Orcas in captivity

I fell in love with Orcas when I watched the movie, Free Willy. Back then, I did not know there was anything  inherently wrong with keeping animals in captivity, especially killer whales. When I came to the United States at the age of fifteen, I finally had the chance to see them live and up close at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Even though I was ecstatic to see them from up close, I immediately knew that there was something wrong with keeping those large ocean animals in these small tanks. I came home and researched more into Orcas in captivity and found organizations that are against the cause.

Blackfish came out in 2013. I watched it in theatres on their opening night. It was amazing because this movie has portrayed everything that is wrong with the industry with the story of Tilikum. Tilikum was captured in 1983 from Iceland when he was a calf. He has been performing in captivity ever since.

Tilikum has killed two trainers while in captivity and Seaworld made it out to be the killer  whale’s fault and its animal instincts. But, the documentary shows that the orcas have been traumatized and psychologically ill from mistreatment and being kept in small tanks. The documentary showed how people were socially constructed to watch killer whales in captivity and see it as a normal entertainment. But, It is not really okay to keep emotionally intelligent animals in small tanks and separate them from their pod. Killer whales swim hundreds and thousands of miles in the wild but in the tanks, they just float aimlessly.

This documentary was very successful in educating the public about cruel treatment in captivity and the ugly truth behind SeaWorld’s billion dollar industry. After Blackfish came out, SeaWorld dealt with many backlashes and the public rising against Orca captivity. Since then, they announced that SeaWorld is ending their Orca breeding and live Orca shows.



Work cited:

Blackfish movie, Blackfish.com. Dogwoof, 2016. Web. 2 Jul. 2016.


5 thoughts on “Orcas in captivity

  1. I think the most striking social construction surrounding killer whales is the name we’ve given them. KILLER whales! I think in this case language serves as a social construction that has helped the mistreatment of orcas to go on as long as it has. We picture them as dangerous animals because of their name. And it seems that, consciously or not, we have historically treated dangerous animals in captivity less humanely than cuddly ones. This is another social construction, that cuddly or safe animals deserve more humane treatment than dangerous ones. Thankfully, these social constructions surrounding animals seem to be fading as we become more aware of animal rights issues.


  2. It’s so astonishing that Sea World tried to blame the deaths on the animals, when they are the ones systematically capturing wild animals and forcing them into a life that mirrors slavery/torture. A wild animal in captivity, especially as strong as an orca, cannot be blamed for acting out against its captors. Would we blame an innocent prisoner being tortured for acting the same way? Probably not. This is a great example of how language can be used to skew the perspective presented by the media, and as a consequence affect how the public consumes the story. Sea World is a disgustingly unethical corporation and it seems that it’s only a matter of time before they lose enough support (financial and otherwise) that they will have to stop exploiting animals in order to gain their profit.


  3. I had the same experience of seeing the orcas live at Six Flags when I was younger, too, though since I was so young and nobody around me seemed distressed about the situation, I didn’t notice anything wrong. I was told (along with many others, I’m sure) that these animals had been harmed out in the wild, which is not at all true. And, unfortunately, orcas are not the only ones being captured and sold into entertainment; dolphins are also one on high demand for public entertainment. Though I have not seen this documentary, I’m glad that it has brought attention to the disgusting situation that has been ignored and normalized for years.


  4. It’s crazy to think that seeing animals in captivity and watching a whale show at a theme park seems like it is normal for people. when we take a step back and look at the reality of it we are hurting these innocent animals that are meant to be free and wild. We’re told that these animals are dangerous and they’re blamed for deaths in these theme parks, but what we should definitely know is that they are in fact mistreated and not meant to live in captivity. It’s important that their mistreatment is brought to the surface and more people are informed.


  5. I just cant help to think to what extent we as humans have gone to justify the horrible things that we do. Blaming the animal and calling them violent for killing a trainer is an example of this. Any person or animal that is subjected into small places that is not fit for their size, habitat etc. is going to act up. How would they feel if they ( zoo owners, orca trainers) would feel if the get locked in a space that is not fit fir them, of course they are going to get agitated and become violent from all the frustration and torture. It is common sense to lash out.By them calling them dangerous it is putting fear into socitety and altering the opinion on these animals. It is very sad that its happening but i have to ask how can you change it?


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