You all should see this movie, reviewed here by Tim Phillips:
A documentary opening today, Blackfish, focuses on a 12,000-pound bull orca named Tilikum.
In 1991, Tilikum was involved in the first recorded human death caused by an orca, fatally attacking trainer Keltie Byrne. In 1999, a man named Daniel Dukes who stayed in the SeaWorld park in Orlando after hours was found dead in Tilikum’s pool. In 2010, Tilikum mutilated and killed a senior trainer, Dawn Brancheau.
Orcas, also known as killer whales, are used to living in thousands of miles of ocean in long-term social groups called pods. When held in captivity, these highly-intelligent and highly-socialized mammals suffer physical and mental distress, which apparently drives them to aggressive behavior. They aren’t known to prey on humans in the wild, but between 1988 and 2009 SeaWorld generated 100 reports of undesirable behavior by orcas in captivity.
Twelve of these incidents involved injuries to trainers, including one death caused by a different orca owned by SeaWorld. Trainers were rammed in the stomach, pulled into the pool, struck in the ribs and back, and pulled underwater by orcas. Yet not every instance of undesirable behavior by orcas resulted in an incident report. Indeed, SeaWorld did not issue an incident report for the deaths caused by Tilikum in 1999 or 2010.
The director of Blackfish, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, persuasively shows that confining orcas is unacceptable. According to the New York Times movie review,
Calmly and methodically countering SeaWorld’s contention that whales benefit from captivity — the Web site “Orcas in Captivity” places the current total at 45 — Ms. Cowperthwaite questions the advisability of exploiting mammals whose brains, the neuroscientist Lori Marino suggests, may be more complex than our own.