, a documentary that critically examines the treatment of orcas at SeaWorld parks, opened today in select cinemas. The film focuses on Tilikum
, the 32-year-old orca linked to three human fatalities, including the 2010 tragedy
in which he killed trainer Dawn Brancheau.
The movie, which debuts in Bay Area theatres starting July 26, makes an ardent plea against orca captivity. Although the film focuses on SeaWorld’s main attractions, its orcas, important parallels can be drawn for other highly intelligent marine mammals held in captivity like other whales, dolphins and porpoises.
Many of us once excitedly visited marine parks like SeaWorld as children. Over time, however, we have learned that the needs of orcas cannot be adequately addressed while in captivity. Keeping these remarkable animals captive for human entertainment means terrible physical health for the creatures manifested through unnatural illnesses, stress-related conditions and deformities; poor mental health stemming from boredom, psychological stress and depravation of natural stimulation and social bonds; unnecessary injuries and premature death, for both humans and orcas; and continued breeding for captivity. In short, the life of an imprisoned orca bears little resemblance to a life lived in his wild habitat, and the animal suffers immensely for it.
Fortunately, moral progress means change. Public opinion is shifting
, and Americans overwhelmingly either do not support or are opposed to keeping orcas in captivity. Recognizing that the educational value of these exhibits is far outweighed by concerns over the impacts of keeping orcas in captivity for entertainment, we instead seek to humanely learn about these extraordinary mammals through wildlife excursions, museum exhibits, IMAX films, television and online sources. People also enjoy visiting marine exhibits without orcas (and other cetaceans), as evidenced by the popular Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The San Francisco SPCA hopes that Tilikum’s story will help the public to better understand that breeding and keeping highly intelligent marine mammals in captivity for entertainment is wrong. It is time to end the use of orcas in theme parks.