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Is Blackfish this generation's Silent Spring?

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"We need (someone) to respond for a dead person at SeaWorld. A whale has eaten one of the trainers." - Recording of a phone call to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

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So begins a powerful documentary called Blackfish that has been making the news by exposing how sea animal parks such as SeaWorld treat, train, and, according to some of those interviewed in the film, attempt to coverup and control the dialog about their star attractions, killer whales. If you haven't seen it yet, then chances are your feelings and views about killer whales, SeaWorld, and possibly even zoos will never be the same.

A little over 50 years ago, Rachel Carson's book, The Silent Spring, was credited with starting the modern day environmental movement with a shocking expose of pesticide pollution, its impact on wildlife, and the disinformation attempts of the pesticide industry to cover-up and control discussions of the topic. Blackfish may be this generation's Silent Spring - it is that powerful.

Many Bakersfield and San Joaquin Valley residents, although landlocked, have made the trip to SeaWorld and similar wild animal parks and gazed in wonderment at the majesty and beauty of these giant animals from the ocean. However, few are probably aware of how these animals got to the parks, how they are trained, and the violent history associated with some of the star attractions and their trainers.

Blackfish attempts to answer these questions, in part, by focusing on one male killer whale called Tilikum that reportedly has killed three different people. Despite this, he still performs at SeaWorld and is also kept as breeding stock for the multi-billion dollar industry.

Gripping and at times graphic, the film was directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, made its way into a broader theatrical release, and has most recently been aired on cable news network CNN, one of the producers of the film.

In many respects, the documentary plays itself out as a psychological case study of a serial killer, and how his captors and the subsequent environments into which he was placed may have led to his actions. The producers attempted to interview representatives of SeaWorld for the film, but, they were unsuccessful. They did interview several former trainers and the responses were eye-opening and tragic.

Have you seen Blackfish yet? If so, what are your feelings and suggestions for what should be done as a result? Will you continue to attend sea animal parks as a result? Have your views on other wildlife parks and zoos been changed as a result of seeing Blackfish?

Please leave a comment below.

For further reading:

Leopard seal is a big jazz fan

17 movies with environmental themes

5 endangered animals found in the Bakersfield and Kern County area

4 protected environmental wilderness areas in Kern County, CA

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