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Wednesday, June 20, 2018


CNN documentary exposes truth about SeaWorld’s animal captivity practices

CNN aired a documentary Oct. 24 called “Blackfish,” directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. The film described the conditions in which orcas, commonly known as killer whales, live in at theme parks around the world, such as SeaWorld.

“Blackfish” puts its lens onto the world of animal captivity and how potentially harming it can be. Many trainers who work for SeaWorld have been fatally harmed or even killed after taking the animal out of its natural habitat. It proves to be an emotional documentary that sheds light on a community in need of change.

One of the most disheartening scenes of the film was the showing of where Tilikum, a popular orca who attracts many to SeaWorld in Orlando, is kept at night. Because of harassment by fellow captive whales, Tilikum was kept in a small, dark, enclosed tank for hours on end; this could give a reason for why Tilikum occasionally attacked SeaWorld trainers. This is contrary to SeaWorld’s belief that the trainers are the sole blame behind the vicious attacks.

“If you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d get a little psychotic?” asked Jane Velez-Mitchell in a previously aired interview that was shown in “Blackfish.” Her sympathy for these animals is understandable and can help shed light on the negative environment into which theme parks put their animals.

SeaWorld issued a statement to CNN which contained a notable sentence: “SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and … SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research.”

What was not taken into account and what needs to be addressed is the process by which SeaWorld obtains the animals they hold in captivity. Their idea of “rescuing” orcas, which was shown in a 1983 video played in “Blackfish,” showed this process in detail. The film showed groups of boats chasing these animals and eventually trapping them in a large net to make sure they did not escape. Once families of orcas were captured, officials would select the youngest and place it into its new home in SeaWorld.

This was not SeaWorld’s only way to gain new animals to become part of their show. Although they tell guests that certain whales would fall in love and mate, behind closed doors, some trainers would collect sperm unwillingly from the male and artificially inseminate the also-unwilling female.

Cowperthwaite’s documentary is starting a conversation about the ethics being practiced at SeaWorld.

“It’s sad because (large animals placed into captivity) are so limited, and I am sure it affects their health, mentally,” said biology freshman Kelly Tran.

Even if you are not one of the 10.1 million guests who attended one of the 11 SeaWorld parks, the information provided through “Blackfish” should make you consider where your next form of entertainment should take place.

Not all zoos and animal parks should be lumped together with SeaWorld in the mistreatment of animals.

“As long as they are well taken care of,” Tran said, “that’s all we can really ask for.”

 Opinion columnist Blake Mudd is a journalism freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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