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The Dreaded Documentary: Blackfish Airs on CNN
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The Dreaded Documentary: Blackfish Airs on CNN

“Blackfish” airs tonight (10/24/2013) on CNN and I’m dreading it. It promises to be a graphic no-nonsense, fact-based confirmation of what so many of us have long known: Orcas don’t belong in captivity. Ask any hardcore ARA (animal rights activist) about Seaworld and you’ll get slammed with facts, dates, research findings and animal cruelty rhetoric. Sadly, the world is not made of ARA’s; happily, those in the dark about this issue will be enlightened by this documentary.

I got to thinking, what kind of jerk sees an animal the size of an Orca and says, “let’s incarcerate it in a pool”? So I looked it up. Turns out, the very first Orca in captivity was caught in 1961 for Marineland of the Pacific. Her name was Wanda. Let’s pause to remember her. She died within 48 hour of being “harvested.” She was 7 years old. In 1964, Vancouver Aquarium staff went looking for a whale to kill so an artist could use the carcass as a model for a proposed effigy. They found Moby Doll, age 5, a male. Upon attempting to kill the whale, the hunters learned a lesson about how a whale pod comes together in times of trouble and the whale wasn’t so easy to kill. The plan was changed to bringing Moby Doll – by now seriously injured by the fight –back to the Aquarium and make a star. This intrepid whale lived only three wretched months and died before his sixth birthday. Whales in the wild have a life expectancy of 30-50 years. It’s sort of the cetacean equivalent of putting a hit out on a toddler.

Most whales snatched from the wild die within the first year they are imprisoned. 

Here’s my problem. I didn’t watch War Horse (the movie) because I just knew it would tear my heart asunder. Now, I don’t mean to switch species on you, I’m still talking about whales. I only bring up this horse to make a point. I can’t stand to see animals suffer in any way, shape or form and I’m guessing you can’t either. But I have a problem: Seeing animals in trouble makes me useless to anyone but my therapist for weeks on end. Sometimes I call on my buddy Captain Morgan to get me through the night, sometimes I need something even stronger and available only by prescription. Depression is an issue with me, I’m not sure I should risk it. 

And yet....

A veteran ARA once told me when I first got involved I should always remember; “if the animals can endure it, you can endure watching it.” I’ve taken that advice to heart all these years but now I’m wondering. If I am already aware of the issue and am already doing my part to put a stop to captive whales, do I really need to subject myself to the gory details I just know they have in store for us? If this documentary effectively puts me “out of service” won’t that just mean one less activist is actively working?

Or is that a cop out? I didn’t see “The Cove,” but I am well aware of the problem it illuminated. I didn’t see PeTA’s “Meet Your Meat,” but I went veg anyway because I already knew about slaughter, having read Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, a bestseller in 1971 and the book that threw me into the deep end of animal activism. I was very naïve prior to reading that book. It truly, truly changed my life.

So do I watch it? Don’t watch it? This is going to end badly either way. What would you do?




*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.


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Michelle A. Rivera is the author of several books including HOSPICE HOUNDS, Animals and Healing at the Borders of Death (Lantern Books); CANINES IN THE CLASSROOM, Raising Humane Children through Interactions with Animals;(Lantern Books) DO DOGS HAVE BELLY BUTTONS? 100 Questions and Answers about Dogs(Adams Media); THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN SLOW COOKER and THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK(Book Publishers, Inc.) and ON DOGS AND DYING (Purdue University Press). She is also an essayist and has been published in the vegetarian essay book “Voices from the Garden.” She is a freelance writer/editor and along with her Certified Therapy Dogs, a Humane Educator and R.E.A.D tutor. Michelle is a past blogger for and a writer for several online publications including eHow, Livestrong, Rachel Ray, The Daily Puppy, USA Today, Cracked and others. She has two Certified Delta Society Therapy Dogs: Murphy, a Golden Retriever, and Tabitha, a Standard Poodle; and two cats. All are rescued animals. Michelle lives in South Florida with her husband, John, an attorney, and is the proud grandmother of three lovely children, Austin, Alexander and Adrienne.

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Leave a Comment

  1. barblarsen
    “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” ? Elie Wiesel True for any act of violence and hate against other living beings - we bear witness to honor the dead and support the living ... and to add our voice for change .... Watch
    Log in to reply.
    1. DogWriter
      I did. Of course I did. I stand in solidarity with my whale brothers and sisters. It was devastating.
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  2. The K
    I too am afraid to watch 'The Cove', but I did watch "Meet Your Meat", and I paid to see Blackfish in a theater. Yes it's difficult to watch. And yes, I left the theater feeling angry, and outraged.... and frustrated that we cannot do more to help these unfortunate victims. But while I didn't need to see the movie to have my opinion changed, it did give me better insight and more info on the whole story, perhaps making me a better advocate.
    Log in to reply.
    1. DogWriter
      Thanks for your candid answer. Of course I watched it, and cried all night, I actually got physically sick but I will spare you the details. For Christmas this year, I am getting copies of that movie and giving them to my two daughters-in-law who each have Florida Resident Season Passes to Seaworld. I will tell them the only thing I want in return for Christmas is their promise to watch it, and then make a choice. I spent the whole night reciting the Serenity Prayer, and no, I'm not in AA, far from it.I just want the courage to change the things I can. But I can't do it alone. I wish someone higher up than me would come up with a plan, but I guess getting the movie on CNN is a great start!
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  3. Vin Chauhun
    Vin Chauhun
    Either way the message got out and hopefully your average dumb-arse out there watching might get a bit enlightened about the plight of animals of all kinds. As for the Cove, i am revolted by the Japanese, and their treatment of whales and dolphin. I won't be shedding a tear if anything bad happens your average whale-flesh munching dolphin killer.
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  4. Vin Chauhun
    Vin Chauhun
    voted !!!
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