A documentary looking at the treatment of killer whales kept in captivity and used for entertainment, and how this can have disastrous consequences.
Even for the most ardent animal lover, it can be easy to get swept up in seeing animals such as killer whales perform backflips and carry humans around on their nose. Witnessing such massive and majestic creatures do such tricks is simply fascinating. However, when the show’s over and everyone’s gone home, the cold, harsh reality is that these creatures have been pulled out of their natural habitat, separated from their family and forced to live in cramped environments, and that’s what Blackfish wants everyone to know.
We hear from various ex-SeaWorld employees who have seen first-hand how these animals are treated and the effects captivity has on the killer whales. They talk fondly of their affection for the animals but have become horrified at the distress these animals are in. This distress sometimes manifests itself in not-as-rare-as-we’re-led-to-believe incidents in which trainers are killed or badly injured.
This is shocking enough, but what truly hits home is the mental anguish the whales are in. Not only do the whales attack each other after being cramped up for so long but their mental states also disintegrates. Seeing footage of a whale mourning the loss of her calf after they’re separated is genuinely heartbreaking and gets the message across far more effectively than the incidents with humans.
However, Blackfish does have one fundamental flaw, and that’s how one-sided it is. Whilst it’s fine enough for a documentary to push a message, it owes it those involved, as well as its audience, to offer some kind of counter-argument. In this case, we only really hear from those against using killer whales for entertainment. You may strongly agree with that view, but the opposition still have a view worth hearing. To give the filmmakers their due, they did ask SeaWorld for a comment but the invitation was declined at the time (although they have since responded). This isn’t the filmmakers’ fault but the documentary is poorer as a result.
Despite that, the facts are presented very well, and they simply cannot be argued against. It’s an incredibly powerful documentary that goes far beyond the what the public see when they pay their SeaWorld admission fee. If you think these shows look like good entertainment, Blackfish may well make you think twice.