Movie in Review: Blackfish

Posted on by Ashley Fruno


Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish is an emotionally riveting documentary that exposes the horrible truth about marine theme parks and aquariums. It introduces the audience to Tilikum, an orca who, after having been separated from his family and removed from his home in the wild in 1983, grew up in captivity and has been forced to entertain visitors at water parks. Depressed, lonely and deprived of all that is natural and important to him, Tilikum developed what can only be described as an obvious mental psychosis and has killed three people during his almost 30 years in captivity.

Imagine living in a bathtub for your entire life, surrounded by strangers who don’t speak your language. You’re depressed and lonely, constantly longing to be home with your loved ones. When you cry out for help or misbehave, you are punished. You float, motionless for hours on end … waiting for something to change or make sense. This is the life of a captive orca.

After viewing Blackfish, my friend and I were both left completely speechless. The documentary outlines the evidence for orcas’ undeniable need for family and familiar companionship. Howard Garrett, an orca researcher, explains how similar we are to these beautiful and mysterious creatures:

Each community [of orcas] has a completely different set of behaviors. Each has a complete repertoire of vocalizations with no overlap. … [T]he scientific community is reluctant to say any other animal but humans use languages, [but] there is every indication that they use languages.

Learning about the extensive emotional range of the orcas was astonishing and helped everyone understand more clearly why no animal, including Tilikum, deserves to be enslaved for people’s amusement. Whether captured at the age of 2 like Tilikum or inbred like almost all the others at SeaWorld, no orca deserves such a life of constant confinement and boredom.

After Blackfish pushed SeaWorld’s abuses into the limelight, the park has made attempts to redeem its tainted reputation. However, it is obvious that Blackfish has certainly changed many people’s perceptions about marine theme parks. Animal welfare is not the top priority of any marine theme park, so we should be aware that what can appear to be fun-filled water parks are, in fact, corporate giants that are mainly interested in their own bottom lines, which they place well above conservation efforts and marine research.

Why would parents want to teach their children that an undeserved lifetime of enslavement is normal or fun to see? Animals are not ours to use for entertainment, and orcas should be free.

The easiest way for you to help marine animals in captivity is never to support marine theme parks or aquariums. Please ask your friends and family members not to do so, either. For more information, please click here.

Post written by PETA Asia intern Cardia Speziale