“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.
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.