Okay, if you are interested in the film Blackfish, please take a moment to consider the following!
I HIGHLY encourage people take this film with a grain of salt! I have connections to trainers at Seaworld, and a very dear friend/mentor who is a Certified Animal Behavior Specialist, and have spoken to them about this film. This is a summation of what they had to say and for the most part my personal expansion on it.
While this film does show some of the BAD sides to Seaworld, it comes with its own issues. This film was produced largely by PETA and the HSUS, the same people who advocate for dog shows to be closed by poisoning show dogs so that they DIE. This is largely being used as propaganda for the animal rights movement( not to be confused with the animal welfare movement), which boils down to “people should not have pets”.
I’m not sure where you heard this from, but this is 100% false. Blackfish was not produced by PETA or HSUS, it was produced by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, and you can read about her here. She is a freelance director who has worked for more than 12 years making documentaries. No offense but I think you may have been lied to.
This film is not arguing for the changing of Seaworld’s bad parts, it’s arguing for never keeping whales in captivity ever.
I haven’t even seen Blackfish yet, so I can’t comment on whether this is true or not (if someone has seen it, please comment!).
But you nor any of your SeaWorld connections have seen it either, so I don’t think you can accurately state what the message of the film is.
But what I can tell you is that the film is focused on the life of Tilikum.
If there had been a trainer death at a Zoo, the exact same film would have been made, but with Rhinos instead of whales. This isn’t a film about Seaworld, it’s a film about groups that make money off of animals in captivity, and from what I can tell, takes NO notice to the good that comes from keeping some animals captive! Please remember that Seaworld also SAVES animal lives and EDUCATES the public! They push for conservation of the oceans and marine life as well as rehabilitate injured animals WHEN IT IS POSSIBLE.
Like I stated before, this film wasn’t made by a “group” or animal rights lobbying organisation. It was made by a dedicated bunch of film-makers who have literally nothing to do with PETA or HSUS.
A lot of the people who contributed to this film were volunteers. They made absolutely NO money at all because news flash:
There is no money in making freelance animal rights documentaries.
But if you want to talk about making money, there happens to be a lot of it in forcing intelligent beings to perform for human amusement.
There ARE situations when animals are better off in captivity. Keiko, the whale in “Free Willy”, died soon after being released due to pneumonia. He was not treated humanly in captivity, and deserved better than he got, but releasing him into the wild was a death sentence REFORM is what should be advocated for, NOT the closure of an organization that does so much good!
SeaWorld isn’t an organisation, SeaWorld is a business. And whilst there is some validity in your statement that sometimes captivity is better for certain situations, this is not what the film is about. And you know that.
It is true, there are downsides to keeping animals like whales in captivity, but let me ask you this: if all whales in captivity had ‘psychosis’ as the Blackfish trailer says they do, then why does this kind of event not happen at every Seaworld? I’ve been studying animal behavior for two years and with the information I have I believe that the animals at Seaworld are cared for exceptionally well and are HAPPY.
Tilikum has killed three people.
A number of the other orcas have been involved in hundreds of behavioural incidents that resulted in an injury to a trainer, namely Kasatka and Orkid. You can read more about the aggressive incidents here.
In fact, according to the recent SeaWorld vs OSHA court case, many incidents had not been reported. That means that orcas have been injuring trainers and it’s been swept under the rug. So the real statistics are unknown to us, but it’s beyond the hundreds.
On top of that, many marine biologists and experts (who already have their degrees) have observed orcas in captivity displaying stereotypy - that means they do repetitive behaviours that are not normal. One could observe Ulises on Shamu Cam (before it was removed) bobbing repetitively up and down for hours. Morgan has been observed spy hopping continuously, and many other orcas just float monotonously for hours on end when they aren’t being interacted with.
Captivity induces a whole range of unnatural behaviours that lead to high levels of stress and frustration. Read more about that here.
Fun Fact- you can’t ‘force’ a whale to preform like they do in the Seaworld shows. Whales are massive and smart. If a whale doesn’t want to do something, it won’t. That kind of manhandling seen on the little one in the Blackfish trailer is counter-productive for training purposes and IS NOT USED FOR NORMAL INTERACTIONS WITH THE ANIMALS!
Yes, actually. You can force an animal to do something it doesn’t want to do, and you do that through using food as a leverage.
Aside from shows, SeaWorld routinely forces its orcas to undergo different medical procedures that the animals find highly aversive.
“Females that do not undergo the artificial insemination procedurevoluntarily, (as if they know they are being inseminated,) are forcibly removed from the water under mild or NO sedation and placed on pads for the 30 min. procedure. Animals that are not trained or do not cooperate are still forced to undergo the procedure whether they want to or not.”
Seaworld uses positive reinforcement training with their animals. The animals don’t get punished, they only get rewarded for doing things when they are asked to. As far as I know, this never involves denying the animals access to food or space so it can be later used as a reward. The times when the animals are manhandled are probably due to emergencies such as danger to the people around the whales, the other whales, and the whale itself.
This is a common saying that a lot of pro-captivists use, but positive reinforcement is just a euphemism for food deprivation. Lets play out the following scenario shall we?
A trainer asks an orca to perform a specific behaviour. The orca receives the command, but performs the wrong one.
The trainer will not reward the orca for doing the wrong behaviour, so the orca is given a “neutral response” and no food for a few seconds. The orca is asked to then repeat the behaviour.
That right there. Is food deprivation. The trainer is deliberately withholding food from the orca because they didn’t do what the trainer wanted. The trainer is exerting their authority over the animal and depriving the orca of food.
Sure, you may think it’s only for a few seconds, but it’s used as a form of control, and this is how they get the animals to perform.
A lot of orcas have found this tactic highly aversive and in fact, as a result of being incorrectly bridged, Keto killed his trainer.
On top of that, ex-trainer Jeffrey Ventre states:
Yes, food deprivation was used routinely. I don’t mean to imply on a daily basis, but routinely as in, when important people were expected to watch a show at Shamu Stadium, which happened a few times each month. When I worked with the killer whales, we regularly performed for August Busch, the former owner, and his people. We’d also perform for celebrities, such as Eddie Murphy, Jane Seymour; athletes such as Dan Marino or Evander Holyfield; or for politicians from all over the world. It was during those types of visits that the command was given to “hold the animals at ‘half-base.’” This meant, if an animal got 140 pounds of dead fish on a typical day, then hold it to 70 pounds (one half their base amount.)
Read more about that here.
The trainer who had the unfortunate death in Orlando was also a friend of a friend to many of my Behavior Specialist friend’s friends(THE WORD FRIEND WAS USED WAY TO MUCH THERE WOW), and they all agreed that Dawn Brancheau would not have wanted her death used in this way. She loved her work and the whales. I’m not sure who the person is in this trailer saying Ms. Bancheau would have wanted this film made is, and I don’t know how they knew her, but this is what i have been told about her.
Blackfish isn’t using Dawn’s death, the story is about Tilikum, and Dawn features.
Regardless, Dawn’s sister makes a statement in the film, so if it were really disrespectful to Dawn, I highly doubt that her family would have agreed to participate in it.
That’s my two cents. I’m not saying that the film isn’t a good watch(i haven’t seen it to make that judgement) or that it doesn’t have some good points. I’m saying that it overlooks a lot of important facts and is lobbying for the wrong answer. Please be aware of exactly what this film is saying before you advocate for the film!!
I’m sure you have some very valid concerns about Blackfish, but you really need to understand that a lot of the points you’ve brought up have already been debunked multiple times, over and over again by ex-trainers that have left SeaWorld as recently as 2010. You also stated that you obtained your information from employees from SeaWorld, despite it being a well-known fact that many of the educators are not told anything about captivity and do not know the real facts themselves.
I encourage you to look past what SeaWorld is telling you and do some educated research without asking employees.
I mean hell, even the Endless Ocean lp has the contributors ramble about how bad of an idea it is to keep killer whales on capitivity, even if you were to ignore the causalities going on.