In July the documentary?Blackfish?will be released. The film examines the treatment of killer whales in captivity and focuses on Tilikum, an animal who has been involved in the death of three humans, including SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, in 2010. Tilikum was captured off of the coast of Iceland in 1983 and continues, to this day, to entertain huge crowds at SeaWorld.

“There are probably no words to assuage this damning indictment of the theme park’s role in the death of a whale trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, nor to convince anyone of the humaneness of keeping wild animals?in captivity for human entertainment,” wrote film critic Carrie Seidman in Florida’s?Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Justin Chang, a reviewer for the film industry bible,?Variety?magazine, called the film a “compelling psychological profile” of Tilikum. “The impression the film leaves is of a deep-pocketed institution that, for all its claims of humane and professional treatment, tolerates practices that are fundamentally at odds with the animals’ well-being and refuses to accept any portion of responsibility,” Chang wrote.

Last week, I watched a segment on ABC News about this documentary, Blackfish,?and it beautiful, tormented subject, Tilikum.?Born to freely swim the big waters of our earth, Tilikum lives his life in a 20’x30′ pool. I wondered how he has survived this tiny bathtub, with an undeniably broken heart. His immense body and spirit belong to the sea. It was so clear to me as I watched him swim circles in his confinement – while tears streamed down my cheeks.

His name, Tilikum, means “friend” in the Native American Chinook language. In order to keep a friend one must give respect to that friend, as well as honor that friend, by understanding their essence, who they are and what they need. Friends should not be defined or given a value based on ideas about how they can benefit us.

In 2012, SeaWorld had revenues of $1.4 billion from 24 million visitors to their 11 different theme parks.


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