Blackfish

Dear J-

We used to go to Sea World every month or so but I think the last time we went to see the orca show we were either out of inspiration or otherwise trying to meet someone else. It’s been a while, that’s all I’m saying. There are two competing thoughts in my head, both based on Wikipedia: (1) the name of every single orca in captivity is tracked in a fairly long and detailed article and (2) so too, the northern and southern resident pods each merit their own article. The southern resident whales, who hang out around Washington State, were the ones most impacted by the early captures, something like fifty whales captured and the total population collapsed down to eighty or so before the practice was banned.

I say the thoughts are competing but really one has already won; they talk about how they specifically targeted juveniles for capture, how the adults would hang around and mourn their losses instead of swimming away, how they’d try to decoy them away to give the calves a chance. In the era of YouTube and internet video even the excuse that otherwise we’d have no chance to see these creatures rings hollow. Maybe we wouldn’t have any idea of their scale but that’s something we could work on by taking the kids out on boats and trying to get at it from their perspective, not ours. We do a lot of evil in our lives without realizing it. I think the closest parallel in my mind is it’s akin to slavery: we disrupt families, we take the children and we make excuses for ourselves to assuage the guilt.

I have enjoyed the shows, and I think they would still have trainers in the water with the whales if they thought it was safe — that they don’t is a pretty clear indication it’s not. Nothing is 100% safe, right? Lions and elephants at the circus; is this any less sketchy? I’ll tell the kids we used to go, but that was normal, that’s the centerpiece flagship show of Sea World (though for my money the Cirque de la Mer is more entertaining, if you happen to be there). People used to watch a lot of things that we don’t any more: bear baiting, pygmies in the zoo, public executions. We evolve as a society past these entertainments when we realize the cruelty involved. And, well, how much longer does this go on before we call a halt to it entirely? Soon, I think.

Mike

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