The film Blackfish (the Native American name for orca, or killer whales) is the most
recent film to highlight the plight of orca that end up in captivity. These animals
should live in the ocean, doing things whales do, rather than in a tiny pool. For
more information about what is wrong with captivity see this link. But it shouldn’t
even need to be discussed - it is so so obvious that an animal who lives in the ocean,
the deep vast ocean, will not be remotely OK in a concrete pool. At least it is obvious
to us, behaviourists and ethologists, because that’s how we think about animals and
We were surprised to learn that most people who visit marine parks do so out of a
love of animals. They love animals, especially whales and dolphins so want to see
them, and it’s easy to visit a marine park when on holiday. Furthermore they can
see that the trainers also love the animals, and they presume the trainers are marine
animal experts so therefore it must be OK. This is the way humans behave - as a herd,
which can work well but sometimes it works to perpetuate the most heinous crimes
against animals, such as keeping cetaceans in captivity.
Additionally, and very depressingly, now is the time to act for cetaceans worldwide.
Although the number of new marine parks is steady in most countries, Japan is building
them at an alarming rate. We need to reach the animal lovers in Japan to stop this
The film ‘Blackfish’ was the tipping point for us to finally decide to do something.
But what can we do? It seems so cheesy and inconsequential to believe that all we
can do is to not go to somewhere we wouldn’t go anyway. But having researched possible
actions and speaking to lots of organisations, and knowing that most people who attend
marine parks love animals it seems that we have ‘easy’ targets - we need to tell
them not to go and they are likely to listen because the reason they want to go is
the same as the reason we want them not to go!
The issue of cetaceans in captivity is tenable - unlike some other animal welfare
issues the banning of cetaceans in captivity could happen in our lifetimes. In a
few countries it already has been banned. And its really about more than just cetaceans,
if we can recognise that it is not OK to keep these animals in captivity, then we
can move the discussion to other species.
Blackfish calls for current cetaceans in captivity to be assessed to determine the
likelihood of successful rehabilitation back to the wild and if that is not possible
they should return to the sea in sea pens. Come on - be a part of making this happen!
The money will fund a short film (less than 10 minutes long) aimed at highlighting
the issues to the whale-loving public who might attend a marine park. Such people
are unlikely to go to see a film like Blackfish but could be reached by a short film.
The film will be made by Campaign Film - a professional company run by Andy Davies
who shares a passion for this cause. As well as being made available through YouTube
etc. it will be offered to the various groups and alliances working on this issue
and they will be given the opportunity for their logos to appear at the end. Subject
to acceptance it will hopefully be in time for showing at Whalefest in Brighton in
Preliminary discussions with several of the big organisations have been very positive
- this is what they have asked for repeatedly when answering the question ‘what can
we do to help?’. They want independently produced short films that they can support
and use. The film will be produced so that parts can be edited to be changed for
a Japanese audience but we need the English version first to secure funding for the
Japanese version. The film will be moving, persuasive and professionally produced,
a truly strong message.
As people who talk about natural behaviour, the needs of animals and welfare every
day of our professional lives let’s work together to do our part for the whales who
need us. PLEASE PLEASE be generous in supporting this project.
(And if you are not working as a behaviourist but would like to be involved you are
welcome to join!)