Blackfish (Extra Credit)

I decided to write my review over a documentary that has caused a lot of financial instability for this specific theme park, and tugged at a lot of heart strings; Blackfish. First off, if you haven’t seen Blackfish, I highly recommend you do. It’s an amazing film. As a huge animal rights advocate, this a film that I hold dear to my heart. I make all of my friends and family watch it and I’ve probably watched it myself about 20 times, as each time you learn something that you might’ve missed before.

For those who do not know, Blackfish is about Seaworld, more specifically,  the Orca whales or “killer whales” that they have there. The whole documentary is narrated by previous Seaworld Orca trainers. They all have a different story as to how they ended up as a trainer. However, after staying in the business for a few years, they started figuring out for themselves that Seaworld was not an animal friendly place. I think that if this film had any potential bias it would be from outside influencers such as PETA. But it’s important to keep in mind that these people telling their stories at one point, loved what they did. So I don’t think that there is any bias from them as they have been on the supporting side of the business and now on the opposing side.


Some of these whales were bred in captivity, but some of them were illegally captured and that is the case for Tilikum. Tilikum was the largest male whale Seaworld had. They captured him from Canada when he was just a baby and he was then put into the facility “Sealand of the Pacific.” He was the whale that all of the trainers looked forward to working with, they trusted him the most. But Tilikum was trained in a method that was highly unethical. They paired him with two trained whales and would send all three off to do the same behavior and if one of them (aka Tilikum) got it wrong, then all of them would be deprived of food. At night, these three whales were stored in a steel box on the water that wasn’t large enough for all of them. There was so much hostility between the whales that every morning, Tilikum would have new scratches on his body where the females would rake him with their teeth. The scientists believe that this 24/7 bullying eventually led him to a mental psychosis. In the wild it’s a matriarchal society. Male whales are kept at a perimeter. However in captivity, there is no escape. Tilikum took his first life at Sealand of the Pacific and was then purchased by Seaward with the promise that he would not be used in shows and would not be used for breeding purposes. Long story short, he was used for both and now a good amount of Seaworld’s whales have his aggressive tendencies. In this documentary it is noted that Orcas have a part of their brain that humans do not have. This part of their brain extends out to the right adjacent to their limbic system, the system that processes emotions. It processes emotion on a much deeper level. They have a sense of self and of social bonding that is at a much deeper level than humans. It’s unfortunate that these animals live the lives that they do.

We took these animals out of their natural environment where they swim hundreds of miles everyday, stay with their mother their entire lives, and communicate with one another and stuck them in a pool. Each group or family of whales has their own set of behaviors and communication. Seaworld has composed a random group of whales for each attraction they have, often causing a lot of aggression and ultimately leading to many whales dying in captivity. In the wild, there is no documentation of any killer whale doing harm to a human. Whales are a part of our environment and we are, unfortunately, using them to our advantage. This is just another example of human’s negative impact on our environment and the wildlife.


Can find Blackfish on Netflix. (I really really recommend watching it.)


3 thoughts on “Blackfish (Extra Credit)

  1. I am so happy you wrote about this documentary! I actually watched in my Marine Biology in high school, and it still holds close to my heart. It so heartbreaking knowing that these whales are being harmed and disregarded for the sake of money and tourism. I remember seeing how much this infringed on their well being, and caused them so much irritation and self harm. I really believe that with enough fight and advocacy, it could be stopped. It makes me sick when I see animals being used, they are just as deserving as we are. We need to make sure they are heard, by using our voices.

  2. This sounds like such an interesting documentary and I’ve heard so much positive feedback on it– I definitely need to watch it soon. I think it’s really interesting how some of the same effects of bullying that we see in humans were also seen in Tilikum the whale. I think that it is our job to provide safety for animals, rather than leading them to emotional and physical harm. I hope to learn more about what SeaWorld and other parks of the sort are doing to ensure the safety and well-being of their animals.

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