five-tonne male orca that has been involved in the deaths of three people. This modest yet riveting documentary has made ever-bigger ripples across the pond since its premiere at Sundance earlier this year, with an audience of 20 million recently watching it on CNN. It is now on the Oscar longlist.
Tilikum’s plight – enduring violence from other captive whales and forced to entertain crowds in return for fish ever since he was captured in the wild in 1983 – is vividly depicted by former trainers. The film’s conclusion is inescapable: we have no business keeping such large, intelligent mammals in such crippling confinement. We too might get a little psychotic, it suggests, if we were imprisoned in a bath for 30 years.
Blackfish, a Native American term for the orca or killer whale (actually a member of the dolphin family), began with an innocuous premise: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director, wanted to examine how people relate to large predators. As Cowperthwaite, who lives in California, stresses, she is not an animal rights activist and did not intend to make a controversial film. “I couldn’t have been more naive about the situation in SeaWorld,” she says. She regularly took her twin boys there as a treat. “I’d see hundreds of children smiling and think, ‘How can something that makes people so happy be such a bad thing?’ All of us are complicit, starting with myself.”
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