Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published November 18th 2013
The horrible truth about Sea World
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
In the tradition of The Cove comes a searing indictment of the way marine life is cruelly treated by man. This time though the inhumanity has nothing to do with harnessing a food source, but merely as a means of light entertainment.
The focus of this disturbing doco is Sea World and the dubious practices they have in place to house and train marine mammals. If until now you've felt ambivalent or been unaware of the effects of keeping these beautiful, intelligent and intuitive animals in captivity, then Blackfish will change your feelings forever.
This is by no means a casual attack by a small group of animal rights activists. Assembled are many former employees of Sea World, relatives of employees killed by maltreated whales, scientific experts and Sea World audience members who witnessed things they could never have wished to see.
It's an extremely thorough account of atrocities that not only detail how badly the dolphins and whales are treated but how skilled trainers have been put into dangerous situations that in some cases have cost them their lives.
When the evidence is this damning it's hard to expect a balanced perspective. Representatives of Sea World were invited to respond to the claims but obviously decided there was no point appearing in the film to present their sorry side of the story. Their actions are completely indefensible.
Watching scenes of dolphins and whales taken from their natural habitat, separated from their mates and enclosed in inhumanely small spaces is truly heartbreaking. Learning how much they perceive and how they are affected by their surroundings gives an added appreciation for the extent of their suffering.
This documentary is obviously no skip through a field of daisies, don't expect the latest Free Willy instalment. This is a sobering look at just how awful mankind can be, and all for the sake of making a buck. There may have been a groundswell of discomfort at the tastelessness of performing marine life before, but hopefully the uncovering of just how badly these animals are being treated will finally bring an end to this abhorrent practice. For that reason, the more people that see Blackfish, the better.
I was in the US when Blackfish was first screened on CNN. Many parents are debating whether they should take their kids to see marine mammal shows, if this is what goes on. I saw this compelling show again a few days later. I am a professional dog trainer, and marine mammal trainers have been held up as role models, because they use positive reinforcement. It has often been said you can't train a killer whale by putting a chain around its neck and jerking it around. You have to gain the animal's co-operation.But what's the point of training with rewards when the whole environment is stressful, and one of extreme sensory deprivation. It's just hypocritical. The first purpose of training should be the welfare of the animal.