In 2013 the documentary, Blackfish was released shedding light on the ongoing issue of breeding killer whales for entertainment purposes. Focusing more so on the SeaWorld organisation and their history with Orcas. The documentary quickly found major success earning a massive $2.6 million at the North America box office (ABC News, 2016). Following this accomplishment, the director Gabriela Cowperthwaite had this to say, “I think Blackfish struck a nerve. I originally came into the film trying to explore the trainer relationship and experience but I didn’t think the documentary would effect change.” Reaction to the documentary prompted bands and singers such as The Beach Boys, Barenaked Ladies, Willie Nelson and Cheap Trick to cancel their concerts at a SeaWorld event in Orlando. Soon after the theme park’s ticket sales dropped and they suffered a $15.9 million loss. The impact of the documentary was so major that animal activists are now crediting the film for SeaWorld’s 2015 announcement that they will now halter their Orca breeding program, phasing out all live performances. This effect from such a powerful documentary is now making people wonder about the affect of animals as entertainment.
After watching the documentary Blackfish, it really made me wonder about the treatment of other animals in the entertainment industry. A document released by PETA shared a list of animals being subjected for entertainment purposes. This list included greyhound racing, bullfighting, circuses, zoos and many others.
Their statement on animals used for entertainment reads:
“Animals aren’t actors, spectacles to imprison and gawk at, or circus clowns. Yet thousands of these animals are forced to perform silly, confusing tricks under the threat of physical punishment; are carted across the country in cramped and stuffy boxcars or semi-truck trailers; are kept chained or caged in barren, boring and filthy enclosures; and are separated from their families and friends- all for the sake of human ‘entertainment’. Many of these animals even pay with their lives.”
In 2014, The Guardian published an article titled ‘Blackfish and our lingering obsession with animals as entertainment’. It shares the message that the documentary is a powerful reminder of our obsession with animals as entertainment. It is cruel to justify that it’s okay for humans to perform on animals. We are exploiting creatures who have no say in what happens to their life. A reoccurring theme that was brought up in Blackfish was the relationship between trainer and animal. While the previous SeaWorld trainers were reminiscing the past, they realized that although it felt like they were building a relationship with the animal, it was really a survival instinct from the creature itself. These trainers were justifying their treatment towards the killer whales because they genuinely believed they had a strong connection. However, if you had been kidnapped and forced to do tricks for food and to avoid being locked up in isolation you too would play along. We may think we are doing right by an animal but who are we to assume what is right and what isn’t for someone that cannot defend themselves. So why do we continue to lock up innocent animals for entertainment purposes? While the Australian SeaWorld has never kept Killer Whales it does have seals, dolphins and even polar bears. They have all been taken from their natural environment and kept in small enclosures in humid Queensland. Who knows if the future impact of the documentary Blackfish will help ban the enclosure of these animals too.
The success of the documentary Blackfish sheds light on the animals kept in captivity for entertainment purposes. It may allow the beginning of a new activism approach to the ongoing animal issues. One documentary was the push needed to get SeaWorld to see their wrongdoing and stop live Orca performances. Who knows where future documentaries will take us and what animals they may set free but it is definitely obvious we have a long way to go.
Twemlow, J, 2014, ‘Blackfish and our lingering obsession with animals as entertainment’, ABC news, viewed 27th March 2016
Simmonds, A, ‘Keeping animals in captivity for our own entertainment must stop’, Daily life, viewed 27th March 2016