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The Blackfish Controversy

By Edited Feb 28, 2014 1 2

The Internet has made it easy to look for information. Not sure what a blackfish is? Google it! Wants to find more about the Blackfish movie? Check it on imdb, etc...

However, it hasn't made it easier to decide which is right when two sides of a debate is presented to you. How do you decide which party is right / telling the truth?

The controversy behind the movie Blackfish is an example of this problem where it is difficult to part between facts, exaggerations and lies.

1. The Movie

Blackfish is a movie which goal was to raise awareness about Killer Whales  (also called orcas or blackfish). It stresses out why it is wrong to keep these animals in captivity and  how bad SeaWorld (a US marine park) is handling them.

It especially deals with the story of Tilikum, a killer whale involved of the death of 3 persons (at different times), including a profesional Orca trainer who was working at SeaWorld.

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2. The Controversy

The truth about killer whales in captivity and about the story of Tilikum is hard to find because the involved parties have a lot to lose/win:

- SeaWorld wants of course to defend its reputation and doesn't want people to stop visiting its parks

- the movie can sell better by making some sensational statements and get people to react strongly to it

Once the movie went out, people could assist to an "exchange of open letters". SeaWorld accusing the movie of telling lies, the movie proponents accusing SeaWorld of misinforming people, etc...

Below is for example a pro-SeaWorld anti-Blackfish video.

3. Some Elements of Debate

There are many things which could be discussed but here is a summary of some of them:

Movie / Animal Rights Activists:

1) Killer Whales need more space and are too dangerous for a restraint area

2) The way these animals were captured was horrible

3) Mothers and children are separated against their will

SeaWorld / Kyle Kittleson:

1) the animals are well-treated at SeaWorld, they generally choose small pools even when they have access to the big one, open water would actually be scary for them if they were to be released/given access to it and other dangerous animals have been used (in shows) like bears/lions/tigers

2) This isn't happening anymore

3) This is only done in exceptional circumstances

In the other direction:

SeaWorld / Kyle Kittleson:

1) We are using a lot of money to rescue animals, etc...

2) It helps for research

3) It may give passion for the animals to kids who in the future may help their cause

Movie / Animal Rights Activists:

1) Money is nothing for the animals, you rescue them but keep them (for more money profit) instead of releasing them

2) Research is better done in the wild than on animals in captivity

3) Children are passionate about dinosaurs, they don't need to see them in captivity for that

4. Personal Opinion

Again, it is hard to know the truth about all this. My personal opinion is as follow:

- I believe that indeed some animals are not "happy" in captivity. I feel the argument of Kyle Kittleson (orcas would rather choose the small pools) to be flawed. If you let (human) children choose between chocolate and a proper meal, they will choose chocolate. This doesn't mean that chocolate is what is best for them. On the other hand, this is true for other animals like tigers and wolves. 

- I agree that killer whales are dangerous but again, the same can be said about lions/bears/tigers, etc... which have been used in circus/zoos for hundreds of years. Looking at the big picture, the number of incidents seems limited (yes, it is unfortunate, yes it is horrible for the victims, etc.... but compared to the number of shows, number of orcas, etc... the number is fatal accidents isn't high).

- I disagree that the money used for research/rescue doesn't matter ("No one cares how much money you spend on your cages"[1]). It is good that SeaWorld dedicates part of its revenue for good deeds.

And to conclude on my personal position: if I have the occasion, I may go to SeaWorld or a similar marine park for my son to see the ocean life. He has been to several marine museums but it simply isn't the same as seeing real animals. I would rather avoid shows/circuses, etc... though as I don't like the use of animals just for entertainement purposes.

5. What About You?

Are you for or against SeaWorld? Do you think the elements shown in the movie are facts/exaggerations/lies? Are you OK with the idea of killer whales "detained" in captivity / used in entertainement shows?

Don't hesitate to express your opinion in the comment section below!



Feb 27, 2014 10:34am
My husband and I went to Seaworld some years ago. It was OK, but nothing I'd run back to. I don't know what to say about the whales in captivity. But you did a great job presenting both sides of the argument.
Mar 8, 2014 7:49am
Good article, thanks for the information!
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  1. "An Open Letter BACK to SeaWorld." The Orca Project. 27/02/2014 <Web >

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