Many childhood memories are associated with animals, whether it be learning about endangered species in the classroom or experiencing the beauty of wildlife at a zoo or park. Typical family trips include those of visiting zoos and witnessing animal shows. However, in recent times, controversy has risen about the ethics and morality of keeping animals in captivity.

The documentary Blackfish is one of the main critics of this idea. The film investigates the multiple incidents of killer whales attacking their trainers, and argues it is unhealthy for the orcas to be kept in captivity as well as unsafe for trainers to be swimming with them. SeaWorld’s largest orca, Tilikum, affectionately nicknamed Tilly, is the main star of the film. The untimely death of Dawn Brancheau in 2010 (former head trainer at SeaWorld) caused a major rift in the franchise. The cause of her death was an outburst by the largest orca in captivity, Tilikum, who dragged Brancheau to the bottom of the pool, subsequently killing her.

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Since Blackfish premiered, celebrities have been vocalizing their support to the movement. From CNN news anchors like Anderson Cooper to singers like Ariana Grande, a monumental number of public figures joined in the #FreeTilly Twitter movement.

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Apart from innumerable tweets, support for Blackfish has been manifested in a number of ways, namely bands pulling out of concerts at SeaWorld, Pixar changing some aspects of the upcoming Finding Nemo 2, and many protests outside the gates of the theme park.

Sad to say, SeaWorld is not alone. Although Subic Ocean Adventure does not have orcas, the park has faced similar controversy regarding the care of animals. For instance, Ocean Adventure took 25 dolphins from the coast of Malaysia and trained them to live at Singapore’s Ocean Park. Animal rights groups asked the park to release them because they are an endangered species.

Many parks and zoos keep animals in unhealthy captivity and Blackfish drew attention to this issue. Although it is important to educate ourselves on the wildlife that surrounds us, it is evident that keeping animals in captivity is not the right way to go about it.

Written By: Candice Hodges

Photographs courtesy of the official Blackfish movie website and Twitter

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