One Mother Who Cannot Be "Still Hopeful"

I just finished watching the movie Blackfish. I felt compelled to share my personal connection to this amazing film. I am not a radical animal rights person nor am I a film critic. I am simply a mother who misses her son.

The documentary reveals the inhumane treatment of orca whales by SeaWorld. These enormous, beautiful mammals have many similarities to humans. Besides the obvious mammal connection, they have their own language that has been studied extensively. They are smart, curious, playful. They live in complex social structures much like our communities. And one last similarity is the attachment a mother has to its young as so poignantly portayed in the film. Watching and hearing an orca mother as her young baby is seized and essentially kidnapped was heartbreaking. I could completely relate to this mother's anguish. Losing a child, no matter how or why, is a pain that cannot be explained.

SeaWorld, for years, has been holding orcas in tiny pools away from their families. They have "trained" them to do tricks for food. These mammals are secluded from their own families and instead, put in with other orcas from other waters and expected to get along with them. Fights break out and yes, the orcas become agitated. Wouldn't you?

The whale called Tilikum has quite a history. He was "extracted" from the wild when he was approximately 2 years old. One extremely difficult interview from this film is that of a crewmember from the ship that took Tilikum. He described the mother's cries as none he'd ever heard before.

Tilikum went on to become an enormous (literally and otherwise) hit at SeaWorld. And for years, things seemed to go along just fine. What the general public didn't know was that at numerous SeaWorld parks, trainers had suffered injuries and even death while working with orcas. These creatures had attacked the very people who were their caregivers. SeaWorld disputes these accusations, of course, saying that these accidents were due to trainer error.

But let's think about this for a moment: "Extracted" from one's family? Imprisoned with foreign strangers? Food withheld as punishment? What would you do? Some say Tilikum went "crazy"...

I think of my own son. Imprisoned. Away from his family and housed with strangers and I worry about his mental health. He is not violent. I do not fear that. But I do wonder if he will be forever changed by this experience.

And I think about Tilikum's mother. They say orcas in their natural habitats have lifespans upwards of one hundred years. So she's out there somewhere. Circling her waters. Missing her son. Only she has no chance to be hopeful.

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