The CNN documentary, “Blackfish” has sparked controversy over animals in captivity trained to perform for an audience rather than being rehabilitated for conservation or survival. The film, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, reviewed the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum, a 30 year old bull orca. The reception of the film has put the spotlight on the treatment and training of orcas, commonly called “killer whales”, in big budget parks like SeaWorld and Marineland. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January and was shown on CNN Thursday night. The backlash from Blackfish has been tremendous.
Thousands of people tweeted before, during, and after the CNN showing with calls for #freeorcas and #freetilly along with many people following the #blackfish thread. Twenty four hours later and the tweets kept coming. One quoted “the thing that everyone’s talking about this morning at work….. #Blackfish. It did everything it was supposed to!”
Calls for SeaWorld to release orcas back to the wild have picked up momentum. Online petitions and calls to ban animal entertainment are all over the Internet. People can support conservation and rehabilitation of wild animals without the shows and parades. Blackfish has “done what it was supposed to do” by starting the dialog about the sustainability and ethics of marine mammals in captivity.
In the words of director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, we see the simple ideal regarding Blackfish. “The most important thing we learned from having them in captivity is we shouldn’t have them in captivity.”