I told myself months ago that I wasn’t going to watch the documentary ‘Blackfish’; a one-sided account about the death of a SeaWorld trainer by an Orca in 2010. That it didn’t deserve my support, my ratings at the box office, or my interest. But today I watched so that I had a right to give an opinion. I have been a supporter of SeaWorld since I was a child. I dreamed of becoming a trainer and this past spring I even flew across the country for an interview to become one. I’ve worked beside fellow trainers and animal care staff from multiple SeaWorld facilities and have immense respect for them as professionals.
But this documentary made me uneasy.
And not for all the reasons you might expect.
I would be lying if I told you I didn’t cry while watching, or feel strong sympathy for the animals in question. I did. Its my job to feel that way. Its my passion for them that causes me to feel that way. But it is also the work of good film editing that made me feel that way.
But what made me more upset is that you aren’t shown all the amazing work that SeaWorld, and facilities like it, have done for our oceans, conservation, research, and rehabilitation. You don’t see the millions of dollars they pour into environmental action yearly. You don’t see the animal care staff pulling 24 hour shifts to bottle feed a stranded manatee calf. Or the dolphin pushed back to sea by a rescue team. You don’t see the behind the scene care. The passion. The undying love for the animals that all animal care staff and trainers show on a daily basis. These animals are like children to us.
I have seen Orcas in the wild. I have been moved to tears listening to the spirt of air breaking water like glass as they surface with their pods. I know how majestic they are. I have respect for their environment. I understand the complexities of where they fit within the food chain and where they fit within our world. I understand them because I’ve taken the time to learn, observe, and research. However, millions of people around the world do not have the same education I do. They haven’t had the privilege of seeing Orcas in their natural environment. Surprisingly, there are people who have never even seen the ocean before. So how do you get someone who has no desire to do their own research and has no access to wild examples, to care about an animal they don’t see, touch, or know? How can you tell people to clean up the oceans or give money to conservation if they don’t have a way to learn, observe, and research the way I have? These animals are the ambassadors to their wild counterparts. They put emotion and memories to work for the species as a whole.
I cannot say that SeaWorld hasn’t made some poor choices in the past. And that it isn’t a business.; because at the end of the day it is. But we cant expect to be able to run the programs, education, and charitable giving that these facilities do, without monetary compensation. Thats life. Thats the ‘greedy green’ world we live in.
But what we must understand is documentaries such as these are one sided. They are one-demential. It is why they are able to invoke such strong responses from those who watch them. That is the point. That is the reason for producing them in the first place. But what exactly do films like these do that benefits the animals in question? Make people care more? Make people want to run out and free the whales? Withhold their organizational support? Chances are you’re angry for a day. Maybe a week. You throw your appalled opinions around like wild-fire until it is no longer ‘controversial’ enough to be vocal about anymore. Then what? What changes? What did you actively do to support these animals, wild or captive? Did you donate to conservation? Are the people waving the picket signs going to volunteer to clean beaches or educate children on why our oceans, and Orcas, are important? Probably not. Words without actions are just words. Just as documentaries calling for change without works are just images. Our culture is very good at pointing out things we find opposition to. Pointing fingers is easy to do. But we lack any motivation or concern to actually do something about it. We know that killing rhinos for ivory is bad, immoral and inhumane; yet what are we doing to stop it? What are you doing to stop it?
"We are facing an era where words have to become actions. We have to stop idealizing about saving animals on this planet and actually go out and do it. Sea World is doing it. Animal trainers, like myself, are doing it. But people have to care. People have to decide that it is unacceptable that 96 elephants are killed in Africa everyday. They have to decide that it is unacceptable that Orangutans are literally burned alive during intentionally set forest fires due to the increasing global demand for Palm Oil which goes into our cookies and cakes. People have to decide that these animals are worth saving. Orcas are not endangered at this time, but without our help at some point they will be."
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on the matter. It is your God given right to make your own decision. But I would urge you to do your research before making a snap judgment. Hear both sides of the argument. And unless you are willing to step up and do something to make a positive impact, don’t let your finger pointing negativity be the lousiest voice. Because contrary to popular belief, that benefits no one.