At this point it seems like almost everyone has seen, or at least heard about, the hype surrounding “Blackfish.” The documentary did a fantastic job of exposing the abuse and corruption behind a seemingly innocent industry. By following the entire life of one whale, viewers feel like they actually know Tilikum and can in one way or another relate to him. We feel sorrow for his loneliness because we have all felt lonely before, and we feel frustration about his captivity because we all have a desire to be free. The realization that we share many of the same emotions makes us more compassionate.
The uproar caused by the documentary brought people into the streets in protest of SeaWorld and captivity everywhere. The extensive public relations campaign launched by SeaWorld in response is a clear indicator that this documentary was powerful enough to negatively affect their business. After all, if “Blackfish” didn’t have an impact, SeaWorld wouldn’t have given the documentary the time of day.
This is great on so many levels. People were able to not only gain information, but change their minds based on that information and actually demand more from a corporation as large as SeaWorld. This brings hope to a world that can feel hopeless for the little people.
What I hope this documentary can also do is shed light on the animal abuse that occurs in industries across the board. I hope that more people will feel a connection toward not only Tilikum, but all animals. Tilikum isn’t any different than a pig raised for pork or a rabbit raised for its fur. They feel pain just like he does, and they all have stories that would break our hearts to know. He’s not an exception, he’s an example.
I’m not sure what makes us feel fundamentally different about Tilikum, and whales in captivity in general, than animals in a slaughterhouse. Is it just easier to say that we will no longer support SeaWorld than it is to say we will no longer support Tyson?
Are we assuming that if whales are so intellectually superior to other animals, then it’s worse to harm them? Intelligence can’t really be a key factor in our decisions regarding animal treatment; pigs are consistently found to be smarter than dogs. And who really has it better than dogs? No one, not even our close relatives chimps and gorillas, who we have mostly only seen kept behind glass in the close confines of a zoo.
The details of Tilikum’s stories are important. It’s clear that SeaWorld has partaken in inexcusable activities, and I’m glad to see that so many people care about the lives they have destroyed enough to protest. However, it’s important to focus not only on the details of this one specific story, but to also focus on the moral and on the overall theme, which is compassion for those who are exploited for human profit, pleasure and convenience.