The Stupidity of the Blackfish Trailer | Anti-Seaworld Documentary
This article is not merely only about the trailer of the new documentary Blackfish, which focuses on criticizing the captivity of killer whales, but about the bigger picture regarding the critical tactics used by detractors of zoological facilities. I have not seen the film—that unfortunate task will be saved for when the movie makes its debut on Netflix or some other free streaming service. It is likely that the Blackfish makers have little to do with what was presented in the coming attraction, but still promote the same approaches and invalid logic used.
View the trailer below.
The reason that this 'trailer review' exists is because of the following:
- The invalid idea that unnatural/abnormal behavior in captive animals equals poor welfare
- I disagree that a killer whale killing has to be a result of neurosis or poor psychological welfare.
- The use of animal rights activists with degrees appearing as neutral scientists.
- Sensationalism regarding animal attacks, and the intolerance towards them in contrast to the occupational hazards of many other frivolous hobbies, activities, and lifestyles.
*Edit* I have seen the movie, please see my updated review here
- Why Blackfish is Misleading, Unoriginal, and 'Stupid'
MY REVIEW AFTER WATCHING BLACKFISH
- Docutopia #57: Why Blackfish Is the Most Overrated Doc of the Year | SUNDANCE NOW
Another interesting alternative review
Blackfish is another entry in a growing line of anti-cetacean captivity fare such as 2009’s The Cove, and David Kirby’s book “Death at Seaworld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity”, released in 2012.
The efforts are strategically placed to capture the attention of the mainstream media and the general public, with sensationalistic approaches that emphasize the danger of the animals more so than animal welfare (except The Cove).
The trailer for Blackfish is no exception. Before the release of Kirby’s book, a Youtube video was released that immediately racked up views. It was called, “Near Death at Seaworld” in all CAPS, and Kirby’s book, which the video appears to be an advertisement for, is the icon of the uploader.
Those who are anti-captivity—and I will refrain from using the word “animal rights activist” because it is too much of a mundane generalization—are utilizing a new approach to worm their way into the minds of the uninvolved public. Danger, fear, and the ‘what ifs’. It titillates and grabs people.
Owners of 'exotic animals' (everything from tigers to ball pythons) are under similarly specialized attacks from many animal rights groups who utilize the tactics to scare the uneducated public and legislators into implementing pet bans.
Horror stories are now the name of the game. The movie is being billed as a ‘psychological thriller’, and I am very intrigued as to why this is so. While, of course, there are many people who are emotional over the idea of keeping ‘magnificent animals' in captivity and identify with their plight, I still don’t see how this can be considered a horror movie.
The trailer begins with an off-screen person saying “when you look into their eyes, you know somebody is home”, and another saying “they’re an animal that possess great spiritual power, not to be meddled with”.
Then comes the—in my opinion—silly parts. The horror movie-like editing. I am a fan of the genre so I am highly familiar with them, and it also exists in the anti-exotic pet Animal Planet series Fatal Attractions. We hear an off-screen dispatcher actually say “a whale has eaten one of the trainers” and then we see...a whole lot of nothing...edited with strobe light flashing.
This is very strange because I have never heard of an orca whale ‘eating’ a human, ever, and if this has occurred I have yet to find what they are talking about. Regardless, we are then shown a lot of clips of Dawn Brancheau who, in 2011, was killed by the massive captive orca whale called Tillikum. We see very silly footage of the mammoth dolphin performing its usual routines but with such editing and scary music to make it appear to be menacing.
Deaths Tillikum was involved in
- February 21, 1991--A trainer slipped into the pool with Tillikum and 2 other pregnant orca whales. Waterwork was never done with them before.
- July 6, 1999-- A male who snuck into the tank after closing was found dead on Tillikum's back.
- February 24, 2010-- Tillikum drowned his trainer
A female speaker informs us “what happened to her (Dawn) could have happened to anyone” (and I’m assuming by anyone, she is referring to people who are in close proximity to the pool). I am in agreement that it is very unfortunate that there are people who aren’t aware of such obvious facts about working with large, predatory animals.
My response to that is this: These are wild—no—these are animals, not toys, not robots, not computers (although in all honesty, these fail on us in an undesirable manner as well).
Whenever one works with a large animal, be it an elephant, dog, tiger, ostrich, or horse…there exists a risk. Animals are subject to hormonal outbursts, bad moods, or even accidents. Mothers have strong maternal instincts, and this can also lead to conflict. The aforementioned “NEAR DEATH AT SEAWORLD” youtube video is an example of such an incident.
Perhaps with most domesticated dogs severe attacks against humans are fairly uncommon, but even this one thousand year old artificially-selected species kills around 20-30 people a year in the United States. This is also likely due to hormones as it occurs mainly with non-neutered animals.
There are no large animals that can be infallibly guaranteed to not cause harm. Obviously a person’s chances increase (a lot) when dealing with a carnivorous, thinking, social animal that lives in a substance of which we cannot breath. Trainers were intelligently ordered not to get in the water with Tillikum, as he was not only extremely large, but a *tremendously large male.
Serial Killer Whales
The angle of the Blackfish documentary appears to be that Tillikum was driven into ‘psychosis’ from his ‘traumatic’ early childhood capture. I’m not going to say whether or not I believe this is true to remain as scientific and open-minded as possible. Plus, I would need extensive definitions of psychosis and how it applies to non-humans.
All captive animals are unlike their wild counterparts when they live under human influence, with few exceptions.
One such example are tigers who see humans as ‘friends’ and not potential prey/competitors. Many people have viewed and adored videos like this one of lions befriending dachshund hounds and writing positive, supportive comments about how lions are so much more kind than humans could ever be.
Why is no one calling this psychosis, when it is totally unnatural? Oh yeah, because we like it and it's cute.
Oldest orca in captivity (43)
When intelligent animals are in captivity, essentially being cared for by humans and incorporating humans into their social structure, this is a dramatically different dynamic than what exists in the wild, where an orca pod basically ignores the presence of on-looking humans who are most of the time, contained within the safety of a sea vessel.
So, I can’t figure out for the life of me why it comes as a shock to people that “there’s no record of an orca doing any harm in the wild” (harm to humans and dogs, that is. Grey whales and bottle nose dolphins disagree).
Even mathematically it makes sense, as trainers spend far more time in direct contact with these animals than people do with wild orca whales that, when irritated, could leave at any moment’s notice.
The Seaworld trainers are present during it all; if the animal is having a bad day, they are there. If the animal is amidst an altercation of social strife with a conspecific, they are there. People need to quit stating obvious facts and presenting them as some newly revealed horror.
- Sad Animals in Zoos
Exploring the phenomenon of people thinking animals are "sad" in zoos because of the expression on their faces. Can you read an animal's mind by looking at it?
Dolphin encounters dangerous?
“All whales in captivity are psychologically traumatized”
Says Lori Marino, who will tell you she is a highly experienced neuroscientist at Emory University who has worked with dolphins before. What she may not be so apt to mention is that she is a prominent animal rights activist. Not animal welfare, but animal rights in the purest sense of the word, as she is campaigning for an end to all zoos, for human rights of cetaceans, elephants, and great apes, and she advocates other strong stances such as veganism for everyone, which I’m sure more than half of anti-captivity followers do not abide by. Her reports should never be presented as that of a neutral scientist.
Marino and her followers are likely aware of the power that her title and occupation brings. Good scientists however, do not make such enormous blanket statements such as "all whales in captivity..." because it lacks definitive proof, and rides more on emotion and intuition. It is not better than saying "all whales in captivity are fine".
Lori Marino on Zoos
There is another person screaming (annoyingly) “if you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d get a little psychotic?!” and we are shown an orca whale jumping on another whale with a trainer on its back. This is popular footage that I’ve seen before. Psychosis? Or how about a mistake, which non-humans are also not infallible toward. The term 'bathtub' to describe SeaWorld's tanks are also wholly erroneous, as the bathtubs I'm familiar with inhibit movement. A captivity detractor can say 'room', but 'bathtub' is absurd.
The other interesting thought about the claims of any negative incident involving the killer whales being related to psychosis is that according to activists, this severe mental damage is apparently resulting in the animals carrying out a severe attack every couple of years, and for most of the individuals, it never happens.
As the above describes, Tillikum was involved in the death of a trainer...nine more years went by and then an actual psychotic (or stupid) Seaworld visitor jumped in the the tank and was possibly killed by Tillikum. The infamous and obviously serious killing of Dawn occurred 10 years later.
If the animals were truly the loose cannon that they are being portrayed as, the shows wouldn’t have lasted so long. I’m often amazed that, given their brutal natural history and obvious advantages to harm people, that the whales are so accommodating to humans both in the wild and captivity. The animals do not need to abide by our morals or see Dawn's death as something as big as we do.
I look forward to seeing this film to see exactly if the claims being made in it are verified or just more misrepresentations. I urge all viewers planning on seeing it to remain open-minded, regardless of your stance, especially if you are someone who is on the fence or new to this subject. Do not allow yourself to be swindled by any specious approaches. Most situations in life, unlike orca whales, are not so black and white.
More from this author
- If Dolphin Captivity is Cruel, Winter Should Be Euthanized
The public's rising sensitivity to dolphins in zoos is a convenient outlet for animal rights groups to sneak in their animal liberation agenda. Are captive animals better off dead than in captivity?
- Dolphin Intelligence: Should They Have Rights?
Summarizing the intelligence of dolphins and whales, and addressing some of the arguments that they are non-human persons deserving of human rights.
- Exotic Animal Attacks on Humans Statistics
- The Cetacean and Non-human Rights Project
Copyright © 2013 Melissa A Smith™. All Rights Reserved
Share - Don't Copy.
© 2013 Melissa A Smith
More by this Author
Is it cruel to keep dogs as pets? Many people believe it wrong to keep wild/exotic animals as pets or in captivity, and this satirical (or is it?) article will explore dogs with the same logic.
Pets and zoo animals as slaves or prisoners? Projecting the human emotional state upon animals is not necessarily in line with optimal animal welfare.
Profiles of the small and medium-sized exotic or wild cats that are sometimes kept as pets in the United States.